Spell Catcher X 10.2 is out

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
January 10th, 2005 • 8:54 am

The latest version of Rainmaker Inc.’s Spell Catcher X is out.

As usual, it’s a vital upgrade, full of improvements and tweaks. I am still a beta tester for the product and, as such, I have been able to test the reliability and usefulness of the application over the past few months. It is, as usual, a rock-solid program, which only has problems with the most user-hostile and non-standards-compliant third-party applications (for which it can be turned off, of course). The application works extremely well with most of the applications I use on a daily basis, including Mail, BBEdit, Safari, Office 2004, InDesign, Camino, etc.

There are too many improvements to mention here. That’s what the “What’s New” page is for anyway. But I have to mention what to me is the most vital part of the new version, i.e. automatic completion via the Input Method.

If you have trouble grasping the concept, just think of features such as the automatic e-mail address completion in Mail or the automatic URL completion in Safari. What happens is that you can configure Spell Catcher X so that, after you’ve typed a minimum number of characters, it automatically tries to find matches that start with the same string of characters, not just in its own reference files (including user-defined learned word and glossary files), but also in Mac OS X’s Address Book database! This means that you can start typing the first few letters of the name of a contact in your Address Book, and Spell Catcher will automatically offer to complete it, including the e-mail address, the mailing address, or the phone number. (You choose.)

Now, this feature was already present in the previous version of Spell Catcher X, but this version takes it to a whole new level.

To give you a simple example, it is now possible to type the first few letters of the name of a company or of a nickname from the Address Book and get Spell Catcher X to automatically retrieve the full name of the company, its phone numbers, its e-mail addresses, etc. Believe it or not, this is something that even Apple’s own Mail application is not able to do. In Mac OS X 10.3, for example, if you have an Address Book card that contains something in the “Nickname” or “Company” field, typing the first few letters from this field in one of the recipient fields in a new e-mail message in Mail will give you… exactly nothing. What Apple thinks the “Nickname” field is for, I do not know. But what I do know is that, unlike Apple’s own applications, Spell Catcher X actually uses it! Same thing for the “Company” field…

And here is another example of how useful Spell Catcher’s Completion feature is. Whenever I start communicating by e-mail with a new correspondent, my first reflex is to add that person to my Address Book. My second reflex is to create a new mailbox folder somewhere down my hierarchy of mailboxes, where I will archive my correspondence with that particular person. And how do I usually name that mailbox folder? Well, if the name of the new correspondent is, say, Philip Thurnbull, I name his mailbox folder “THURNBULL Philip”, i.e. using his last name first (so that mailboxes are properly sorted alphabetically in Mail’s Mailbox drawer) in all caps so that things are easier to view.

Without Spell Catcher, I have no choice but type the same name twice: once in Address Book when creating the new card for this person, and a second time in Mail when creating the mailbox folder that I will use to archive this person’s e-mail messages.

With Spell Catcher, I only have to type the name once, in Address Book. After that, when I create the mailbox in Mail, I just have to type the first few characters of the last name, and automatically Spell Catcher offers me all the completion options I need, including:

Philip Thurnbull
Thurnbull Philip
Thurnbull, Philip

How cool is that? It might not sound like much, but when you are dealing with hard-to-spell last names or very long names, it’s a terrific way to avoid spelling mistakes or to speed up text entry. And remember that, as usual, this works everywhere, and not just in one particular application such as Mail. Like all other Spell Catcher features, you can customize the behaviour of the Completion feature on a universal or per-application basis. You can get the list of completion options to appear automatically after typing a given number of characters or only after you’ve typed a specific keyboard shortcut. And you can get the list to include various options depending on which application you are in. For example, you might not need Spell Catcher to include e-mail addresses and phone numbers in the Completion list when you are in the Finder, so you can specify that the list in that application should only include the person or company name.

In effect, with this automatic completion feature, Spell Catcher fully realizes what is still only a half-baked idea in Mac OS X, i.e. the idea that there should be one central repository for all your contact information and that this information should then be accessible from within any context, i.e. any application that you might be using. For example, if you are in Word 2004 and need to insert the mailing address of someone that’s in your Address Book, you no longer have to worry about Microsoft’s refusal to directly support Mac OS X’s Address Book in its products. Just use Spell Catcher to insert the data from Address Book for you!

As I said, there are many, many more reasons to take a closer look at this new version of Spell Catcher. But to me it is once again a compelling upgrade. To my utter disbelief, it appears that there are some people out there that are complaining that this is a paying upgrade for people who originally bought Spell Catcher before January 1st, 2004 and did not purchase the “Buy Now and Save” upgrade to 10.1 released on February 10, 2004.

I just don’t see how any serious Mac-using writer could have any qualms about paying what amounts to little more than pocket change for such a useful piece of software.

Comments are closed.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.