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Spelling Helper

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In Mac OS 9, if you wanted to spell-check your writing, you had to either rely on your text editor or word processor to provide such functionality or you had to purchase a third-party spell-checker such as Spell Catcher. Although Spell Catcher and other commercial spelling solutions are still around, Mac OS X actually has pretty good spell-checking features built-in. The caveat is that to access these features from within an application, the application must specifically support OS X’s spell-checker. Many apps from Apple—such as TextEdit, iChat, and Safari—do just that, but many third-party applications don’t. (And OS X’s spell-checker doesn’t have the best interface around—it requires quite a bit of mousing to use.)

If you’re looking for a universal spell-checker on a budget, Kuwan.Net’s $10 HyperSpell 1.3 (   ) is a good option. HyperSpell actually uses OS X’s spell-checker, but provides access to it from within any application, along with a better user interface, in my opinion.

HyperSpell is quite easy to use: Simply copy the desired text in any application and then click the HyperSpell icon in the menu bar (or press a user-defined keyboard shortcut)—HyperSpell’s window appears with your text automatically inserted and begins its spelling review.

HyperSpell’s spell-checking window

Unlike Mac OS X’s built-in functionality, which marks misspelled words but requires that you Control/right-click on each word to choose from among suggested correct spellings, HyperSpell pops the menu up automatically for each word. You can use either the mouse or the keyboard to choose the preferred replacement word (or choose “Learn” to add the current spelling to Mac OS X’s dictionary or “Ignore” to skip to the next misspelled word). Once you press the return key to indicate your choice, HyperSpell moves to the next word, and so on. (Pressing return without selecting an option also skips to the next word.) I actually prefer HyperSpell’s approach to Mac OS X’s.

After you’ve completed your spell-check, switching back to the previous application—by pressing the escape key or by using any standard Mac OS X method for switching between applications—automatically copies the corrected text to the clipboard for pasting back into the original document.

I have a couple minor beefs with HyperSpell. First, when no more misspellings are found, HyperSpell just beeps, which can be confusing, as such a beep from an application generally indicates an error; I think a better approach would be to display an alert that says, “No more errors found.” And when correcting a misspelled word, if you want to manually type the correct spelling—perhaps it’s not included in the built-in dictionary—you have to first use the mouse to exit the word suggestion menu by clicking in the text; you can’t simply start typing. After typing your preferred spelling, you then have to press the return key to resume the spell-check.

Still, it’s quite handy to be able to use OS X’s own spell-checking functionality no matter which application you’re using. And because I like the fact that HyperSpell lets you perform your check and make corrections entirely from the keyboard, I’ve been using HyperSpell even in those applications that support OS X’s built-in functionality.

(HyperSpell works in both Tiger and Panther.)

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