What is Autotype?

Mary McMahon

Autotype is a feature available in some browsers and software programs where frequently duplicated information, such as names and addresses, can be entered automatically for the user. It may also be known by names like autocomplete or autofill and can be turned off or purged if people do not want it to save information. By default, it usually does not save credit card numbers and other potentially sensitive data, just in case another person uses the same software.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

With some versions of autotype, once person has filled out a form once, it will save the information and automatically enter it in all future forms, assuming the fields in the form are named properly so the program knows what information to put where. Others will not automatically fill out forms, but as people start typing, the first few characters can turn into a prompt for a whole word or line; “Jane Smith,” for example, would start to type “J-a-” and the system would bring up “Jane Smith.” People can clear the field if they want to enter a different name.

By entering the application settings, people can erase or change data saved for autotyping. A person who moves, for example, could delete the old address and enter the new one for convenience. This feature is designed to save time and also increase accuracy, as people won't accidentally submit forms with errors if they are filled out automatically with the correct information. It can also be useful for people using mobile devices, where having information pretyped can save time, as well as preventing struggles with a small keyboard.

Some autotype can also work in word processors, providing prompts for commonly used words and phrases. If a suggested phrase or word is correct, the user can hit enter or space to allow the computer to autotype it. If not, the user can keep typing to get the correct word, and the program will usually save this information for future reference. Autocomplete, a somewhat different feature, will suggest words or phrases based on a common database, rather than specifically filling out information someone has already generated.

The term “autotype” is also used in an unrelated way to refer to some kinds of printing processes, usually for producing photographs and halftone prints. In autotype, a carbon coating is used on a plate to prepare it for exposure and processing so it can be used to print replicas of images, including photographs, vector art, and so forth. These two uses of the term come from different origins, and the intended meaning when people encounter the word is usually clear from the context.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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