Spell Checking
  • Save time by skipping unnecessary work. MicroSpell lets you see a list of all the suspect words instead of viewing them one-at-a-time, if you prefer. Because all the suspect words are visible at once (almost instantly, for typical documents), you can save time by zeroing in on the misspellings and ignoring everything else.
  • Make fast visual scans using color as an aid. Suspect coloring shows which words—and parts of words—are known and which are unrecognized.
    For a screen capture of MicroSpell checking the text you are now reading, click here (opens in a new window).
    This speeds up visual checking of unknown compounds, inflections, "WordsSuchAsThis," and more.
  • See where you slipped up. MicroSpell can (optionally) highlight where the suspect differs from the best guess and show how to convert one into the other.
  • Look up individual words. You can look up individual words any time using the speller's guessing algorithm, wildcards, or by feedback from the color of the word as you type. Or use "tool tip lookup" whereby you position the cursor on or within a word and see a pop-up "tool tip" showing the longest matching word and where it was found.
  • Get Definitions, Spellings, and Other Information Via the Internet. You can use the "Web Lookup" command from nearly anywhere within MicroSpell. The speller sends your query to one of a number of preset web sites and the response appears in your browser. If necessary, you can reissue the query and it will automatically be directed to another site.
  • Efficiently handle hundreds or thousands of suspects. MicroSpell can easily deal with hundreds or thousands of suspects—something that is tedious, if not impractical with other spell checkers.

    These features help you quickly pare down long lists:

    • Most speller commands work as easily on a group of suspects as on individual suspects so you can often deal with many suspects at once.
    • You don't have to deal with suspects in their document order. Grouping, sorting, and categorizing functions enable you to dispose of whole collections of suspects quickly.
    • Suspects are automatically categorized according to whether they contain non-letters, have
      Don't be overwhelmed by number of commands and options available. Basic spell checking should be—and is—simple. Show me. (Opens in a new window.)
      irregular capitalization, are possible unknown inflections, possible unknown compounds (or run-together errors), possible repeated word errors, etc.
    • Suspects can be sorted by category, alphabetically, document position, length, or frequency of occurrence.
    • Suspects can be grouped by these criteria: whether they contain a specific character or string, whether they contain all capital letters, whether they contain numbers, whether they are more likely than normal to be misspellings, whether they are "IrregularCapAllPartsKnown" words, whether they are likely computer or net-related suspects such as E-mail addresses, URLs, or file names.
    • Some categories of suspects require less scrutiny than others; grouping functions let you concentrate your effort where it is needed most. MicroSpell can optionally filter and automatically accept suspects belonging to some relatively safe groups. You can quickly and easily review—and undo—what it has accepted, if you want to.


  • Includes comprehensive American English dictionary. MicroSpell includes a thoroughly checked American English "main" dictionary and several sample user dictionaries, including one with many computer-related terms. Other dictionaries based on public domain lists are also available. MicroSpell can also import Ispell word lists which cover British English, French, German, Spanish, and other languages. (We are seeking other non-English word lists; if you know of any good ones, please let us know.)
  • Create your own dictionaries or edit ours. Every function that we used to create and edit MicroSpell's dictionaries is included in the program. You can do anything we can do.
  • Multiple dictionaries OK. You can create any reasonable number of dictionaries; up to ten main dictionaries and ten user dictionaries can be open at once.
  • Auto-Correction dictionaries fix common typos. You can create auto-correction user dictionaries which associate common misspellings with the required correction.
  • Automatically learns your misspellings and the proper corrections. You can have the speller remember your "Replace All" corrections and apply them automatically in the future. Because all of the speller's corrections are listed in the Outbox, you can easily examine them to see exactly how your document has been changed. If you ever need to reverse anything, that's simple too.
  • Conveniently add words to user dictionaries. There are many ways to add words to and remove words from user dictionaries. In addition to directly editing any dictionary, there are three user defined "Save To" buttons, pop-up menu save/remove commands, copy-and-paste, and drag-and-drop support for word groups and entire dictionaries. It is also easy to modify any word and save the edited copy.
  • Document-Specific dictionaries. Every time you check a document, MicroSpell automatically loads (or creates, if necessary) a user dictionary devoted to that document. If you'll be rechecking the document later, you can save all of the "false alarm" suspects in this document-specific dictionary so you will not see them again. (The speller removes empty document-specific dictionaries, so your disk will not be cluttered with zero-length files.)
  • Location-Specific dictionaries. MicroSpell also automatically creates a location-specific dictionary which works like a document-specific dictionary, but is shared by all document files in a particular directory. This is more appropriate than a document-specific dictionary when a single document spans several disk files.
  • Document - user dictionary associations. MicroSpell lets you enter a list of user dictionary names and file extensions so that when a file having one of the extensions is checked, the associated user dictionary is automatically opened. For example, given a list of TeX or HTML commands, you could have the speller check rather than skip them, and use this feature to automatically load the command list only when appropriate.
  • "Uncommon" Dictionary Property. A "Contains 'Uncommon' Words" property can be associated with particular dictionaries. Suspects matching entries in these dictionaries will not be silently accepted; instead, they are listed in the Outbox with the "newly recognized" icon. This helps address the conflicting requirements of having a large dictionary to minimize the number of false alarms while at the same time having a more limited dictionary to catch typos that accidentally match obscure words. For informal writing, you can simply ignore this feature; when you want to be more careful, you can review the "uncommon" words in the Outbox, which will be grouped at or near then end. You don't have to remember to set any options or change any modes to take advantage of this.


  • MicroSpell adapts to the document you are checking. It currently has four different operating modes: RTF, HTML, TeX, and ASCII. In each of the first three modes, the speller can optionally skip formatting commands and/or comments. RTF mode lets you check ".rtf" files saved by Microsoft Word and other applications. TeX mode is also LaTeX-friendly. The speller defaults to ASCII (plain text) mode if no other mode is appropriate.
  • Mode set automatically. MicroSpell automatically sets the mode according to the file extension of the document or its contents. The associations between file extensions and modes are user definable. You can override MicroSpell's mode choice at any time.
  • Document coloring shows skipped text and comments. The speller can display text that will not be checked using a different color and/or font style. It can also display a different color in the progress meter to alert you that it has skipped text.
  • Control how MicroSpell breaks your text into words. For each mode, you can specify whether accented characters are allowed within words (both as a group and individually), whether numbers are allowed, and whether certain other non-letters and sequences are allowed. You can define two "ghost hyphen" sequences, and two "sentinel" sequences that stop and start spell checking.
  • HTML tags skipped without ignoring "alt" text. MicroSpell can ignore the data within HTML tags while still checking "alt" text (e.g. within IMG tags) and text within META, INPUT, and TABLE tags.
  • Check your entire web site without tracking down all the HTML files. In HTML mode, you can have the speller automatically check all pages that the page you are currently checking links to (locally). So, by checking just your home page or any page that links to it, you can "pull in" your entire web site automatically.
  • TeX/LaTeX features:
    • You can have the speller automatically check all documents that are "included" by the current document. The TeX commands that define "inclusion" are user-definable.
    • MicroSpell can skip blocks delimited as follows: $ ... $, $$ ... $$, \[ ... \], and \( ... \).
    • You can choose whether to skip or check TeX comments.
    • You can give a list of \begin{} ... \end{} environments to be skipped.
    • The speller can skip arguments following TeX commands. You can give a list of TeX commands and the number of arguments to be skipped.
    • You can specify whether the speller translates multi-character accent codes when displaying suspects and when making changes in your document (independently).

File/Text Handling

  • Specify multiple files at once, and in a variety of ways. You can specify files using the Windows file open dialog, by drag-and-drop from Windows Explorer or "Find Files", by copy-and-paste, by using the speller's file name completion dialog, from a command line or batch file, or by using the Windows pop-up menu "Send To" command. Most methods of opening files let you specify a group of files at once.
  • Document List holds to-do info and statistics. MicroSpell opens and checks one document at a time, but you can "queue up" many files on its Document List and check them one after another. You can edit the Document List to skip checking or to recheck any file. The Document List also displays word counts and other statistics for each file checked, plus grand totals.
  • Check large groups of files. In addition to having the speller automatically step through a group of files and follow HTML links or TeX "includes", you can sometimes use its "learn" command to substantially reduce your effort. For example, using a procedure described in the documentation, you can efficiently check and correct all of the files in a Microsoft compiled HTML help project which can comprise hundreds of small HTML files.
  • Check text in other windows by pressing a "hotkey." You can move text (in addition to files) to and from the speller via drag-and-drop or cut-and-paste. "Hotkey" spell checking automates cut-and-paste movement:
    • MicroSpell will automatically copy the text from another window (and correct and return it) when you press a predefined hotkey while working in another application.
    • Hotkey spell checking works in many (but not all) other applications. For example, you can use it in most Windows "edit boxes," with Notepad or WordPad, to check E-mail messages before sending them, and to check (but not modify) most web pages directly from your browser screen.
    • You can define new hotkey copy scripts for Windows that do not have predefined scripts, or replace existing ones.
    • To make hotkey spell checking really convenient, an installation option lets you ensure that MicroSpell is always available by having it start up automatically when you turn on your computer. (It makes relatively modest demands on system resources: on the laptop where I'm writing this, it reduces system resources by less than 3.5 percent.)


  • System tray speller icon. By default, the installer will put a speller icon in your taskbar system tray so you can have instant access to all of MicroSpell's features. Clicking this icon will display the speller; double-clicking will spell check the Clipboard. Pressing <Alt> while double-clicking will show the definition of the word on the Clipboard via Web Lookup. Pressing the speller hotkey while you are working in another window will spell check the text you are editing.
  • Command history and Undo. MicroSpell keeps a history of how you've handled every suspect. You can use this to verify your changes as they appear in your document, or to view what the speller has auto-accepted or auto-corrected. Because the history list can be sorted in different ways, you can easily do things like select all of the suspects you've accepted and send them to a user dictionary. You can also select any suspect or group of suspects and undo the commands that you originally gave to deal with them.
  • Most colors and fonts are customizable. You can customize many of the colors and fonts used by the speller. To ease visual spell checking, you can request extra space between the letters of suspect words. Sometimes this will let you comfortably use a smaller font.
  • "Learn" command automates compiling user dictionaries. MicroSpell has a "learn" command that enables it to automatically scan multiple documents and make a list of the unknown words. This is useful for building user dictionaries from documents that have previously been checked for spelling errors. The registered version of MicroSpell can automatically learn the spelling errors you've made in the past and correct them automatically in the future.
  • "Fussiness" control. All spellers have to decide how picky they will be. Should they ignore things that look like URLs or file names, accept words with embedded numbers, complain about rare words that might be a misspelling of a more common word? MicroSpell has a simple slider control that you can use to set how picky (more suspects) or lax (more likely to miss an error) you want it to be. You can have up to three preset levels for checking different classes of documents, e.g. a lax one for email and a pickier one for your web pages.
  • Text editing capability. MicroSpell's main document window is a rudimentary text editor where you can make changes that are more complicated than suspect word replacement.

What Sets MicroSpell Apart from Other Spelling Checkers?

No Need to
Deal with
Most Suspects
MicroSpell aims to solve a problem that affects all other spelling checkers that we know of: you must respond to every unrecognized word with at least one mouse click or keystroke, often several. For a large document, this can sometimes mean hundreds of slow, deliberate keystrokes or clicks. MicroSpell, on the other hand, requires only that you respond to misspellings—typically many fewer responses. It does this by showing you a list of all of the suspect words at once, rather than one-by-one. All you have to do is visually scan the list, correct the misspellings, then press the "Done" button. Compared to the one-by-one approach, this can save you a lot of time when there are many suspects.

Works with
Groups of
MicroSpell's suspect word list is called the "Inbox." As you can see in this example (opens in a new window), the Inbox shows each suspect in context along with a few likely guesses plus the number of times the word appears in your document. Although you can easily have MicroSpell show the suspects in the order they appear in your document, it is often more useful to let the speller group them by category. For example, all "words" that contain non-letter characters are shown together, as are all potential repeated-word errors. Other categories include words that have irregular capitalization and words that are formed by joining two known words, which might be "run-together" errors or unknown compounds. An icon next to each suspect shows its category, and a "tool tip" on the icon reminds you of its meaning.

When you have a large number of suspects, you'll find that dealing with all of the irregularly capitalized words at once, for example, is easier and faster than dealing with them at random because you know exactly why the words are suspects without having to scrutinize each one. Also, you'll probably want to respond to most of them the same way.

You can select a group of suspects and apply one of the speller's commands to the whole group at once. For example, you can select all of the suspects remaining in the Inbox after you have corrected the misspellings and add them to a user dictionary with a couple of mouse clicks. You can also use grouping to help pare down a large suspect list. For example, if you're writing about computers, there might be many "noise" suspects that contain the underscore character, such as "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE" or "mouse_y". You can have MicroSpell bring them together, examine them quickly, then remove them from the Inbox with a single mouse click.  

Uses Color
to Provide
When displaying the suspect list, MicroSpell uses color to help you separate words or parts of words that are correctly spelled from those that are unrecognized. By default, it uses green and black to draw words or fragments that it recognizes, and red for things it does not recognize. The Inbox sample (same as above) shows several examples of how coloring can help you separate the true misspellings from the false alarms. The suspect "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE" is rendered with the "H" colored red to visually separate it from the words that the speller recognized, which are rendered in black. In this example, the only other place where red appears is a true misspelling.

Coloring also shows how the speller interprets possible run-together or unknown compound words (Netmeeting), and how the speller analyzes unknown inflections by coloring prefixes and/or suffixes differently than the base word (Multipoint). Their coloring enables you to quickly check whether "words" like "DisableDirectSound" are correct, and whether or not possible repeated-word errors are also misspellings ("or" would have been colored red had it not matched a dictionary entry).

Please note: we frequently tweak the algorithms MicroSpell uses for coloring suspects so individual words might be colored differently in the version you download, but the same general principles apply.

There are even more things that we haven't discussed here, so why not download a copy of MicroSpell and try it yourself?

Last updated 15 Nov 2004