Understanding the Big Three Autos in Word

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 7, 2015)

Did you ever notice that there are a lot of autos hanging around in Word these days? Not all of these autos are easy to tell apart, either. For instance, it is easy to sometimes confuse AutoText, AutoCorrect, and AutoComplete. These are three distinct features of Word that it is very helpful to tell apart.

AutoText is a tool that allows you to assign a mnemonic name to a larger block of text. Then, when you later type the mnemonic, you can choose to replace it with the block of text with which it is associated. For instance, you might have a salutation or closing for a letter, each saved under a different mnemonic name. The combination of a mnemonic and its related block of text is most commonly referred to as an AutoText entry. You can access AutoText entries by choosing AutoCorrect from the Tools menu, and then working on the AutoText tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

AutoCorrect differs from AutoText in that it really is automatic. In other words, you don't choose to make a substitution as you do with AutoText--Word just goes right ahead and makes it for you. As the name implies, AutoCorrect is used primarily to make automatic corrections to what you type. Using AutoCorrect, you essentially indicate one word (the misspelled word) to be replaced with another word (the correct word). You are not limited to a single word with your correction, however. For instance, you could replace the word "abc" with "American Basketball Corporation," if you desired. You can access AutoCorrect settings by choosing AutoCorrect from the Tools menu, and then working on the AutoCorrect tab in the AutoCorrect dialog box.

Earlier I mentioned that using AutoText is optional, but that AutoCorrect replacements are done automatically. When you type the mnemonic for an AutoText entry, you must then press F3 to replace that mnemonic with its associated block of text. With an AutoCorrect word, the replacement happens automatically when you terminate the word and press the Space Bar. For instance, in the example provided above, if you typed "abc" or "abc." or "abc," and then pressed the Space Bar, AutoCorrect kicks into gear and replaces the "abc" portion with "American Basketball Corporation." No additional action on your part is needed; the correction is just made.

Finally, AutoComplete is a feature of Word that allows you to see AutoText mnemonics that may be applicable based on what you are typing. When AutoComplete is turned on, and you type the first four unique letters of an AutoText mnemonic, Word displays a ToolTip (a small yellow box) next to what you are typing, to inform you that an AutoText entry is available for what you are starting to type. For instance, let's say that you have an AutoText entry set up, and the mnemonic portion of that entry is "MyTable." If you type the four letters "myta", then the AutoComplete feature kicks in and a small yellow ToolTip box appears containing the full mnemonic of "MyTable." What Word is doing is second-guessing what you are typing, offering to complete the mnemonic for you. If you press Tab or Enter while the AutoComplete ToolTip is visible, then Word replaces the mnemonic you were starting to type with the block of text in the full AutoText entry. If two AutoText mnemonics share the same four first letters, then AutoComplete will not kick in until you type enough letters for Word to figure out which mnemonic is applicable to what you are typing.

Notice that AutoComplete works hand-in-hand with AutoText. AutoComplete is not associated with AutoCorrect, other than being controlled through a setting on the AutoText tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box. You should note, as well, that AutoComplete also suggests different ways to complete the date, if it thinks you are typing a date or a portion thereof. For instance, if I have AutoComplete turned on, and I type the first four letters of a month, then AutoComplete suggests the name of the full month, and I can accept that suggestion by pressing Tab or Enter.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1619) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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