Documents riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes can cost you an excellent grade, a business client, or your pride. A dedicated grammar and spelling checker like Ultralingua’s Grammatica 6.1 can help you avoid such errors.
In addition to checking spelling and grammar, Grammatica (which is also available in French, German, and Spanish) scours your document for repeated words, complex predicates, and long sentences. But the program’s sparse help manual, confusing Lexicon feature, and strange formatting-retention problems mar an otherwise good product.
After you launch Grammatica, you can invoke it from any application by pressing a hot key (F2, by default, but you can assign any key you want). The program then whisks through your copy identifying errors and offering helpful suggestions and examples.
You can decide whether Grammatica checks a paragraph, a selection, or the entire document for errors, but there isn’t a distinction in function between the Paragraph and Selection modes. To check an entire document, you just set your hot key to Selection mode and select all before pressing the hot key. You also can’t change your text-checking options on the fly; you must reset them in Grammatica’s preferences.
Grammatica’s interface is easy to understand. Its resizable main window pops up alongside your open application when you press the hot key (see screenshot). The Resume, Replace, and Ignore buttons help you navigate your document. The Define/Translate button is a bit deceiving, though: it works only if you have the $30 Ultralingua dictionary—a separate program—installed. (You don’t need the dictionary to use Grammatica.) Ultralingua plans to update the program to remove that command when its add-on dictionary is not installed.
Lexicons and Logos
You can customize Grammatica by adding words to one or more lexicons (for example, you can have a lexicon for each project you work on). However, this feature is more difficult to use than it should be. Because the program checks both grammar and spelling, you must define the part of speech of each word you add to a lexicon. Furthermore, when you want to add irregular words or terms such as apostrophized contractions ( you’re ) or hyphenated compounds ( fine-tune ), you must group them under a classification called Logo.
The whole Logo concept is confusing, but even worse, Grammatica lets you classify Logo items only as nouns. Grammatica should let you classify hyphenated compounds in the same way as it does one-word terms, and it should not flag apostrophized contractions as spelling errors.
Another oddity is the program’s conjugation model feature. When you add a verb to a lexicon (such as rasterize ), you must choose another verb on which to base its conjugation (such as organize ), so that Grammatica knows how the new word is conjugated. Grammatica does a poor job of both explaining and implementing this feature.
Grammatica’s Undo command is very limited. For example, you can undo a change you just made, but you can’t go back to words you accidentally skipped over.
The program’s sparse help manual warns that Grammatica may not preserve complicated text formatting of some words when it checks text in Entire Document mode. But the program consistently stripped part of my Microsoft Word and QuarkXPress documents of formatting, even though they contained relatively simple paragraph and headline styles. This is unacceptable.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Grammatica 6.1 quickly and thoroughly checks documents for spelling and grammar mistakes. But the built-in spelling and grammar checkers of most word processing and page-layout programs are just as good. Grammatica would have to fix its format-stripping bug, improve its help manual, and make its Lexicon feature more intuitive before I’d recommend it. If you want a dedicated spelling and grammar checker that not only performs the basics, but also helps you develop your own writing style, checks spelling as you type, and interacts with online dictionaries, check out Linguisoft’s $40 Grammarian Pro X.Ultralingua’s Grammatica 6.1 provides a consistent interface for checking your spelling and grammar in a variety of applications.