Why Can’t I Get Predictive Text On My Desktop Computer?

Why Can’t I Get Predictive Text On My Desktop Computer?

Nothing kills typos faster than predictive text. Just think of how often you go about your day, texting away, using your smartphone’s built-in capabilities to predict the big words you’re trying to type before you finish them. If you’re good, you can compose a decent thought without ever hitting an actual letter. So, why can’t you do this on your PC, too?

There are two technologies you’re probably thinking of: predictive text, in which you start to spell a word and pick from one of the options your device presents; and autocorrect, which ensures that you’re always — always — texting your friends about things you “can’t ducking stand”.

In this case, Windows already has both features baked in. If you’re a using a touchscreen keyboard in tablet mode, Windows will suggest words the second you start typing letters. As for autocorrect, you can turn that on and off by visiting the Settings app > Devices > Typing. Look for the “Autocorrect misspelled words” option.

If you’re typing on a physical keyboard, as on your typical desktop or laptop, you can turn both features on in the same Settings window. Just scroll down a bit and look for “Show text suggestions as I type” and “Autocorrect misspelled words I type” under the Hardware keyboard section.

ImageScreenshot: David Murphy

One caveat about the hardware keyboard bit: the text suggestions and autocorrect features aren’t universal. As I type this post in Lifehacker’s content management system, for example, Windows is suggesting and fixing zilch. When I pull up Microsoft Word, however, I get both predictions and fixes:

ImageIt’s true. (Screenshot: David Murphy)

Generally, these features work on Windows 10 system apps, the big Microsoft apps and some universal apps — Notepad, Microsoft Word, People, etc. — but typically not regular third-party apps you’ve downloaded, like Chrome, Steam, or Netflix (to name a very few).

Eventually, you’ll be able to use the very app you mentioned in your question — SwiftKey itself — when poking out letters in Windows 10’s tablet mode. (If you have Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 17692, you can try that out right now.)

As for getting predictive text or auto-correction for every app you use when you’re typing on a physical keyboard, I haven’t found a great, universal solution. And I’m not sure one exists.


  • Frankly I’d turn predictive text off. It’s actually slower to use on a keyboard (a proper one I mean) than just typing the word, at least if you’re a decent typist. I don’t mind it on the phone because they can be clunky (though if I’m using a swype style keyboard I ignore predictive text).

    The reason being twofold. Firstly you need to stop typing and select the word somehow. Maybe by clicking it or tabbing or whatever other method activates the predictive text selection.

    Secondly, it’s a brain interrupt. If you’re in the flow of typing you interrupt that to select the predicted word. It can take a few seconds to “restart” that flow of thinking again.

    And both those scenarios assume the predictive text is reasonably good at picking words when it’s often atrocious.

    • That being said, autocorrect could be handy (realistically, I’d like autocorrected words to have some sort of indicator so I can do a quick scan and see if it autocorrected correctly). It’s a pity you can’t turn autocorrect on without also turning on text suggestions in windows 10.

      • I agree with you and I think Word’s “squiggly underline” for corrections is a great idea. No reason you couldn’t have a red underline for a word it thinks is wrong and different colour underline for a word it autocorrected for you. I wouldn’t mind seeing that mechanism extended to all sorts of text input in Windows.

        Of course, there is a downside in that autocorrect takes CPU power (not a lot but more than nothing) and it requires a “richer” control in order to do the squiggly underline. Which in turn means that control requires more memory and CPU. So if we smartened the whole of Windows up so it used autocorrect everywhere there would be a real impact on required system resources.

        That said, with modern PCs I’m not sure the impact would be big enough to be a problem.

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