Writing User Stories quickly

Working on Agile development projects I tend to write a lot of user stories. A User Story is information a developer uses to help them understand what functionality needs to be built.

They generally follow this convention:

As a blank, I need to blank, so that I can blank.

Here are some examples:

  • As a user, I need to create an account, so that I can edit my personal information.
  • As a user, I need to log into my account, so that I can begin my session.
  • As a user, I need to log out of my account, so that I can end my session.
  • As a user, I need to create a post on my blog, so that I can publish my thoughts

The first couple examples there are very similar from a purely sentence structure point of view. That last one is a little cheeky, I admit.

There’s a ton of info and debate about good user stories and ones that could be better. But this post isn’t about that. It is about, well, let me explain it with a User Story.

As a Project Manager, I need to quickly write many similarly formatted sentences, so that I can describe what functionality needs to be built.

Enter text expansion.

I can’t tell you why it took me so long to figure this one out. I use text expansion a lot. It occurred to me today that writing user stories is something text expansion would be great at.

Text Expansion works like this. First, you setup a snippet; just a short body of text. You type said snippet and it expands to a large body of text.

For example, I set up a snippet for the first 5 words of Lorem Ipsum. When I type “;li5”, it expands to “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet”. This works anywhere you can write text on your computer (and most of the places you can write text on iPad/iOS as well).

I have snippets for - My email addresses. - My home address. - My phone numbers (work, cell). - My work offices addresses. - And a whole lot more.

What’s the big deal? Is this going out of my way to be lazy. Maybe, but I expanded 272 snippets which saved me 48 minutes over the last month. I’m not a power user, so many folks have better stats.

As a reader, I need you to get back to your point, so that I don’t close this browser tab.

OK, I think you see where I’m going. Typing (nearly) the same thing over and over again is ripe for automation. One of the magic bits about the TextExpander app is that it allows you to add fields to specific parts of the text.

I’ve added fields to all the places I have blank in my User Story text. I then type the ;aus snippet and I get this handy pop-up.

GIve text expansion a try, I hope it saves you some time!

Chad Moore @cm