We’re all familiar with differences between American and New Zealand spelling in words such as colour and favourite. Spelling is a whole thorny issue for non-American Macintosh users, while for us Kiwis it has the added dimension that we don’t use exactly the same dictionaries as speakers and writers of American, British, or even Australian, English. I’m sure many others around the world have similar problems too. It seems we are, by definition, International.
On being international
The first step in making our Macs works well for us is to look at the International System Preference and to choose a Language that we prefer. Mac OS X 10.4 offers a huge selection.
Choose the International pane in System Preferences…, then make sure you are looking at Language tab. It contains a list of languages, probably with English at the top, unless you deliberately chose some other language when setting up your computer.
To see the full list of available languages click the button labelled Edit List…. Note that ‘English’ possibilities include Australian, British, Canadian, US, and there is also an item labelled Māori, which seems to actually mean English. Māori uses the English alphabet, but includes a small horizontal line called a macron above some vowels, indicating that they are pronounced a little differently.
Check all the languages you feel may be useful or interesting for you and click the button labelled OK.
Your choices are reflected in the Languages list. Drag your preferred languages to the top of the list. Then log out and back in to your computer, to see changes reflected in the Finder. For example, if German were at the top of the list all your menus would now be in German.
Screenshot 1: My preferred languages in System Prefs. Screenshot 2: Change Safari’s active languages. Screenshot 3: Safari’s menus are now in German.
Software in your language
The whole matter of languages and your Mac involves several layers. As we work our way towards making the most of spellchecks it’s useful to see how we can work with languages. In screenshot 1 you can see that I’ve set my computer to prefer this sequence of languages for menus and dialog boxes: Australian English, British English, English, Māori, Deutsch (German).
Some of the software on your computer supports more than one language. To see and control which languages are used select the application icon in the Finder and choose Get Info from the File menu. If necessary, click the disclosure triangle for the Languages section of the Get Info window.
All the languages supported by the application are listed in the Languages section, with a checkbox beside every Language that is active. In screenshot 2 you can see that I’ve temporarily deactivated English for Safari.
Now when I start up Safari it compares my list of preferences in the International System Preferences Pane to its own list of available languages. Because I unchecked English as a possibility for Safari, the first successful match that it finds is German, as you can see in screenshot 3, which shows Safari’s menus in German.
Not all software has the necessary language resources, but you can easily check which ones support the languages you’re interested in by Getting Info as described above.
Cocoa and Carbon
When cooking fish, fried, grilled and baked are all different techniques. SImilarly, there are different techniques for making software. Some applications are ‘Carbon’, some are ‘Cocoa’ and others use other techniques.
‘Cocoa’ applications all share the same spelling dictionary on Mac OS X; other applications may not offer a spell check or may use their own dictionary.
Spell check dictionaries
My System settings put Australian English as my first preference, so if I check spelling in a Cocoa application such as TextEdit, the Australian English dictionary is the default.
Let’s say I open TextEdit, which comes installed on all new Macs. I type some text, in my case including some Māori words, one with a macron (the line above some vowels), some mis-spelled words, and the word jandals, which we often use in New Zealand but which apparently is not common elsewhere, even in Australia.
I Control Click on the document to call up a contextual menu and choose Spelling….
Screenshot 4 shows my text, with many words underlined in red to show that they aren’t recognised by the spellcheck dictionary. Notice how the a with the macron above it in the word Māori has confused the spellcheck.
Once the spellcheck window appears I can choose the dictionary I wish to use. Australian English was already selected because that is the setting I’ve chosen for my computer, but if I wanted to choose another language then I could do that here.
Screenshot 4: My little stretch of writing contains all kind of real and imagined spelling problems. Screenshot 5: Choose which spelling dictionary to use. Screenshot 6: Learn Turangawaewae.
Correct, Learn, Forget, Ignore
Screenshot 5 shows some suggestions from the Australian dictionary for the mis-spelled word funeral. I select a suggestion and click the Correct button to replace the wrongly spelled word with the correct one.
Screenshot 6 shows that the Maori placename Turangawaewae is correctly spelt but the dictionary doesn’t recognise it. I click the Learn button to add the word to the dictionary. After working through the whole text I close the Spellcheck dialog box by clicking the Close button at top left of the window.
Another option you may need is to Forget a spelling. This option is relevant when you have asked the dictionary to Learn a word but now need to take that word out of the Dictionary again, for example, when you accidentally ‘Learn’ a mis-spelled word (or are writing an article about checking spelling). You can’t remove words supplied with the Dictionary; only those you have added.
To forget a word, first copy it, then Control click on it and call up the Spelling > Spelling… item from the Contextual menu. Paste the word into the text box to the left of the Correct button. Then click the Forget button. The word is removed from the dictionary. Screenshot 7 shows me asking the Dictionary to Forget the word
Screenshot 7: Forget Ngauranga.
While writing this article I need to include some deliberate spelling ‘errors’. My spellcheck window marks them as potential errors, but I don’t want to ‘fix’ them. For those words I click the Ignore button.
Check spelling as you type
Open TextEdit. Type or paste in some text and deliberately include a spelling mistake. When you move on to the next word the typo should be underlined with red dots. If it’s not then either your Mac doesn’t recognise it as a mistake or TextEdit isn’t checking the spelling as you type.
Hold down the Control key and click anywhere on the document to bring up the Contextual menu. Go down to the Spelling submenu and see if there’s a check mark beside Check Spelling as You Type. If there is not, then select that submenu item to activate the feature. A check mark will now appear beside it.
Now choose the Check Spelling item from the Contextual menu. All spelling errors should be marked with a red underline.
Screenshots 8 to 12 show the effect of checking spelling with different dictionaries, including one that isn’t even for English.
Screenshot 8: Australian dictionary.
Screenshot 9: British dictionary.
Screenshot 10: Canadian dictionary.
Screenshot 11: (International) English dictionary.
Screenshot 12: German dictionary.
This article was first published in Macguide magazine Issue #31 January / February 2007 and may have been modified from the original.