The importance of using AutoCorrect

Here's your chance to pass along a tip to your users that can help them work more efficiently. TechRepublic columnist Jeff Davis explains why users should take advantage of Word's AutoCorrect feature and provides some time-saving tips.

Suppose you noticed that some users were taking the long way to work, but you knew of a shortcut that could shave several minutes of time off of their commute. You'd tell them about that route, right?

This week, I'm challenging you to get the word out about Word’s AutoCorrect feature. If the Word users in your organization aren’t taking advantage of this timesaving feature, it's up to you as an IT pro to tell them how to use the technology more efficiently. Here's the scoop.

Expanding text to increase productivity
I first wrote about AutoCorrect in 1999’s "Shared AutoCorrect lists can cut down on typing time and mistakes." In that article, I explained the basics of how to use AutoCorrect as a text-expander. Instead of repeatedly typing long words or phrases, I recommended creating an AutoCorrect entry that expands to type those words or phrases for you. That way, you’ll save valuable time and increase your productivity.

To recap, suppose your work requires that you frequently type the word Minneapolis in your Word documents. Instead of typing that 11-character word every time, go to Tools | AutoCorrect. Under the AutoCorrect tab, in the section labeled Replace Text As You Type, enter a shortcut such as minn in the Replace field, type Minneapolis in the With field, and click OK. Then, when you type minn followed by a space, a hard return, or any punctuation, Word will replace minn with Minneapolis.

You can also create an AutoCorrect entry that expands to multiple words or even multiple lines of text. For instance, if you frequently write business letters to the same person, for example, John Jones, you might store that person’s entire mailing address in an AutoCorrect entry. To do so, type the address, select it, and then go to Tools | AutoCorrect.

When the AutoCorrect dialog box appears, type a shortcut such as jjones, as shown in Figure A, and press [Enter] to save the new entry. Press [Enter] again to close the AutoCorrect dialog box. Thereafter, whenever you need to enter that person’s address, just type jjones and press [Enter].

Figure A
To create a shortcut that expands to multiple lines of text, select those lines before you summon the AutoCorrect dialog box.

The trick is to create AutoCorrect shortcuts that are easy to remember and easy to type. You also want to avoid using as shortcuts “real” words or abbreviations. For instance, you probably wouldn’t use "ms" as an AutoCorrect shortcut for Microsoft, because it's commonly used as a person’s title, such as “Ms. Joyce Jones.”

Pictures allowed
You can also include a graphic image as part of your AutoCorrect entry. Just select the picture, and any associated text, before you go to Tools | AutoCorrect. AutoCorrect will also insert the picture when it expands your AutoCorrect entry.

Printing the list for a teaching tool
Recently, a friend of mine, someone with more than 15 years’ experience as a professional secretary, asked me to help format a complex Word document. During the course of our discussion, I discovered that she had never used AutoCorrect.

I showed her how to create shortcuts for some common words and phrases, and we discussed the strategy I used over a period of years to create a full library of text-expanding shortcuts. She asked if I could print a copy of my shortcuts so she could review them and decide which ones of mine she could “borrow” for her own use.

Unfortunately, Word doesn’t offer a built-in method for printing AutoCorrect entries. If you go to File | Print and click the drop-down list for the Print What option, you can select AutoText Entries, as shown in Figure B. However, while AutoText and AutoCorrect are very similar, they work differently and use separate lists.

Figure B
Word's Print dialog box lets you print the list of AutoText entries, but you need another solution to print the AutoCorrect list.

Fortunately, Microsoft has published a macro that generates a list of the AutoCorrect entries. Listing A shows that macro, which we copied from the Knowledge Base article "How to Print a List of AutoCorrect Entries (Q212518)."

To create this macro, go to Tools | Macro | Macros, type a name for the macro, such as InsertAutoCorrectEntries, and click Create. The Visual Basic editor will automatically add the Sub and End Sub lines for you, so copy the body of this macro, paste it into the Visual Basic editor, and save your work.

By the way, this macro works the same in Word 97, 2000, and 2002.

Running the macro
When you run the macro, it will create a new Word document for you and then insert all of the AutoCorrect entries and the expanded output that each entry yields. If you have saved a graphic image as part of an AutoCorrect entry, the image itself will not appear in this document; the macro will insert an asterisk where the image would normally be.

The macro sorts the entries in alphabetical order and formats the list in three columns. Now, you can print the document or e-mail it to anyone who wants to review the AutoCorrect list.

About sharing AutoCorrect lists
Every Word user can glean a few new shortcuts by reviewing the printout of a well-developed AutoCorrect list. However, most users prefer to use AutoCorrect to create their own text-expanding shortcuts, based on the type of documents they routinely create and edit.

On the other hand, if a group of users wants to copy the AutoCorrect list created by another user, you can share those lists between computers. We won’t go into the details here, but you can read about it in the Microsoft Knowledge Base article "How to Move Word AutoCorrect Entries Between Computers (Q207748)."

Word up
Do you agree that AutoCorrect should play a part in your training or support of Word users? To comment on this tip, please post a comment below or write to Jeff.


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