OOo Off the Wall: Domesticating Autocorrect
Few users are neutral about OpenOffice.org Writer's Autocorrect tool--they either love it or hate it. Those who hate it tend to be long-term users of either GNU/Linux or advanced word processing features, who value being in control of what they do. And it's no wonder they hate it. Turned on by default, Autocorrect turns Writer into a monster with a mind of its own, one that constantly interrupts your flow of thought and makes changes that you don't want. With customization, however, AutoCorrect can be tamed and made into a useful tool. And, if you really want, you can turn it off altogether.
Available from the Tools menu, how Autocorrect is applied depends on the language and the Autoformat option selected. The language used is selected from the combo box at the top of the Autocorrect window. If a language's dictionaries have been installed using File > Wizards > Install new dictionaries, then some Autocorrect entries already are included. If no entries are included, you can add your own, but they will be overwritten if you ever install the dictionaries for that language.
Format > Autoformat sets how Autocorrect selections are applied. The default is While Typing. However, if you un-select the default, you can choose Apply to have all Autocorrect settings take effect or Apply and Edit Changes, which applies them interactively. Either of these two options may be enough to tame Autocorrect for you.
No matter how it is applied, the main purposes for which you can use Autocorrect are:
Macro-like storage for reusable text
Automatic word completion
Unfortunately, the Autocorrect window is not designed to make these purposes as clear to the user as they might be. Still, by jumping between tabs, you soon can understand how to use Autocorrect your own way.
Tools > Autocorrect has two tabs for enhanced spell-checking, the Replace and Options tabs. The Options tab enables the Replace tab but otherwise plays no other role in enhanced spell-checking.
The Replacement tab is a table of common mis-spellings and correct ones. It is turned on when tools > Autocorrect > Options > Use replacement tables is selected. The existing replacement table is extensive, but you can add your own entries by highlighting a correct spelling in a document and then opening Autocorrect and entering a mis-spelling in the Replace field at the top of the tab. Most of the time, you probably will want to select the Text only box, a slightly cryptic option that makes a replacement take on the formatting of the text around it. Once the new entry is made, selecting the New button adds it to the table.
You also can delete any entries from the replacement table. Entries must be deleted one at a time, but deletion is another way to gain more control over how AutoCorrect functions.
One defect of the replacement tables is it is not case-sensitive. That means that, if a word that starts with a capital is replaced, you need to go back and insert the capital. But, in English, at any rate, this defect usually does limited damage, especially if the Capitalize first letter of every sentence box is selected on the Option tab.
One of the ways you can use the replacement table is as storage for reusable text, such as a paragraph that describes your company or special characters that you use often. (The other options for this are Edit > Autotext and Tools > Macros > Record Macros, followed by assigning the macro to a menu, keyboard shortcut or toolbar using Tools > Customize).
In both cases, the procedure for using Autocorrect as reusable text storage is the same as for adding a word to the replacement table. Highlight it in a document and then open Tools > Autocorrect. The only difference is in the Replace field, where you enter a code that you can type when you want to insert the reusable text. For example, I use "e1" to add é
If you are adding a paragraph, one disadvantage is it appears on a single line, and you need to scroll. However, if Autocorrect has an upper limit to the number of characters that the replacement table accepts, it's over a hundred words.
This feature acts much like an entry in Edit > Autotext. You also could use Edit > Autotext and Tools > Macros > Record Macros, followed by assigning the macro to a menu, keyboard shortcut or toolbar using Tools > Customize. Using Autocorrect's replacement table is quicker, though, and just as handy.
-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)
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