Spell Catcher — Because Spelling & Word Choice Counts

Written and published February 2, 2001

Have you ever read a brochure or paper as an informational source and come across a spelling error? Did the authoritative level of that document go down a few points in your mind? In any printed document spelling counts — big time. That misspelled word can be construed as a sign of ignorance, or of lack of caring, or lack of attention to detail — and neither of those are good. I've been doing seminars on Mac productivity for about a decade now, and Evan Gross's Spell Catcher published by Casady & Greene has consistently remained a top recommendation. (Anyone remember it from its first days as Thunder 7?) It's time I fill you in on it here.

I can guess that some of you are thinking "I have a spell checker in {insert your favorite app here} so I don't need anything called Spell Catcher." I'm guessing that because that's what many people say when I recommend it. My response? Unless you have Spell Catcher, your spell checker is only helpful while you are in that particular application. Once you venture into another program you're open to all sorts of spelling errors. Can you afford to risk that? (And even if every app has a dictionary, is each customized to accommodate your names and such.) I also then go on to explain that Spell Catcher does much more, as you'll see here. Spell Catcher also covers 9 languages, so it can ease the problems of need for localized versions of software packages. And, it makes life easier by containing several specialized dictionaries such as medical, legal, and scientific/tech dictionaries.

Spell Catching

Spell Catcher gives you the choice between interactively checking your spelling and checking it upon demand. I suggest working with Interactive Checking turned on. You can choose it by checking it under the Spell Catcher menu, or within Preferences. You can set universal preferences or have prefs for any (or each) specific app.

As you type, Spell Catcher notices misspelled (AKA questionable) words and beeps when it encounters such a word. (Mine beeps; you can choose your own alert sound.) I think its important to always get your thoughts out of your head and onto the page, so I suggest you glance at your page, noting what you just typed to trigger the beep, then keep on typing. Later, after your words are all on paper, you can go back and check the words. Or, you can select the entire paragraph or document and check all spelling.

To check a word:

1. Double-click the word.

2. Choose Check Selection from the Spell Catcher menu (the checkmark by your Application menu) or choose the keyboard shortcut.

3. Click the correctly spelled word from the list of choices, then click Replace, as in this picture. Or, to be more efficient, double-click the desired word.

4. Click Done.

5. Choose Paste to have the new spelling pasted into place over the existing word in your document.

Fixing a misspelled word.

If a word or selection is already correctly spelled a dialog tells you that too. You can turn it off, but I prefer to be certain the word was verified.

The no errors alert.

A feature I really appreciate is its smart correction. Notice in the next screen shot, that it catches the spacing error, even with a comma in the sentence, and suggests the correct fix.

correcting spacing

More Error Catching

Spell Catcher does more that alert you to misspelled words. It can also alert you to capitalization, punctuation, and double words. In Preferences you can assign a different sound for each, as you can see here.

error preferences

Additionally, Spell Catcher can fix other typing issues for you, as you can see by the preferences below.

interactive preferences

The Dictionary and Thesaurus

One of Spell Catcher's many values is that it can help you find the right word for your message. Just type a word you're considering, the select the word and choose Lookup from the Spell Catcher menu. In one neat window you'll be presented with a Dictionary tab and a Thesaurus tab.

In the Dictionary tab you'll see the definition and learn more about the word, as shown here as I look up "appreciate."

dictionary screen shot

You can also double-click any word within the lower part of the window to learn more about that word. For example, if you wanted to check on the word, "justly," you'd double-click it and its own definition would appear. You can then switch between "appreciate" and "justly" by choosing either from the pop-up menu of the double-headed arrow. To put "justly" into your page where "appreciate" is, you'd just click Replace while it's the current word.

To learn what the Thesaurus has to say about any word currently selected in the Dictionary, click the Thesaurus tab. In this tab you'll learn synonyms, antonyms and more.

thesaurus screen shot

If one of the synonyms, antonyms, or such strikes you as potentially better, just double-click that word and its information appears. You can keep checking selected words. Again, to return to any word checked in that "session" choose the word by using the double-headed arrow to the right of the current word. To have Spell Catcher replace your original word in your document with the newly selected word, click the Replace button.

There's Even More

Actually, there is much more to Spell Catcher. It can automatically fix your common typos and expand your abbreviations into phrases or blocks of text. There are also macros that change capitalization, strip spaces, and much more — and you can create your own macros too. I'd go on with all this, but I'd be writing the manual all over again, and since the manual is written by David Pogue, its not your typical geek manual and I'm sure you'll be able to use it easily. If you'd like to try Spell Catcher you can download the demo.

By the way, a year or so ago, I was asked to help suggest a new name that reflects all the things Spell Catcher does. But it does so much I was at a loss for a more descriptive name! Check it out fully. And if you have an idea for a name, let me know. I'd be happy to pass it on to its excellent programmer Evan Gross and the great folks at Casady & Greene.

PS: There's a Spell Cather for Windows too.

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