When writing it certainly helps a lot to have spell check in that given language. An important, yet not very widely known, detail of is that it has dictionaries for many languages. Compare this with Microsoft Office: if you bought the English version, you probably got only the English spell check module. If you need spell checks for other languages, you must buy them separately, and many times you must hunt around for vendors who make such a thing, because Microsoft doesn’t provide it. And even if you found a third party vendor you have to ask yourself: is this software compatible with my version of MS Office? Until now I had only good experience with compatibility (installed dictionaries / spell check meant for Office 2000 on Office 2003), but the upcoming Office 2007 might change this. And if your vendor is not ready to support it, you’re out of luck.

Back to OpenOffice: the easiest way to download and install language modules (spell check, thesaurus, …) is to use the wizard.

  • To start it, choose File -> Wizards -> Install new dictionaries.
  • If you have a personal firewall, you should enable temporary (but only temporary!) OpenOffice to access the Internet (probably you will be prompted automatically when it’s the case).
  • Click on a language and then click the big gray button :). The language you select at this step is the language of the user interface you will be presented with, not the language of the spell check that will be installed, so choose at your will, but it probably helps if you speak that language 🙂
  • The first thing that will happen (most probably) is that the wizard sees that there is an updated version of it, and will ask you if it should download it. You should answer yes and select a folder where the new version should be saved.
  • While downloading the interface will freeze, because the wizard isn’t multithreader (don’t be too hard on it, it’s implemented in some macro language which doesn’t have the constructs necessary to implement multi-threading). Be patient, since the download isn’t too big (around 120 KB). After the new version has been downloaded, it will be automatically opened. Again, chose a language (for the user interface). If you want to open the updated version at a later time, just open the downloaded document (named DicOOo-[its version]). Be sure to enable macros for it because the wizard is written in them.
  • Now select the modules you want to install. You can select multiple ones by holding down the Ctrl key and clicking on them.
  • Let it download the modules (again, the interface freezes, be patient) and install them.
  • Restart OpenOffice and you got your new spell check modules installed

One final tip: many of the modules are not as high quality as some professional spell checks written for MS Office, however they are free. The trick which I found useful is to right-click on the words the spell check marks as incorrect and see if the dictionary suggests an other version of the word. For example, I written the word in plural and the dictionary suggests it in singular. If this is the case, you can bee 95% sure that you didn’t spell it wrong, just the dictionary doesn’t include it.

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