Word: Use the power of AutoCorrect to save heaps of timeMarch 8, 2011
Word’s AutoCorrect is one of its hidden gems. Hidden, because many Word users don’t know it exists, or, if they know it exists, think that it’s just for fixing a typo like ‘teh’ by changing it to ‘the’.
But there’s so much more to AutoCorrect than just fixing common typos. Word already has a default set of auto corrections, and you can add your own. Simple typo corrections are easy to set up (see this blog post for how to do so: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2008/07/04/word-2003-autocorrect/).
The power is in setting up whole strings of text that get generated just by a couple of letters, or in setting up text formatted just the way you want.
Let me give you some examples based on some work I’m doing now. Many of the documents I’m editing contain chemical notations — for example: CO2, H2S, O3, and the like. Let’s just look at CO2. To type this in your document, you have to hold down the Shift key while typing C and O, then release Shift to type the 2 and a following space, then use one of several methods to subscript the 2 (you type the space before subscripting the 2 otherwise the text to follow is also subscripted!).
That’s at least five, possibly ten or more, actions you had to complete just to get the chemical symbol for carbon dioxide! Multiply that by how many times you have to add CO2 to your document and you can see that you will spend a lot of time just getting this one chemical symbol correctly formatted. Wouldn’t it be nice to just type co2 and automatically have Word turn it into CO2? That’s the sort of thing AutoCorrect was designed for.
Here’s how to set up AutoCorrect to convert co2 into CO2 (these instructions work for Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010):
- In your document, type CO2 and a space, then format it correctly (capital letters, then subscript the 2 but not the space; you should have CO2 ).
- Select and copy CO2 and its following space. This puts it on the clipboard.
- Open the AutoCorrect dialog box:
- Word 2003: From the menu, select Tools > AutoCorrect Options.
- Word 2007: Click the large Microsoft button in the top left, click Word Options, click Proofing, then click the AutoCorrect Options button in the AutoCorrect options section.
- Word 2010: Click File in the top left, click Word Options, click Proofing, then click the AutoCorrect Options button in the AutoCorrect options section.
- About midway down the AutoCorrect dialog box, there are two fields: Replace and With. You should see CO2 in the With field as Word automatically pastes the last thing you copied into that field.
- In the Replace field on the left, type co2. (Hint: Type it in lower case as this will save keystrokes when you need to use it in your document.)
- Next to the With field, select Formatted text. This is a critical step. When you select Formatted Text, the pasted CO2 changes to CO2.
- Click Replace, then click OK.
- To test that it works, go back to your document, type co2 (lower case) then press the spacebar (or TAB key or ENTER key). Voila! Your co2 is automatically replaced with CO2 and a following space.
Just think how much time you’ll save!
Now, start thinking about all sorts of other text you have to type regularly and see if there are shortcuts you can add to AutoCorrect so that as you type the shortcut, the long string of text replaces the shortcut. And don’t forget that Formatted text option to preserve any special formatting (see the September 2015 update below for a limitation with formatted AutoCorrect entries).
Be careful, though. Your replacement text should NOT be a real word otherwise you’ll get all sorts of weird stuff happening! Years ago my husband needed to write a lot of curriculum documents that used the terms ‘Physical Education’ and ‘Health Education’. I set up ‘pe’ for ‘Physical Education’ and he thought that was so clever that he set up ‘he’ for ‘Health Education’. However, every time he typed ‘he’, it converted to ‘Health Education’, even if it he meant ‘he’ — the male pronoun!
The way to avoid this sort of error is to add something like a period in front of the Replace text — .he instead of he. For example, typing .he converted my husband’s text to ‘Health Education’, whereas when he typed he the text stayed as typed.
Update September 2015: NOTE: Formatted AutoCorrect entries created in Word will ONLY work in Word, not the other Office programs. The formatted ones are stored in normal.dotm. However, plain text AutoCorrect entries are stored in *.ACL files, which are available to ALL Office programs.
[Links last checked March 2011]