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Issue #750: December 5-11, 2021

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Q: I often find myself hating technology, but I love your column! I have searched for an answer online without success. I use Outlook on my iPhone.  I cannot find a way to delete some auto-fill e-mail addresses. For background I have some new employees using static e-mail addresses in my business. It is frustrating to see a former employee’s name pop up when sending e-mail to a new employee. It is impractical to assign new e-mail addresses. Is there an easy fix?

 – Ed T.
Destin, Florida

A:  Thanks for the kind words about the column, Ed.  Especially at this time of the year, when I’m so busy, it’s nice to hear that the time that goes into it each week is appreciated by people.

For those of you not up on the terminology Ed is using, when he says “auto-fill e-mail addresses”, he’s referring to a feature that’s become common in many applications including e-mail readers and web browsers, in which the program remembers certain data that you’ve entered into fields on dialog boxes or web forms.  Then, when you fill-in the field later on, it watches what you type, and when it detects patterns that match any of the stored data, it offers suggestions to automatically fill-in the field.

Ed, I think one of the reasons you didn’t find anything in your online searches is because your terminology is just slightly off.  While you provided an adequate description of what the feature does, you missed the name itself, which is what a good web search would key off of.  That’s not your fault, because in typical information age fashion, each vendor calls it by a different name, and some even call it different names in different applications or contexts.  For example, the most widely used name seems to be autocomplete.  Apple has other various names for it, including predictive text and autofill.   Regardless, the intent is generally the same: to reduce the need to repetitively type or tap commonly used information.  As you’ve discovered, that can become a problem when something changes, and no obvious method to change it is provided.

Well fear not!  I will be happy to share with you some of these non-obvious methods. As you might expect, the actual steps are different for each device, and even each software application, so if the examples I provide here don’t meet your specific needs, try another web search, and include the device platform (iPhone, Android, PC, etc.) and the application name in addition to search text like “remove autocomplete.”

Let’s start with your specific request, Ed.  To remove autocomplete e-mail addresses from Outlook on your iPhone, do the following. From within the app, tap the “Write mail” icon in the bottom right corner.  Start typing a name.  When the list of suggested addresses appears, tap the information icon next to the name.  Tap “Remove from Recents.”  Repeat this for all the addresses for which you no longer want to see autocomplete suggestions.  The procedure on and Android device is similar, but from what I read, it requires a secondary step for Microsoft to synchronize the deletions across their infrastructure.  Logic would seem to dictate that if this is actually a necessary step, it would be required on the iPhone version too, but the only mention of it I’ve seen is for Android.

Managing Outlook AutoComplete information on a PC is a much more monumental task than it is on a mobile device for some reason.  Rather than try to explain the finer points here, I’m going to suggest that anyone who wants more information about it visit TinyURL.com/IGTM-0750, where you will find a Microsoft article entitled “Information about the Outlook AutoComplete list.”   This article covers the whole gamut, from how many entries are supported in various versions of Outlook, to how to enable it, and more.

So, Ed, after reading this, I hope you hate technology a little bit less, at least for today.  People say, “Technology is your friend,” but I don’t want to be friends with it.  I want it to snap-to, and do what I want, when I want. That would tend to make that phrase “Technology is your slave” and that’s the way it should be.  To master it, we must first understand it, and that’s exactly why I write this column.  Until next time – good luck, and happy computing!

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