Autocomplete is a common term in programming and refers to the ability for an application’s text input area to predict what words are being typed. Autocomplete can be useful as it saves time from having to type out long strings of code, but there are also some pitfalls that you need to watch out for. In this post we will explore autocomplete functionality, how it works, and when not to use it.
Some programming languages have an autocomplete function built in. In these cases when you start typing a word the list of possible matches will appear below what you are currently typing. Naturally this saves time since it doesn’t require you to type out all of the letters before selecting one from the drop down box.
The original reason autocomplete was created is to help people increase their typing speed, as well as decrease the amount of keystrokes they use.
However, there is also a downside to using autocomplete functionality: if someone else who has access to your computer types into any text input field that was not created with autocomplete functionality then they have just added additional words onto your application’s internal dictionary without knowing or understanding what those words mean (this can lead to confusion for users). To combat this we recommend only using auto-complete functions on fields that have been specifically created to take advantage of the function.