So you think you can spel? While we all know how to spell and write correctly, typing errors, lack of concentration, or maybe even a issue such as dyslexia might prevent us from spelling every single word the right way. Then we have to deal with those red squiggly lines beneath words which quickly become frustrating.
That’s where Spell Catcher comes in to try and make your typing life easier. It’s designed to greatly improve the in-built spell checking capabilities of OS X, though may go a little too far with the range of preferences on offer!
During the installation routine of Spell Catcher, you will be asked to chose an input method. As you can see in the screenshot below, there’s an extensive explanation as to which benefits come with each method. Once you’ve made your choice, you will need to input your license (just follow the instructions) or use the app in trial mode.
Being a helper application, Spell Catcher’s window is made up of many different tabs that allow for an enormous number of settings to be tweaked to your liking.
In all honesty, the sheer number of possibilities seems intimidating at first. In addition to the upper menu bar, you can also have sub-tabs in several categories. While Spell Catcher works OK “out of the box”, it will be useful to set aside a couple of minutes and go through all options – if only to understand better how the application works.
Setting up Languages
By default, Spell Catcher assumes that the language you’re running in OS X will be your main language. In my case that is US English. You will find languages in the References tab. Then again, I often use German, my native language, when I write letters, articles or forum posts.
Of course, Spell Catcher can support German and many other languages as well. You only need to download the appropriate reference file from their website and import it into the application.
Going From Fun to Productive
When you start using Spell Catcher for the first time (and have left most of the default settings intact) you will be surprised when it actually starts checking. Spell Catcher will talk to you. While it might be amusing at first, after a while the voice announcing “Spelling!”, “Repeated Word!” or “Capitalization!” might become quite annoying. Not to mention the fun your coworkers or fellow students will have with the constant noise.
Of course, you can turn audible alerts off in the Alerts pane completely, but I found it useful to at least keep some subtle clicking/popping noises that make me aware that an auto correction has happened. While Spell Catcher is very smart, it doesn’t always know what I am intending to write and might mistakenly correct something.
All speech alerts need to be turned off individually which is a little inconvenient, but at least then you’re able to accept corrections and type in silence.
Interactive Spelling Correction
Now that Spell Catcher has gone from an amusing tool to a productive application, it is time to tweak the way your spelling mistakes are corrected. By default, whenever you make a mistake Spell Catcher cannot easily interpret (things like “teh” instead of “the” will be changed automatically), a window will pop up with suggestions.
By either using shortcuts or your mouse, you can choose the correct spelling or even look a word up right away. The downside of the default settings is that the window vanishes more or less immediately after you type the next word after the misspelled one. Also, I am personally not very fond of popup windows. The settings in the application allow for changes to make the use of Spell Catcher more comfortable.
Since I am a fast typer, I prefer to have the drop down with the spelling suggestions open for at least three words after the spelling mistake. You will need to find out what works best for you, and how long you need until you can interrupt your typing rhythm.
Shortcuts, Lookup and Suggestions
Without being able to cover each and every option that Spell Catcher offers in this single review, there are three more things I’d like to mention. The first are the keyboard shortcuts.
The whole point of Spell Catcher is to improve spelling accuracy and thereby help you get your writing done faster. The extensive keyboard shortcuts can help to further speed up the process. A large number of shortcuts are predefined and can be changed to your liking.
The second helpful feature worth mentioning is the Lookup feature. If you are unsure of how to spell a word – or what a word actually means – you can use Spell Catcher to look the word up for you.
The last feature is also one of the most useful ones. If you have ever used an application like Typinator or TextExpander, you will know how much time you can save by writing something like “ys” and get “Yours sincerely”.
These applications let you define short letter or symbol combinations and replace those with any text you have chosen as a replacement for that letter/symbol combination. Spell Catcher can do this for you as well!
Spell Catcher is a very powerful application that can – once set up correctly – greatly improve your spelling and writing speed. It does take some time to figure out, though, but the extensive help which is included makes picking the correct preferences a little easier.
While Spell Catcher is also suited for word replacement (as described in the last paragraph), it will probably only appeal to users who are not already running apps like TextExpander or Typinator, since those are far better at this specific task.
I like the idea of SpellCatcher, but feel that it needs considerably more polish and simplification before it becomes a really useful addition to the default system in OS X.