So by day I work in healthcare and by night I code. When I am at work I can't help but think how much time a functional text editor should help my job. I am constantly writing documentation that has similar elements and constantly breaking the DNRY rule.

Could I do a work around where I create my own syntax/'language' in my favourite text editor. So I type some thing like 'Past medical histor...' and an autocomplete snipit creates sub heading of 'surgical, medical, psychiatric' etc.

I can think of so many uses for these

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    Yes, of course you could. The only thing I see that's open to much question is the break-even point--how much work you can put into your macro expansion and still have it save work overall. Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 18:51
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    @JerryCoffin the break-even-point is not open to question. It's answered right here: xkcd Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 2:59
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    Check AutoHotKey, if all yo want is scriptlets for quicker typing.
    – F.P
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 7:13
  • Lots of third-party options out there that would probably do the trick. Heck, I was using one back in the mid-80s. Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 12:00
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    The XKCD cartoon is a little simplistic. It ignores the fact that you're likely to do something more often if you make it quicker and easier to do. Also that by automating stuff you're recording the method of doing it in code and potentially sharing it with a team, instead of relying on memory.
    – bdsl
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 13:15

3 Answers 3


If you're looking for permission, you've come to the wrong place.

If you insist on using an editor, I believe the standard answer of "emacs" can do everything you could imagine. But for a less steep learning, macros in other editors should also work just fine.

If you're looking for a Windows-based tool to do text-substition then AutoHotKey has already been mentioned. There are also free/paid alternatives.

If your environment is locked down and you can't install anything, then perhaps the simplest thing is to have a notepad window open with all your different boilerplate texts and you copy-n-paste the bits you need.

Or, if there is no notepad, use any screen/textbox where you can store some text.


The usual solution to your problem is a Template.
Something that MS Word for example has plenty of tools for creating.
You may also be able to create sub-sections as templates and paste them in for modification.

Make a template for broad categories of patient (does it matter if you leave a section or two blank?) and whenever you need to open a new file on a patient then select the appropriate one and off you go.

Should take 20 minutes or so of your time.


If you code a lot, perhaps you can create an App!

Something simple that you can input data into and have it auto-formatted to what you want. This can be as complex or simple as you like, adding sections to populate, being able to print by wifi-link to the office printer..

I recommend toolsets such as Xamarin for their nice easy drag-n-drop interfaces.

Sounds like a fun project and if it works out well for you then you might see others in your office wanting to use it!

Speaking from experience, writing an app to simplify data-entry can be very very effective at improving your workflow. I had routine task in one job which would take me two weeks of working hours, by creating an app in a single evening I chopped that down to two days. I only wish I'd done it sooner.

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