PhraseExpress Troubleshooting

Table of Contents

This Troubleshooter should solve "99%" of all common issues.

PhraseExpress doesn't work at all

  • Is PhraseExpress actually running? Check if the program icon is visible in the Windows system tray near the time and date info. If it not running, click the Windows Start button » Programs » PhraseExpress.

    If you still don't see the task tray icon, Windows may hide it in a popup menu. Click the task bar triangle icon and drag the PhraseExpress speech bubble icon onto the task bar for quick access to PhraseExpress:
    How to make the tray icon visible
  • If the PhraseExpress tray icon is gray-colored, it is temporarily disabled (see chapter "Temporarily disable PhraseExpress").
  • Make sure that no "security" program such "Antivirus/AntiSpyware"-software is blocking the keyboard hook of PhraseExpress. Such programs have become quite aggressive and may especially locking up browsers from receiving automated text input. Look for options called "keylogger protection" or "sandboxing".
    If using Webroot SecureAnywhere:
    1. Right-click the SecureAnywhere task tray icon and select "View Status".
    2. Click the grey cog wheel near the menu item "Identity Protection"
    3. Consider disabling "Identity Shield".
    If using "Zemana Antilogger":
    1. Click "Settings" in the Zemana Antilogger main program window.
    2. Switch to the tab "Security Settings".
    3. Consider disabling "Enable keystroke detection"
    If using "G-Data Internet Security":
    1. Open the main program window
    2. Click "Webprotection" » "More settings…".
    3. Click "Advanced" and consider unchecking the browsers you wish to use with PhraseExpress.
  • Text input-aware appliations detect keyboard input through a daisy-chain of "keyboard hooks". Faulty or stalled programs may break this chain and program following the queue are cut off from the text input. Solution: Close and restart PhraseExpress to re-arrange the chain of keyboard hooks. Alternatively, exit any other application, that may listen for keyboard input to check for interferences or restart the computer to initialize the keyboard hook chain.
  • The PhraseExpress main program window must be minimized. Click the red button in the upper right of the program window to minimize the PhraseExpress program. If this fails, check, if any PhraseExpress dialog window is hidden under any other program window.
  • If you have multiple PhraseExpress installations on different computers, try reproducing the issue on another computer. If it works on the other computer, it is very likely, that the configuration on the malfunctioning computer is the cause for the issue as PhraseExpress does not discriminate particular computers.
  • To isolate incompatibility issues, close any program that may process keyboard input or the clipboard (other clipboard managers, autotext utilities or special multimedia keyboard drivers, e.g. AutoHotkey, Synergy, Microsoft Intellipoint or browser autocomplete or password filling addons/features).
  • If the ENTER or TAB key is blocked on your computer, disable the expert option "Route ENTER and TAB through PhraseExpress" (more info).
  • Reset the PhraseExpress configuration to system defaults if you are afraid to have messed up with the settings.

If above suggestions do not help to resolve the issue, please check one of the following hints:

Issues with a particular program

  • If using the Microsoft Edge browser, toggle the option "PhraseExpress Settings » Expert Options » Force focus change".
  • Phrases can be restricted to specific applications. Make sure, that the Autotext is not excluded from the application in which you are trying to use it. See chapter "Restrict Autotext and hotkeys to specific programs".
  • Windows can launch programs either with "normal user" rights or with "admin privileges". Programs of lower privileges cannot "see" applications running with higher credentials. If PhraseExpress is launched normal user rights (default mode), it cannot paste text into a target application which has been launched with admin privileges. PhraseExpress indicates privilege issues with a red-colored task tray icon overlay. Solution: Launch PhraseExpress with the same privileges as the target application. To launch programs with admin privileges, click the program icon with the right mouse button and select "Run as Administrator".
  • Some target applications may have non-standard text input fields, that may prevent external text injection, e.g. programs with high security requirements such as banking software or password depository utilities. Please consult the maker of the program to check whether they intentionally blocked text insertion.
  • PhraseExpress supports a variety of text insertion methods. Please experiment with the paste method settings (See chapter "Paste Method").
  • Insert the phrase in Windows Notepad or Wordpad. These programs are quite basic with any known interference and a good way to verify, if the target application causes the issue. If it works in Notepad/Wordpad but doesn't work in your target application, it is very likely, that a feature or behavior of the target application is causing the malfunction as PhraseExpress does not discriminate particular applications.

Issues with specific autotext/hotkeys

  • Check the general trouble-shooting tips first.
  • Does the Autotext exist at all in the currently used phrase file? Open the PhraseExpress main program window, click the magnifying glass icon on top of the phrase tree and select only the Autotext and Exact match option from the popup menu. Enter the Autotext into the Find input field. Does the intended phrase show up? If not, there is no phrase defined for the desired Autotext. Check the Autotext entry for accidental typos or leading/trailing spaces.
  • Is the phrase empty which is associated to the Autotext? Does it contain an erroneous macro function?
  • Is the Autotext restricted to a specific application? Make sure that the Autotext is not excluded from the application in which you are trying to use it. See chapter "Restrict Autotext and hotkeys to specific programs".
  • Check whether the Autotext option is enabled for the folder that contains the Autotext phrase. If disabled, the folder is gray-colored. In this case right-click the folder and activate the Autotext/Hotkey feature.
  • Create a new phrase and define an Autotext for it. If this phrase is executed then it seems that the Autotext configuration of the non-working phrase is not correct.

Clipboard is inserted instead of phrase

  • Check the general trouble-shooting tips first.
  • Depending on the text insertion settings, PhraseExpress uses the Windows clipboard as a vehicle to insert phrases into a target application. As clipboard operations tend to lag, PhraseExpress waits a certain period of time allowing the clipboard to be filled with the phrase contents. If the default delay doesn't give the clipboard enough time, the clipboard insertion may be triggered too fast before the clipboard has been populated with the actual phrase. Solution: Increase the paste delays (See chapter "Paste Delays").
  • Make sure that no other clipboard related software is accessing/blocking the clipboard. Close any other software in the background to isolate potential incompatibilities or interferences.

Phrases are not inserted where you expect it

Generally, text input is always received by the program window with active "input focus". Whenever you select a phrase from the PhraseExpress phrase menu, the general Windows text input focus switches away from the text input box of the current program to PhraseExpress, enabling you to select the desired phrase. After phrase selection, the focus is switched back into the target program to paste the phrase.

If text is not inserted but you hear beeps or random actions on your desktop, the focus was not switched back to the intended target program.

Potential focus switch problems:
  • 3rd party programs may accidentally step in between the very short moment of switching focus and pasting the phrase into the target program. Examples: Notification popups of 3rd party applications, transparent full-screen overlay windows or poorly programmed background tasks may "steal" the focus. This may cause the text insertion being redirected into "Nirvana".
    Solution: Close any other software in the background to isolate potential incompatibilities or interferences.
  • PhraseExpress may be too fast in pasting the text than Windows is able to switch the focus back to the target application, if the PC is slow or under heavy load.
    Solution: Increase the PhraseExpress focus delay setting (See chapter "Paste Delays").
  • By default, PhraseExpress relies on Windows to switch the focus back to the last known program before PhraseExpress had focus. You may try and enabling the option Settings » text Output » "Force focus change" to make PhraseExpress explicitly set the program focus. If this option was set, try and disable it for testing.
  • Programs may get focus but the application does not set the input focus back to the input box it has before activating application focus.

    • Contact the maker of the application and ask for correction. It is out of our reach to change any such 3rd party application behavior.
    • Add PhraseExpress keypress simulation macros to navigate back to the desired input box. E.g., TAB jumps from input box to input box.
General work-around in case of focus issues:
  1. CTRL-click a phrase in phrase menu to copy the it into the clipboard, instead of the target application.
  2. Point the input cursor into the target application.
  3. Use CTRL+V to manually paste the clipboard contents.

Text is inserted but incomplete/erratic

Please check the following if text is text inserted incompletely or with wrong characters:

  • Check the general trouble-shooting tips first.
  • Applications and web browser input forms may use Javascript to process your input which may interfere with the PhraseExpress text insertion. For example, Adobe Dreamweaver or software development software ("IDEs") can perform heavy text input processing. You may need to change the paste method to clipboard paste in such case (See chapter "Paste Method"). If you use the browser Apple Safari v5.1, you need to configure the paste method to "SendKey".
  • If the first few letters of a text insertion are doubled in any Office program (such as Word, Excel or Outlook), then most likely  the AutoCorrect feature of MS Office is enabled and interferes with the AutoCorrect feature of PhraseExpress. We strongly recommend disabling the AutoCorrect function in MS Word. You can import your MS Word AutoCorrect entries into PhraseExpress for use in any application anyway.
  • If text is inserted only partially or broken, then your computer perhaps is slower than PhraseExpress trying to insert the text. In such case, increase the paste delays (See chapter "Paste Delays").
  • If scrambled text is inserted, please verify if a suitable keyboard language is enabled. Also make sure to use the clipboard paste method if using Asian languages (See chapter "Paste Method"). If inserting RTF- or Word formatted text, make sure that the computer has all required fonts installed that you have used in the phrase.
  • If the insertion of any phrase into a target program still fails, try this workaround: Press and hold the CTRL-key when clicking the desired the phrase in the popup menu. PhraseExpress will then not paste the phrase contents but copy it into the clipboard. You can then insert the phrase manually by pasting the clipboard.
  • If the first character(s) of the autotext is not removed when inserting the phrase, most probably the auto-capitalization feature of the target application interferes and prevents PhraseExpress from fully removing the typed autotext before the phrase is inserted. Workaround: Do not trigger phrases by autotext but by hotkey. For example, you could use the default PhraseExpress hotkey ALT+SPACE to trigger the general phrase menu. Then type the beginning of the description of the phrase you wish to insert and confirm with the confirmation key (TAB by default).

I get unwanted text replacements

PhraseExpress offers several options if you experience unwanted text replacements:

  • Delete the text replacement with Backspaces. PhraseExpress will detect the deletion and will not recognize the Autotext the very next time you enter it again.
    If you undo multiple times, PhraseExpress will offer you to edit the Autotext. You can then alter the Autotext settings or delete phrase.
  • Alternatively, hold the SHIFT-key and click the PhraseExpress tray icon to open the unwanted phrase in PhraseExpress. You can then edit or delete that item.
  • Right-click the PhraseExpress tray icon to get additional options to prevent unwanted text replacements. You can exclude that phrase or PhraseExpress in general from particular programs for example.
  • Exit PhraseExpress to verify if another software may cause the text replacement (e.g. Microsoft Office AutoCorrect).

If you get an unwanted popup menu with text suggestions or phrases, you can right-click such entry in the popup menu to get options to prevent future suggestions.

You can additionally define a custom hotkey to open the last executed phrase in the PhraseExpress settings at Tools » Settings » hotkeys.

No phrases at all

Don't panic! It is very unlikely, that your phrases are gone - PhraseExpress does not have any function to delete your phrase file. It simply can't perform such file deletion. Most probably, PhraseExpress just cannot remember where your phrases are stored and this is easy to fix:

Solution for local phrase files:
  • Tell PhraseExpress the phrase file location by loading the phrase file. The default file name is "phrases.pxp". The default phrase file path is described in manual chapter "Storage locations". Please note, that the default path changed since PhraseExpress version 13.
  • Individual deleted phrases can be restored from the recycle bin.
  • If the recycle bin is empty, you can try to restore an earlier phrase file from the backup.
  • If option "File » Restore" is disabled, experienced Windows users can manually restore a backup from the the back repository with following procedure:

    Video tutorial
    1. Open PhraseExpress Settings » Phrase files.
    2. If option "Backup" is enabled, copy the backup storage path shown into the clipboard.
    3. Close the settings and open Windows file explorer.
    4. Paste the backup storage path you just copied into the explorer address bar and press ENTER.
    5. The Explorer now shows the backup folders for each phrase file. Those begin with the phrase file name, followed by an underscore.
    6. Open the backup folder of the phrase file you wish to restore.
    7. Sort the containing backup files by date or size by clicking on the corresponding column title bar and figure out the phrase backup you wish to restore.
    8. Strip off ".bak" (incl. the period!) from the file extension to get the regular phrase file extension .pxp.
    9. Import this phrase file into PhraseExpress or alternatively load it, after(!) you moved it out of the backup directory into any meaningful phrase file location of your choice.

I don't get any autocomplete text suggestions

  • Check the general trouble-shooting tips first.
  • The autocomplete feature is disabled by default. You can enable the feature in PhraseExpress Settings » AutoSuggest.
  • Sentences must be entered identically at least three times before they are considered by PhraseExpress for suggestion. Make sure, that you enter sentences without making typos to let PhraseExpress identify them as repetitive input.
  • Sentences must have a certain minimum length to be suggested.
  • Is the Text prediction feature configured to work in only specific applications?
  • The AutoSuggest feature is generally not available for Asian languages.

Phrase editing is disabled

There are a few situations where PhraseExpress disables editing of phrases:

  • The local phrase file is set to read-only (file attribute "read-only" is set).
  • PhraseExpress was launched with the command-line parameter -readonly which disables editing functions. See chapter "Command line parameters".
  • You are trying to load a phrase file with an older PhraseExpress version. If the phrase file has been touched by any new PhraseExpress version client, it becomes write-protected for older versions which have become incompatible with the new phrase file format. Solution: Install the latest PhraseExpress version.
  • Phrase file provided by us may eventually be write-protected internally.
  • If using a PhraseExpress Server:
    • Editing is locked while the PhraseExpress window of another user on the network is opened to prevent simultaneous write collisions and synchronization issues. The status column of the Client Manager's monitor shows the current editor.
    • You may not have edit rights granted for a particular phrase folder. See chapter "Phrase access".
    • If the network connection is interrupted, PhraseExpress falls back to a write-protected cache file. Editing is disabled as any change would be lost after PhraseExpress switches back to the network phrase file if the network connection is re-established again.
    • All PhraseExpress clients on the network must have the same version number. Editing may be disabled as older clients may not support features of a newer phrase file on the network.

Bitmaps and text formatting

Formatted phrases are a complex topic as multiple different factors are involved:

  • The source program from which you create a phrase from.
  • In case of a HTML source, the way, bitmaps are referenced (embedded, linked per URL or linked to a local file).
  • The target program (and its settings), that receives the formatted phrase.
  • The phrase format (Plain Text, RTF, Word) selected in PhraseExpress to store the phrase.
  • Phrase formatting output settings as defined in the PhraseExpress settings.

Saving a formatted phrase

If you highlight a phrase in the source program and create a new phrase in PhraseExpress, the following happens:

  1. PhraseExpress triggers a "copy to clipboard" action with the highlighted text.
  2. The source program fills the clipboard with the text contents, eventually in multiple formatting variations (HTML, RTF, plain text and eventually custom formats, such as native Microsoft Word formatting).
  3. PhraseExpress analyses the clipboard and prefers to use RTF, if provided by the source program, as phrases are internally stored as RTF in PhraseExpress. If only HTML is available, PhraseExpress converts the HTML into RTF which may change text formatting appearance.

Avoid conversions from HTML to RTF by using a source applications that fill the clipboard with RTF.

  • Microsoft Word fills the clipboard with native Word formatting, HTML, RTF and plain text.
  • Microsoft Outlook sends RTF or HTML based on the email settings.
  • Microsoft Wordpad provides RTF and plain text.
  • Microsoft Notepad provides plain text only.
  • Browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Safari, etc.) and the E-Mail client Thunderbird provides HTML and plain text.

Please contact the vendor of the source application for information about supported formats.

You may also consider to create the phrase directly with the built-in PhraseExpress editor.

PhraseExpress embeds bitmaps into formatted phrases, regardless if they are linked to a local file or URL in any HTML formatted phrase.

Inserting formatted phrases

PhraseExpress sends a formatted phrase to the clipboard in RTF, plain text and HTML, which is a dynamically generated version of the RTF contents.

The target app selects the preferred formatting variation. If the target application prefers HTML over RTF, the phrase appearance may change due to the RTF to HTML conversion.

PhraseExpress has no influence in the target application's formatting choice. However, you can configure PhraseExpress which format to use to output phrases (Settings » Expert Options » Text insertion » Phrase output format).

if choosing "Automatic", PhraseExpress outputs in plain text, RTF and HTML in all target application but Microsoft Office. In this case, no HTML is output as Microsoft Office, unfortunately, prefers HTML over RTF for unknown reasons.

Review the target program clipboard paste settings, if available. For example, Microsoft Word has detailed clipboard paste conversion settings.

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