Autocomplete in interactive fiction

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Oct 26, 2002, 3:07:15 AM10/26/02
Has anyone tried using an autocomplete feature (as seen in word
processors, web browsers, Windows Help) in interactive fiction? How
well did it go, and would it be worthwhile to implement this as a
standard feature in TADS/Inform? It would probably make interactive
fiction much friendlier for the many computer users who cannot touch
type. -- GG

David Kinder

Oct 26, 2002, 5:41:15 AM10/26/02
> Has anyone tried using an autocomplete feature (as seen in word
> processors, web browsers, Windows Help) in interactive fiction? How
> well did it go, and would it be worthwhile to implement this as a
> standard feature in TADS/Inform?

Most of the modern Frotz ports have an auto-complete (Enter part of
a word and press the tab key) but personally I've never found it all
that helpful, even though I can't touch type. Possibly this is because
it just matches what's been typed against the entire dictionary. Two
possible extensions to this, neither easy:

1) Some sort of context sensitivity in scanning the dictionary for
words to auto complete against. This would require some sort of
interaction between the game and the interpreter.

2) A more complex algorithym to cope with common spelling errors.


Jason Etheridge

Oct 26, 2002, 5:59:09 AM10/26/02
How about tab completion against words that have already been entered?

Add xyzzy to your message body if replying by e-mail

Jonathan Penton

Oct 26, 2002, 6:34:21 AM10/26/02
"GG" <> wrote in message

ADRIFT has this feature on by default, but many authors disable it, as it's
a little too powerful -- quickly completing partial nouns, as well as verbs.
It all but eliminates guess-the-noun problems, though.

Jonathan Penton

Ken Franklin

Oct 26, 2002, 9:26:16 AM10/26/02

"Jonathan Penton" <> wrote in message

Gunther Schmidl

Oct 26, 2002, 5:03:05 AM10/26/02
GG wrote:
:: Has anyone tried using an autocomplete feature (as seen in word

Actually, ADRIFT has this in the game runner; I thought it intensely

-- Gunther

Cedric Knight

Oct 26, 2002, 1:44:15 PM10/26/02

"Gunther Schmidl" <> wrote in message

Ditto. Having to pause and check that what is on the screen is the
command that you typed before pressing Return actually slows things up.
If I forget to check, which I often do, the result is often a valid
command that I didn't intend, and which requires a mimesis-breaking

IMHO 'autocomplete' is almost always a bad idea wherever it is found.
E.g. many people are confused when they type '2002' at the end of a line
in MSWord and then find it has somehow become '2002-10-26'. (On Jaron Lanier slags off the idea of adding 'helpful' or
'pseudo-AI' features like this to applications.)

One exception is the feature in WinFrotz which allows you to type a few
letters (e.g. 'pu'), and then press the up-arrow to scan through the
history of commands that begin with those letters. This is useful when
there's a need to repeatedly return to the same location and type, e.g.
'put power crystal on altar with tongs', and principally works because
the command to invoke autocomplete is a dedicated key rather than space
or CR which most users expect to be unambiguous.


Jeffrey F Pack

Oct 26, 2002, 2:03:42 PM10/26/02
to (GG) writes:

I've tried it with Adrift, but their implementation wasn't very good
(it got in the way of ordinary typing). It also has the potential to
be spoilery if it reveals information the player shouldn't know.

Normally, I don't see it as being a big deal. Most commands are short
or have abbreviations (does the first-six/nine-letters trick work in
modern systems? I never use it), there are other convenient features
like OOPS, and even for a non-touch-typist most of the time is spent
reading and thinking.



Oct 26, 2002, 7:08:15 PM10/26/02
Jason Etheridge <> wrote:
> How about tab completion against words that have already been entered?

Frotz has always had tab-completion at least as far back as 2.32

David Griffith

Uli Kusterer

Oct 26, 2002, 8:31:50 PM10/26/02
A better approach to auto-completion (in input lines) is when it
auto-completes and selects the added stuff. Pressing the right arrow
removes the selection, pressing return works like a multi-line text
editor, i.e. the selected portion is replaced with the return, and then
the command is executed. That way, if you type without looking, you get
what you want, and if you type the right arrow, you can take advantage
of auto-completion.

This is better than other approaches because it works just like in any
other text input area on the computer.

Another approach which at least doesn't get in the way is to have the
auto-completed parts be displayed in grey, and when you hit tab they
become black. That way, you also explicitly turn on auto-completion.

But I can't tell you how annoyed I am by the kind of auto-completion in
Mozilla or iTunes, where whatever you type is automatically completed.
iTunes goes as far as changing the case of characters, meaning when I
enter "Abbattoir" I get "ABBAttoir" and such horrible things. It gets
even worse when I've already entered a word in another entry with the
wrong case, because auto-completion will always "correct" case for me
based on the wrong spelling.

In Mozilla it's sometimes impossible to get to the home page of a
server, because it insists on auto-completing after I hit delete :-(

People who write such auto-completion code should be court-ordered to
use that software, if you ask me >:-(

Just my $0.02 in case someone who plans to implement auto-completion
reads this thread.
-- Uli


Oct 28, 2002, 1:32:54 AM10/28/02
Thanks for your messages. It seems that most people have had a bad
experience with autocomplete. But are we objecting to the whole idea
of an autocomplete feature, or just to a few bad implementations. (Ie.
Is it possible to do it right.) -- GG

Phil Dearmore

Oct 28, 2002, 7:56:01 AM10/28/02
I would only object to the bad implementations. I use autocomplete on the
IE address bar where it is somewhat helpful, but mostly in MS Money where I
don't have to remember an exact payee name to have a payment filed under the
correct payee. MS Money has the best implementation of it that I have seen,
that is, it has intuitive delete, backpace, arrow key, etc. usage.

The bottom line is--if you have autocomplete, have a way to turn it off.


"GG" <> wrote in message

Neil Cerutti

Oct 28, 2002, 10:39:39 AM10/28/02
In article <>, GG

Thumbs down in a standard Inform game, which takes pains to hide
the dictionary.

If you aren't hiding the dictionary, then thumbs up. I suggest a
bash-shell-like "tab" system that shows alternatives when there's
no unambiguous match. This will be very tricky to implement
though, since a command line editor can only assume very simple
things about the context. The first word is a verb, and every
word after that could be anything in the dictionary, plus some
things that are not.

Neil Cerutti <>

David Kinder

Oct 28, 2002, 3:13:03 PM10/28/02

I dislike the "auto", rather than the "complete". Have a way to turn it
off, or have completion occur on a special key press.


Alex Watson

Nov 2, 2002, 5:15:23 PM11/2/02
GG spake thusly:

Frotz has tab-completion but since it matches against the entire
dictionary it's next to useless. I emailed someone (I think David Kinder)
about this some time ago and he said that the only way to do match
against just, say, objects in scope, would be a in the game code (e.g.
when one presses F1 it checks the input thus far and attempts to complete
the last word as far as possible.) There're already libraries that fiddle
with input using function keys, but I don't know how difficult it would
be to make one handling input completion.
Alex Watson
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