Autocomplete and the Hollywood Principle

You don’t have to bear autocomplete bugging you all the time, flickering on and off your screen as you type. There’s a better way.

Autocomplete is a great tool, but you should disable it. While it can increase productivity, help jog memory, and accelerate tab key switch wear so you have adequate justification to splurge on that new mechanical keyboard build, the trouble comes when it degrades from useful tool to crutch. At its most benign, it’s an annoying little rectangle that’s flashing all over the screen. In the most extreme cases, I’ve seen blind use of autocomplete lead people astray.

Most editors have a keyboard shortcut to invoke autocomplete suggestions. Use it instead.

The benefits:

  1. You might learn something.
  2. It can increase editor performance.
  3. There’s less visual clutter in your editor. It’s very peaceful.
  4. You’ll type faster if you type more. Often the difference is just a few keystrokes.
  5. Sometimes editors don’t really have great semantic understanding of your language, anyway.
  6. If there’s only one good suggestion in the list, invoking the autocomplete suggestions will often fill in the suggestion for you anyway.
  7. Several editors employ neural nets to sort autocomplete results now, so there’s a good chance when you have typed a few characters and manually invoke suggestions, what you’re looking for will be at or near the top.

Don’t call us, autocomplete. We’ll call you.