MS Word

Use AutoText, or Don't

Back in the good old days of Word 2 (and the horrors of Windows 3.11 for Workgroupsno, I don't miss 'em), I used to use glossaries all the time for storing chunks of text so I could lump them quickly into my documents. Then Word 6 introduced AutoCorrect and killed glossaries stone deadfor me, anyway. But all the subsequent versions of Word still have glossaries, except that they're now called AutoText. What's the point? I can see that entries like "Page X of Y" are good for inserting fields in a header or footer. But nobody in their right mind is going to wade through three levels of menu to save typing "Dear Sir or Madam"or are they?

The Solution:

You've got a point. Most of the canned AutoText entries are practically useless. And given that AutoCorrect entries can be triggered automatically by the right sequence of letters, AutoText seems like a step backward.

AutoText has a couple of advantages over AutoCorrect, though. First, you can move AutoText entries from one template to another, while your unformatted AutoCorrect entries are stuck in a file deep within your user profile and your formatted AutoCorrect entries are locked inside Second, because AutoText isn't triggered simply by your typing, you can use real words as the short versions of your AutoText entries. Consequently, they can be much easier to remember than AutoCorrect entries.

How to use autocorrect most effectively?

AutoCorrect's "Replace text as you type" feature is great for fixing typos, but you can save much more time by creating AutoCorrect entries for text items that you need to enter frequently in your document. What these entries consist of depends on your work, but you might consider anything from creating short versions of long words (for example, "orgl" for "organizational") to creating entries for boilerplate text items of a sentence or two. Plain-text AutoCorrect entries can be up to 255 characters long, while formatted-text AutoCorrect entries can be as long as you like.

Make sure that each AutoCorrect entry is not a real word in any language you use in your documents. One way of doing so is to start each AutoCorrect entry with a little-used character, such as X, Z, or J. You can also use a punctuation character to make AutoCorrect group your entries at the top or bottom of the list of entries. Make the rest of the name something easy to remember, such as an abbreviation taken from the beginning of the replacement text.

One of the easiest ways to create AutoCorrect entries for your idiosyncratic typos is when spellchecking a document. Use the AutoCorrect submenu on the context menu for a single-word spellcheck or the AutoCorrect button in the Spelling and Grammar dialog box.

If that doesn't work, choose Tools » AutoCorrect Options (Tools » AutoCorrect in Word 2000), check the "Replace text as you type" box on the AutoCorrect tab, and then try again.

Autotext in four easy steps

If you haven't worked with AutoText before, you can quickly get up to speed:

  1. To create an AutoText entry, enter the text (or other objects) in a document, select them, and press Alt+F3. In the Create AutoText dialog box, type a name for the new AutoText entry and click the OK button. The name provides the easiest way of inserting the AutoText item in a document, so make it as memorable as possible. If you need to be able to identify your AutoText entries easily, consider starting them with a punctuation character, such as an underscore or an equals sign.

  2. To insert an AutoText entry, type the first four or so characters of its name. When Word displays a ScreenTip that shows the first part of the entry, press Enter.

  3. If you can't remember the AutoText entry's name, choose Tools » AutoCorrect Options (in Word 2000, choose Tools » AutoCorrect), click the AutoText tab, select the entry, and click the Insert button. From this page, you can also delete AutoText entries.

  4. If you find that the AutoText ScreenTips become annoying, you can turn them off by unchecking the "Show AutoComplete suggestions" box on the AutoText tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box. In Word 2000, this option is called "Show AutoComplete tip for AutoText and dates."