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View/Edit Dialog Highlights

What is the Dictionary View/Edit Dialog?

The Dictionary View/Edit dialog, which you can display by pressing the View/Edit button on the Dictionaries dialog, enables you to edit any dictionary, to combine two or more dictionaries, and to remove the contents of one dictionary from another. You can insert any file containing a list of words (one per line) into any dictionary. This is a good way to add a large list of words to a new or existing main dictionary.

If you want to examine the contents of any dictionary, you can search for a particular word, you can group all words that contain a specified string, or you can sort the list in either of two ways and scroll through it.

The dictionary is presented in a standard Windows edit control so you can use all of the normal Windows editing commands. In addition, there are commands for modifying the capitalization of words, and for duplicating the current line. The latter saves time if you are adding inflected forms of existing words.

If you want to view or edit a user dictionary, you may use the speller's main edit window instead of this dialog. Just close the dictionary and drag it to the main edit window. You'll have to use the main edit window if you want to edit dictionary comments. When you are finished, use the File|Save command to save your changes instead of using drag-and-drop because you want to replace the contents of the user dictionary, not simply add to it.

What is a Legal Word?

Words that you add to MicroSpell's dictionaries may contain up to 63 characters. Words may contain letters, accented letters, numbers, and many other symbols. Main (compressed) dictionary entries should begin with a letter (accented or unaccented) or number. When stored in main dictionaries, capitalized and accented letters, numbers, and some other symbols occupy two or three character positions, so the 63 character maximum size limit may be reached by shorter words. You needn't remember word length or other limitations: MicroSpell will let you know if there is a problem when you save to a dictionary. (You might find the status log useful if you get an error while building a compressed dictionary.) If you encounter a word that is not valid in a main dictionary, add it to a user dictionary; they accept nearly anything 63 or fewer characters long.

Buttons and Controls

Here is a short description of each of the buttons and controls on the View/Edit dialog. You can jump to a particular entry by clicking on the related control in the figure above.
Search edit box
To look for a particular word, type it here. If you've not checked the Find Whole Words Only box (below), the search will proceed as you type. When you finish typing, the first instance (if any) of the string you are searching for should be selected. Use the Find Next button or the keyboard shortcuts <Ctrl-F>, <Alt-F>, or <Ctrl-S> to advance to the next instance. The search always starts from the current selection and runs to the end of the list, therefore, before you start a new search, position the cursor to the beginning of the list. Currently, there is no way to search backwards.
Find Next button
Use this to find the next occurrence of the search string that you specified in the edit box to the left. Keyboard shortcuts are <Ctrl-F>, <Alt-F>, or <Ctrl-S> See previous item for more discussion.
Help button
This button displays the Help topic you are now reading.
Find Whole Words Only checkbox
When checked, the search command finds only instances of the search text that are complete words. See first item above for more information about searching.
Match Case checkbox
When checked, the search command finds only instances of the search text that are exact matches, including case. See first item above for more information about searching.
Dictionary edit box
The contents of the dictionary you are editing appear here. This is a standard Windows edit control so you can use normal editing and movement commands. Right click anywhere in this box for a pop-up menu of additional commands.
Dictionary Merge list
Use this list to set the dictionary that the Add and Remove buttons work with. You can add (or remove) the contents of the selected dictionary to (or from) the dictionary you are editing. When you select a user dictionary, you can also drag-and-drop words from the dictionary you are editing to either the Add or the Remove button to add or remove them from the selected dictionary. The prompt "Can Drag Words Back Here" appears above the buttons when this is allowable.
Browse button
This button brings up a Windows file open dialog which you can use to browse for a file containing the words you want to add to or remove from the list of words (dictionary) being edited. This file must be a standard text file with one word per line; it may not be a compressed (main) dictionary file. Your file will appear in the listbox above this button, and you can use the buttons below to add or remove its contents.
Remove button
This button does two different things. When you press it, the words in the dictionary selected in the listbox above are removed from the list of words (dictionary) being edited. When you select and drag words from the list being edited and drop them on this button, the words are removed from the dictionary shown in the listbox (provided the prompt "Can Drag Words Back Here" appears above the button).
Add button
This button does two different things. When you press it, the words in the dictionary selected in the listbox above are added to the list of words (dictionary) being edited. When you select and drag words from the list being edited and drop them on this button, the words are added to the dictionary shown in the listbox (provided the prompt "Can Drag Words Back Here" appears above the button).
Dictionary Properties/Comments display
When you are editing a main dictionary, this box shows version number, language, word count (before any edits), and any notations you added when you created it. If you are editing a user dictionary, this box show the comments contained within the dictionary, if any. Comments are lines of text placed at the beginning of the file before any dictionary entries; comment lines must begin with a space. You cannot currently modify your comments using this edit box, nor can you add comments to the word list that you are editing in this dialog. To add or edit your comments, you must close the dictionary and drag it to MicroSpell's main edit window. Save it using the standard File|Save command when you are finished. You can also use nearly any other text editor.
Tool Tip Lookup
This tool enables you to check the spelling of the word on the line containing the caret. A pop-up tool tip showing the results appears when you rest your mouse cursor here. This is perhaps more useful for checking a selected part of a word, or for verifying that an inflection you just created expands sensibly.
Exclude this checkbox
When checked, the speller will ignore the dictionary you are currently editing when performing a tool tip lookup regardless of whether or not it is open. Currently, this is only available for user dictionaries.
Save button
Use this button to save your changes. If you were editing a main dictionary, the file on disk is updated immediately. The current dictionary will be preserved in a file with the extension .BAK so you can revert if necessary. If you get an error while saving a main dictionary, see What is a Legal Word? for more information. If you were editing an open user dictionary, a new copy will be saved in memory and in the associated disk file. The speller preserves backup copies of user dictionaries only until the new copy has been successfully written.
Cancel button
Use this button to discard the changes you made to the dictionary you are editing and close this dialog. If you have dragged words from the dictionary you are editing to another dictionary (by dropping them on the Add or Remove buttons), this will not be undone by Cancel.
Status Line
This area shows status or error messages to give you feedback as you work in this dialog.

Pop-Up Menu Commands

Here are descriptions of the Dictionary View/Edit pop-up menu commands. The menu shown here appears when you right click in the large rectangular edit box. There is another pop-up menu that contains a single item: "Import Ispell Word List". This menu appears when you right click outside of the edit box, on the grey area of the dialog. It is the subject of the following section.

You can scroll directly to any item by clicking it on the menu graphic.

Undoes your last edit. You can only undo one action unless your system has version 2 of the rich edit control installed (see related tip).
Removes the selected text and places it on the Clipboard.
Copies the selected text and places it on the Clipboard.
Inserts the contents of the Clipboard at the caret position.
Select All
Selects all of the words in the dictionary you are currently editing. It shows the number of lines selected on the Status Line; this is often one more than the word count.
Duplicate Line
Makes a copy of the line that currently contains the caret. The new line appears immediately following the original one. You can use this to save time and reduce the chance of error when you are doing things like adding the plural of an existing word.
Uppercase/Capitalize Selection or Line
Converts the current selection, or line containing the caret if no selection, to be capitalized or all upper case, depending on its prior state and how many times you issue this command.
Lowercase Selection or Line
Converts current selection, or line containing caret if no selection, to lower case.
Sort Alphabetically (ABC...abc...)
Sort words alphabetically, taking case into account. All words beginning with an upper case letter come before any words beginning with a lower case letter. Sorting is for your convenience while working with the list; the speller does not require you to sort anything.
Sort Alphabetically, Ignoring Case (AaA...Bbb...cCc...)
Sort words alphabetically, ignoring case. All words beginning with "A' come before any words beginning with "B" regardless of how the words are capitalized. Sorting is for your convenience while working with the list; the speller does not require you to sort anything.
Group Matching Lines
This command lets you group all words that contain a specified string at the top of the list. If you are searching for more than one word, consider using this instead of the Find command. The dialog where you type your search string also lets you specify whether a successful match must encompass the entire suspect or just part of it, and whether the match must be exact, including case.
Web Lookup
This command looks up the selected word using the Internet web site chosen from the menu. If there is no selection, the word on the current line is used. The results appear in your browser. For more information, see How to Look Up Definitions, Synonyms, and Spellings Via the Internet.

Importing an Ispell Word List

MicroSpell can import word lists that have been created for use with the Ispell program which is frequently used in UNIX environments. There are lists available for British English, French, Spanish, German, and other languages. If you want to use MicroSpell to check non-American English text, and you do not have your own word list, downloading and importing an Ispell list might be a reasonable alternative. You can also use the same import function to convert a non-Ispell list that contains diacritical marks which must be translated to a form that MicroSpell can use (see below).

You can find out more about Ispell here: http://ficus-www.cs.ucla.edu/ficus-members/geoff/ispell.html, and you can find a list of dictionaries for downloading here: http://ficus-www.cs.ucla.edu/ficus-members/geoff/ispell-dictionaries.html. These Ispell lists were created by the people or groups credited in the dictionary "READMEs" and elsewhere; they are in no way related to MicroSpell. We do not have the resources or expertise to evaluate them, so if you decide to use them, it is your responsibility to determine whether they meet your needs. (We found some errors in the Ispell English list that we looked at, so we don't recommend that you merge it with MicroSpell's Main.Lex.) If you make any corrections or additions, consider contributing them to the Ispell project.

Before you start, you might want to check whether your system contains version 2 of the Windows rich edit control, because version 1 does not work properly with very long word lists. You can learn more about this in the "Tips" help topic.

Here's how to import an Ispell dictionary list:

  1. Download the dictionary and affix files that you are interested in. (See link above.) If you need a tool for decompressing what you've downloaded, try WinZip from http://www.winzip.com. WinZip successfully decompressed everything we tried it with; however, in a few instances we had to enter an extension (.tar) when prompted.  
  2. Locate the dictionary list(s) and affix file. The material you download will probably include a README file describing the other files. You are mainly interested in the dictionary word list and the affix file. The main dictionary list will probably be a fairly large file (several hundred K), but there might be some smaller lists as well containing specialized words. The affix file will often have the extension ".aff". Use MicroSpell, WordPad, or another editor to verify that you have the correct files before proceeding. Here is what a dictionary file looks like:
    And here is what an affix file looks like (look near the end; they have other stuff near the beginning):
    flag *S:
        [^AEIOU]Y   >       -Y,IES          # As in imply > implies
        [AEIOU]Y    >       S               # As in convey > conveys
        [SXZH]      >       ES              # As in fix > fixes
        [^SXZHY]    >       S               # As in bat > bats
    flag *P:
        [^AEIOU]Y   >       -Y,INESS        # As in cloudy > cloudiness
        [AEIOU]Y    >       NESS            # As in gray > grayness
        [^Y]        >       NESS            # As in late > lateness
    flag *M:
        .           >       'S              # As in dog > dog's

    If you are building an American or British English list, you might want to modify your affix file as shown here before proceeding. We found a problem in the original affix file that causes invalid words like "eighthes" to be generated. Changing the S flag rules so they appear as follows seems to fix the problem:
    flag *S:
        [^AEIOU]Y   >       -Y,IES          # As in imply > implies
        [AEIOU]Y    >       S               # As in convey > conveys
        [PT]H       >       S               # As in eighth > eighths
        [^PT]H      >       ES              # As in trash > trashes
        [SXZ]       >       ES              # As in fix > fixes
        [^SXZHY]    >       S               # As in bat > bats
    #    [SXZH]     >       ES              # As in fix > fixes
    #    [^SXZHY]   >       S               # As in bat > bats
    (I added some rules and commented out (#) two of the original rules.)

  3. If your dictionary file contains words without diacritical marks (accents), i.e. if you are adding an American or British English list, skip to the next step. Otherwise, examine your dictionary file and look for words that contain accented letters. If the accented letters look normal (i.e. like this: é) then you can skip this step. If, instead, the accented letters are represented by a sequence of unaccented letters and symbols (e.g. like this: 'e), then you need to compile a table that lists the multi-character representation of each accented character followed by a space and the representation that Windows uses. The import function requires this in order to translate the Ispell representation into the one MicroSpell uses (the "standard" Windows ANSI character set). For example, we used the list below while importing one of the Ispell Spanish dictionaries. (We did not have to compile it; we found it in a README file.) If you don't want to compile one of these lists, try looking at another Ispell dictionary list; there are often several available per language. Also, MicroSpell has a few such lists built-in and it will try to insert an appropriate one for you as soon as you enter a valid dictionary file name in the Import Ispell Dictionary dialog (see below).
                    'a á
                    'e é
                    'i í
                    'o ó
                    'u ú
                    'n ñ
                    "u ü
                    'A Á
                    'E É
                    'I Í
                    'O Ó
                    'U Ú
                    'N Ñ
                    "U Ü
  4. Start MicroSpell and open the Dictionaries dialog (using File|Dictionaries). If you don't already have a main dictionary for the language corresponding to the Ispell list, create a new empty main (compressed) dictionary using the New Dict. command button. (Make sure you select "Main Dictionary," and when typing the name, don't include the ".lex" extension; MicroSpell will add it for you.) Select the dictionary you want to work with and press the View/Edit button. In the View/Edit dialog, invoke the import menu by right clicking on (almost) any grey surface (i.e., not inside any of the edit boxes; see figure). Give the Import Ispell Word List command.  
  5. In the Import Ispell Dictionary dialog (see figure), enter the affix and word list file specs in the appropriate boxes. (The Go button will remain disabled until you enter a valid dictionary file name.) If you created a multi-byte character translation table earlier (step 3), enter it where indicated. If the sample above is appropriate, you can copy-and-paste it into the edit box. MicroSpell will remove leading and trailing whitespace from each line, so don't worry about doing this yourself if you paste the data. If you enable the Add both prefixes and suffixes to base word checkbox, MicroSpell will create the maximum number of entries by adding both prefixes and suffixes at once, as well as each one separately, to the base words in the dictionary list as directed by the affix file data. (The Ispell documentation refers to these as "cross products.") This option can potentially create a very large number of words, including some invalid ones if the affix data was not carefully prepared. You might want to experiment with both settings.

    If you enable the Reject generated words having fewer than four letters checkbox, MicroSpell will only create words (using the affix data) that are at least four letters long. There is Ispell documentation that seems to require this; however, at least some affix data files (e.g. the French one shown in the figure) are designed to create shorter words. With this option enabled, the French dictionary is missing some common short words, e.g. "les". Therefore, we recommend you try building the dictionary without this option enabled.

    As you can see in the figure, the affix data file is optional. While you could import an Ispell word list without an affix file, you would be missing many inflected forms of the base words because the affix data tells MicroSpell how to create them. The real reason for making this optional is to enable you to import a non-Ispell word list that requires accent translation (see step 3 above).  

  6. When you have entered all the required information in the Import Ispell Dictionary dialog, press the Go button. Depending on the speed of your computer, how much memory you have available, and how many words the Ispell dictionary contains, this step might take several minutes or longer. Even if your machine seems to be doing nothing for several minutes, don't give up too soon! While importing the Ispell data, MicroSpell might display warnings or error messages in the View/Edit dialog message area. You'll have an opportunity to view all of these at once when the import function finishes. You'll also see a running count of the number of words imported; don't be concerned if this number exceeds the total you expect (based on the Ispell README). MicroSpell's import function sometimes generates duplicate words; these will be removed later while building the MicroSpell dictionary.  
  7. When the import function finishes, you should see a list of words in the View/Edit dialog. We recommend that you at least sample this list to check for proper accent translation and to make sure that the inflections are correct and meaningful. If there is a problem with the inflections, it could mean that you used an incompatible affix file or there is a problem with the speller's import function. (Let us know if you suspect the latter.) If the speller appears to "lock up" when you attempt to scroll the word list, read this. If you want the speller to ignore single letters, add "a" through "z" to the word list now.  
  8. Press the Save button to begin building the compressed dictionary. This step might take several minutes, depending on your hardware and the number of words. If you are building a dictionary that contains accented letters, you should ensure that MicroSpell is set to allow accented letters within words (using Options|[ASCII, TeX etc.] Mode Preferences | Characters) before you check a document. You'll probably also want to make sure the speller's English dictionary (Main.lex) is closed if you're checking non-English documents.

Changing Things

You can change the font in the main edit box by using Options|Set Font|Dictionary View/Edit Dialog on the speller's main edit window.