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Issue #219: October 2, 2011

Q: I read in your column about Google’s auto complete being a nuisance. This is especially true on older/slower machines (like mine). “Googling” the other day I stumbled on a process which helped this problem. Type what you’re looking for in Word Pad or similar program, then copy the entry, go to Google and paste it in the search window. Give it a go and pass the idea on to your readers if you like it.

– Tony R.
Fort Walton Beach, Fla

A: I’ve not written a column about Google’s Autocomplete being a nuisance, Tony. I think the Autocomplete discussion you are referring to was about Outlook (I.G.T.M. issue #187, 2/20/2011). However, since it’s a good topic, let’s talk about Autocomplete, the technique you’re suggesting, and a far better way to achieve the result you’re looking for.

Whether it’s in Outlook, Google, or any other application, Autocomplete can be a real time saver. Autocomplete uses the first few letters of what you type, then tries to anticipate what you’re going to ask for, so you don’t have to type-in the entire search term. It uses a combination of your search history, your browser bookmarks, and what’s popular on Google to make its suggestions. Sometimes it’s dead on, and sometimes it is so far off it’s almost funny. Be that as it may, I don’t really see why Autocomplete should be giving you any problems simply because your computer is older or slower, since it doesn’t take any significant amount of computer power to perform the task. It does use the internet, so a slow connection (such as being on dial-up, or a very slow wi-fi) could make it lag.

Regarding your suggestion, that sounds like a pretty creative way of trying to get around Autocomplete. You’re saying that, since Google refines its Autocomplete prediction with each character you type, that if you blast all the characters into the field at once with a Paste operation that Google doesn’t have opportunity to make any suggestions. That’s what I’d call a “brute-force” strategy. It’s quite effective, but it doesn’t fully stop Autocomplete from functioning. It will still look-up suggestions when your Paste is complete, even though it may not display any if your search is well-defined. If you really dislike Autocomplete, there is a far better way to do away with it than trying to do an end-run around it: completely disable it! Google is configurable, after all. From just about any Google page, click the little picture in the upper-right corner that looks like a gear, and select “Search settings”. Among the settings that come up you’ll find “Autocomplete” with an option labeled “Do not provide query predictions in the search box”. Change that selection, and you won’t have to out-fox Autocomplete anymore. It’s as simple as that.

Just for the record, regarding your cut/paste trick, you could have done the same thing without WordPad by simply typing your search text in the browser’s Address bar, then cutting and pasting to the Google search box. After all, if the problem that you’re trying to solve is that of an older/slower computer, it doesn’t really make that much sense to make it run a whole other application just so you can do a Google search, does it?

To my local reader-Geeks in northwest Florida: Light show season is coming! Yes, the Geek Lights on the Corner are coming back this year, and yes, they will be bigger and better than ever. More information is coming your way soon.

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