Monday 22 August 2011

Do Captcha Codes Make You Cross?

Nowadays, in an attempt to prevent spammers, many websites use a verification system known as Captcha. In fact if you comment on this blog, you may be asked to type two distorted words into a box. This system is designed to prevent forms being filled in  automatically, by computer, and so is very popular with competition promoters who want to try to prevent thousands of entries coming in from people who have never even visited the site, but have paid an entering service to enter on their behalf.

Unfortunately, computer programmes to get around the Captcha syatem are now available, so they no longer provide as much protection as they used to for the site owners. but for the time being they are still the most popular anti-spam measure a comper will encounter.

However they are sometimes almost impossible to read, and can be very frustrating for compers. So here are a few tips that might save you some precious comping time.

First of all, you probably know that if you can't read the words, you can ask for new ones by clicking on the circular arrows at the side of the code box. But do you know that you can also ask to have the visual words replaced by audio ones, by clicking on the loudspeaker symbol? But beware, the sounds are distorted and if the site is one that plays background music, it can become such a jumble that you can't tell what is being said.

Moving on to the written words, there are often a mixture of lower case and capital letters. But Captcha (and I'm only talking specifically about the genuine Captcha codes that show the brand name at the side) are not case sensitive, so you don't need to worry about switching between upper and lower cases, just type the whole thing in whatever case you were using at the time.

Next, Captcha doesn't read symbols or punctuation, so words that include apostrophes, colons, brackets or weird mathematical symbols can just have them left out - simply type just the letters and ignore the rest.

But here is the BIG SECRET - Captcha actually only reads ONE of the two words. But it is a specific one, and here are some tips for working out which one it is looking for. You DO  need to type something for the other word, but it can be absolutely anything. The quickest thing to do is just type one letter. How do you identify which word to type? Here are  the clues to look for:

  • The word will only use keyboard letters- no symbols, no punctuation and no foreign characters. If you find a word written all in Greek or a mathematical equation, just type any old letter.
  • The word will be the right way up - so you no longer need to stand on your head to type one of the words: if a word is upside down, ignore it and type whatever you fancy in its place.
  • The word will be in Captcha's normal font. If you are a regular comper, you will already be able to recognise when a very different font or typeface is being used. Italics, fancy script and anything else out-of-the-ordinary is a clue that this is the word to ignore.
  • The word  will have a special clue showing which it is. Captcha does the same trick to every "correct" word, but it changes the trick every now and then. They may have a slight shadow on the letters, or a negative background, or have some other little trick played on them. At the time I am writing this, all the correct words have a wavy line running through them.

Getting used to spotting the correct word and just typing one letter for the other one can save you a lot of time - give it a go and let me know how you get on!


  1. Thanks for the tip will try it out next time I find one.

  2. Thanks for the great advice- I have terrible trouble sometimes reading the Captcha ...will give it a go and report back !! x

  3. Thank you. I often have touble reading the words and sometimes have even given up! Great advice

  4. Ahh, I wondered why it accepts my words even though I've guessed and feel sure it's wrong! Thanks for enlightening me :) x

  5. Oh wow! I hope you're right :) I haven't tried it yet. I can't stand captcha's :( Thanks :)

  6. Nice post, also congrats for being Tweeted by Smashing Magazine with this post.
    Captcha Code

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  8. That is a very useful post indeed, brilliant! I love that you've even researched this, excellent attention to detail! Thanks for the link :O) I hate Captchas with a passion, I must have spent about 20 minutes trying to get one to recognise me today. x

  9. Thanks jane useful as allways


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