A&B Computing


Author: Des Thomas
Publisher: LTS
Machine: BBC Model B

Published in A&B Computing 2.07


Having used the clever little program Word Stopper from the LTS Language Development Pack, I was particularly interested to see what sort of package the same team had come up with in Edspell. One of the advantages offered by a word processor is that writing can be broken down into its component parts: composition, editing and printing, and the user - be it child or professional writer - is not forced to make decisions about all three simultaneously. As one young writer was quoted as saying recently: "We'll do the spelling afterwards!"

Edspell is a spelling checker designed to be used with text files produced with word processors, such as Wordwise or View. It also contains a simple editor which allows text to be prepared, amended and printed. The package contains a dictionary of about 6,000 words, which may be enlarged by adding a class dictionary. This can hold up to 1,000 words and may be merged with the main dictionary. Specialist class dictionaries can be built up of separate discs for use with different groups of children or in different subject areas. The 40 track version permits a maximum of 8,000 words, while the 80 track version holds 18,000 words - very creditable compilations, especially when one appreciates that the program will check a text in 26 and 75 seconds respectively.

The package contains two discs:

  1. The Utilities disc contains the Startup program and a Merge (dictionaries) program
  2. The Spellcheck disc contains the Editor and Spellchecking programs.

The first option on the Utilities disc asks the user to insert the Spellcheck disc, which immediately displays a menu:

  1. Save text
  2. Load new text
  3. Check spelling
  4. Print text
  5. Change printer options
  6. Exit

Pressing Escape takes the user straight into the Edit mode, i.e. the word processor facilities.

A sample 'text' is provided. If this is loaded, using option 2, it can be edited - using the Escape key to enter the edit mode - or have the spelling checked using option 3. The latter checks through the text (maximum 4.5K - approximately one A4 page) and displays the number of spelling errors or words not listed in the dictionary, and permits the user to list the words or display the text. This is done a word at a time at the bottom of the screen until an error/unknown word is encountered. This is highlighted in red, and it is then possible to accept the word and, assuming this is a new word for the program, add it to the dictionary, or reject it. In the latter case, the correct version is typed in, and the user asked if it is to be replaced every time. Pressing 'Y' will change the spelling of the misspelled word every time in the text from this point onwards. It is also possible to obtain a print out of the misspelled words.

After saving the text, the revised version can be seen and further edited - Spellchecker ignores punctuation and numbers and will not check for capital letters, nor will it recognises words out of context or when the wrong tense is used.

The Editor, as the handbook states, offers simple word processing facilities in a 40 character mode. The screen print is, therefore, of suitable size for youngsters being introduced to the idea, and the fact that the options are limited can be an advantage in the early stages. Maximum text allowed is about 96 lines in the 40 character mode, and there is a useful warning when this limit is approached. Users creating this quantity of text should be looking towards a more sophisticated system.

The Change Printer Options permit the format of the printout to be adjsuted to allow a maximum line length of 80 characters, double spacing and allow the printer to automatically skip over the perforations on continuous paper. Spellchecker can be used with text created with most word processors which save text in ASCII format, and I was pleased to see that it worked with files created with Edword Plus - the only one I know!

Two optional extras are available for the package at £2 each:

  1. Optional 'mini' dictionary. A disc containing approximately 300 words (based on a list of the most frequently used words) to allow the creation of an individual dictionary virtually from scratch.
  2. Edword Converter. This program is for those users of the Edword word processor who do not wish to purchase Edword Plus. It creates a file from an Edword text with Edspell can read and check, and it should be possible to load the new text file into Wordwise or View.

I like the philosophy behind this package, which encourages pupils to take greater responsibility for their own work and helps to develop the positive idea of editing rather than correcting. From the schools' point of view, it's the type of program that gives a positive lead to the future use of the micro in the development of creative language. Where a BBC computer is available at home it could be a very useful addition to the software collection, as it will help students of all ages.

Des Thomas

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