BlackBerry 101: Word Substitution/AutoText

Autotext and Word Substitution

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 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 :-)