iOS quick tip: Mastering the auto-correct dictionary

auto-correct-feature

It happens to the best of us: We think we’re typing one thing, and we end up typing another. The auto-correct feature in iOS   (and now in OS X Lion, too) doesn’t help matters, and can actually be quite annoying. But there are ways to get around it.

At the heart of the issue is a little database file named dynamic-text.dat that is stored in the “mobile” user directory located in /private/var/mobile/Library/Keyboard. But unless you plan on jailbreaking your iOS device, you aren’t going to be directly updating this dictionary of acceptable words. Instead, here are a few tricks to master the list of words in that dictionary without hacks.

Search from Safari

After refusing to accept the auto-corrected version of the word you just typed by canceling the suggestion a few times over, iOS should add that word to the dictionary automatically. But this trick won’t work in every app.

Most have found that repeating this process takes at least three consecutive times in Safari’s search bar before the word is added to the dictionary.  No matter how many times you attempt the same thing in the Notes app, you won’t succeed, however. So if you want iOS to learn from your frequently used terms, spending a lot of time browsing the mobile web can be an effective means of getting it done in the background.

Safari Search

Create a contact

If rejecting the suggested correction over and over does not do the trick, try creating a new user in your Contacts list that contains the words you are having difficulties with. It doesn’t have to be the name of the contact, and you do not have to create a separate entry for each word you want to add.  You can add the words in the notes field of the contact if you like. Information in your contact list will add words to the dictionary that iOS uses to check against.

Add Contact

Add an international keyboard

Why not just add the word to the dictionary directly? To access the dictionary, you first have to add the “Japanese Ten Key” keyboard as an additional international keyboard. Once added, you’ll expose a “hidden” feature of iOS that enables you to “Edit User Dictionary…” and add words to the auto-correct dictionary from the Keyboard Settings on your device.

User Dictionary

Use TextExpander

As a last stand, you can use an app called TextExpander to create your own endless list of user-defined dictionaries. TextExpander offers a number of predefined snippet groups, like the auto-correct group that has 100 common misspellings.  You just have to use TextExpander’s built-in touch notes to copy and paste text for apps that do not support TextExpander.

TextExpander

Turn off auto-correct

Finally, you may just have to surrender, and disable the Auto-Correction feature in the Keyboard settings of your iOS device.  This is an extreme measure, and likely only applicable if you keep running into multiple frequently used words that keep getting corrected whenever you use them.

Auto Correct

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