Free Offline Afrikaans Spellchecker

[Also available in Afrikaans: Ook beskikbaar in Afrikaans.]

One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received since releasing my online spellchecker is how to download the software so that it can be used offline. Although the online spellchecker was not designed for this purpose, the Afrikaans dictionary that drives the spellchecker allows for an offline configuration. Having figured out how this can be done, I’ve decided to document the process. This would allow you to use both the online and offline spellcheckers, depending on your requirements in any specific scenario.

Now, before we begin with the real work, let’s first have a look at the free software and data that would make all of this possible. A popular alternative to Microsoft Office is the free office suite by OpenOffice.org (or OOo for short). This suite runs on various operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows and GNU Linux, and includes applications similar to Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint. To create your text documents, spreadsheets and presentations, OpenOffice.org features Writer, Calc and Impress. The free offline Afrikaans spellchecker can be integrated with this suite of applications. As a side note, OpenOffice.org version 1.1.4 is the current stable version used for this discussion, but a new version 2.0 should be available soon and hopefully this would not change the process of installing the offline Afrikaans spellchecker too much (feel free to add your comments below when the time comes).

Having identified the program to use, the other ingredient for creating your offline Afrikaans spellchecker is the actual dictionary (i.e., the lexicon or word list). For this we have to thank Translate.org.za for releasing a free Afrikaans dictionary under a rather liberal license (that is, the “Lesser GPL” or LGPL, for the technically inclined), which made my online Afrikaans spellchecker a possibility. The tricky part here is just to figure out what files to use, but more about this later.

So, at last we get to the actual process of creating your own “free” offline Afrikaans spellchecker. I shall assume that you’ve already downloaded and installed OpenOffice.org (but be warned that this can take a while on a slow Internet connection, being over 64MB in size for the installer of version 1.1.4 – perhaps consider upgrading your Internet connection to something like iBurst first). Installing a custom spelling dictionary can be an automated process, but I found the manual process easy enough without introducing additional uncertainties. It boils down to the following.

  1. The Afrikaans dictionary for OpenOffice.org actually only consists of the following two files that need to be installed:
    • af_ZA.aff
    • af_ZA.dic

    Using the convention suggested by OpenOffice.org, these files would typically be packaged in another file called af_ZA.zip from where they need to be extracted. However, finding this file (or rather, the latest compatible version of it) turns out to be the most difficult task. (Please post comments if you know how this works, since I still don’t know for sure.) You could try to download this file from Translate.org.za, either by itself (named af_ZA.zip, af_ZA-1.99.1.zip, or similar) or contained in another file called something like af_ZA-pack.zip (for example, pack-af-ZA-1.99.1.zip). I actually used a different version (apparently newer) from the ones published at the link above, which I initially found at SunSITE.dk (the precursor of dotsrc.org).

  2. Once you’ve extracted the two files (af_ZA.aff and af_ZA.dic), copy these inside the ...\share\dict\ooo subdirectory to be found where you installed OpenOffice.org (for example, look under C:\Program Files\OpenOffice.org1.1.4\...).
  3. In the same folder where you copy these two files you would find another file called dictionary.lst, to which you need to append the following line using your favorite text editor.
    DICT af ZA af_ZA
  4. Unless OpenOffice.org is restarted completely, including the memory-resident QuickStarter (that is, the icon in your taskbar), the new dictionary would not be recognized. The easiest for most people would simply be to reboot the machine.

The instructions above assume that you’re running on Microsoft Windows, but it seems that this applies pretty much the same to Linux, except that the installation directory would be different (see the instructions by Garry Knight for more Linux installation details).

Of course, there’s always my online spellchecker if you don’t want to go through all this trouble of installing an offline spellchecker. But at least you now have another alternative for when you’re working on your own computer and cannot easily connect to the Internet.

Comments

Afrikaans spell checking on an Apple Mac

Hey Tiaan, thanks for your post.

I used the same af_ZA.aff and af_ZA.dic files from Translate.org.za (thanks guys!) to do Afrikaans spell checking on my Apple MacBook Pro. The steps are (for OS X 10.6.x, a.k.a. Snow Leopard):
1. Download the zip file from http://translate.org.za/download/spellchecker/afrikaans/myspell-pack-af-ZA-20060117.zip
2. Unzip it and copy the two files to your Macintosh HD > Library > Spelling folder.
3. In System Preferences > Language & Text > Text (tab), click the Spelling dropdown and select the Setup... option at the bottom of the list. There you select the languages you want to use on your computer (I use "British English" and "Afrikaans (Library)"). Uncheck the languages you don't usually type in.
4. Make sure that the Spelling dropdown is set to "Automatic by language"
5. And here is where the Apple tax starts to pay back - you now have automatic language detection and spell checking on EVERY application on you Mac, mail, documents ALLES! (except M$ Word - you have to pay Bill Gates for additional spell checkers).

Ja mense, this means that your computer now detects the language that you are typing in and applies the relevant spell checker with mooi rooi strepies onder elke verkeerde woord!

Afrikaans Spell checker + Mac OS Leopard

I tried this, but I don't have 10.6. I have 10.5.8. There is no spelling folder under Library. Any suggestions?

Not sure

Not sure, I think it's a 10.6-only feature.

Thanks

Uitstekend! Baie dankie.

It works almost everywhere

Hi Paul,

Dankie vir die voorstel!

Ek het dit probeer soos jy voorgestel het, maar dit werk nie so lekker in Mail nie. Dit lyk my nie weet wanneer ek in Afrikaans tik nie. Alhoewel dit 100 persent reg werk in Safari.

Al verskil wat ek kan dink wat dit affekteer is dat ek Mail opgestel het om Google Mail te gebruik.

Enige idees?

Dankie weereens!

Paul

Same problem

I have the same problem - no idea why, sorry!

Thank you

Al wat ek kan sê is baie baie dankie

Afrikaans spell checker for email and documents on Word

I need to down load this, how do I do it. My need is mainly for business-related e-claims (lengthy) and documents/contracts.
Help will be much appreciated. I am 73 and not a computer boff , but I can find my way around with a little help.

Re: Afrikaans spell checker for email and documents on Word

@John: As mentioned in my email to you back in November, the spellchecker discussed on this page is for OpenOffice.org (not for Word). However, the CTexT spellchecker (sold by BlueTek and Kalahari.net) works with Microsoft Office, and I believe the one mentioned by Riaan Engelbrecht below also works with Microsoft Word.

Afrikaans Spell Checker

Hi All,

The best spell checker is from http://www.wspel.co.za/ and works brilliantly on all Windows applications.

A bit of a schlep to install but after this, no problems. I have used it for years.