Enable text substitutions in every app

Tucked away in the Language & Text pane of System Preferences is a feature that lets create symbol and text substitutions—meaning you can type (c) to generate the © symbol. You can in theory also use these substitutions to auto-correct common typos. But when Irene (a Hints reader who has the added distinction of being my mother) tried to add a shortcut to replace teh with the, it didn't work.

Fortunately, another Hints reader, NaOH, came to her aid. It turns out that, by default, you need to enable text substitutions on an app-by-app basis. Even better, NaOH shared a Terminal command that changes that default setting and makes substitutions available in all apps that support them.

First, create your 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, Mom would type teh in the Replace field, and the in the With field.) Ensure that your newly-added replacement is checked.

Now, go to an app that supports text entry—Safari's search field is a great example. Try out your new text replacement shortcut. If it doesn't work, go to the Edit menu, and select Substitutions -> Text Replacement. With that option enabled, type teh again; it should correct itself to the automatically.

But don't fret: You needn't turn on Text Replacement in one app at a time. Instead, you can use NaOH's trick to make them (nearly) universal. Launch Terminal, paste this command, and press Return:

defaults write -g WebAutomaticTextReplacementEnabled -bool true

Now, any apps that support text substitution should replace your shortcuts automatically. That doesn't mean substitutions will work in every Mac app; for example, on my own Mac, I noted that Mailplane ( ) doesn't seem to support the feature. Stickies does support substitutions, but it does so poorly: You have to enable Text Replacement from the Edit -> Substitutions menu for each individual note. So even with NaOH's Terminal command, your replacements still might not work in every single app.

The good news? When Mac OS Lion arrives in July, it will feature system-wide iOS-style autocorrect, which should fix common typos automatically almost everywhere on your Mac.

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