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7/31/2008
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A Word To The Wise: Working With Firefox Spell-Checking Tools

When you work online, words are like clothes: Use them carelessly, and you might as well show up for a business meeting in dirty flip-flops and an "I'm with stupid" T-shirt.

When you work online, words are like clothes: Use them carelessly, and you might as well show up for a business meeting in dirty flip-flops and an "I'm with stupid" T-shirt.Fortunately, Firefox makes it easy to spruce up your online "wardrobe" with all sorts of language-enhancing features. Today I'll focus on the most important ones: Its spell-checking support and dictionary extensions.

All of the Firefox 2.x and 3.x browsers include built-in spell-checking support; although it is enabled by default, you can double-check by looking here:

1. Click on the "Tools" menu. 2. Click on "Options" (usually about two-thirds of the way down the list). 3. Select the "Advanced" tab. 4. Select the "General" tab. 5. Make sure the "check spelling as I type" option (it's the sixth option down the list in Firefox 3) is checked.

If you still use a Firefox 1.5.x browser, simply install the SpellBound extension to add spell-checking support to your browser.

Many people criticize the default dictionary built into Firefox as inadequate. I think it's just fine, but upgrading it with a third-party dictionary extension is still a good idea. The Mozilla add-ons site includes an expanded United States English dictionary that works with both FF2.x and FF3.x browsers, as well as with Firefox 1.5.x browsers running SpellBound.

If you want to add a little colour to your written English for your overseas colleagues, dictionaries are also available for the Queen's English, as well as Australian, Canadian, and South African variants. As a matter of fact, Mozilla currently offers spell-checking dictionaries for more than 70 languages and dialects, from Afrikaans and Albanian to Xhosa and Zulu.

Note: The dictionary download page also includes links to language packs, which change the Firefox menus and user interface but not the spell-checker. Make sure you're clicking the right link when you download a dictionary.

When the Firefox spell-checker is turned on, it works automatically in any multi-line text box. When you type a misspelled word, a line of red dots will underline the word; just right-click on it for a list of spelling options. Also, if you right-click anywhere in a text box, the context menu will let you toggle the spell-checker on and off, select from a list of installed dictionaries, and install new dictionaries.

If you have any questions, the Mozilla support page provides a handy, fully illustrated guide to using and configuring the Firefox spell-checker. Now, no matter how you spell "success," at least you can be sure you're spelling it right.

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