Writing formulas using autocorrect

File in progress – last updated 2-26-16

If you’re like me, you forget where the subscript and superscript shortcuts are on your word processing program.  This, in turn, makes it nearly impossible to write chemical formulas or the formulas of ions without going through many different menus.

I’ve gotten around this by doing something simple:  I use my autocorrect file to write formulas for me.  For example, I’ve set it up so that if I want to write H₂SO₄, all I have to do is to type:  (h2so4) .  This works for many other compounds, too – simply write a chemical formula inside of parentheses and it will automatically convert it into the correct format.  I’ll include a list of things it currently contains at the bottom of this page.

As for the file itself, download this:  libreoffice-2-26-2016.tar.gz . To figure out how to use it, keep reading…


Installing the enclosed autocorrect file:

The autocorrect feature in word processors consists of a data folder that tells the computer what to do if you type in a predetermined series of characters.  What I’ve done is to customize the autocorrect files so that they do this with chemical formulas.

Here’s how to make it work:

  1. Install LibreOffice.  LibreOffice is a program similar to Microsoft Office and the second most commonly-used office program in the world.  It is open source software, which means that it’s free to use and software support is also free.  To download it, visit their website at libreoffice.org and install as you would any other program.

2.  Open LibreOffice and create a new text file.

3.  Click the “tools” tab at the top of the page, then scroll to the bottom and click “options.”

4.  Click “paths”.  You’ll see a window that has a bunch of file location stuff on it.  Find “autocorrect” and write down the file path stuff to the right of it in this box.  On my computer, it’s “/home/misterguch/.config/libreoffice/4/user/autocorr”.

5.  Download the autocorrect file I told you to download earlier (libreoffice-2-26-2016.tar.gz). The “tar.gz” end of this file means that it’s compressed into a type of file called a “tarball” – this is nothing special, just a file format that does the same thing as “zipping” a file.  Your computer may extract this file just by clicking on it, but if it doesn’t, you can  It’s a zipped file, so you’ll need to “unzip” it using whatever program you typically use for this.  I’ve found that File Roller, 7zip, and winrar are excellent programs for doing this, and there are many online tools for doing the same thing.  When it asks you where to extract it, choose your download folder.

6.  Now that you’ve gotten this thing unzipped, you should see a file called “4” in your download folder. Copy this file, then navigate in your window manager (called “my computer” on some OSes) until you hit the “4” file.  Don’t open that – just copy the “4” file that you downloaded into that folder.

7.  Your computer will likely ask you something along the lines of “Hey, you already have a file with this name – do you want to overwrite it?”  Hit “yes to all”, because you’re going to be replacing some of the “4” folder with the stuff I’ve sent you.

7.  When you’re finished, enjoy!  Keep in mind that this is an ongoing project by me, so functionality may be limited until I put more of it together.


What formulas this file automatically corrects (as of 2-26-2016):

  • Greek letters and their various uses – such as (deltah) to represent change in enthalpy.
  • Polyatomic ions, inorganic acids, hydrates, nitrates, nitrites, sulfates, sulfites, borohydrides, cyanides, common covalent compounds, common acids, carbonates, fluorides, various other common ionic and covalent compounds.
  • Symbols for enthalpy, entropy, various common temperatures.
  • The spellchecker has been drastically-updated to cover common terms from all chemical disciplines.  This isn’t to say that it’s perfect, but it should save you a lot of time and help you to spell some of the crazy terms we use every day.

Compounds without superscripts or subscripts will not be included in this file because doing so is unnecessary.

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