25 March 2007

#14. Your Personal Proofreader

Welcome again to my Tool Bar & Grill, where the menu always contains only the most mouth-watering delicacies from the world of Windows utilities and Web sites, and every item is free or inexpensive.

AutoCorrect and AutoText Everywhere

If you use Microsoft Office (and who doesn’t?), you’re familiar with its split personality – the ever-obedient Good Office and its evil twin, Bad Office.

One of Office’s most revered and maligned, blessing-and-curse features is AutoCorrect. That’s the one that fixes misspellings as you type (for example, changing “teh” to “the” before you even realize you’re mistyped it), lower-cases the second of two capital letters at the beginning of a word (whether you like it or not), and automatically capitalizes the first letter after a period. AutoCorrect also replaces abbreviations with full text (occasionally with unintended results).

I learned long ago to love AutoCorrect, and to set its options so I could appreciate its time-saving convenience while avoiding its foibles most of the time. And I wished it worked in all my Windows programs.

Then I stumbled across Smart Type Assistant recently, and my prayers were answered. (Well, some of them anyway. There’s still that one about Shania Twain. Are you listening, Lord?) Smart Type Assistant provides the functionality of AutoCorrect and AutoText everywhere in Windows.

Smart Type Assistant is always looking over my shoulder and saving me keystrokes, whether I’m typing in my Web browser, dashing off an e-mail message, jotting a plain text note, creating a task in my to-do list, or writing a book in FrameMaker. I’ll bet it’s a godsend for instant messaging users, though I’m not one of them.

Smart Type Assistant comes with a long list of misspelled words and phrases to correct automatically, and you can add your own favorite bloopers. Autocorrect offers the same proofing options as Office: correct two initial capitals, correct an accidental press of the Caps Lock key, and capitalize the first letters of sentences and day names.

In addition, Smart Type Assistant’s Autoreplace works like Microsoft Word’s AutoText: You attach boilerplate text to an abbreviation; when you type the abbreviation, Autoreplace offers to spill out the boilerplate in its place.

Smart Type Assistant does even more, including changing the case of selected text (all upper case, all lower case, or invert the existing capitalization) and Smart Diary, which saves text phrases as you type (mistakes and all); this could be valuable if a crash takes your brilliant thoughts down with it. And with Click2Paste, you can paste boilerplate phrases from your Autoreplace list anywhere you want.

Not just for fun, you can assign a WAV file to any key through Smart Type Assistant. Prevent errors by sounding a warning for certain dangerous keys, such as Caps Lock and Insert (eliminating the need for a separate utility such as I recommended in #1). A clipboard manager is included, too, though I’ll recommend much better clipboard utilities in a future Tool Bar.

Smart Type Assistant might conflict with Microsoft Office or other programs, of course, so you can set up an exceptions list of programs in which Smart Type Assistant will not operate.

I was lucky enough to get my copy of Smart Type Assistant for free from Giveaway of the Day (see below), but you can buy yours from http://www.blazingtools.com for $19.95 with a 21-day free trial. If you work a fair amount of time outside of Microsoft Office, the productivity gains can easily justify the cost.

Worth Checking: Giveaway of the Day

Here’s an idea that’s new to me: A Web site that gives away free licensed copies of commercial shareware. What’s the catch? You must download and install the featured program the day it is offered. Also, the license does not include technical support or future upgrades.

I’ve been watching www.giveawayoftheday.com for several weeks now. So far, most of the offerings have been reasonably priced shareware (in the $10 to $40 range) that I’ve never heard of. Some are indeed interesting and attractive to a utility buff like me, while others offer no apparent advantage over similar freeware (and some are big brothers of freeware versions). Giveaway of the Day (GOTD) is definitely worth a daily peek, though my hard disk is starting to get cluttered with programs I had to install the same day.

However, don’t expect any help from GOTD if something goes wrong. When GOTD offered Smart Type Assistant a few weeks ago, I downloaded and installed it as directed – but the next day it seemed to have forgotten the activation and reverted to an evaluation copy. I sent messages to GOTD through their support forums, blog page, and comments on the daily download page. I never got an official reply from GOTD, much less the hoped-for help in reactivating the software. One thumb up for GTOD’s software, and one thumb down for its lack of support.

Share your own favorites with me! Post your comments and suggestions below, or write to jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com. And come back here again for more helpful reviews of great software.


  1. I concur with you on both, I got smarttype assistant from giveawayoftheday as well, its such a blast to use!
    and the GOTD is also great, and I am actually happy that they don't have great software for freeware everyday, but often not useful stuff for me, because imagin 365 software install per year *g*
    that would kill my pc

  2. Thanks for the ideas, tips and tools. I also found the websites useful.