|★ APPLICATIONS ★ BUREAUTIQUE ★ LOCOSPELL ★|
A spelling checker doesn't fulfil quite the same role that a dictionary does for conventional writing, where you would just look up words that you know you can't spell. Computer spelling checkers take a more realistic outlook on life. People who can't spell usually don't know they can't spell, so never look the offending words up. More to the point, 90% of "spelling errors" are really typing errors, and the spelling checker just acts as a proof reader.
No matter how well you spell, or how well you type, you need a spelling checker if anybody apart from yourself is ever going to read your word processed literary gems. A word processor without its spelling checker is like a Sumo wrestler without his, er, loin cloth.
LocoSpell is a spelling checker designed to work with the PCW's LocoScript word processor. The software was written by Locomotive, authors of LocoScript, and the dictionaries that it uses were designed by Longman's, so it's got an impressive pedigree.
Compared to other spelling checkers on the market, LocoSpell is very sophisticated. Usually when a spelling checker comes across a word it doesn't know, it just pauses and asks you to correct it. LocoSpell actually suggests alternatives you might use. Not only that, but the suggested correction is matched to the case of the original word - upper case, lower case or mixed case.
Reading the LocoSpell manual is slightly bewildering at first. Since you can now buy several add-ons for LocoScript (eg. LocoMail or LocoSpell), there are four pages of dense type explaining all the options on how to configure your startup disc properly. If you use both LocoMail and LocoSpell, there isn't much free space on the disc to play with.
LocoSpell comes with a choice of two dictionaries that work with it. One has 32,000 words and the other 77,000. Which one you use depends on what kind of PCW you have and how much trouble you want to go to. In normal operation you keep the dictionary on the M drive for speed of access, but unfortunately the 77,000 word version is too big to fit on an ordinary PCW 8256. The 32,000 word dictionary fits on the same side of the startup disc as the LocoScript/LocoSpell software, so is immediately available when you start up the system. LocoSpell automatically copies it to the M drive for you. If you want to use the larger dictionary, you will have to copy it manually to the M drive, or in the case of 8256 owners, copy the file you are checking to the M drive and use the floppy disc drive to hold the dictionary.
The large dictionary, obviously, just contains a better range of words.
Where dictionaries fear to tread
In addition to the "system” dictionaries, as the built-in ones are known, you can define "user” dictionaries too. These are smaller dictionaries that you build up as you use LocoSpell, which contain words that you personally use a lot but which aren't in LocoSpell's usual dictionary.
These might include proper names (like your own name and address), or technical terms if you are in a jargon-ridden profession like law or computing.
Building up dictionaries is a gradual process. As you spell check a document, LocoSpell pauses at words it doesn't know. If it is a word you will use regularly in the future, like "vindaloo", you can opt to store it in the user dictionary. This special dictionary is stored in the same group on the LocoScript disc as the file you have just checked, and if you spell check that document later, or any other document in that group, the special words will be remembered as correct.
Usually, each LocoScript group can have its own user dictionary, although there are ways to ensure that you have one user dictionary that serves all the groups on the disc. If you need to, you can edit your user dictionaries to amend misspelled entries or remove words you no longer need.
Often you use words that you will never use again, like people's names, which LocoSpell will flag up as errors but which aren't worth saving in the dictionary. You could grin and bear it, and press “I” for “ignore" whenever Locospell stops, but there is a better way. LocoSpell provides a special code that can be inserted into LocoScript documents as any other LocoScript code can. Type [+]SC (for "sic") at any point in a word, and LocoSpell will ignore it.
Good news, bad news
LocoSpell is certainly an invaluable addition to LocoScript. It's sophisticated and very effective, and runs at a fair speed despite LocoScript's inherent sloth.
The fact that you can spell check individual paragraphs in a document as you go is a real boon. Also, if you want to, you can quiz the dictionary for the spelling of an individual word - just give it the first couple of letters and scan through the choices.
The only real complaint is that when you "consult” the dictionary to look up a spelling you aren't sure of, you are given a choice of 20 or so closely matching words: scrolling through this menu is very, very slow if you want to look at choices off the top or bottom of the range.
The manual, a point Locomotive often get flak for, is on the whole very good. The start, about how to sort out your system discs, is very confused, and a clearer explanation about which user dictionaries are being used with which documents would have been nice.
Unlike some other spelling checkers, when you choose to 'ignore' a word that LocoSpell flags up you are not given the choice to ignore it for evermore in that document. You can get around this by choosing to add it to the user dictionary, and then editing out of the dictionary at the end of the run, but that's a bit messy.
Finally, you can't edit the main system dictionary to remove spellings you don't like, such as various "-ize" endings to words. But overall these are all small niggles and it's another excellent professional package from Locomotive.
How LocoSpell compares with the rest
There are already at least three spelling checkers on the market, some of which will read LocoScript files although they run from CP/M. This means you have to leave LocoScript, start up CP/M, run the checker and then restart LocoScript to print out the corrected version.
This may sound tedious, but it does have potential advantages. First, remember that LocoSpell cannot process files any faster than LocoScript can scroll through them, which imposes a fairly large overhead on big files. To do 10,000 words or so you may well find using a CP/M spelling checker considerably faster.
Second, if you own (or buy at a later stage) another word processor then you can use the same spelling checker with that program. Otherwise you will have to fork out for a new spelling checker.