Check your spelling in Firefox, IE

Get more out of the spell-checker built into Firefox and add spell-checking to Internet Explorer via the free IE7Pro add-on.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Dennis O'Reilly
3 min read

Some people seem to think they have carte blanche to spell any which way they want to when they're on the Internet. But whether you're writing Web mail or IMs, filling out a Web form, or just entering a term in Google's search box, spelling matters.

And that's not just because an abundance of spelling errors can make people think you're an eighth grade dropout. (Nothing against eighth grade dropouts!) It's also because misspellings can prevent you from finding the information you're searching for and lead to e-mail miscommunication.

Firefox 2 and 3 have spell-checkers built in, though they're pretty basic. That's a tad better than Internet Explorer 7, which comes spell-checker-less. Free dictionary add-ons enhance Firefox's spelling abilities, and the free IE7Pro provides IE with a way to minimize Web misspellings.

If you're an iGoogler, there's a great new gadget called SpellBoy that puts a spell-checker on your home page.

Activate Firefox's spell-checker
To enable the spell-checker in Firefox, click Tools > Options > Advanced > General, make sure "Check my spelling as I type" is checked, and click OK. Now you'll see the familiar red dots under words the browser's dictionary lacks (including "Firefox," surprisingly).

If you don't see the red dots under misspelled words, right-click and choose Check Spelling. Now when you right-click a misspelling you'll see a handful of optional spellings at the top of the context menu.

I wasn't particularly impressed with the choices Firefox presented for misspellings, so I downloaded the U.S. English dictionary add-on. While I was at it, I also installed the French dictionary add-on, just in case I bump into Ludivine Sagnier in a chat room someday. Right.

Give IE 7 some spelling skills
One of the many reasons I recommend IE7Pro to Internet Explorer users is the great spell-checker in the add-on. To get it operating, choose Tools > IE7Pro Preferences, click Spellchecking in the Modules pane of the Settings window, and click OK.

I was more impressed by IE7Pro's spelling suggestions than with those offered by Firefox's dictionary. As with Firefox, you can add dictionaries for other languages. Plus, you get all the other great IE7Pro features, including a customizable ad blocker and shortcut-key manager.

IE7Pro add-on for Internet Explorer 7
Add spell-checking to Internet Explorer 7 via the free IE7Pro add-on. IE7Pro

Put a spell checker on your home page
You can check your spelling from any browser by adding Christopher Blum's SpellBoy gadget for iGoogle. Type or paste text into the large SpellBoy window and click Check spelling.

SpellBoy spell-check gadget for iGoogle
The SpellBoy gadget for iGoogle puts a spell-checker on your browser's home page. Christopher Blum

The gadget gives you a count of possible misspellings and shows each underlined in red. Click one of the entries to see five possible corrections, as well as an empty text box you can use to type your own alternative spelling. Corrected words are shown with a green underline.

Note that this beta has no bells or whistles: You can't add languages or custom dictionaries. There were some comments from early users who claimed they were unable to delete the gadget, but I was able to remove it without any problems. Still, a beta is a beta, so use SpellBoy at your own risk.