Exploring Office 2007: Improved Tools

Thursday Feb 21st 2008 by Helen Bradley
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A look at the new spell-checking enhancements in Word 2007, including Word's adjustable built-in spell-checking capabilities for maximum productivity.

One of the big benefits of a word processor is the ability to spell check your work. Instead of sending out documents littered with typos and misspellings, it's easy to ensure that your work is correctly spelled. Even if you don't realize a word is a misspelling, chances are that Microsoft Word does, and it can offer a range of alternate replacement words for you to choose from.

However, if you think that spelling in Microsoft Word is limited to your ability to press the F7 key then you may be interested to know that there's a lot more to spelling checking than first meets the eye.


» What's Up With All That Wavy Underlining?

If you haven't altered Word's defaults, as you work it will identify any misspelled words and will underline them with a wavy red line. Right click on the word and a list of alternate spellings appears at the top of the shortcut menu. If one is a correct replacement, select it to replace the underlined word with the correctly spelled version.

If you continually misspell this word, click AutoCorrect and select the correctly spelled version from this secondary menu. When you do so an AutoCorrect entry is created for this misspelling. Then, in future, any time that you spell the word incorrectly, Word will automatically correct it for you.

If there are multiple words in your document with wavy underlines, you can move to the next word by pressing Alt + F7. This key combination takes you through the document from one misspelling to the next.

Alternately, to spell check your document using the Spelling and Grammar dialog click the Review tab and click Spelling & Grammar or press the F7 key to launch it. With the Spelling and Grammar dialog open, you can switch between spelling and editing the document by clicking in the document itself, making your changes, and then clicking Resume to continue checking the spelling.


» Selecting Spelling Options

If you find the wavy red lines that appear indicating a potentially misspelled word (or the green ones that indicate incorrect grammar) to be annoying you can turn them off. In Word 2007, click the Office Button, click Word Options, and then select the Proofing group. You can now disable these for the current document or for all documents in the future.

To do it for just this document, enable the Hide spelling errors in this document only checkbox and the Hide grammar errors in this document only checkbox. If you disable the Check spelling as you type checkbox you will turn off automatic spell checking for this document and all other documents you work on in future. Likewise, use the Mark grammar errors as you type checkbox to enable and disable grammar checking for all documents.

Of course, even with it disabled you can still check grammar and spelling using the Spelling & Grammar button (or press F7). One final option, the Check grammar with spelling checkbox lets you turn off grammar checking so that Spelling & Grammar checks only spelling and not grammar.

In some cases you may not want a piece of text to be checked — for example, where it includes computer code or where you've used dummy text such as "lorem ipsum." In this case you can mark the text so it won't be spell checked.

Likewise, if you have some text written in a foreign language you can configure Word to proof it in that language. To do this, select the text and from the Status Bar click the Language option that should show English (U.S.) or something similar.

When you click this, the language dialog appears and, from this, you can select the Do not check spelling or grammar checkbox to prevent the text being checked or choose an alternate language from the list to use to proof the text.


» Rechecking the Document

When you use the Spelling and Grammar options and choose Ignore Once or Ignore All in response to a potential misspelled word, the word will no longer be identified as a misspelling if you run a spell check again on the document during the current editing session. If you close the document and open it again, the ignore list is cleared and the word will again be flagged as an error.

If you want to recheck the document and identify words that you have asked Word to ignore, you can bypass closing and reopening the document and, instead, click the Office Button and then choose Word Options and the Proofing group. Click the Recheck Document button and click Yes and Ok. Now when you spell check the document the words will no longer be ignored.


» Working with Custom Dictionaries

When you click the Add to Dictionary option to add a word from your document to the dictionary so that it will not be flagged as a misspelling in future, it is added, by default, to the custom.dic file. Word uses this file if you have not specified an alternate dictionary to use.

Custom.dic is a list of words which you have added to your dictionary and it can be edited, so if you add a word to it and later change your mind, you can remove it. To do this, click the Office Button, choose Word Options and the Proofing group, and click the Custom Dictionaries button.

Select custom.dic and click Edit Word List. You can now check the list of words, select a word to remove, and click the Delete button. You can also add words to your custom dictionary by typing the word in the Word(s): area and click Add.

» Excluding Words

It is not possible to edit words that are stored in Word's own dictionary, although you can flag words to be excluded from it. You might use this option if, for example, you often use a correctly spelled word in the wrong context so that it is technically an incorrect spelling. If you exclude the correctly spelled word from Word's dictionary it will be flagged as a misspelling, prompting you to check that you have used the word in the correct context.

Word 2007, in contrast to earlier versions, automatically creates an exclusion dictionary for you. You will, however, need to find it first, which you can do by locating your C:\Documents and Settings\\Application Data\Microsoft\UProof folder. Look for the file called ExcludeDictionaryEN0409.lex or something similar — the 0409 value will be different if you are using something other than US English.

To exclude a word from Word's dictionary open the ExcludeDictionaryEN0409.lex file in a text editor like Wordpad and type each excluded word, one per line, in lowercase letters. Close the file, restart Word, and test the results by typing the word that you have excluded.

It should be flagged as a potential spelling error. You can't add an excluded word to the custom.dic file using Add to dictionary so, if you change your mind about excluding the word, you need to remove it from your ExcludeDictionary0409.lex file.


» Contextual Spelling

Microsoft Word 2007 has a contextual spelling option that wasn't available in earlier versions. This tool checks words in the context they are used and reports a word as a misspelling even if it is correctly spelled but where it is incorrect in the context of the sentence.

If it is not enabled, you can enable this feature by enabling the Use Contextual Spelling option in the Proofing area of the Word Options dialog. With it selected, Word will look for words in context and, for example, if you type "he liked one more then the other," the word then will be flagged as a potential misspelling as the correct word is than in the context of the sentence.

While contextual spelling is useful it is still somewhat limited and it doesn't pick up a lot of contextual spelling errors. However, it will help avoid a number of them, including the very problematic and quite pervasive its and it's.


» Changing Wavy Line Color

One of the oddities of Word's spelling option is that Microsoft uses the colors red and green to indicate spelling and grammar errors. For some colorblind people these colors cannot be separately identified. If the issue affects you, or if you just want to personalize your Word program, you can change the color of the wavy underline to a different color.

To do this you'll need to edit the Windows registry and you should, before you do so, make a backup of the registry in case you encounter problems. To do this, click Start > Run, type Regedit and press Enter. Choose File > Export and select All as the Export range. Now type a filename, select a location for the file and click Save to back it up.

Now, to change the color of the lines locate this registry key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Shared Tools\Proofing Tools

If the SpellingWavyUnderlineColor entry exists, double-click it and when the Edit DWORD value dialog appears, click Hexadecimal and type an eight digit hexadecimal number representing the RGB color value of the color to use with two leading zeros. So to use Blue, type 000000FF and click Ok.

To change the grammar wavy underline color, change the GrammarWavyUnderlineColor value, and to change the contextual spelling error color change the DWORD value for the ContextualSpellingWavyUnderlinecolor entry.

If any of these values do not appear in the list, from the Edit menu choose New > DWORD value, type the entry and then double-click it and change its DWORD value to your preferred hexadecimal number. Close the registry, restart the computer, and restart Word to apply the changes. If you're unsure how to create RGB values visit a site like this one: http://www.patman.org/webdesign/hexcolors2.asp, choose the color to use, read off its hexadecimal value and add two leading zeros to it.


» Spelling Help

One little known feature of Word is that it can help you check the spelling of a word if you're not completely sure how it is spelled. For example, if you're unsure how to spell accommodation, you can type the bit of the word you do know and replace the bit you're unsure about with a question mark — for example, accom?dation.

Select the word, press F7, and Word will locate words which match the pattern of the word that you have typed and offer them as alternate spellings. The question mark is a wildcard and replaces an unknown letter.

As you can see, there's a lot more to Word's spelling options than first meet the eye. With some understanding of how they work and how you can adjust them to meet your needs, you can turn this tool into an even better productivity tool to help you with your work.

Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. She blogs at http://www.projectwoman.com/blogger.html.


This article was first published on WinPlanet.com.

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