Random Ubuntu tip of the day—Spell check everywhere

Note: this post isn’t too user-friendly, so beware.

I’ve heard that Macs have a nice global spell-check system. I’ve never used a Mac, but having a single spelling checker at the OS-level seems like a good idea. You won’t need to train the spell-checks embedded in each application individually.

I used to have a hack on Windows that provided decent global spell checking. It’s much more easier on Linux.

First run these commands:

sudo aptitude update
sudo aptitude -y install aspell aspell-en xclip

That installs aspell, a really nifty command-line spell checker, and xclip, a utility to manipulate your clipboard. Once you have these tools installed, copy-paste the following to a text file:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
# Copy clipboard contents to a temp file
xclip -o > /tmp/spell.tmp
# Run aspell on that file
aspell check /tmp/spell.tmp
# Copy the results back to the clipboard
cat /tmp/spell.tmp | xclip

Give the file a nice name, spellcheck.sh for instance. Mark it as executable.

chmod +x spellcheck.sh

Now that the script’s created, we need a convenient way to call it. The easiest method to do so is to create an alias for running it in your Bash init script. Run:

gedit ~/.bashrc

And add the line:

alias spellcheck='gnome-terminal -x ~/Path/To/Your/spellcheck.sh'

at the bottom of the file. Now anytime you need to run it, just copy your text, and type spellcheck from your terminal. If you don’t have a terminal window open all the time (you really should), then do Alt-F2 to open the “Run Application” dialog box and type spellcheck there. You’ll get a nice little window like:

Screenshot of the spell checker

Options 1…9 are for suggested spelling corrections, i is used to ignore a word, r to replace it with another, a to add it to the dictionary. Once all your corrections are done, the window will close automatically and you can paste the result back to your application.

Creating a keyboard shortcut to launch it is left as an exercise for the reader.

PS: I’ve not used KDE yet, but I guess DCOP could extract text (selected or otherwise) from the currently open window and put it back in? That would be neat, reason enough to switch.

Comments (2)

  1. Amit wrote::

    wow…I am gonna try this one out soon..before that I also need to get the spell check working on my open office :-(

    Friday, November 30, 2007 at 14:46 #
  2. Luke wrote::

    I tried this and the script didn't behave the way that I expected. I loved the idea thought so I made some changes. Instead of using xclip I used xsel. I found that by using xsel I could get the output from the spell checker to properly be put in the clipboard. I wasn't able to access where xclip was putting the final result with ctrl-v in applications. This was a problem since I wanted to quickly paste the correct spelling back into the application where I was working. Here is what I did.

    #!/usr/bin/env bash
    # Copy clipboard contents to a temp file
    xsel -ob > /tmp/spell.tmp
    # Run aspell on that file
    aspell check /tmp/spell.tmp
    # Copy the results back to the clipboard
    cat /tmp/spell.tmp | xsel -ib

    Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 2:31 #