July 22nd, 2012 • 11:40 am
Even though he was a fellow Canadian, I didn’t know Evan personally. But I was part of the Spell Catcher beta users team and I corresponded with him extensively over the years. He was always extremely responsive and implemented many improvements that I had recommended, especially in order to make Spell Catcher an even better writing tool in French.
It is a very sad loss and a truly devastating blow for me and other Mac users who took full advantage of Spell Catcher’s numerous features. As Ted Goranson writes, “Probably his tool will be more or less abandoned, and may not even work with the new system upgrade due next month.”
Based on the little bit of research that I have done since hearing of his passing, there is simply no equivalent to Spell Catcher for Mac OS X. There are several tools in the same category, including TypeIt4Me, Typinator, and TextExpander. But none of them comes even close to Spell Catcher.
For one thing, none of them is multilingual. They support more than one language, but assume that the writer only functions in one language. I have numerous shorthand abbreviations that are language-dependent, i.e. their expansion is different depending on the language in which I am writing (English or French). Now, it looks like I will have to change my abbreviations in order to make them all unique, regardless of the language that they apply to. It’s going to be very tedious, and will force me to memorize yet more abbreviations.
The other applications also do not seem to have any tools for smart punctuation. With the loss of Spell Catcher, I will be forced to revert to each individual application’s implementation of smart quotes, smart spacing, etc. Since these applications are most often horribly inconsistent and flawed, it is a major blow. And when my shorthand expansions contain apostrophes, which is often the case, these will have to be manually replaced with curly apostrophes as well.
And that’s just the beginning. I am sure I will discover tons of other limitations when I start using one of these replacement tools. (At this stage, it looks like TextExpander is the best of the bunch.) I obviously don’t have to give up on Spell Catcher just yet. But in the absence of news on the site about the product from the remaining team at Rainmaker Inc. and with the pending release of Mountain Lion, I fear the worst and I will probably have to switch sooner rather than later. It will have a major negative impact on my productivity.
Of course, I knew all along, all these years that I have been a devoted user of Spell Catcher, that there was a risk, because the application was basically the brainchild of a single person. Now this person is gone. It is very sad news on a personal level for his family and friends. But it’s also very sad news for Mac users. There might not be hundreds of thousands of Spell Catcher users out there, but those who use it and depend on it will be deeply affected, because it was such an integral part of their writing experience in Mac OS X. And the application was also such a shining example of the smart and powerful things that a computer can elegantly do for you, at an incredibly intimate level.
Frankly, at this point, I don’t know how I will function without it. I will have to find a way, but it is going to be very painful, and things will never be the same again. In an industry characterized by a process of seemingly endless progress and improvement, it is just a shock to witness a loss that, in effect, will trigger a big step back in functionality and productivity for devoted users of the software.
I would like to express my sincere sympathies to his family and friends and to the team at Rainmaker Inc. and still hope that they can somehow find a way to keep Spell Catcher going. Certainly if I can help to keep the product alive in any way, I will, because it’s such an important tool for me.