Adam Engst (TidBITS) on word processors

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
May 19th, 2004 • 3:13 am

Adam Engst of TidBITS fame has just written a column that’s pretty much required reading for anyone who’s serious about the Mac as a writing tool. His column is a compelling demonstration of what’s still sorely lacking in today’s word processors, including the de facto standard Microsoft Word.

I am just slightly surprised that he didn’t mention the availability of third-party tools such as Spell Catcher X, which solves at least one of the issues he raises today:

Inline spell checking is wonderful, of course, and my main irritation with it at this point is that not everything shares the same dictionary, even though Apple now offers system-wide dictionaries

Spell Catcher X does just that, i.e. provide inline spell checking with the same dictionary files regardless of the application you are using. It works just fine in most applications, including all those mentioned by Adam.

It also solves another issue not mentioned by Adam, which is the availability of a system-wide glossary system for commonly typed phrases. Here again, the glossary features provided by tools such as Microsoft Word are woefully inadequate, because they only work in the Microsoft environment. When I am typing in BBEdit (like I am doing now), I am just as likely to need some of my commonly used phrases as I am when writing in Word. Spell Catcher solves that problem.

It also solves the problem of curly vs. straight quotation marks and other related punctuation issues, again with a system-wide behaviour that can be customized depending on which application you are writing in.

I am just surprised that someone like Adam Engst, who’s obviously so serious and professional about his writing tools, didn’t even mention Spell Catcher. Other than that, Adam’s column is a great read, and a clear illustration of the immense frustration generated by Microsoft Word’s half-working features.

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