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[Tutorial] Spell check and Language configuration

PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2007 5:09 pm
by Hagar Delest
For any issue related to this tutorial, please create a new thread detailing what is your issue and what has not worked from the advices given here.


  • Make sure the check during typing is activated (in the toolbar, button with ABC and red underlining must be "On").
  • Look at the paragraph style, Font tab and check what is the language set here.
  • Make sure there is the ABC✓ check mark in front of the language (meaning the dictionary is installed). If not, you've to download it (see section 4).
  • Check the Default paragraph style, it cascades the language to the whole document.
If you want a quick process, see the [Troubleshooting] Spell check in OpenOffice.

NB: dictionaries are now installed with extensions for 3.x whereas the wizard has to be used for 2.x, see section 4.

1. Spell checking is not working, why?
2. I want to remove all these extra dictionaries I don't need
3. I want to upgrade OOo, what about my settings for languages?
4. There is no dictionary for my language
5. Spell checking with Outlook Express (off topic)
6. Spell checking with Mozilla Thunderbird or Firefox (off topic)
7. New features from the 2.4 version to select language

1. Spell checking is not working, why?

PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2007 5:11 pm
by Hagar Delest
A script has been developed, it may help you fix the issue automatically without resetting the whole profile: Spell checker "red wriggly lines" - beta test fix.
Paragraph style.png
Paragraph style.png (28.72 KiB) Viewed 269688 times
As a first step, you can try to reset your OpenOffice user profile. If no change, you can restore the former profile and dive into the following...

Spell check management is set in the paragraph style. This is the first place to look at: open the Stylist (F11) and right click the Default entry, then Modify (1) and go to the Font tab (2). Make sure there is the blue ABC✓ check mark (3) in front of the language selected (meaning the dictionary is installed). If not, it means that the dictionary is not installed and you've to download it (see section 4).
If no custom template has been defined, the Default paragraph style inherits the language set in Tools>Options>Language Settings>Languages.
If you use write whole parts in different languages, you should create different paragraph styles with a different language for each.
If you have only sentences in the middle of paragraphs, you should create a character style.

Beware of the direct formatting (done through Format>Characters). It may lead to problems because if later you apply the Default formatting (from context menu for example), it will reset the language to the paragraph style setting. Therefore, if it has not been changed in the paragraph style, you will lose your language setting. NB: using the status bar to set the language (see section 7) is also a direct formatting (either on the word or on the paragraph where the cursor is)!

Here is the priority order used by OOo to determine the language to use in a text:
- Language set up in the menu Tools>Options>Language Settings>Languages; overridden by
- Language set up in the Font tab of a Paragraph style; overridden by
- Language set up in the Font tab of Character style; overridden by
- Language set up by direct formatting (Font tab in Format>Characters or context menu>Characters)

Language in imported documents (especially from MS Word) is considered as part of the paragraphs and/or characters Styles if only the default language has been used in the document. It's a Direct Formatting if language has been set with the Tools>Language feature for a text selection. That's why the general setting in the Tools>Options>Language Settings menu or even the Default paragraph style value have sometimes no effect: they are simply overridden. To cancel this:
- Either apply the default formatting to the paragraphs and/or characters, but you will lose additional formatting like bolding, italics, ...
- Or select all and you apply a direct formatting on the characters, but with all the disadvantages linked to a direct formatting again !

If you have a custom template: if you change the general setting in the Tools>Options>Language Settings menu, this will be applied only to the current document. New documents will still have the former value because the general setting is overridden by the Default paragraph style definition of the template. To make the change permanent, you've to edit the template.

Note that if the dictionaries related to the languages set are not installed (no ABC✓ check mark), spell check cannot be performed and no red lines are displayed for misspelled words.

The advantage of the language management of OOo is that we can have a document :
- Written by default in English (through the Tools>Options setting);
- With paragraphs in French (through a custom paragraph style);
- With Italian sentences in those French paragraphs (through characters style);
- With German words in those Italian sentences (through direct formatting).
NB: settings in both a character style and a direct formatting are lost when the Default formatting is applied.

Corner case 1: user with a "non standard" letter for the machine username.
If you have a login on your machine with an exotic character, there may be a problem with the creation of the standard.dic file (containing the words you add manually). Workaround (thanks to Helge): create another user with standard letters, run OOo, copy the standard.dic file from that profile to your regular account. You can then delete the temporary account. A bug report has been filed: Issue 95628: UserLayer location defaults to boot drive if username contains non ansi characters.
Corner case 2: new documents made from right click in the Windows Explorer (applies until 3.2.1).
That's an old bug with an easy workaround. See: Issue 40233 - Making a new document from a context menu doesn't use a template. This bug has been fixed in 3.3.
  • Create a new document (will be based on your default template)
  • save it as soffice.odt, overwriting the file in the folder (you may have to do that as administrator):
    • C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Templates for Windows before Vista
    • C:\Users\All Users\Templates or C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Templates in both Vista and Windows 7.

2. Removing all these extra dictionaries I don't need

PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2007 5:13 pm
by Hagar Delest
Having many dictionaries activated can heavily slow down OOo (especially when you right click a misspelled word to have a suggestion). Better keep as few dictionaries as possible and avoid the Check in all languages option in menu Tools>Options>Language Settings>Writing Aids (bottom area) or>Preferences>Languages Settings>Languages for Mac. NB: this option has been removed in 3.0.1 to allow the grammar checker to do a better job (see Issue 69451).

You can also use this process to remove the flavors of a language that you don't use, in order to clear the language list (remove the blue check mark)

Go to the Tools > Options > Language Settings > Writing Aids > Edit and uncheck the entries for the flavors you don't want:
Edit Modules.png

Here is what you were used to see (note the different blue check marks):
Language list before.png
Language list before.png (24.93 KiB) Viewed 138151 times

And here is the list cleared of unwanted flavors (only one blue check mark kept):
Language list after.png
Language list after.png (23.54 KiB) Viewed 138151 times

3. I want to upgrade OOo, what about language settings

PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2007 5:14 pm
by Hagar Delest
OOo 3.x
Added extensions should not be deleted at upgrade now.
If you have removed some of the dictionaries installed by default, they may be reinstalled at upgrade. You'll have to uninstall them again (see section 2).

OOo 2.x
Beware, at each upgrade, the <OOo install folder>/share/dict/ooo folder is overwritten by the new one. Consequently, you lose the language customization you could have made (installed dicts and removed ones), both on Windows and Linux.

As a workaround, since the user profile is never modified during an upgrade, put the content of the <OOo install folder>/share/dict/ooo folder in <OOo user profile>/user/wordbook [1]. Or keep in the latter only the dictionaries downloaded separately. You also need to have a dictionary.lst file inside this folder with the added dicts here and it will be taken into account in parallel with the dictionary.lst and the standard dicts in the main program folder. But you still have to edit the standard dictionary.lst to remove all the unwanted dictionaries at each upgrade (see above).

[1] Under Linux, <OOo install folder> is opt/openoffice.org2.x/ (for the official version) or something like usr/lib/openoffice (for the version from your distribution) ; <OOo user profile> is ~/.openoffice.org2/ (hidden).
Under Windows, <OOo install folder> is Program Files\OpenOffice.org2.x ; <OOo user profile> is Documents and Settings\<your_user_ID>\Application Data\OpenOffice.org2\ (may be hidden, depending on your file browser configuration).

4. There is no dictionary for my language

PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2007 5:14 pm
by Hagar Delest
OOo 3.x and AOO
The dictionaries are delivered as extensions since OOo 3. It means that their installation is very easy.
Removing dictionaries is more tricky from 3.3, see that section above.

  • Go to the dictionary page of the extensions
  • Look for the language you need (use the Search box)
  • Download the .oxt file on your HD
    NB: make sure that the extension has not been changed to .zip if you use Internet Explorer
  • In OO, go to Tools>Extension Manager menu
  • Click the Add button and select the file downloaded above
  • Shut down OO and the Quickstarter and restart OO
Make sure that you now see the dictionary in the Extension Manager. If you see a "multi-user" icon, it just means that the extension is installed for all the users of the computer (English dictionary above), else, it means that the extension is in the user profile and is available for the current user only (French dictionary here).

If you want to use custom files or old ones not yet packaged as an extension, you can use an existing dictionary extension: open the .oxt file with an archive manager (it's a mere zipped file), remove the language files, replace them with yours and then edit the dictionary.xcu file to replace the locales and file names, edit also the description.xml file to make it different for the extensions list in the manager and install that custom extension.

Dictionary as extension.png
Dictionary as extension.png (10.07 KiB) Viewed 285930 times

Folder tree for a dictionary installed in the user profile:
(1). Folder in the uno_packages section of the user profile
(2). dictionaries.xcu where are stored the file names
(3). description.xml for the information displayed in the extension manager
(4). spell checking files
(5). thesaurus files
(6). hyphenation file
NB: if the dic has been installed for all users, the files are in the installation folder:
\Program Files\[OpenOffice version]\share\uno_packages\cache\uno_packages\... [OpenOffice version] being for example OpenOffice.org3 or OpenOffice 4.
For further information about (2) and (3), see the wiki page on Extension Dictionaries.

NB: the extensions delivered out of the box with OO (that should be installed by default) should also be in .../[OpenOffice version]/share/extension/install in the main installation folder. You can access them from here if you need to re-install them.

OOo 2.x
Go to the menu File>Wizards>Install new dictionaries. It opens a document, click on a UI language (don't worry if you don't find your language, this is only for the dialogs language) and just follow the instructions. You can also do the installation offline after having downloaded the archive containing your language files. Don't forget to shut down OOo and the Quickstarter so the changes are taken into account.

NB: from the 2.3 version, the default setting for macros has been modified. You need to lower the security level in Tools>Options>OOo>Security and set the level to Medium.

If the wizard is not found, you can download it on the OOo wiki web page for Dictionaries.

5. Spell checking with Outlook Express (off topic)

PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2007 5:15 pm
by Hagar Delest
The OOo spell checking feature is not compatible with Outlook Express. But it is with Thunderbird (see below).

But as this is a very frequent question, even if it's completely out of topic, here is some information given by justlocal / Kelvin Eldridge the creator and maintainer of the Australian English dictionary for, and thanks to the kind assistance of Vampirefo, an English spell checker for Outlook Express is available from Vampirefo's site. Vampirefo also produced a patch which would be suitable for Australians. This patch is also suitable for other countries which prefer "colour" to "color" and "organise" to "organize".

Both the program and patch are available from the following site :
Direct link to the Vampirefo's OE spell checker.

6. Spell checking with Thunderbird or Firefox (off topic)

PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2007 5:23 pm
by Hagar Delest
No need to install the Mozilla extensions to activate the spell checking in Thunderbird (TB) or Firefox (FF), you can use the OOo files.
  • In the installation folder of TB (or FF), create a new folder called "dictionaries".
  • Copy the 2 files (.dic & .aff) of your language, for example en_US.aff & en_US.dic for English (US) in this new folder (source folder explained in that section).
  • Rename them so that the filename is language_code-country_code : en_US.aff -> en-US.aff (very often, you just have to replace the underscore "_" character by a dash "-".
  • Restart TB or FF.
Note that under Linux, you can create symbolic links, no need to copy the files. But if the files are not in the user profile, the links may be broken at next OOo upgrade (see section 3).

7. New features from the 2.4 version to select language

PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 5:32 pm
by AndrewZ

8. Note on spell checking w/ Thunderbird or Firefox (off top

PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:30 am
by esperantisto
Hagar de l'Est wrote:Note that under Linux, you can create symbolic links, no need to copy the files. But if the files are not in the user profile, the links may be broken at next OOo upgrade (see section 3).

This can result in FireFox (and possibly Thunderbird) crashes at least in one instance: if a dictionary uses the Microsoft CP1251 encoding. The matter is that Mozilla products and their derivatives (as well as, ex., OmegaT that also makes use of Hunspell) require a slightly different encoding declaration in *.aff files:

Code: Select all   Expand viewCollapse view
SET microsoft-cp1251

(FireFox, GNU IceCat, OmegaT etc.):
Code: Select all   Expand viewCollapse view
SET cp1251

This also mean that you can’t just copy a CP1251-encoded dictionary from OOo to FireFox or vice versa, you have to edit the .aff file accordingly.

I have no idea, if the situation is the same for other Microsoft encodings.