How to Use E-mail Autocomplete

Learn how to use your e-mail's auto complete feature for fun and reference.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #88

Today's topic is making your email program’s autocomplete feature your friend.

At my job, our wonderful email program has autocomplete. It remembers everyone I've ever emailed. As I type a name, it guesses who I'm emailing. It helpfully shows everyone who matches what I've typed. Pressing enter selects the one it thinks is the closest match. Voila! My email is on its way.

Autocomplete Can Guess Wrong

That's the theory. In practice, what happens is this: I decide to type a cute, romantic email to my Sweetie. I type "Swee" and hit Enter, expecting the message to go to, well, Sweetie. I forgot, however, that I created a distribution list to invite my theater-loving friends to a play. The list is Sweenie Todd attendees. A few moments later, my friends who were expecting an invitation to a musical interlude about a psychotically murderous barber instead get a message that uses words like shmoopie-woopie. From here on out, I can never get drunk in their presence again. I would wake up the next day with Shmoopie-Woopie tattooed somewhere embarrassing, and my real shmoopie-woopie would not be amused.

Now when creating a temporary list, I always name the list with the word TEMP in front. That's short for temporary, as in, temporary list. Since the only entries in my address book that start with TEMP are the temporary lists, the slip-of-the-fingers is far less likely to cause embarrassing confusion. My next party list is called TEMP Marshmallow and Feather Pillow  invitees (you don't need to know details). The word TEMP makes me blissfully unlikely to confuse the word marshmallow with the address book entry for my aunt Marsha. (Which is not to say that Marsha wouldn't enjoy marshmallows and feather pillows. She is a New York playwright, after all.)

Long List Names Get Forgotten

The other problem I have when using autocomplete is that I give my distribution lists descriptive names like, Research project for determining if life exists on Mars and Economics of carbon paper as pencil replacement study group. Sure, those names are easy to think up when I'm creating the list, but I never, ever remember them when it's time to use them. If I'm lucky, I can remember the first word, type a few letters like ECON, and then choose the right list. More often, I end up typing CAR for CARBON, PEN for PENCIL, and STU for STUDY before thinking to try ECON for Economics. The convenience of autocomplete has now turned into a game of Remember the List trivia. And when it comes to trivia, I'm the worst. I'm the guy on the trivia team who's certain that Marilyn Monroe's great granddaughter is Marilyn Manson. I can't even begin to count how many ways that's just wrong.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.