Given that most word processing and page-layout programs have built-in spelling checkers, why would you pay for a dedicated spell-checking program? Casady & Greene offers a strong case for doing just that, with Spell Catcher 8, the latest version of its cross-application writing utility.
Spell Catcher is more than just a spelling checker. You can call up synonyms and dictionary definitions for any selected text. As you enter custom abbreviations, a shorthand function quickly spells them outenter adc , for example, and the program automatically expands it to that all-too-common phrase "Apple declined to comment." You can also activate a dictionary of commonly misspelled words; if you enter accomodate , Spell Catcher automatically converts it to accommodate . The useful Ghostwriter function automatically saves your keystrokes in case the system crashes.
Another useful option, Modify Selection, applies a wide range of formatting adjustments to selected text. You can make quotes straight or curly, remove extra spaces, capitalize the first word of each sentence, or convert e-mails with odd line breaks into logically formatted paragraphs.
Spell Catcher lacks a grammar checker, but it catches double words as well as capitalization and punctuation errors. You can set up the program to ignore e-mail addresses, URLs, and words that begin with capital letters (unless they start a sentence). This version supports eight languages, and you can install an optional HTML dictionary for checking Web documents.
Spell Catcher's big advantage is that it works with any Mac program you're running. Whether you're composing a document in Microsoft Word or entering text in a shareware program, Spell Catcher checks spelling, looks up definitions, and suggests synonyms. You access the options through a menu Spell Catcher displays on the right side of the screen (the previous version functioned as a control panel).
But the question remains: why pay $50 for a spelling checker when so many packages have those facilities built in? For one, with a single systemwide spelling checker, you need store only one standard dictionary and one dictionary of user-defined terms on your hard disk. If you've spent time compiling unique word lists in other programs, you can import them into Spell Checker's dictionary. And Spell Catcher offers a few features you won't find in Microsoft Office, such as the ability to pronounce words and look up word meanings.
For those who are sloppy typists or work with programs that don't include spelling checkers, Spell Catcher is a must-have product. It's less compelling if you work in Microsoft Office, but even then, the extra features may be worth the $50 price tag.
RATING: PROS: Strong spell-checking options; works with any Mac application. CONS: No built-in grammar checker. COMPANY: Casady & Greene (800/359-4264, http://www.casadyg.com ). COMPANY'S ESTIMATED PRICE: $50.
November 1999 page: 70