Miscellaneous Ramblings

Miscellaneous Ramblings Review

SpellTools Freestanding Spell Checker

Charles Moore - 2001.07.03 - Tip Jar

"Why in the world would I want a freestanding spell checker?" you might ask. "My word processor has a perfectly good one, doesn't it?"

Well, it probably does. However some other programs that you compose text in may not have built in spell checkers, such as text editors (like Tex-Edit Plus and BBEdit Lite, Apple's SimpleText) and some email programs. You will also find that a powerful, freestanding spell check program like SpellTools offers powerful features likely not supported by the built in spell checker in your word processor.

I've discovered that Tom Bender's wonderful little text editor, Tex-Edit Plus, can handle about 95 percent of my word processing requirements and is quicker and more nimble than any word processor. For the sort of writing I do, Tex-Edit Plus has pretty well all the features I require, except one - a spell checker.

SpellTools 1.3.3/1.4 is a wonderful spell check program that is currently freeware - more or less. Developer Craig Marciniak says: "I am releasing this version [1.4] on the honor system with the hope you will pay for the forthcoming update. Of course, I certainly wouldn't mind if you wanted to send me $10 via snail-mail now."

SpellTools gives you a suite of text tools available to virtually all your applications, like prooflistening, rubber stamps, and text cleanup and editing tools in addition to a powerful spellchecker engine. A small floating palette appears when the program is active, and contains all the Text Tools.

SpellTools Features

  • Spelling: Handles all sorts of problems like ROger but also allows for neologism like TrueType, catches double wording errors errors, has computer terms like "motherboard" in the (customizable) dictionary, and ignores most HTML tags.
  • Prooflistening: Reads your text aloud. Speaks highlighted text.
  • Stamper: The Stamp Tool allows you to set up rubber stamps of text that can be inserted into any document by clicking on the stamp tool popup and selecting the appropriate stamp from the menu. User defined stamps and standard date and time stamps are available from the menu.
  • Cleanup Incoming Email: Line Normalization" fixes bad line wraps. Some email servers add hard carriage returns causing paragraphs not to wrap as you would like (see example below). SpellTools allows you to "Normalize Returns of Text Selection" from the text tools popup.
  • Strip Extra Spaces: Sooner or later you get tired of trying to "normalize" spaces. SpellTools will strip superfluous spaces for you when you highlight text and choose "Normalize Spaces of Text Selection" or "Strip Leading Spaces of Text Selection" from the text tools popup.
  • Garbage Removal: Caret Stripping" (removes ">") Backspacing and forward spacing ">" characters is tiresome. SpellTools can clean up text such as the following by highlighting it and choosing "Strip ">"from Text Tools Selection" from the text tools popup.
  • Find & Replace: SpellTools has a standard find and replace routine that works in any application. When running SpellTools, simply choose "Find & Replace the Text Selection" from the text tools popup. The find and replace tool is case-sensitive.
  • Word Counting: When running SpellTools, you can count the number of words, lines and characters of a text selection by choosing "Word Count of Text Selection" from the text tools popup.
  • Case Changing: Converts selected text to UPPERCASE, lowercase, Title Case, etc. SpellTools allows you to change the case characteristics of text by highlighting it and choosing "UPPERCASE the Text Selection", "lowercase the Text Selection", or "Capitalize the Text Selection" from the text tools popup. This feature is aware of diacritical things like "möbius", or contractions like "they're".

SpellTools is an application, not a slow and/or conflicting system extension. It is accelerated for Power Macs and provides a more sophisticated set of spelling algorithms

SpellTools works with most Mac applications because it is an application, not an extension or control panel. Therefore, it will not conflict with other things in your System Folder. It is encoded FAT binary, so it works on older 68K Macs, as well as taking full advantage of the speed capabilities of PowerPC processors.

System Requirements

  • Mac OS version 7.5 to 8.6 required (version 1.4 supports OS 9.x)
  • 8 MB of RAM or more
  • Hard disk with at least 1 MB of available space

I have become addicted to SpellTools, and I find version 1.4 reasonably stable on MacOS 9.x, although it will occasionally crash Tex-Edit Plus if I haven't restarted for several days and the memory is getting a bit squirrelly. Make sure to save your document before running SpellTools.

Getting SpellTools is a two step process if you're using OS 9.x. First you can download the SpellTools 1.3.3 application from Tucows.com, then you must go to Craig Marciniak's SpellTools Web page and download the version 1.4 updater. If you are running Mac OS 7.5 through 8.6, you only need version 1.3.3.

There is no word on an OS X native version of SpellTools yet, which poses another inhibition for me moving to OS X from OS 9.x. I hope Mr. Marciniak will be able to find the time to write a carbon version of this extremely useful tool.

SpellTools 1.3.3 (supports up to OS 8.6) can be downloaded from Tucows.com.

The version 1.4 OS 9 updater for SpellTools is available on the SpellTools page (along with details on where to send that ten dollar shareware fee if you are so inclined).

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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