February 10th, 2004 • 12:20 am
Lots of things have happened since the release of version 10.0 of the product, which had to be rewritten from scratch for Mac OS X. Casady & Greene is gone and Evan Gross is now selling the product directly through his Rainmaker Inc. web site.
Panther has also come out and, while Spell Catcher X 10.0.2 was, on the whole, compatible with the new system, it needed to be updated to take full advantage of Panther’s features and eliminate some outstanding issues that were, for the most part, due to limitations in Mac OS X itself.
Well, today version 10.1 is out, and it features many, many improvements, both under-the-hood and in the feature set.
There are too many things to list here, and the Read Me file included with the update are fairly extensive. Of particular note to French users is the fact that the shorthand expansion mechanism now supports language-specific behaviours, especially with respect to the apostrophe. For example, in previous versions of Spell Catcher, if you had a French shorthand entry that replaced “app” with “application“, the expansion wouldn’t work when you typed “l’app” or “d’app“. You had to define a separate shorthand entry for each of these alternative forms, even though they were for the same word. You no longer have to do this in 10.1.
Spell Catcher X 10.1 also fixes issues with straight/curly apostrophes within shorthand expansions. (If you had a shorthand entry whose expansion contained a straight apostrophe and if you used this shorthand entry in an application where Spell Catcher was supposed to automatically curl all apostrophes, it wouldn’t curl the apostrophe when inserting the shorthand expansion. Now it does.)
The installation process is much more user-friendly. It no longer requires trips to the “International” control pane — and the issues with non-US keyboard layouts that sometimes plagued international users are gone, thanks to improvements in Panther itself and to further adjustments in Spell Catcher X 10.1.
Like many Mac users, I am also forced to use Microsoft Office X, including Word X, on a daily basis. Word X is plagued with scandalous performance issues, including stalls that affect text typing even on the fastest Macintosh computers, and are particular noticeable when they occurred mid-way through a shorthand expansion triggered by Spell Catcher X. Users plagued by this problem have probably noticed that these stalls (which are not caused by any kind of background process activity and are just basically a bug in Word X) can be interrupted by “jigging” the mouse.
Well, in version 10.1 Evan Gross has implemented a clever “hack” that causes the mouse to be jigged automatically by Spell Catcher at a sub-pixel level during shorthand expansions. This effectively eliminates the most noticeable stalls in Word X. It is absolutely shameful that a third-party developer had to resort to such tactics to eliminate problems that are obviously caused by Microsoft’s own programming incompetence, but the bottom-line is that it’s a great little improvement for the end user.
Spell Catcher X 10.1 also fixes most of the problems that would occur in Word X’s Find/Replace dialog. Here again, the problems were due to Microsoft’s incompetence and the fact that they use proprietary, non-standard text input processes in that dialog. There are still occasional problems with the caret symbol (^) used for special characters on keyboard layouts where the symbol is inserted using a dead key, but these problems are minimal and can be fairly easily worked around.
And these are just some of the improvements. I have had the privilege of being part of the beta testing team, and I can vouch for the solidity and reliability of the application.
All in all, it’s a great update, which is free for registered users of Spell Catcher X 10.0 — although you can contribute to Spell Catcher X’s future development by opting for a “Buy Now and Save” option that will also give you a free 10.2 update — and is a no-brainer.