OOo Off the Wall: Domesticating Autocorrect

Don't you hate it when the word completion feature wants to finish your words for you? Or do you love it? Learn how to customize (or kill) Autocorrect in OOo and live in word-processing peace.

Few users are neutral about 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:

  • Enhanced spell-checking

  • Macro-like storage for reusable text

  • Automatic word completion

  • Automatic formatting

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.

Enhanced Spell Checking

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.

Reusable Text

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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Thank you some good

evao's picture

Thank you some good advice.

Custom quotes

Kim Bastin's picture

The relation between the custom quotes settings on the Custom Quotes tab and on the Options tab is simple enough. On the Custom Quotes tab you select the characters you want to use as quotes. These vary with language, and in some languages they can vary with personal preference or house style. On the Options tab you enable or disable replacement of "straight quotes" with those characters.

Auto format 1.1.1 to 01/01/01 in tables

Anonymous's picture

This drove me to madness (which is to say, back to Word to fill out tables).
3 digits seperated by periods are auto formated into dates when they appear alone in a table cell.
Utterly infuriating, still haven't figured out how to turn it off.


Logic Probe's picture

I found this in the OOo 2.0 help file:

"Automatic conversion to date format Calc automatically converts certain entries to dates. For example, the entry 1.1 may be interpreted as January 1 of the current year, according to the locale settings of your operating system, and then displayed according to the date format applied to the cell.

To ensure that an entry is interpreted as text, add an apostrophe at the beginning of the entry. The apostrophe is not displayed in the cell."

It worked for me in Calc and Writer didn't seem to have your problem in tables.

Thanks, it prompted me to look into it again

Anonymous's picture

This is definately writer, I'm OpenOffice 1.1.0. Perhaps there's something odd in my options.
Following your workaround, I get the string '1.1.1 displayed, which is not quite right.
I did however find that Format->Number Format... and selecting 'text' caused it to stop helping me and honour the text as typed. Then I just had to Format->Paragraph and change to right alignment to make it line up with the other numbers.
Anyhow, it does illustrate the articles observation that all this 'helping' can be a PITA.

Taming OOorg Mozilla plugins

Carlie Coats's picture

When I installed OOo 2.0 not long ago, I found that the installation has set upan interaction with Mozilla so that clicking on a .doc, .rtf,or .xls file now opens an OOo instance within a Mozilla browser window (often taking over a browser window that I'm using for something else). I really want the behavior I had previously set up:
to open the document in an independent OOo window.

What do I need to do to get the previous behavior back?