Text replacement, replace-as-you-type or AutoCorrect is an automatic data validation function commonly found in word processors such as Microsoft Word and text editing interfaces for Apple Inc. products including the iPod, iPhone and the iPad. Its principal purpose is as part of the spell checker to correct common spelling or typing errors, saving time for the user. It is also used to automatically format text or insert special characters by recognizing particular character usage, saving the user from having to use more tedious functions.
Additional options include recognizing words with two initial capital letters (e.g. "EXample") and correcting them, capitalizing the first letters of sentences, and correcting accidental use of caps lock (e.g. eXAMPLE).
The replacement list for text replacement can also be modified by the user, allowing the user to use shortcuts. If, for example, the user is writing an essay on the industrial revolution, a replacement key can be set up to replace "ir" with "industrial revolution", saving the user time whenever she wants to type it. For users with the patience, this facility can even be used to create a complete keyboard shorthand system, along lines similar to those of Dutton Speedwords, but with short forms instantly replaced by full forms.
Some stand alone programs allow global text replacement across the operating system, and apply to text typed into any other application.
The list of terms within the default Microsoft AutoCorrect application in Microsoft Word can be replaced by words, terms, expressions, etc., other than the default set. Doing so in a wise, comprehensive and strategic manner can immensely improve the keyboarding productivity and accuracy in high-production work settings.
In certain situations, automatic corrections can cause problems. This is particularly so in technical and scientific writing. For example, the biochemical cyclic adenosine monophosphate is commonly referred to as "cyclic AMP", which in turn is abbreviated to "cAMP". A text replacement function may regard this capitalization to be erroneous, and so change it to "Camp", which in the context of biochemistry is incorrect. Older automatic-correction algorithms can cause problems even in nontechnical writing; the Cupertino effect was an example: cooperation (which some dictionaries would not recognize unless hyphenated co-operation) became Cupertino.
Some writers and organizations choose to consistently replace some words with others as part of their editorial policy, with occasionally unforeseen results. For example, the American Family Association chose to replace all instances of the word, "gay", on its website with the word, "homosexual". This caused an article about US Olympic sprinter Tyson Gay to be littered with confusing sentences such as, "In Saturday's opening heat, Homosexual pulled way up, way too soon, and nearly was caught by the field, before accelerating again and lunging in for fourth place."
Misuse of text replacement software is a staple practical joke in many schools and offices. Typically, the prankster will set the victim's word processing software to replace an extremely common word with a humorous absurdity, or an incorrectly spelled version of the original word. The growing use of autocorrection on smartphones has also led to popular websites and blogs where people post and share humorous or embarrassing cases of improper autocorrections.
- Mary Ann Akers (2008-07-01). "Christian Site's Ban on 'G' Word Sends Homosexual to Olympics". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-09-17.
- "Microsoft AutoCorrect Prank". Retrieved 2012-01-22.
- How to disable text replacement features (AutoFormat and AutoCorrect) in Microsoft Word 2007
- OOo Off the Wall: Domesticating Autocorrect
- A brief discussion on the history of code completion