MacMost Now 164: Spell Check in Mac OS X Applications

How to use the built-in Mac OS X spell check in many applications like TextEdit, Mail and Safari. You can make it learn new words and reset your custom dictionary.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 164: Spell Check in Mac OS X Applications.

Hi. This is Gary with MacMost Now. Today lets take a look at how we can use the almost ubiquitous spell check, throughout many applications in Mac OS X. So back in the day, when you used a word processor, when you were done you would use the spell check function. And it would go through all the words in your document that it thought were spelled wrong. But things have gotten a lot better. Now it actually spell checks while you write. Even better than that, there is now spell check in the operating system, inside a Mac OS X Leopard, that will check spelling in all sorts of applications. Not just word processors. Lets take a look. So here we are inside of text edit. And I'm gonna type some text. Now, it's put a red line. Underneath this word here, I've accidentally typed a second T. And if I roll over it, it will tell me this word was not found in the spelling dictionary. I can control click on it, and it will actually give me spelling suggestions right here at the top, of what it thinks the word may be. In addition I can choose ignore spelling, or learn spelling. Choosing learn spelling will put it in my custom dictionary on my Mac, so it will remember the word for next time. I can also go ahead and look it up in the dictionary if I like. So let me try something else. I can see here, it's underlined MacMost. Now I want it to remember that this is in fact a fine word. So, instead of clicking one of these variations, I'm going to click learn spelling. And now it won't bother me ever again when I type the word MacMost.
Now I have some other options as well. For instance, I can select the edit menu in text edit, and a lot of other applications, and see that there's a spelling and grammar sub-menu. I can show the spelling and grammar now, check the document now. Because sometimes the operating system gets a little behind if you're typing a lot of text, or you've just pasted a large block of text in. I can have it check spelling while I type, which is on my default. I can also have it check grammar. The grammar isn't as useful as the spelling, as it usually makes suggestions that aren't as helpful. But it can actually prevent you from typing something wrong that you didn't intend, because it will catch it as a grammar mistake. So it might be useful to have on if you have a lot of writing.
Now this also works in a lot of other applications. For instance, here in mail, I am going to start a new document. And I am going to type something right here. And you can see it did the same thing here when I mistyped this word. And I get the same menu when I control click on it. It even works in the browser. For here at MacMost, if I want to go ahead and leave a comment, I can start typing. And you can see I forgot to put a space between is and A, and it has put a red line under it. And I can right click on it. And you get suggestions under spelling through the whole bit. So, it even works inside of web forms, which is very useful. So you really don't have any excuse to have a misspelling in a comment or blog post anymore.
So we've see how you can add a word, using the learn menu option. But how do you remove one that you've accidentally added? Well, there's no good way. You can go to your user folder, library, and spelling, and see a different file for every language that you're using. So for instance, here is English. Double click on that and I'll see all the words I've added. But unfortunately there's hidden character between the words. So there's no real good way to edit this file in text edit. You can use a more advanced editor like Text Wrangler, or BBEdit, if you've downloaded and installed any of those. You can also edit in them terminal window using one of those terminal editing programs if you know how to use them. Otherwise, you can always just delete this file and start fresh.
So there's a quick look at the built in spell check inside of Mac OS X. Just about any software supports this. So it's very easy for developers to incorporate this in their applications. So you can look for it just about everywhere. And the great thing is, if it learns a word like MacMost, you'll find that it knows that word in every application that you type in.
Everyone in the United States have a great Thanksgiving. And remember, with every Thursday comes a new edition of the MacMost email newsletter. You can subscribe to it at MacMost dot com slash newsletter. I'll be putting one out tomorrow, even though it's Thanksgiving. So take a look. Till next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Comments: 29 Responses to “MacMost Now 164: Spell Check in Mac OS X Applications”

    10 years ago

    Hi! Any hint how I can change the language of the spell check? I speak german, english and french and thus write texts in different languages. Thanks!

    10 years ago

    Max: Absolutely. At the bottom of the standard spell check panel (shown in the video) there is a pop-up menu for language. You can switch between languages, or choose multilingual.

    10 years ago

    Great, this is the one I was having the most problems with. Thanks a lot.

    Marek Bogacki Staszkiewicz
    10 years ago

    I can only find the other languages menu pop-up in Firefox – for which I downloaded additional dictionaries – but not in Text Edit for example, at all. I run Leopard on Intel Mac. Do I need to install these dictionaries somewhere else?

      10 years ago

      It sounds like you installed languages inside of Firefox, which has its own system. You need to install the languages for Mac OS X for them to appear everywhere else. Not exactly sure where these come from for spell check, but I bet if you install them from your Mac OS X install disk that will work.

    10 years ago

    I have accidentally added several words that are not correct to the dictionary. How do I edit the dictionary to remove the wrong words? I cannot find the spelling folder in my library.

      10 years ago

      Type he word into TextEdit or find it in a document. Select it. Ctrl+Click on it and select “Unlearn Spelling.”

        9 years ago

        Nope, doesn’t come up as an option when I do that.

        I tried right-clicking and control-clicking. No “unlearn.”

        I have OSX 10.4.11.

          9 years ago

          Ah, if you are using 10.4.11 (Tiger) then you have a much older version of the Mac apps, which include TextEdit.

    José María
    10 years ago


    I constantly write documents using several different languages, and I find very cumbersome to have to go to the Edit –> Spelling –> Spelling menu and change the language everytime I type a new piece of text. Is there some kind of keyboard shortcut that will allow me to quickly cycle through the options available at the spell-checker and change the language?

    Many thanks in advance!

      10 years ago

      In Snow Leopard you can choose “automatic by language” as the language and spell check multiple languages without switching. You can choose which languages to use in the System Prefs. Not sure how well it works, though. You can use Command+: in Apple apps to bring up the spelling controls rather than using the menu bar.

    9 years ago

    HI! My mac mail is not spell checking while I type even though I have that checked in preferences. Spell check works in other applications but not in mail…any ideas?

      9 years ago

      When in Mail, and composing a message, what does it read when you go to Edit, Spelling and Grammar, Check Spelling?

    9 years ago

    Hi, I have a problem when writing in German, that certain words containing “umlaute” such as “ü” are not auto-corrected or will not come up as an option in the suggested alternative words. For instance: I use an English Keyboard and use the spelling of fuer for “für”. “fuer” will be underlined, but it will not come up as a suggestion. I then have to manually substitute the letters ue with ü, but will be given no option to get the system to “learn” the spelling. If I type the word correctly as “für”, there will be no underlining, so I suspect that the word is actually included in the spell checker, but will not come up as an option in the list of suggested words to correct the spelling manually.
    How can I include a word into the list of suggestions when manually spell checking?
    PS: Most other words with Umlaut “ü” or “ö” or “ä” will come up when highlighting the word and right clicking.

    Rick Carter
    8 years ago

    Sometimes I get the squiggly red line and “the word was not found in the spelling dictionary” but the “Learn” option is not there as it is for 95% of the cases. Anyone have any idea what might be causing this? Right now, I’m playing with Stickies with a few tech terms and company names, and the name “Adesso” is doing this for me. Can someone try putting that into a Stickies or other Mac spell-checked document, and getting the squiggly and right-clicking and see if it’s consistent that the same words fail the same way for everyone?

    8 years ago

    I have macbookpro 11, my spell check stop working, I can type email or facebook the spell check it not working; how do fix that?
    please help
    Thanks a lot!

      8 years ago

      Perhaps you turned it off. Not sure which application you are using, but for instance, if you are using Safari then look in Edit, Spelling and Grammar for settings.

    8 years ago

    In Mail, let’s say I want the spellchecker to add a word (perhaps a name, or simply a word I’ve created) to its database, like Word might, so that I don’t have to see the annoying red underlined “warning” every time I type those words in the future?

    Love your site and your videos and all you contribute! Thanks.

      8 years ago

      Select the red underlined word. Then choose Edit, Spelling and Grammar, Show Spelling and Grammar. The Spelling and Grammar window pops up. There, you can move through the words in your message. The current word should be shown in there. You can use the Learn button in this window to teach spell checker your word.

    8 years ago

    I’m using an iMax with Snow Leopard v. 10.6.8, whose instructions for deleting words erroneously saved to the dictionary tell me to control+click the word and then click “unlearn word.” I don’t get the option to do so from the pop-up menu. It also says I can go to the shortcut menu, but I can find no such menu. What’s up with that!?

      8 years ago

      Also, I with PC, I used to be able to edit entire user dictionaries of my choice. As a translator, I need control of my dictionaries. Why can’t I just open a text file of the learned words, so I can browse through them and delete ones that I no longer want in my user dictionary?

      7 years ago

      Same for me in 10.7.2 Lion … I don’t see an option to unlearn. Thanks to the inertia scrolling and bouncing, I accidentally entered a misspelled into the wordbook … Now I’m trying to figure out how to undo the mistake!

      Like you, I need full control of the wordbooks.

        7 years ago

        Unlearning is very easy. Just type the word in TextEdit or something else that uses autocorrect. Then Control+click it and select “unlearn.”

    7 years ago

    I have noticed every MAC application has it own dictionary, when I add custom words or abbreviations to one it is not available in other applications. Is it possible to have one dictionary for all MAC applications?

      7 years ago

      I don’t think every application has its own dictionary. But some do. Microsoft Word, for instance, doesn’t use the system dictionary. There’s not much you can do about that. Just have to add it again.

    Mr Anthony Cotton
    7 years ago

    When i am typing say feedback a blue line appears under the words i am typing.
    I know this means you have spelt the word wrong but,this keeps recurring when i have the word spelt right. I have evan used the dictionary to check,but it just keeps on doing it. Whats Happening?

    Dave Zel
    7 years ago

    I’m looking for spell checking software that will pull information from a spreadsheet as part of suggested spellings.

    Why? I want to check name spellings off a large amount of names in a spreadsheet.

    Bob Syknx recently move to Kansas from Oklahoma.
    Did you mean:
    Bob Syknn Topeka
    Bob Siknn Oklahoma City

      7 years ago

      I don’t know of anything that will do this. You may need to consult with a developer to have something built.

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