Enabling text substitutions

Christopher Breen and Whitson Gordon
2 October, 2011
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Tucked away in the Language & Text system preference is a feature that lets you create symbol and text substitutions – so, for example, you type (c) to generate the © symbol. In theory, you can use such substitutions to automatically correct common typos too. But when one reader tried to add a shortcut to replace ‘teh’ with ‘the’, it didn’t work. Fortunately, another reader came up with a solution.

It turns out that, by default, you need to enable text substitutions one application at a time. But you can change the default setting with a Terminal command, so that substitutions are automatically available in all applications that support them.

To see how it works, create a new shortcut: launch System Preferences, go to Language & Text and click the Text tab. Then click on the plus-sign (+) button at the bottom left to create your new shortcut. (For example: ‘teh’ in the Replace field, and ‘the’ in the With field.) Make sure that the new substitution has a checkmark in the On box.

Now, go to an app that supports text entry – Safari, for example. Try out your new text replacement’s shortcut in the browser’s search field. If it doesn’t work, go to Edit > Substitutions > Text Replacement. With that option enabled, type ‘teh’ again; it should correct itself to ‘the’ automatically.

If you’d rather not go through that same process in every application you use, launch Terminal (in Applications/Utilities), type in the following command and then press Return: defaults write -g WebAutomaticTextReplacementEnabled -bool true.

Now, any programs that support text substitution should replace your shortcuts automatically. (If this seems like a hassle, consider upgrading to Lion, it has systemwide autocorrection.)

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