Simon Willison’s Weblog

Spell check in web applications

Sam Ruby has enabled spell checking for the preview comment tool on his blog. I wonder how it works... I’ve lost track of the scripting language Sam uses for Intertwingly (PHP? Python? Perl?) but I know PHP can be compiled with support for the Pspell module.

Sam’s user interface is pretty neat—misspelled words are marked up with a span, underlined in dashed red and have suggested spellings listed in the span’s title attribute. Theoretically, it should be possible to build a javascript right-click menu offering alternatives instead (preferably dynamically generated from the list of words in the title attribute using the DOM). Actually modifying the preview textarea text based on the menu selection would be quite a lot harder—it could be done with a simple search-and-replace operation, but doing so might change other words with the same “incorrect” spelling without the user realising.

It would be fun to integrate something like this with a rich text editor, such as the recently announced htmlArea 3.0 that works with Mozilla 1.3b as well as IE (more information here).

This is Spell check in web applications by Simon Willison, posted on 8th March 2003.

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