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How to autocomplete text with keyboard shortcuts and text expanders?

Discover the best ways to autocomplete text faster across word processors, text editors, and other applications using custom keyboard shortcuts and text expansion apps.
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We've all been there. You're typing away on your phone, sending that important message to your boss, and your fingers fumble as you try to remember how to spell 'definitely.' 

Enter autocomplete, your personal typing savior. From sending emails to filling out online forms, autocomplete is the unsung hero who gets it all done, minus the fuss. 

Be it saving you from typos or helping you breeze through online checkout by filling the same darned form 100 times, this tiny yet trusted feature packs a lot of punch. 

Guess what can lend it more superpowers? Using keyboard shortcuts and text expanders. In this blog, we’ll decode everything you need to know about auto completing text with the help of smart keyboard shortcuts and text expanders. 

What is autocomplete text?

Autocomplete text (or simply autocomplete) is like a personal assistant for your keyboard. 

It's that handy little feature in an application that automatically suggests the right words or phrases as you type, saving you precious time and effort. Think of it like a dependable sidekick that's always one step ahead, anticipating what you're going to say next, and literally finishing your sentences. 

Why use text autocomplete?—Benefits of using keyboard shortcuts and text expanders

You mean aside from the fact that it’s a real lifesaver? Let’s see.

Here are a few reasons why you need to start using text autocomplete right away, if you don’t already.

  1. It saves you hours of time and effort by reducing the need to manually type out entire words, phrases, or sentences from scratch.
  2. It improves the accuracy of text input by providing suggestions or auto correcting commonly-used words or phrases. It reduces typos and spelling errors, making your text look more polished and professional.
  3. It enhances the user experience on any website ​​by providing a more intuitive and seamless way to interact with forms and input fields.

Autocomplete gives you an instant productivity hack, one that is super easy to use, even for the technologically challenged among us. 

It can help people in all roles. From sales reps who send out the same cold pitches fifty times a day to support execs whose fingers tire of repeatedly typing out thank you for chatting with us today

Text autocomplete makes text input faster, more accurate, and more user-friendly. 

Enough with the temptation, already! What does it take to get started, you ask? I hear you.  

How to autocomplete text?

There are a number of ways you can autocomplete the text you type every day in word editors, emails, on social media platforms, in text messages and chats, and everywhere else you get work (or writing) done.

You can autocomplete text with keyboard shortcuts and text expanders to type faster, turn on autocomplete in your web browser to search faster, and even autofill forms and fields online using automation tools, widgets, and scripts. 

Here are 5 ways to autocomplete text:

1. Autocomplete text with text expanders

Many programs allow you to set up keyboard shortcuts for autocompletion of frequently used text. 

While Mac comes with a native Text Replacement feature to help you accomplish this, Windows also lets you insert AutoText in its selected apps including MS Word and Outlook. 

Recommended reading: How to create custom text expansions in Word

In addition to creating shortcuts for phrases and sentences, you can also create shortcuts for commonly used symbols and characters. I don’t like to navigate to Emojipedia every time I want to insert an emoji in an Instagram caption, for example.  

So, I downloaded OSlash text expander and assigned the shortcut o/fly to summon 🚀and o/grin to insert 😄into my posts without taking my fingers off the keyboard.  

What is a text expander? Glad you asked. 

Text expanders are productivity enhancing programs that allow you to create more complex autocomplete functions. You can use them to replace text you type multiple times with an abbreviation or shortcut. When you next type the abbreviation, it automatically triggers the expansion of the shortcut into the original text. 

Here’s a GIF to illustrate how it works.

Autocomplete text using text expansion apps
Autocomplete text using text expansion apps

Text expanders are especially helpful when writing long documents or emails, as they can save you a whole lot of time and energy. They also let you quickly insert images or other media into documents, as well as set up shortcuts for special characters and symbols (like emojis). 

You can use text expanders to autocomplete not just phrases but also emails, canned responses, clipboard content, strings of code, and so much more. 

Recommended reading: How to type less using text expanders

2. Autocomplete text in your browser

Most browsers today—including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge and others—have a built-in autocomplete feature that’s responsible for fetching you URL suggestions based on your history. Think of the Zoom link that shows up as soon as you hit z, or the funny cat video on YouTube on typing y.

My Chrome address bar, for one, is full of OSlash shortcuts I use everyday at work. I’ve replaced the Google Meet link to our content standup with o/content-meet and our Notion social media calendar with o/social-media, to save myself the frustration of searching for the right URL each time.

Using OSlash shortcuts to find information instantly at the workplace
Using OSlash shortcuts to find information instantly at the workplace

Autocomplete is usually turned on by default in your browser. If it does not work, troubleshooting is pretty simple via toggling the autocomplete settings off/on. The settings may be located in different places in different browsers. This cheat-sheet will help you out!

P.S. Like me, you can also use a text expander or a link management tool such as OSlash to save your links as shortcuts and fetch them instantly in the address bar when needed. 

3. Autocomplete text in search engines such as Google

“Did you mean text expanders?” Google asks me as I search for the incorrectly typed ‘text expnadr', while showing me relevant results simultaneously. 

This is autocomplete at work again. Only, it’s called autosuggest in the case of search engines. 

Autosuggest, like browser autocomplete, is a default setting in most search engines. It autocompletes your search terms or questions and brings you suggestions for the most relevant terms too, based on language preferences, geography, trends, and search history so that you can browse the web faster. Content teams and SEO experts also use it for keyword research to get an idea of what people are searching for. 

4. AutoComplete information in Excel

The AutoComplete function in Excel allows you to “quickly insert functions and arguments while minimizing typing and syntax errors.” Its cousin, Auto Fill, lets you extend a series of information by auto-inserting the entry that comes next in the sequence (for example, typing 3,4,5 automatically after you type 1, 2, 3 in a row or adding Wednesday on its own after you type Monday and Tuesday into successive columns). 

You can use a text expander in conjunction with Excel to save yourself hundreds of keystrokes while entering repetitive phrases or even fetching variables such as current date and time. Most text expanders use macros and customizable snippets to make this possible.

5. Automate repetitive tasks and frequent text using JavaScript

For the technologically gifted (looking at you, devs!) task automation using JavaScript is child's play. This powerful and versatile coding language can be deployed to write small pieces of code (scripts) to automate various actions on the browser such as filling in forms and input fields on websites, clicking and scrolling, as well as scraping and transferring data between websites, to name a few.

No surprises that it can also be used to automate repetitive typing and autocomplete text. Some text expanders also make provisions for creating and running your own scripts, which comes in handy to customize the app for your everyday use. 

It’s a no-brainer that auto-completing text on scale can save both human and financial resources, when used right. 

Tips for improving text autocomplete efficiency in text expanders

To make the most of text autocomplete using keyboard shortcuts and text expanders, it’s essential to keep a few points in mind.

You can get started by programming your text expansion app to reflect your text usage patterns and typing habits. Are there words you misspell often? Complex words or technical jargon you find a handful to type? Make sure you create quick shortcuts for them to improve your typing speed and accuracy.

You can also group your snippets into thematic folders or sort them using tags so as to locate them seamlessly when needed. In addition, you can designate custom hotkeys (such as hitting o/) to invoke the shortcuts instantly everywhere you work, without navigating to your text expander’s interface. 

Lastly, you can set autocomplete to suggest words or phrases based on the context of the sentence, or you can set it to suggest words or phrases based on the most commonly used words in your writing. As your writing assistant adapts to your style, it can help you write even faster and crush all your typing tasks in record time!

How to troubleshoot common issues with text autocomplete

If you encounter any issues when using autocomplete features, there are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot them. First, try restarting your computer and resetting your Keyboard Shortcuts or Text Expanders. You may also need to reinstall any programs that are experiencing issues with autocompletion. If all else fails, contact your system administrator for help.

If you are still having trouble with autocompletion, you may need to update your operating system or the software you are using. Additionally, you can try disabling any plugins or extensions that may be interfering with it. If the issue persists, you may need to contact the software manufacturer for further assistance.

Try OSlash text expander for a hassle-free autocomplete experience

Batman has Robin. Sherlock has Watson. And I, someone who types thousands of words everyday, have OSlash. OSlash has solved my typing troubles forever by letting me create a snippet for everything I type more than twice. 

This includes blog outlines, emails requesting feedback from my editors, pitches for collaboration sent to social media influencers, and quick yet heartfelt thank you replies on Slack. 

Recommended reading: Using a text expander to speed up your writing 

What used to take me 20 minutes to type now takes 2 seconds. And I can’t really have enough of it! AI writing assistants might be helping the world churn out content faster than ever before but OSlash is one app that has truly taken over all my typing busywork and transformed it into fun, almost.

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