Spell/400 Provides a Green-Screen Spell Checker
April 21, 2009 Alex Woodie
Having difficulty spelling words correctly in your green-screen i OS applications? Then you might want to check out a spell checker called Spell/400 from the UK software company Black and Blue Software. Designed to function like a regular Windows spell checker, Spell/400 allows users to correct misspellings with the click of a mouse or a touch of a button, and even allows users to have their own personal dictionaries.
PC users around the world have come to rely on automated spell checkers to fix common mistakes and leave their prose looking spotless and clean. Microsoft popularized the modern computer spell checker within productivity applications like Word and Outlook, and today even Microsoft’s Web-based competitors like Google offer spell checkers that function very well within a browser.
But within the back office world of green-screen 5250 interfaces, there aren’t as many options, leaving users to rely on their grammar school training to get words right. There are several application-specific spell checkers available on the market. Attachmate supports spell checking within its emulator, and there are spell checkers in IBM‘s WebSphere Portal and Lotus Notes products. IBM also used to offer a spell checker within the now-defunct Office Vision/400 e-mail program, and a clever System i programmer could use some APIs IBM made available over a decade ago to utilize those old dictionaries, but it probably won’t be as streamlined as Spell/400.
With Black and Blue’s Spell/400 utility, businesses don’t have to rely on their users’ innate spelling abilities, or hack together their own checker with APIs. Instead, it allows users to self-correct spelling errors in free-form text fields on the fly, using the familiar PC spell checker paradigm that we have all come to rely on. It also corrects some common punctuation errors, and works with any application running under i OS (i5/OS, OS/400).
Spell/400 was written to look and behave just like a standard PC spell checker–but in a green screen, of course–with popup windows that provide suggestions to misspelled words, and the capability to choose a correct word with the click of a mouse or the keyboard. The software uses function keys to control its operation, and it even features an “auto change” feature that automatically fixes all the spelling errors on a screen. No application source code is required.
One of the handy features of Spell/400 is that a single installation can be applied to every application running on a System i (Power Systems) server. Each installation supports up to eight separate dictionaries that users can customize to fit their specific needs, such as product descriptions or customer names. Multiple dictionaries can be used simultaneously, and for companies that use a lot of industry-specific terms and jargon, the product’s capability to create a custom dictionary by importing words from an existing database can be particularly useful.
Black and Blue Software is quite proud of the size and scope of its dictionary, which it says contains more than 300,000 words, along with another 50,000 proper names. This compares quite favorably to IBM’s dictionary, which has only 80,000 words and is at least 15 years old, according to Black and Blue’s Web site. (In other words, you’ll have a hard time getting “twitter” or “blog” past IBM’s spelling sentinels.)
Spell/400 was first released in 1997, and received a major overhaul with version 3 in 2004, which introduced new graphical capabilities, as well as the “auto change” function (with V3R1 in 2005). Spell/400 V3R8, which was released earlier this year, brought support for i 6.1 (i5/OS V6R1) and several bug fixes. Since then, the vendor has added new French and Dutch dictionaries, included U.S. and U.K. towns in the dictionaries, and released a new version of its VAR Toolkit.
Spell/400 is compatible with Windows- and Linux-based terminal emulators, 5250 dumb terminals, and WebFaced applications. Alternatively, third-party software vendors can include Spell/400’s functionality inside their own products by tapping into the product’s API. The product is licensed by system or LPAR, and has no user limit.
For more information and trial downloads, visit the Spell/400 Web site at www.spell400.com