Instant Text Comparative Reviews

AutoCorrect & QuickCorrect vs. Expander Programs

by Jean D. Ichbiah

Posted March 7, 1998 on MT Daily. Revised in July 2003.

Jean Ichbiah replies to Sharon B's question:

My question is this — I have heard so much about all these abbreviation programs — InstantText, SmartType, etc. I know WP has a built-in abbreviation program called QuickWords as does MS Word. Aren't these sufficient? What is the advantage of buying another abbreviation program?

You are asking whether AutoCorrect — or QuickCorrect, its WordPerfect cousin — is enough. This is a very good question since you have already paid for them when you purchased MS Word or WordPerfect. So while they are not free, they are already paid for and an expander better provide something additional to justify the extra expense.

What are these extras?

First there are certain features that are
common to several expanders:

Size limitations

Many professional expanders are designed for abbreviation expansions and will work with very large files. For example, our Instant Text will allow more than a million abbreviation entries in a glossary. In comparison there are serious limitations in what you can put in a QuickCorrect file (64 KB limit) and problems have been encountered when you approach or reach the limit.

Stability considerations

Besides being limited in space, both AutoCorrect and QuickCorrect (hereafter called XxxCorrect) are notorious for corrupting easily: Just visit online forums and you will see how frequent are the demands for help after losing XxxCorrect files.

To make things worse, they can also be difficult to backup/restore. In contrast, expander abbreviation files are normal files that are easy to save. Also, they are usually very stable and the chances of losing a carefully constructed list are extremely small.

Speed considerations

Good professional expanders will maintain speed regardless of the number of entries in the glossary. Some of the XxxCorrect facilities tend to slow down with a large number of entries — they were not designed for this.

Usability considerations

AutoCorrect works only in Word, QuickCorrect only in WordPerfect. But if you have an abbreviation for an address, you want to use it everywhere: in Word and WordPerfect, in a spreadsheet, in an email written with Outlook or Eudora, and with the Internet Explorer. Most expanders allow you to use abbreviations in all applications.

Managing glossaries

Good professional expanders will make it easy to edit glossaries and get a global view of them. An example: you want to find all the occurrences of recovery room to change them to Recovery Room This is almost impossible with the XxxCorrect facilities: Usually they only show you the first four or five words of each entry.

One or Several glossaries

With the XxxCorrect facilities, you can only have one glossary. There are good reasons to have several glossaries. For example, it is not good practice to mix addresses with other entries: Addresses are special. You often want to list them and maintain them separately. Also you may want to share abbreviation lists with friends and colleagues but this becomes awkward if they include addresses. But with XxxCorrect, you have no choice.

Professional expanders usually allow you to have several glossaries. They will differ in the speed of switching between different glossaries: some will require opening a new file. Instant Text allows switching between up to 15 simultaneous glossaries with a single keystroke.

Visual advisories

Instant Text and Smartype (but not more basic expanders such as PRD, FlashForward/QuickScript, and Abbreviate) provide visual advisories where you can see the possible expansions of what you are typing. Some people use just a few lines for the advisories — say 2 or 3 — others a higher number of lines such as 8 or even more. It all depends on how much you want advisories to help your memory and whether you are bothered or helped by visual information changing all the time.

Having advisories is of course an aid to memory. If you have memorized a few hundred abbreviations, you'll go fastest with these and not look at the advisories. But if your glossary has 10,000 or 30,000 entries, you will supplement your memory by looking at them, beyond the few hundred memorized ones.

Now I am going to address three features that are specific to our expander Instant Text:

Automatic glossary creation

Instant Text allows you to go over your own transcription documents and fill a glossary with thousands of words and phrases of this work in an instant, without you doing anything. This means that you can easily create thousands of entries in seconds — It would take several hundred hours to create them manually one by one in AutoCorrect.

See also:

Abbreviations that require no memorization

Unlike XxxCorrect entries, you do not have to memorize abbreviation codes with Instant Text.

For example, with XxxCorrect you might create an entry hsmy for hepatosplenomegaly. This will work also in Instant Text with the difference that you will not have to remember that it is hsmy. Other subsets of letters will work at any time: hpspy hppy hgaly htoly... and many others.

This applies also to phrases. For example, for the phrase Throat and oropharynx are clear you can use any of taoac taoc tac, using some of the word initials.

In a way, these two features – automatic creation and no memorization – work together. With automatic creation, you create easily several thousand entries in a few seconds. But if you had to remember them, the advantage would be somewhat lost.

See also:


Since Instant Text has analyzed your texts, it is often able to tell you what comes after what you have just typed and suggest continuations. For example, you start typing tprr to get The patient was brought to the recovery room and Instant Text will suggest whatever it found in your documents:
in good condition
in satisfactory condition
in stable condition

You now see on the screen what the doctor is
about to say... that certainly beats voice recognition...

So you end up typing tprr;;. to get The patient was brought to the recovery room in satisfactory condition. — 7 keystrokes instead of the full 69. Continuations are where the big savings occur.

See also:

Final Considerations

As you develop your lists of abbreviations, you are building something that is part of your intellectual capital: Something that will help you remain competitive and efficient.

So you need the ability to manage these lists that are yours and neither of the XxxCorrect makes it very easy. One key advantage of Expansion Software is that they let you handle these lists as normal files (several of them do).

In Instant Text, these glossary files are normal text files. This means that you can print them, edit them in WordPad, Word, WordPerfect, or any editor, and use the tools provided by Instant Text to merge them, enrich them, and easily do the usual operations you do with lists.

Finally, note that unlike XxxCorrect, Instant Text is not limited to Word or WordPerfect. This means that you can use it with other products such as data bases, speadsheets, email, etc. And who knows, if your next client requires you to use WordPerfect, Citrix, Notes or... you will be able to reuse these lists — your intellectual capital.

So you are right in asking the question of how you can justify the additional expense of a text expansion sofware: They have to offer more than just text expansion!

Jean D. Ichbiah

Revised July 2003