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Who Kneads Spill Chicken?

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Episode 49
December 2nd, 2005

I'm addicted to Spell Catcher X from Rainmaker Research. Spell Catcher X, as you might guess, is first and foremost a spelling checker, but it's much more than that.

I last wrote about Spell Catcher X in this space way back in February of 2004 but the program has been upgraded and updated countless times since then with useful features added or improved. And since it's a program I use every day, and one of the first things I miss when I use a Mac other than my own, I feel it's time to write about it again.

The first thing you're probably asking yourself is, "Why would you want to pay forty bucks for a spelling checker when Microsoft Word (and AppleWorks, BBEdit, InDesign, Apple Mail, and many other wonderful programs) already have a free spelling checker built right into 'em?"

There are more reasons than you might think; here are six of 'em:

Reason #1: Spell Catcher X works in every program.

Unlike the built-in spelling checker in (your-favorite-program's-name-here), Spell Catcher X is there in all of your programs, not just your word processor or page layout program. So Spell Catcher X is available for use regardless of what program you're using or what you're doing. Whether you're creating E-mail, iChatting, designing Web pages, programming, or laying out pages, Spell Catcher X is there for you. It even works in places you wouldn't expect it to including Photoshop and iMovie - which is a very good thing indeed. After all, one little typo in your movie credits or a graphic you've designed makes you look pretty stupid.

So reason #1 is that having Spell Catcher X there for you at all times greatly decreases the odds of looking dumb.

Reason #2: You get to use the same user dictionary in every program.

You know the user dictionary tango, that little dance you have to do after adding an unusually-spelled word-such as "fanfreakintastic" or "iPod," or "LeVitus"-to your user dictionary in your-favorite-program's-name-here. Soon you find yourself adding it to the user dictionary of your-second favorite program. And again to your third-favorite, and again and again for every program you use even a little.

So reason #2 is that you add a word to your user dictionary once and Spell Catcher X insures that word will be spelled right every time you type it in almost every program you use.

Reason #3: You get to use the same keyboard shortcuts in every program.

Spell Catcher X's keyboard shortcuts work in each and every program you use. In my world, Command-Control-S checks the spelling of selected text-anything from a word to an entire document; Command-Control-L tells Spell Catcher X I want to look up the selected text in the included Webster's Concise Electronic Dictionary or Proximity/Merriam-Webster U.S. English Thesaurus. And best of all, every single Spell Catcher X keyboard shortcut can be customized to your liking and you can even have different shortcuts for different programs. Figure 1 shows Spell Catcher X's easy-to-use interface for configuring keyboard shortcuts:


Figure 1: All of Spell Catcher X's keyboard shortcuts are user-configurable.
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image)

That's more than just a thoughtful feature-it also insures that Spell Catcher X's keyboard shortcuts never conflict with those of other programs.

So reason #3 is that definitions, synonyms, related words, and alternative spellings are just a keystroke away no matter what I happen to be doing.

Reason #4: Corrects typing mistakes "on the fly."

Another excellent reason to consider Spell Catcher X is that, unlike most spell checkers, it can correct your mistakes "on the fly." So, for example, when I type "taht" instead of "that," (something I do more often than not), Spell Catcher X fixes it instantly, without interrupting my typing. That alone is worth the price of admission.

But wait-there's more! When I spell a word incorrectly and Spell Catcher X isn't sure what I meant to spell, it pops up a list of choices as shown in Figure 2.


Figure 2: I merely press the "3" key on my keyboard to replace the misspelled word ("stooopid") with the correctly spelled version ("stupid").
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image)

Once you get used to this feature it'll save you a lot of keystrokes. So reason #4 is that Spell Catcher X fixes mistakes on the fly quickly and easily.

Reason #5: Glossary function saves wear and tear on fingers.

Perhaps my very favorite Spell Catcher X feature is its Glossary. I provide short abbreviations, and they expand automatically into complete words, sentences, or paragraphs when I type them.

So, for example, when I type the letters "vty," if I press the spacebar after the "y," those three letters are immediately replaced with:

Very truly yours,

Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus
Writer and Raconteur

Here's another example of a glossary item I use every day. When I type the letters s-o-r followed by the spacebar, here's what happens:


Figure 3: Typing the letters "s-o-r" followed by a space expands to "Sorry I can't be more help this time…" etc.
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image)

If I didn't have this shortcut I would type a few thousand unneeded characters every day!

I have dozens of glossary items and use Spell Catcher X's glossary approximately 1,248 times a day (and sometimes more). In fact, I'm not convinced that my hands and fingers would still be functioning if I hadn't been using Spell Catcher X for almost 20 years.

So reason #5 is glossary items that expand automatically.

More about glossaries:

As long as I'm raving about glossaries, you may want to check out Riccardo Ettore's most-excellent TypeIt4Me, a program that offers a glossary expansion feature at least as good as Spell Catcher X's and perhaps even better. TypeIt4Me can also type special characters Spell Catcher X can't, like the left, right, up, and down arrow keys, and the backspace key. And it costs a little less, too. It's a great program, especially if you are a perfect speller and know more words than Roget.

In any event, both of these fine programs offer free trial versions, so check one or both of them out. It won't cost you a dime and I'm willing to bet after a week or two, you'll be hooked like me.

Reason #6: A first-rate Thesaurus is just a keystroke away...

Last but definitely not least, Spell Catcher X offers excellent Thesaurus lookups as shown in Figure 4.


Figure 4: Looking up synonyms for the word "Excellent."
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image)

I select a word (Excellent) in my document and use the Look up selection menu command or keyboard shortcut. The Thesaurus opens with the word highlighted at the top and its synonyms below. When I click the Paste button, the highlighted word replaces the word Excellent in the document.

So reason #6 is Spell Catcher X's most-excellent Thesaurus.

As I said near the beginning of this column, I'm totally hooked on Spell Catcher X and hate to compute without it. If you take the time to give it a try, I'm sure you'll agree.

Spell Catcher X. Rainmaker Research $39.95. Free 15-day trial.

TypeIt4Me. Riccardo Ettore. $27. Free 30-day trial.

And that's all he wrote...

Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus has been a Macintosh user for a long, long time and has written 49 computer books including Mac OS X Tiger For Dummies and GarageBand for Dummies. He also offers expert technical help and training to Mac users, in real time and at reasonable prices, via telephone, e-mail, and/or unique Internet-enabled remote control software. For more information on Bob and his services, visit www.boblevitus.com.

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