I used to use Microsoft Word. I loved Word, I customised the hell out of it and made it my own, and I used it for years. Then I got a new laptop with Windows 8. Bbbrrrllllppp. (Not sure if that’s precisely the right spelling for the exasperated ‘raspberry’ or mouthfart which is the only way I can truly convey my feelings about Windows 8, but it’ll have to do.) Windows 8 doesn’t like my version of Word, because my Word is old. Of course it is. It’s well-worn and comfortable and shaped around me and what I like to do, and it may be middle-aged, as computer programs go, but it still works, dammit. Only not on my laptop.
So, I had the option of getting a newer copy of Word (and spending months re-customising it into something resembling my comfy old faithful), or getting by with Wordpad. So far, I’ve resisted the urge to buy the newest version of either Word or the whole Office suite, because when I went to look for it, it appears that you now pay either yearly or monthly to rent the program, and its associated updates, rather than having an actual disc that you can pick up in your hand and twist in the light so it goes all sparkly (or is that just me?) – and I’m now old enough to be fogeyish about these things, and not entirely trust the idea of purchasing something that doesn’t physically exist. I may at some point get round to buying a version which is old enough to come on a disc, and be cheap, but recent enough that Windows 8 will deign to speak to it. However, in the meantime, I am making do with Wordpad.
Now, Wordpad’s fine. It’s OK. It’s not bad. But it’s not Word, either, and it persistently annoys me by failing to have things that I want it to have. Mainly AutoCorrect, if I’m honest, but failing that, a basic spell-check function of any kind. My spelling’s good, I hasten to add, and I can spot a typo a mile away in someone else’s work, but most of the time my typing is absolutely bloody appalling, and sometimes I carry on without noticing that I’ve put a space in the middle of a word instead of at the end, or I’ve double-tapped a letter, or I’ve missed out an apostrophe, or failed to capitalise the name of a city… And sometimes it’s helpful to have a little reminder when you do these things, so you don’t have to plough through thousands of words afterwards just to find them. So I Googled, as you do, and I found a little program called tinySpell, which does just that.
There’s a free version of tinySpell, and there’s a paid version. The free version appeared to do what I required of it, so I downloaded it, and am using it right this second. (In fact, I’m not quite sure how to turn it off.) It’s nice and small, and it sits in the corner waiting patiently for me to mis-type or misspell something, and when I do it gives an eager little ‘blip’ noise and highlights the word it doesn’t recognise. And when I click on it, it offers suggestions for what it thinks I might have meant to type. It’s hard-working, and well-meaning, and useful, and free, but… it’s not perfect.
The first indication of its limitations came rather quickly, when it queried the word ‘neighbours’ in my blog before last. And then ‘humour’, and ‘realise’… and the corrections it suggested were (I’m sure you’ve guessed it) ‘neighbors’, ‘humor’ and ‘realize’. Ah, I thought, being the brainy type: this thing’s set to American English. And I want it set to English English. So I researched, and found out that English English is only available on the paid version. And so, being not just brainy but rather tight, I decided to stubbornly add all the spellings it doesn’t recognise into its dictionary, so that eventually it will be bi-lingual, able to spell in both real English and Americanese.
It’s going rather well so far. It will take some time, of course, to manually add each variant of all the words which are trans-Atlantically variable – such as ‘Realise’, ‘realise’, ‘realised’ and ‘Realised’, plus ‘realisation’, ‘realises’…etc. etc. But it’s not just Americanism which is the problem, it now emerges. I’m not sure exactly how many words are in its existing Dictionary, but there is a steadily-growing list of words that I use which aren‘t. I wasn’t especially surprised when it failed to recognise ‘wordsmith’, or ‘untranslateable’, and I’m happy to report that it also highlighted both ‘Bbbrrrllllppp‘ and ‘mouthfart’. But it also queried ‘laptop’, ‘downloaded’, ‘blog’, ‘Google’, ‘Microsoft’, ‘tinySpell’ and, bizarrely, ‘internet’.
So my little freebie spell-checker is perhaps not as widely-read as I would like it to be, but I can remedy that. I’m on a mission now, to educate the bloody thing. I might start by teaching it swear-words…