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Blackberry Trick – Use AutoText and Type Less

After resisting for many years I became a Blackberry user almost two years ago. My model 7105 is now both battle-scarred and obsolete but I’ve actually grown to like it. For the first week the SureType typing system drove me crazy and I was almost ready to return the thing. Once I started to “get it” things became a lot easier and I can now type lengthly (too long, my colleagues might say) emails with ease. World Vital Records co-founder Paul Allentold me that he writes most of his blogs posts on his Blackberry.

While exploring the menus last year I found a feature called AutoText. AutoText is a macro (text replacement) system with some built-in intelligence so that it can handle multiple languages and mixed case text. AutoText is responsible for some of SureType’s spelling correction features. For example, it automatically replaces “acn” with “can,” “ehr” with “her,” and so forth. Basically, the spelling correction dictionary is out in the open and (here’s the big secret) it is also fully editable.

Once I realized that the dictionary could be edited, I created a few shortcuts for myself. I often refer to “developers”, so I added an AutoText entry to insert it when I type “dv.” I refer to Second Life a lot, so that’s “sl.” I always sign my email “Jeff;” so I assigned that to “kn” (these keys have my initials, “jb”). When I email or text with my kids I change this to “Dad;” so that’s “d”.

The dictionary can also be used to correct for some annoyances derived from the ways in which keys are paired on the keyboard. The words “try” and “yet” are “keyonyms” — two words which use the same letters on the keyboard (I just invented the word keyonyms; is there an existing word for this?). It would be easy to use AutoText to create unambiguous one-character shortcuts for these. I haven’t done this yet, but I will.

I also have some shortcuts for URLs to various sites and blogs that I refer to on a regular basis.

There’s still a lot more that can be done. If you are typing in English, there are just a few one-letter words — “I” and “a.” You can use any of the letters as shortcuts too. As an aside, why aren’t there more one-letter words in English?

Once you do enough typing, use of the abbreviations becomes second nature. In fact I sometimes use them (by accident and without the desired effect) when I am on my regular keyboard.