Word Substitution: possibly the best feature on a BlackBerry

Autotext and Word Substitution
By IsaacKendall on 10 Jun 2011 11:24 am EDT

BlackBerry 101: Word Substitution/AutoText

For me I'm asked one question almost every day "Why do you use a BlackBerry?"  I'm asked it by friends, family members, clients and in radio interviews. Unlike many people I can't give the easy answer "It's what my company gave me" no, I need a real answer.  I fully understand the question from those who don't know how cool a BlackBerry really is.  I have strayed over to other devices over the years but my BlackBerry has always been near by.  Last summer I wrote an article that was well received about my unexplainable love affair with BlackBerry Messenger.

Side-by-Side to many an iPhone looks shinier and more sexy but there are still a few things that other platforms just don't have.  This week Apple rolled out iMessage and other enhancements to iOS at their 'iClone' event in San Francisco, but in my opinion still fell a little short.  Kevin did a head to head video with Rene from TiPb and speed wise BBM and iMessage pretty much tied, but BBM stayed out front with a more feature rich experience that comes from BBM being a mature platform.

For my money, the real killer app in the BlackBerry is AutoText, now called Word Substitution.

Back in 1998 I got my first RIM handheld called the Interactive Messenger which was quickly replaced with the BlackBerry 950.  Even back than my Interactive Messenger and BlackBerry had AutoText and what's really incredible is the number of people that own BlackBerry devices and don't know what it is.

AutoText Example 1          AutoText Example 2

Even if you're not clear on what Word Substitution is, you've used it.  My pal Joseph scratched the surface on a recent rant about his BlackBerry PlayBook typing skills; press the space bar twice and the BlackBerry inserts the period and auto-capitalizes the first letter of the next sentence for you.  It will also complete your contractions for you - cant becomes can't.  Or my favorite is when someone asks for my PIN to add me to BBM, reply to their message with mypin and press space and pin:1a2a3a4a appears as if by pure magic.

You can create your own personal Word Substitutions as well.  Think "bb" becomes "BlackBerry" or "pb" becomes "PlayBook".  The sky is the limit, you can create as many as you like and they can be as long as you like.  For example say I was telling someone about a new OS leak available on CrackBerry.com and I wanted them to remember the 'leaked OS disclaimer' and I'll be damned if I'm going to type all the out.  I create a Word Substitution called "osdisclaim" and simply type osdisclaim plus the space key and voila!

AutoText Example 3          AutoText Example 4

So how do you create this BlackBerry Magic?  It's actually quite simple and can be quickly explained.

OS 6 - using Universal Search type "Word Sub" and tap on the wrench "options" and tap "Word Substitution
OS 5 and lower
- from the Home Screen scroll to and select the wrench "options" and in the options list select "AutoText"

From here press the BlackBerry Menu button and select "New" and you should see something that looks like this:

AutoText Example

Now in the "Replace" field enter what you're going to be typing in the message screen to trigger the Word Substitution.  For example "bb" or "osdisclaim" or "pb" - again you can put anything here.

AutoText Example

In the "With" field this the the text you want.  Again for example "BlackBerry" or "PlayBook", I've never typed an entire novel here but have never been constrained by the number of characters here.  I've had 9 paragraph canned messages here before.  Perhaps I'll attempt paste Kevin's PlayBook review in my device one day to test worst case scenario.

AutoText Example

The last option here of note is the "Using", you have two options "SmartCase" or Specified Case".  The difference being how you want the BlackBerry to deal with capital letters.  If you select "SmartCase" if the Word Substitution occurs at the beginning of a sentence it will capitalize the first letter and if it is in the middle of a sentence than it will leave it not capitalized.  For Word Substitutions using product names like say BlackBerry, the case is specific regardless of where it finds itself in a paragraph, so you would want to select "Specified Case".

OK! So that's Word Substition/AutoText (one of my most favorite BlackBerry features) in a nutshell.  Look for Steve Jobs to 'invent' this feature at a future WWDC event :-)

Reader comments

Word Substitution: possibly the best feature on a BlackBerry


I created a lot of my own entries and that has made it so much easier to use. Some of mine include:

hru = how are you?
hig = how's it going?
omwh = on my way home
itz = it's
prbly = probably
tdy = today
tmrw = tomorrow
bgng = beginning

It definitely makes typing a lot quicker (as long as you can remember the abbreviations). ;)

playbook needs this badly and spell check. Rim was so great at putting this stuff on phones its a shame the playbook could not have this out the box.

I agree 100%, it's one of the things I was disappointed the PB didn't have when I picked it up. Hopefully they add it.

Agreed! Got to have word substitution, double space periods, auto caps on first words after period, etc. Would love for it to sync with my Torch's word sub because I don't wanna retype each one... Love my PB!

Um sorry to burst your bubble but I saw this on one of Steve's slides for iOS5.
Engadget confirms it here:

"The Settings app is chock full of new features that will make power users thrilled. Our favorite is the addition of text shortcuts, which can be added in the keyboard settings pane. This allows you to set personalized text macros for frequently typed phrases, and is a huge addition for things like constantly typing email addresses and the like."

Source: http://www.engadget.com/wwdc-2011/apple-ios-5-hands-on-preview/

How exactly is Apple ripping off BB? I can acknowledge that BB were the first and only smartphones for a long time, but to say that Apple is ripping them off is a little bit misleading. Sure iMessage is a little bit like BBM but it's not a stand-alone app like BBM, it's built-in to the Messages app and recognizes that if you're an iP4(etc.) and you are texting another iMessages compatible product then it automatically makes it an iMessage instead of SMS or MMS. If Apple really was ripping off RIM then why is it that Apple is doing so well when RIM is struggling?

"If Apple really was ripping off RIM then why is it that Apple is doing so well when RIM is struggling?" This question has nothing to do with wether or not Apple is taking the idea from RIM.

If Apple is consistently ripping off RIM like diegonei said it wouldn't make sense that RIM is not doing so hot right now and Apple is. Yeah that wasn't the point that was trying to be made by diegonei, but I don't think that what he/she said was necessarily true, and I would say that RIM's position right now in the technology market as a whole is a good indicator of that not being true. So to clear that up for everyone, I was more using that question as an example to 'prove my point.' Just my opinion though.

Sorry to burst you Bubble as well but not long ago Steve said and recognize he copy some of Iphone characterization from Nokia :D

What Apple does ?? They Xerox.

Issac, simply a great, coherent article on what I consider to be Blackberry's signature feature. Autotext is THE reason I own a Blackberry. I mainly use my BB for heavy texting and e-mail...along with the phone. But Autotext is the greatest.

I'm often shocked when speaking with a Blackberry user who doesn't even know that Autotext exists. I too use it for names, correct spellings, and even entire paragraphs. Even simple words like "haven't" are shortened to "hvnt". Words like "HGTV" are "hg", then using Smartcase, magically transformed into the capped original.

I bought into the Kool-Aid and bought a T-Mobile G2 and also a Dell Venue Pro...the latter because of the supposed Blackberry-like slide-down portrait keyboard. I loved the screens and hardware on both...but hated using them. They were quickly returned.

I learned my lesson and embraced my BB 9700 even more. I didn't realize how intuitive the 9700 is...led by Autotext. I can type at 80 words-per-minute on that keyboard. When I need to turn-on the speakerphone, all I do is hit the $/Speaker button. Something that takes one-step on the BB takes 3 steps on the iPhone, Android, WP7, and WebOS.

Now I am really looking forward to the 9900. It seems like the perfect BB form factor...although I wish for more. I would have loved the Torch 2 to be a bit wider to accommodate a larger keyboard...and a 3.5" screen. Also, I hate that the Torch 2 is an AT&T exclusive. So I will compromise and go with the 9900.

But Issac nailed it...Autotext is perhaps Blackberry's signature feature if your use the device for texting.

I recently left blackberry for android and this is one of the features of blackberry that I miss the most. I type il expecting it to change to I'll but it just doesn't happen :(

Get Swype, I have it on my Evo and it is awesome. I also have a BB Torch as my work phone and like some I wish the keyboard was wider. I don't have that many auto texts setup but they are very helpful.

The Smart Keyboard Pro app for Android has custom auto text just like BB. I use it every day. The keyboard does cost money (very nominal) but it's very worth the price.

There were 2 BB features that keep me a loyal customer of BB. The first is the amazing keyboard. I'm getting old and using a touchscreen is difficult for me. The second feature is autotext. This feature is the best. I love replying to emails on my BB because of this feature.

I really do not understand why the iphone doesn't have this simple feature. I can't wait to get my hands on the 9930.

I agree, this is one of my favorite features on my Blackberry. But didn't Apple already announce this at the WWDC event? It doesn't look like it has the smartcase features, but the substitution feature is already in iOS 5:

I guess its one of those features I use and don't give much thought to. One of my custom entries I use the most is 'adr' which then does my entire home address - saves a lot of time being that it is a combination of numbers, punctuation marks and upper- and lower-case letters. Takes me about 2 seconds to send back a response.

I use it every day. I have word substitutions set up for my different email accounts. When I'm on the web and logging into a site, I just enter my 2 character code and space and it fills in the form. No wondering if I put the period in the wrong place or not.

One thing I've been impressed with on the Torch is the web browser. I find that I prefer using my Torch browser over the one on my iTouch now. Keyboard shortcuts, background loading (by using multi-tasking), being able to switch to other programs and come back to exactly the same page, and the brilliant model zoom mode make it the best browser around. iOS 5 is actually copying the zoom mode now with their "readability" feature. I find pinch-to-zoom is actually pretty overrated on a phone browser. The zoom mode along with having a trackpad to accurately click links make the Torch browser my preferred mobile browser bar none.

Used this to play a prank on a buddy. Took his bb and had it so that whenever he spelt his name it would always come out spelt backwards. The look on his face when he discovered his own name was just priceless.

Awesome! I did something similar... changed a friend's auto text so when she typed 'i' it resolved to 'I suck.' She has no idea how many texts she sent out before she realized it.

Do love that auto text... thinking about making the jump and buying a PB. Seems like I read that auto text works on the PB if it's bridged to the phone at the time....can anyone confirm and/or give more details?

If so, wondering if AT will work when using wifi, but still connected via the bridge.

Any input is appreciated.

cant be more agree, autotext in one of the most usefull features i use on Blackberry great-great stuff they put here..

I was with Blackberry for five years till i finally converted to the iPhone last week. I was really missing autotext when typing. What people have alot of problems with in regards to the iphone when typing is autocorrect. For the most part i've been getting the proper words corrected but wished i had autotext on the device...then came iOS 5. It pretty much incorporated everything that the current 6.0 has. It has the drop down menu with weather and stock. It provides a sleek new way of notifying the user. AND THE BEST PART!!!! It has "Shortcut" the equivalent to "Autotext". Sooo all in all, i wont be going back to Blackberry anytime soon. When iOS 5 is available to all iPhones, BBM isn't really necessary anymore. Sorry RIM

Did anyone else notice that word substitution now works on the Playbook, at least for email/calendar/tasks/contacts bridged to a Blackberry running 7.0? Nice. Finally.

Unfortunately, it still does not work with Word to Go docs and spreadsheets nor is there spell check. Someday (hopefully soon).

I have been using autotext since i owned my 1st BB it is one of the features that has always kept me loyal. I use it to make texting while driving a little safer with such shortcuts as
b10- On my way i'll be there in 10
outb- I'm around the corner be there shortly

I also used it alot when I worked for sprint and sold phones; I would make sure every customer that purchased a BB would have a pin message from me stating how to love their BB as well as tips and tricks, and website to visit along with a thank you of course.

Word Substitution/Autotext is the main reason I still have a Blackberry (9900 - TMo). I'm shocked by how few Blackberry users even know about it.

I've dreamed of having a shortcut like it on my PC, and last month actually found it - ActiveWords. It's GREAT! It's easy and does even more than substitute words. With just a stroke or two (or whatever you want), followed by the spacebar (like Blackberry), it takes me to websites, documents, folders and opens programs I've specified. It's saved me literally thousands of key strokes in just the last few weeks, which is much more than I was looking for (and it documents how much time and money it's saved me after I entered my salary). Try it! www.activewords.com. The support is unlike anything you've experienced, too. It has a free trial, but you'll want to buy it, trust me.

Wouldn't it be great if Blackberry and ActiveWords "talked" and Word Substitution could be sync'd on our pc's through ActiveWords and vice versa? (It's not available for Mac, just PCs, which is why yesterday I bought a new Windows laptop instead of a Mac.)

NOTE: You'd be surprised by how many times I used ActiveWords just writing this post!