Thursday, June 23, 2011

The iPhone Autocorrect Fail - and How You can Fix it

This is the first in a series of blogposts in which I will cover neat hacks and tweaks to fix annoying things on the iPhone and in iOS. I won't get into how to jailbreak your iPhone as that wheel has been invented and re-invented all over the web. If you wish to find out more you can use Google and do a search for iPhone jailbreak. Other good resources on the web include Redmond Pie and Official Redsn0w site.

As you've probably surmised, iPhone jailbreaking is a subject very near and dear to my heart. I'm of the opinion that when I buy something, I own it outright, and if I want to make modifications to it - and possibly break it, then it's my right to do so. But from a more practical standpoint, we make modifications to our things in order to improve them or make them work how we like. While I think that Apple does a good job with the iPhone and iOS in general, there are still a lot of niggling little things that I don't think they got right. By jailbreaking the iPhone, you gain the ability to make changes and fix those major and minor annoyances.

The first major annoyance on the iPhone is probably the autocorrect function. When it works, it's wonderful, but when it doesn't it can lead to massive fails of biblical proportions. I'm not the only one who thinks so. In fact, there is a whole website dedicated to this phenomenon located right here: Damn You Auto Correct!. Or you can check out a YouTube video that shows some real LOL moments.

Hysterically Funny Autocorrect Fails - Unless it happened to you

Ok, seriously now, the problem with the iPhone's autocorrect function is that it is literally too smart or too stupid for it's own good, depending on how you look at it. By default, iOS happily makes edits and inserts corrections as you type. In the first instance, when you mistype a word, iOS will suggest what it guesses to be the correct word. Keep in mind words that you previously used that were not in the dictionary by default will get added to the dictionary. Lesson learned - what goes in will eventually come back out; which explains some of the laugh out loud substitutions shown in the video above.

Hitting the spacebar inserts the word iOS assumes is correct, which makes it entirely all too easy to get words you didn't type substituted in for you (see the point about lesson learned in the previous paragraph). To override this behavior, you have to manually press the "x" on the balloon popup. Given the small size of the onscreen keyboard, you find yourself either constantly struggling to delete incorrect subtitutions or pressing that tiny, little "x". And you really do have to press the "x" because if you accidentally press the suggested word, it replaces your original. It's really very, very annoying.

In the second instance, even if you correctly typed something, iOS will still make a suggestion from words already in the dictionary. A good example of this is the word "ill". iOS will very happily suggest "I'll" in its place. Try typing "He fell ill" and then hit the spacebar on your iPhone and see what you get. Of course, the alternative would be to turn off the autocorrect feature altogether. Enter ManualCorrect Pro.

ManualCorrect Pro is a Cydia Tweak that you can install to alter the default autocorrect behavior on your iPhone. This tweak is not available on the iTunes Appstore, so you must jailbreak your iPhone to use it.

In essence, the tweak reverses the behavior of the iPhone's autocorrect function. Instead of automatically inserting words for you when you hit the spacebar, autocorrect will now suggest a replacment  - but you must manually tap the suggested word in order for the autocorrection replacement to be made. If you hit the spacebar and ignore the suggestion, the word will just go away. This solves the first issue with iOS autocorrection.

The tweak also allows you to build up your own list of manual corrections, in effect adding new corrections into the built-in dictionary. One useful way of using this fuction would be to build up a list of shortcuts for longer words you might often use. In the Manual Corrections section, you enter a word pair. The first word is the trigger and the second is the substitution. Typing the trigger would force the normal autocorrect function with the substitution you previously entered - and by pressing the spacebar, the full word is substituted for you saving you lots of time typing.

Conversely, you are also able to supress built-in dictionary behaviors. The Ignore Corrections section can be used along with case checking to fix the second problem mentioned above. By entering "ill" in the Ignore Corrections section and setting it to be case sensitive, when you use the lowercase "ill" the built-in autocorrection will be supressed. But if you type "Ill" using a capital "I" then the built-in autocorrection will take over and suggest the contracted form of "I'll".

ManualCorrect Pro is a powerful tweak that not only corrects the horrible way in which iOS handles autocorrection, but also allows you to add some intelligence back into how corrections are handled on your iPhone while you type. As long as you're willing to put a little work into adding in the right Manual Correction and Ignore Correction rules, you will get a faster, more enjoyable - and most importantly -  more accurate typing experience on your iPhone.


  1. Cool, Mike. This is a neat trick. I wish the iOS would just "learn" through repetition, of exceptions (like "shoutout" instead of "shootout"). I spoke with an employee at the Apple store about jailbreaking. There is a common misconception that jailbreaking voids the Apple warranty. But if the product is under the warranty period, maladies WILL be addressed/fixed—but in order to do so, Apple will reinstall the iOS. That means you can go back and jailbreak your phone again after they've helped you.

  2. I'm glad you liked the article. There are so many interesting tweaks on Cydia that help to make the iPhone a better product. I hope these articles give people enough interest to look into jailbreaking their phones to take advantage of the enhanced functionality that is available.