Regardless of whether you are a spelling genius or a spelling disaster, like myself, it is useful to have a spellchecker handy. There are number of tools available for this purpose.

For single words, Google is quite useful. There are many other websites with spellchecking and lexical capabilities, such as the free dictionary, Cambridge dictionary, dictionary.com, and wordnet, to name just a few. One could also use chunky tools such as the Open Office Writer. Instead, I use a light-weight shell program called aspell. aspell may be used to check spelling interactively from the shell as shown below.

$ aspell -a # ©2007 dsplabs.com.au
@(#) International Ispell Version 3.1.20 (but really Aspell 0.60.3)
Polish dictionary
*
*

Note that the leading stars correspond to the spellchecked words and indicate that they have been spelled correctly, on the other hand, if we try to spell check poilsh dictionary we get

$ aspell -a # ©2007 dsplabs.com.au
@(#) International Ispell Version 3.1.20 (but really Aspell 0.60.3)
poilsh dictionary
& poilsh 29 0: Polish, polish, palish, plush, polisher, plash, …
*

where the first word, poilsh, is flagged as a spelling mistake using a leading ampersand with included potential alternative spellings, while the second word, dictionary, is marked with a star since it is spelled correctly.

It is also possible to spellcheck entire documents with aspell as follows.

$ aspell -c file_to_spellcheck.txt

When a spelling mistake is encountered, aspell goes into an interactive mode allowing the user to make spelling corrections.

Foreign languages
How about spellchecking in a language other than the default one? Well, lets try to spellcheck the Polish translation of Polish dictionary, i.e. polski slownik.

$ aspell -a # ©2007 dsplabs.com.au
@(#) International Ispell Version 3.1.20 (but really Aspell 0.60.3)
polski slownik
& polski 29 0: pol ski, pol-ski, Pulaski, Polanski, Polk, pols, …
& slownik 12 7: Salonika, slink, slunk, Slinky, slinky, Sloan, …

We got spelling errors since the default dictionary is an English dictionary. It is possible to specify a custom dictionary using the -d option, however, an error will occur if the custom dictionary has not been installed or is unavailable:

$ aspell -dpl -a # ©2007 dsplabs.com.au
Error: The file "/usr/lib/aspell-0.60/pl" can not be opened for reading.

Installing foreign dictionaries

How to install a foreign dictionary? Simple… lets walk through dictionary installation using Polish dictionary as an example. Polish version of aspell dictionary can be obtained from http://www.kurnik.org/dictionary. After download extract the archive as follows:

$ tar xjf alt-aspell6-pl-6.0_20070912-0.tar.bz2 # ©2007 dsplabs.com.au
$ ls -la # ©2007 dsplabs.com.au
total 42080
drwx—— 11 kamil kamil     4096 Sep 12 18:28 .
drwx—— 18 kamil kamil     4096 Aug 29 15:37 ..
drwx——  3 kamil kamil     4096 Sep 12 15:00 aspell6-pl-6.0_20070912-0
-rw——-  1 kamil kamil   557834 Sep 12 18:26 alt-aspell6-pl-6.0_20070912-0.tar.bz2

Enter the extracted directory:

$ cd aspell6-pl-6.0_20070912-0/ # ©2007 dsplabs.com.au
$ ls -la # ©2007 dsplabs.com.au
total 2452
drwx——  3 kamil kamil    4096 Sep 12 15:00 .
drwx—— 11 kamil kamil    4096 Sep 12 18:28 ..
drwx——  2 kamil kamil    4096 Sep 12 15:00 doc
-rwx——  1 kamil kamil    2477 Sep 12 15:00 configure
-rw——-  1 kamil kamil     149 Sep 12 15:00 Copyright
-rw——-  1 kamil kamil     340 Sep 12 15:00 info
-rw——-  1 kamil kamil    1745 Sep 12 15:00 Makefile.pre
-rw——-  1 kamil kamil  241083 Sep 12 15:00 pl_affix.dat
-rw——-  1 kamil kamil 2214173 Sep 12 15:00 pl.cwl
-rw——-  1 kamil kamil      71 Sep 12 15:00 pl.dat
-rw——-  1 kamil kamil      70 Sep 12 15:00 pl.multi
-rw——-  1 kamil kamil      72 Sep 12 15:00 polish.alias
-rw——-  1 kamil kamil    2539 Sep 12 15:00 README

Run configure:

$ ./configure # ©2007 dsplabs.com.au
Finding Dictionary file location … /usr/lib/aspell-0.60
Finding Data file location … /usr/lib/aspell-0.60

After configure finds where aspell libs reside on your system, run make install:

$ sudo make install # ©2007 dsplabs.com.au
/usr/bin/prezip-bin -d < pl.cwl | /usr/bin/aspell  –lang=pl create master ./pl.rws
Warning: Removing inapplicable affix 'm' from word ka.
Warning: Removing inapplicable affix 'y' from word nied?wiedzi.
Warning: Removing inapplicable affix 'B' from word owa?.
Warning: Removing inapplicable affix 'G' from word owa?.
Warning: Removing inapplicable affix 'J' from word owa?.
Warning: Removing inapplicable affix 'E' from word przepiszcze?.
Warning: Removing inapplicable affix 'Y' from word ty.
mkdir -p /usr/lib/aspell-0.60/
cp pl.rws pl.multi polish.alias /usr/lib/aspell-0.60/
cd /usr/lib/aspell-0.60/ && chmod 644 pl.rws pl.multi polish.alias
mkdir -p /usr/lib/aspell-0.60/
cp pl.dat pl_affix.dat /usr/lib/aspell-0.60/
cd /usr/lib/aspell-0.60/ && chmod 644 pl.dat pl_affix.dat

Have a look in the aspell libs directory, you should now have the Polish dictionary files (amongst others) in there.

$ ls -la /usr/lib/aspell-0.60/ # ©2007 dsplabs.com.au
total 12660
drwxr-xr-x   2 root root    4096 Sep 12 18:29 .
drwxr-xr-x 207 root root  139264 Jun 24 14:02 ..
…
-rw-r–r–   1 root root      90 Jul 12  2006 en_GB-ise.multi
-rw-r–r–   1 root root     110 Jul 12  2006 en_GB-ise-w_accents.multi
-rw-r–r–   1 root root   93056 Jul 12  2006 en_GB-ise-w_accents-only.rws
-rw-r–r–   1 root root     111 Jul 12  2006 en_GB-ise-wo_accents.multi
-rw-r–r–   1 root root   93056 Jul 12  2006 en_GB-ise-wo_accents-only.rws
…
-rw-r–r–   1 root root  241083 Sep 12 18:29 pl_affix.dat
-rw-r–r–   1 root root      71 Sep 12 18:29 pl.dat
-rw-r–r–   1 root root      70 Sep 12 18:29 pl.multi
-rw-r–r–   1 root root 6642032 Sep 12 18:29 pl.rws
-rw-r–r–   1 root root      72 Sep 12 18:29 polish.alias
…

Using foreign dictionaries

You can now use Polish dictionary as follows:

$ aspell -dpl -a # ©2007 dsplabs.com.au
@(#) International Ispell Version 3.1.20 (but really Aspell 0.60.3)
polski slownik
*
& slownik 53 7: s?ownik, ?liwnik, sokownik, Salonik, …

No more mistakes after making one correction.

$ aspell -dpl -a # ©2007 dsplabs.com.au
@(#) International Ispell Version 3.1.20 (but really Aspell 0.60.3)
polski s?ownik
*
*

Other languages can be specified in a similar fashion, f.e. for french dictionary we would use -dfr, assuming that the french aspell dictionary files are installed. If they are not, locate their installation sources on the Internet and follow the above procedure. It should be very similar.

Also, note that an on-line Polish-English dictionary can be found at dict.pl.

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