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Simple and Efficient Spell Checking (Via the Inbox)

Using MicroSpell's Spell Check dialog, you can check your document one-word-at-a-time as in virtually all other spell checkers. While this is simple, it is not as efficient as it could be. We recommend you try the alternative outlined here, especially if your documents typically contain many suspect words.

Don't be overwhelmed by MicroSpell's many options and commands. We've set reasonable defaults for the options and you can ignore most of the commands until you need them. As the next few paragraphs show, all you really need to know is how to open your document, correct the misspellings, and press the Done button. (For additional details, you can read the Inbox topic.)

Here's how to spell check a document using the Inbox. This method is simple, yet arguably the best approach when the number of unrecognized words is small or moderate, say fewer than about 200. (If you have many hundreds or thousands of suspects, see How to Deal with a Large Number of Suspects for some advice.)

(1) Open your document using the standard Windows File|Open command or one the other methods and start the spell check by pressing the red "check" button if the speller hasn't started automatically. The Inbox and Outbox appear if there are any unrecognized words. The Inbox shows all of the unrecognized words (suspects) at once.

Note: if instead of the Inbox, you see MicroSpell's one-word-at-a-time Spell Check dialog, press the Show List button.

(2) Visually scan the list of unrecognized words in the Inbox to find the actual misspellings. The colors used to draw the words can help you decide whether a suspect merits closer scrutiny: known words or fragments are colored black or green, unknown words are colored red. Correct all of the misspellings as follows:

Tip: You can easily move down a page at a time by pressing the space bar. Use <Ctrl-Space> to move up by pages.

As you correct the misspellings, they leave the Inbox and appear in the Outbox where you can see your changes as they appear in your document. If necessary, you can use the Outbox Undo command to reverse any of your actions. (Just select one or more suspects in the Outbox and press Undo; the suspects will be returned to the Inbox and any associated changes to your document will be reversed.)

Unlike other spell checkers, MicroSpell does not require you to "Accept," "Ignore," "Save," or otherwise deal with any of the suspects that are not misspellings. You can often save a lot of time by taking advantage of this. As you become more familiar with the program, you'll learn when to use these commands, plus the commands available via the right mouse button pop-up menu in the Inbox and elsewhere within MicroSpell.

When you decide to use one of these commands, here's another way to save time: select more than one suspect in the Inbox or Outbox (here's how) and apply the command to the entire group with a single keystroke or mouse click.

(3) You're done after you correct your last misspelling. Press the Done button (even if there are still words in the Inbox) in the lower right area of the Inbox to close the Inbox and save your document. Note: you have to close the Inbox before you can open or check another document (this is why many of the main window commands are grayed out while the Inbox is open).

To check another document, just repeat these steps; also see How to Check Multiple Documents below.

You might prefer to use the "+DSD" or the "+Accept" button instead of the "Done" button. These buttons work exactly like "Done" except that they first save the remaining suspect words so you won't see them later. The "+DSD" ("+LSD", when appropriate) button saves the words in a Document-Specific Dictionary so they will be considered correct next time you check the same document. The "+Accept" button merely saves the words until you exit from the speller. If you unintentionally press one of these buttons, here's how to undo the save.

Optional: While you are visually checking words in the Inbox, if you see a correctly spelled word that the speller doesn't recognize and which you use frequently, you might want to save it in a user dictionary. New-words.DIC, which probably appears on one of the Save To buttons, is a reasonable place. Simply select the word (or words) you want to save and press the appropriate button. If the Dictionaries dialog is open, you can also drag-and-drop any selected word(s) on any user (light blue) dictionary.

Stopping a Spell Check: If you want to stop the spell check and close the Inbox without saving your file, you can (un)press the main window check button (see below for more information). In fact, for most spell checking tasks, the button does everything you need: it starts, stops, and restarts the speller as required.

How to Check Multiple Documents (and Navigate Among Them)

To check a group of documents, you can simply repeat the steps outlined under Simple and Efficient Spell Checking. However, you'll probably find it more convenient to give all of the files you want to check at once at the beginning, and then have MicroSpell automatically open and check them one after another. Here's how:

  1. "Open" all of the files that you want to spell check. If you are using File|Open or MicroSpell's alternate Add Files to Document List dialog, you can select multiple files. If you drag-and-drop files on the speller's main window, you can drop multiple files. If you want to check all of the (local) files linked to an HTML "home page" or a TeX "root" document, you can have the speller do this automatically.
  2. If the option Spell|Auto Spell Check on File Open is enabled (MicroSpell's default), press the toolbar button to start the spell check, if necessary. (If you have disabled the "Auto Spell Check on File Open" option and do not wish to enable it, use the Spell|Spell Check all Unchecked Documents command to start the spell check.)
  3. Follow steps 2 and 3 under Simple and Efficient Spell Checking until you have corrected the last document. (After you press the "Done" button to save the current document, MicroSpell will automatically open and check the next one.)

The first pane in the status bar displays a count of the number of files that remain to be checked. You can obtain additional information using the Document List dialog, which you can display by double-clicking the first status bar pane or by using the toolbar button.

You can interrupt spell checking at anytime ("unclick" the toolbar button) and restart the same way (see step 2 above) or simply respond to the Spell Check Interrupted dialog. If you need to revisit a file that you have already checked, use the Document List dialog toolbar button: select the file and press the Open button, or just double-click on the file. You can then recheck this file by giving any spell check command. If you prefer not to open the file immediately, you can just clear the checkbox next to the file name in the Document List dialog. The speller will recheck the file while it is checking the remaining unchecked files.

If you just want to advance to the next (or previous) unchecked file, the Document List dialog might be overkill; you can do the same thing more easily by using either the or the toolbar button.

Tip: Don't worry about accidentally forgetting to check one of your documents. If you attempt to exit while there are any unchecked files, the speller will warn you and give you an opportunity to check them.

How to Automatically Check a Linked Group of HTML or TeX Documents

MicroSpell can automatically add TeX files found in \include and \input commands in any file it is checking to the list of files to be checked. Similarly, it can add relative URLs found in anchor tags while checking HTML documents to the list of files to be checked. Each newly added file has the files to which it links added as well. Thus, by staring with the right file, you can check a large group of files without explicitly specifying them.

To check all of your linked HTML or TeX files, just check the TeX "root" or HTML homepage. You should see a dialog like the one below. Press Yes to check everything. If this doesn't work, read the rest of this section.

By default, the first time you check a TeX or HTML document that includes links to other files, you'll see the dialog shown here. Press Yes or No as appropriate, and MicroSpell will immediately begin checking your file(s).

Note that this dialog will appear, at most, once each time you run MicroSpell, and the Yes/No response you give will apply throughout the current session. If you never want to see this dialog again, you can click the appropriate box to keep it from reappearing. If you want to change the setting after you've dismissed the dialog (or if you've "permanently" suppressed it) you can do so from the File menu or use the Options|TeX Mode Preferences|Miscellaneous or Options|HTML Mode Preferences|Miscellaneous dialog. You can also re-enable this dialog from there by setting the "Ask first" checkbox.

To check a group of linked TeX or HTML files:

  1. If you've suppressed the dialog discussed above, or you have already seen it since you started MicroSpell, and the speller is not currently set to check linked files (or you don't know), use the appropriate File menu command to change the setting, then proceed to the next step.
  2. Open the TeX "root" document or HTML home page which links to all of the files you want to check.
  3. Follow the instructions for How to Check Multiple Documents beginning with step 2.

How to Deal with a Large Number of Suspects

To check a document having hundreds or thousands of suspects, you could proceed as described under Simple Spell Checking, but you'll probably find it more efficient to use some of MicroSpell's grouping and sorting commands to help pare down the suspect list. (If you haven't familiarized yourself with basic spell checking of small documents, it would be a good idea to do this before working on a larger task.)

The basic idea is that not all suspects are created equal. It is easier to see that "SomethingLikeThis" has no misspellings than "Somethinglikethis". The grouping commands enable you to bring together all suspects having a common property such as being composed of several merged capitalized words; if this property makes it easier to visually spell check them as in the example above, you can quickly scan the group, deal with any problems, then Accept or Save the remaining members of the group nearly as easily as you would accept or save a single suspect. You can then repeat these steps for any other appropriate groupings.

The Accept All or Save To commands are an important part of the process because they remove the suspects from the Inbox. If all of the selected suspects are at the top—as they are when you press any of the Group buttons—then the Accept All From Current Selection to Top button does the same thing as Accept All and might be more convenient.

You might initially be reluctant to use grouping functions if you have to correct some spellings within the group before accepting the remaining items because in making the corrections, you deselect the group as a side-effect. To solve this problem, the speller automatically displays a tiny dialog with a single "Reselect Available Items" button whenever you collapse an Inbox group selection. Thus, you can group suspects, make any necessary corrections within the group (the last member of which is shown by a heavy grid line), then click the "Reselect Available Items" button to restore the original selection.

To make it easier to group suspects, MicroSpell automatically displays the Select and Group Similar Suspects dialog shown above whenever the Inbox contains more suspects than a preset threshold (shown at the lower left of the dialog). This dialog presents the same grouping commands that are available on the Inbox pop-up menu, but in a more convenient format. You can leave this dialog open and move between it and the Inbox by clicking or by using <Ctrl-Tab>. If this dialog hasn't opened automatically, you can view it any time using the Show | "Select and Group Similar Suspects" dialog on the Inbox right mouse button pop-up menu.

  Grouping by Example

Instead of using the grouping commands or dialog as described above, you might find it easier to group suspects by example as described next.

Easy Grouping: If you typically view the Inbox suspects sorted in any way except by category icon, then you can easily apply grouping commands by simply clicking the grey square icon next to any of the suspects. The speller will automatically determine the category of the suspect whose icon you clicked (short word, capitalized, upper case, etc.) and select and group all similar suspects at the top of the list. Thus, you don't have to specify a category—just click an example of the words you want to group. If the suspect whose icon you click is a member of more than one category, you can continue to click the same icon to cycle through all of the categories. (The suspect is moved to the top of the list so you can easily locate it after the grouping operation.) The inbox title bar shows the current grouping category, and you will see a message in a self-closing dialog after you have reached the last category.

Note: if you don't see the grey square icons, click the Inbox "Context" sort button.

Here are some things that often help pare down the Inbox list; the counts shown in the Select and Group Similar Suspects dialog suggest which of these will be productive:

Tip: use the grouping and sorting commands before you begin to visually scan the Inbox for errors. This way, you won't "lose your place" when you rearrange the Inbox contents. If you need to give a "sort" or "group" command after you have already visually checked a significant number of suspects, you can avoid this problem by first accepting all of the suspects you have checked so far. Simply highlight the line where you left off and then use the Accept All - From Current Selection to Top command (or press the <T> key).

Tip 2: if you are using the dialog with a very large suspect list, or on a slow machine, you'll probably find that turning off automatic updating (or closing the dialog) improves the performance of certain Inbox commands. If you need to reopen the dialog, you can do so using the Inbox pop-up menu Show command.

Another way to reduce your workload is to reduce the number of suspects that appear in the Inbox. Here are some possibilities:

How to Check and Correct a Large Number of Files

You can check any reasonable number of files using the steps given above. However, if your project contains a large number of files (especially if they are short), you'll probably benefit from the more efficient (but more complicated) step-by-step procedure given here.

How to Check Text in Other Windows (WordPad, Web pages, E-mail, etc.)

MicroSpell can "grab" text that you have entered in another program (for example, your E-mail program or your browser), correct it, and return the corrected text to the original window. You can learn all the details by reading the hotkey spell checking topic.

Try this first: activate the window containing the text you want to check by clicking on it. Press <Ctrl>-<F12>, the default hotkey. Your text should be copied to MicroSpell and spell checking will start automatically. When you have corrected the last misspelling, press the Done button and your text will automatically be returned to the original window.

For step-by-step instructions, and to learn the current hotkey setting, use the File|Spell Check Text in Another Window command. For additional information, see How to Use Hotkey Spell Checking.

Note: This works best if you have installed the MicroSpell tray icon which appears as a red check mark in your taskbar system tray. See Installing and Using the MicroSpell Tray Icon for more information.

The first time you use hotkey spell checking, you might want to type a few lines into Notepad or WordPad and try it from there. If it works, you can be sure it's set up properly. If it doesn't work, check the hotkey setting on Spell|Change Hotkey Spell Check Settings/Define Scripts. Also see the Hotkey Mini-FAQ, Q5.

Tip: Hotkey spell checking can also be used to grab files that you want to spell check from Windows Explorer or "Find Files." Just select the file or files you want to check and press the hotkey. This is easier than dragging and dropping them on the speller.

Tip 2: Although you can check individual web pages directly from your browser window, this is not the best way to check your entire site. See How to Automatically Check a Linked Group of HTML or TeX Documents for a better way.

Tip 3: We did not provide a hotkey spell check "script" for Microsoft Word because we do not recommend you use hotkey spell checking with Word, at least until you have considered the issues discussed in the Text Formats section.

How to Check Text on the Clipboard

MicroSpell can check text on the Windows Clipboard; this means you can easily spell check text from any application that can copy text to and from the Clipboard. (However, refer to Tip 3 at the end of the previous section before you paste corrected text back into Microsoft Word.) Hotkey spell checking (discussed in the preceding section) is usually easier than Clipboard spell checking because MicroSpell does all of the cutting and pasting for you. However, Clipboard spell checking can be used in instances where hotkey spell checking does not work; also, it does not require the speller to be running beforehand, and it automatically closes the speller when you finish.

To check text on the Clipboard, first select and copy the text if it isn't already there. Then double-click the MicroSpell tray icon (the red check mark in your taskbar system tray near the clock).

If you did not elect to install the speller tray icon, there is an alternative. Click the "Check Clipboard" icon (see below) in MicroSpell's program group (or on your Start menu, if you chose that installation option). When you save the text in MicroSpell, it will be returned to the Clipboard. You can then copy it back to the original source.

The "Check Clipboard" Icon

The installation program creates a special "Check Clipboard" icon; it also offers to place the same icon on the Windows "Start" menu so you can do a Clipboard spell check as quickly as possible. Whether you use the icon from the MicroSpell program group or the Windows "Start" menu, the procedure is the same: copy some text to the Clipboard and click the "Check Clipboard" icon. If there are no errors, the speller will tell you this using a self-closing dialog, then automatically exit. If the Clipboard contains only a single unknown word, MicroSpell displays just the Lookup dialog rather than the Inbox, Outbox, and main window.

If you correct any misspellings in the Clipboard text, MicroSpell will copy the corrected text back to the Clipboard when you press the Inbox "Done" button (or the Lookup dialog "Copy Replacement" button). You can then paste it into the window from which you originally copied it.

When MicroSpell is checking Clipboard text, it closes as soon as you press the Inbox "Done" button (or dismiss the Lookup dialog). If you want to close the Inbox without exiting from the speller, use the toolbar button to stop the spell check. You can then either recheck the text or use the main window Edit|Copy command to return the corrected text to the Clipboard.

If you use this function often, consider adding a keyboard shortcut. You can do this by right-clicking on the Check Clipboard icon, choosing "Properties," and typing your shortcut in the "Shortcut Key" box of the "Shortcut" tab.

How to Use the Replace/Lookup Dialog to Modify Dictionaries: Finding, Adding, and Removing Words

Here are some ways you can use the Replace/Lookup dialog to modify dictionaries. As the points below show, you can do some things here that are inconvenient or impossible to do elsewhere. From the Inbox or the Outbox, double-click on the suspect to invoke this dialog. Alternatively, use or <Alt-L> from the main edit window after selecting a word. Click here to see the help topic for this dialog.

How to Create a New Dictionary

Before you create a new dictionary, you must decide whether you want to create a main (compressed) or a user dictionary. If it will be relatively small (several hundred to several thousand words) make a user dictionary. If you expect it to hold more than about 30,000 words, you must create a compressed dictionary.

The words to be added to the dictionary should be in a standard text file with one word per line. If they are in any other format, or to consolidate several files into one, you can use MicroSpell's "Learn" command available on the Spell menu. If your word list uses a nonstandard representation for accented characters, MicroSpell has a function that can help translate them: see Importing an Ispell Word List

If you are creating a new user dictionary and you know your word list is in the proper format, you can skip the steps below and simply use the Add Dict. button on the Dictionaries dialog to turn your list into a new user dictionary. If you see a "broken dictionary" icon when you try to open your new dictionary, see User Dictionaries for more information.

Once you have a list(s) of words to add to your dictionary, do this:

  1. Use the New Dictionary dialog (available via the New Dict. button in the Dictionaries dialog) to create a new empty dictionary and add it to MicroSpell's dictionary list. (See the preceding link for step-by-step instructions, if necessary.)
  2. Your new dictionary should appear in the Dictionaries dialog dictionary list. Select it, if necessary, and press the View/Edit button. You should see the View/Edit dialog.
  3. In the View/Edit dialog, use the Browse for File button to open the file that contains your word list. Then press the Add button to add the words to the edit box. If necessary, you can "browse" and "add" repeatedly if you have more than one file. Alternatively, you can copy-and-paste words into the edit box.
  4. When you have added all of your words to the edit box, press the Save button. If there are any problems with your list, MicroSpell will show you the first one; you can edit the list and try saving again.
  5. Double-click the dictionary (book) icon in the dictionary list to open and use it.

How to Look Up Definitions, Synonyms, and Spellings Via the Internet

When you are working within MicroSpell, you can quickly look up the spelling or definition of a word (or search for synonyms) on any of several Internet sites. MicroSpell either uses its internal browser (if you have Internet Explorer 4 or higher installed) or forwards the word and your request to your default browser which displays the results.

To look up a word on one of the predefined Internet sites, make sure the word is selected (highlighted) in the main window, Inbox, or Outbox, or copy it to the Clipboard from anywhere else. (If there is no selection, the speller tries to take the word form the Clipboard.) Then do any one of the following:
  • Click the main window toolbar button to display the Web Lookup dialog (figure below). You can verify and/or edit the search word which is automatically spell checked to help you avoid looking up misspellings. If necessary, you can paste the Clipboard word into the search box using the "down arrow" icon or the Paste command on the popup menu. (The icon is more convenient if the Clipboard contains more than a single word and you want to restrict the "paste" to the first word.) You can change the lookup destination by selecting a new location from the list. When you are ready, press the Go button. (Note: if MicroSpell can use its internal browser, it starts the lookup automatically, if possible.)
  • Use the Web Lookup command available on the right mouse button popup menu in many of MicroSpell's windows. This command displays the Web Lookup dialog if MicroSpell's internal browser is available; otherwise, the lookup uses your default browser and occurs immediately after you click the destination.
  • Press the Web Lookup keyboard shortcut: <Ctrl-W> (think "Web" or "Webster's"). The Web Lookup dialog will appear if the speller's internal browser is available; otherwise, the lookup will be performed immediately using your default browser and the current default destination. If you press <Ctrl-W> repeatedly for the same word, the speller changes the lookup destination to the next one on the list (see the previous items).
Note: All of these options are not available in all windows, but usually at least one of them is.

You can also do a web lookup if MicroSpell is not currently open. See Web Lookup from Other Applications immediately below.

Web Lookup from Other Applications: Copy the word to the Clipboard, then click the icon in the MicroSpell program group, or on your Windows Start menu if you chose this installation option. This will launch MicroSpell's Web Lookup dialog with your search word automatically entered. Alternatively, you can double-click MicroSpell's tray icon (the red check mark in the taskbar system tray near the clock) while holding the "Alt" key down. Or you can right click on the tray icon and select your web lookup destination from the popup menu.

Web Lookup of a List of Words: If MicroSpell's internal browser is available, the Web Lookup dialog will contain an active checkbox labelled "Get List from Clipboard". You can use this function if you would like to lookup a group of (up to 40) words at once, which is more efficient than looking them up one-at-a-time. Simply copy a list of words (one per line) to the Clipboard, make sure this checkbox is checked, then press Go or double-click a lookup destination. The browser will cache a results page for each word, and you can view them using the Forward and Back buttons. Hint: if you are looking up a list of words from one of MicroSpell's windows (e.g. the Inbox or Dictionary View/Edit dialog), you might find it more convenient to start a separate instance (i.e. by clicking the Web Lookup icon in MicroSpell's directory, or on your start menu if you allowed to installer to put one there). This will allow you to switch back and forth without closing the Web Lookup window. You can combine this option with the following option.

Web Lookup with Multiple Lookup Destinations: You can select multiple lookup destinations in the Web Lookup list box. The internal browser will visit each of the selected sites and cache the results which you can then view using the Forward and Back buttons. You can only visit multiple sites if the internal browser is available; if the speller has to launch your default browser, it will visit only the first selected site. You can combine this option with looking up a list of words (see previous item).

Adding New Web Lookup Sites: You can edit the predefined sites that MicroSpell uses for web lookup using the Options|General Preferences|Web Lookup dialog. To add a new site, you need the URL that is used for lookup. To obtain this, go to the site using your browser and perform the lookup that you want MicroSpell to imitate. When your browser contacts the site, it will display the URL that it is using in an edit box near the top of its screen. Select this URL and copy it to the Clipboard. Switch to MicroSpell's Options|General Preferences|Web Lookup dialog and press the New Item button. Paste the URL into the "URL" edit box. The URL should contain the search word that you entered in the browser; replace this word with "%s" (without the quotes). If you don't see your search word in the URL, try appending "?%s" to the URL. (If this doesn't work, you'll have to examine the web page's HTML source to construct an appropriate query. For an example, see MicroSpell's link to Webster's Thesaurus.)

Finally, make up a name for the URL and enter it into the "Name" edit box; this name will be used on the Web Lookup menus. If you want to change the new site's position in the lookup order (used when you press <Ctrl-W> repeatedly), use the Move Item Up or Move Item Down button. To save your work, press OK, then OK again to dismiss the Web Lookup dialog.

Problems with Web Lookup: When some users give the Web Lookup command on certain dictionary sites, MicroSpell randomly appears to lock up. If you are experiencing this problem and do not wish to avoid the associated sites, MicroSpell offers the following workaround. On the Options|General Preferences|Web Lookup dialog, make sure the "Use External Browser" option is checked. This will force MicroSpell to use your default browser instead of its internal browser window in certain cases, e.g., when you use the Web Lookup keyboard shortcut (CTRL+W) or when you right-click on the MicroSpell tray icon and use the "Look Up Definition of Clipboard Word" command. (Other ways of doing a web lookup lead to the normal dialog so you can choose which interface you prefer on a case-by-case basis and so you can still have access to the settings that are only available through this dialog.) You can find more information in the MicroSpell FAQ.

Some Simple But Useful Tips

Here are some tips that will make the speller more convenient to use and help you solve some common problems.