Spell Catcher Plus v2.5

Reviewed by: Mark Goldstein, October 2004, send e-mail
Published by: Rainmaker Research, go to the web site
Requires: Windows 95, 98, 98SE, ME, NT, 2000 or XP; also available for Mac OS 9, native OS X
MSRP: $39.95

Spells Catcher Plus is an interactive spell checking program that watches everything you type, no matter what program you're using, and offers corrections interactively as you work, or interactively after you've completed all or part of a document. Spell Catcher works in all PC software including browsers and web pages, utilities and dialog boxes, and in addition to comprehensive spell checking, also offers comprehensive thesaurus look up, writing statistics, customizable shorthand and a fast, accurate autocorrect feature.

The quality of any piece of software can often be judged by the length of time it has been available and fully supported in the marketplace. Spell Catcher has been around and in wide use since 1985, making it one of the tried and true survivors in the spell checking business (and in the software business in general). The program is designed and developed by a couple of Canucks in Toronto, Ontario. The original name of the software was "Thunder!" and if you're an ex-Atari ST/Mega/STE/TT or Falcon user, you probably owned an indispensable copy of Thunder! or Spell Catcher at some point in the late '80s or early 90s (before the inevitable switch to Windows and all its concomitant horrors). Spell Catcher has been published by four different companies over the years and has outlasted them all except for Electronic Arts. The authors decided in 2003 to go it on their own. We're glad they did.

I've used various versions of Spell Catcher on and off for the past 14 years, the first time with a commercial version for my Atari 1040 STe (4MB of RAM!) in 1991. The software then worked extremely well, albeit comparatively slowly, featured great accuracy, a large lookup database and was one of the few affordable and reliable solutions at the time. From the late '80s through to about 1992, there wasn't a lot of choice in the spell checking market; programs such as Spellex and Wintertree's Spelling Sentry were notables. Most people used the spell checking built into WordPerfect, AmiWord, WordStar and the horrid Microsoft Word. WordPerfect was the best of them when it came to spell checking, but many people longed for a comprehensive spell checker which could be customized and managed independently of any specific program or utility. In those days, spell checking online or in web forms was simply non-existent (the Internet itself was barely alive compared to what it is today and in 1991 the world wide web was merely an interesting experiment). We've come a long way.

AutoSpell, Alcoda's WordSpring and SpellMagic, QuickSpell from Fornada Software and quite a few shareware offerings represent other alternatives for independent spell checking in almost any program (with quite a few available for Mac OS as well). But for comprehensive support, thorough operating system coverage (Windows and Mac OS), stable and compatible operation and ongoing development, I keep going back to Spell Catcher. The latest version, Spell Catcher Plus can be used instead of or along with any built-in spell checking capabilities that a program (Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, etc., etc.) may already include. It's available with excellent and comprehensive lookup databases for nine languages.

We used Spell Catcher on three computers: an AMD Athlon 2600 with 512MB RAM, a Pentium 4/2.8GHz with 1GB of RAM and an old Toshiba Pentium 166MHz MMX laptop with 256MB RAM. The difference in Spell Catcher's speed on each computer was directly related to the general speed of each machine as I got farther back in CPU history. In other words, Spell Catcher was as fast as any other program on each respective machine and it won't keep you waiting while it does its work.

In this day and age of high volume information exchange, instant messaging, computers everywhere and widely avialable text and word processing software, it's probably more important than ever before in history for us to be cognizant of the importance and value of accurately spelled and grammatically clear communications. What you'll find in Spell Catcher Plus is a watchdog that essentially spies on everything you type, no matter what program you're using, and responds instantly to errors by quickly presenting correction suggestions as you work. Spell Catcher also nods in the direction of high speed productivity by providing a customizable shorthand list. Type any abbreviation in the list and it will automatically expand to the full word, phrase, address, etc., etc. Interactive spell checking has to be active in order to Shorthand to work.

Cons: Spell Catcher Plus does not re-read a word if it's correctly re-typed rather than chosen from the correction list, and will often provide its pop-up correction list containing suggestions related only to the portion of the word you just re-typed. It's not necessarily a bug, just an odd design oversight. Another design approach will prevent you from correctly typing "Pentium 4" when the pop-up suggestion function is enabled. What happens is that a numbered list of word suggestions pops up after you type "Pentium", so if you then type "4" you actually select the fourth item in the pop-up suggestion list which in this case is "Pontoon". The solution to the problem is to add "Pentium" to the Learned Words database by hitting F2 when the pop-up suggestion list appears.

Pros: The wonderful thing about interactive spell checking, pop-up suggestion lists, shorthand and easily customizable & editable dictionaries is that they rapidly help to improve your spelling. Terrific accuracy, very fast operation, with no discernible effect on speed or system response even on slower Pentium and Pentium II computers. The Spell Catcher system tray icon will discretely flash a warning after you've ignored certain corrections and clicking the icon thereafter will allow you to go through the ignored list to confirm everything. It's a nice touch which catches a lot of problems. I'll never give up my huge Spell Catcher dictionaries, acquired over many years of writing and research. Having one spell checker which functions in every single program I use is a tremendous asset. I rely on this grandfather of spell checking because it works so well, remains so reliable and fits perfectly with my style of work. Highly recommended.

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