Getting back the old Word Spell Checker

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This, I suppose, is easier to say than to do. Still, it is something that I have, on more than one occasion, wished that Microsoft would take to heart. Items from recent memory include replacing the ultra-efficient Print dialog and Print Preview with the ultra-inefficient Print-Preview-and-Print in Word 2010, which is jack of all trades and decidedly master of none. Or removing the Autocorrect option from the spelling error context menu in Word 2013. Or removing the red/green/blue wavy underline colour scheme for spelling/grammar/contextual errors (admittedly, problematic for the colour-blind) and replacing it with red for spelling and blue for grammar and context combined (which I am still not certain works for all types of colour blindness, although that is not my area of expertise). Or the way they keep messing with the most-recently-used (MRU) file list—each version since Word 2007 has seen this change, and from my perspective, the iteration that was most useful to me was Word 2010, now two versions back already.

The problem

Another of these “improvements-as-regressions,” which I am writing about here, is replacing the Spelling and Grammar dialog with the Spelling pane (also in Word 2013, and persisting in Word 2016). Microsoft has had a long history with panes, a history that, to me, seems to have been very conflicted. For example, moving the Mail Merge wizard to the Mail Merge pane, and then obviating the need for it with the ribbon (the pane can still be accessed, though). Personally, I find panes to be, err, a pain!

The Spelling pane is especially irritating.

Compare the pane to the old dialog:


Figure 1    Spelling and Grammar dialog vs Spelling pane

First let me say what is nice about the pane (to be fair). If you open the pane and leave it there (which I am very unlikely to do), then as you move around your document, when you place the I-beam on an error (misspelled word or grammatical/contextual error) then you immediately get the spell checking options for that error. And (in an American accent), the pronunciation of the suggested word you have selected if it was a spelling error (I do not know how this is going to help me make up my mind which is the correct word, but hey, it’s there!). And, in an insincere nod to the disabled, the Spelling pane options have accelerator keys highlighted (e.g., Change) which you cannot use (or at least, I have not figured out how to use them). Yes, I am being sarcastic. The “features” of the new Spelling pane are not really, in my mind, all that great. I could easily get by without them. Really.

What is so bad about the pane, you may ask? Well, it’s not what it’s got that’s bad, but rather what went missing from the dialog to the pane. As with the context menu, AutoCorrect is missing. As is Undo. Microsoft might argue that Undo was not used here a lot, but when I was zipping along through a long document, trying to whip the spelling into shape, then I found that I have often clicked the Change button a bit too hastily (perhaps it’s just me). Having Undo there was really a time saver. I could also immediately go to Options…, which, in all truth, I can still do in the usual way when using the pane. I could also focus only on spelling by turning the grammar checking off with the Check grammar box, which also helped me manage my workload. So yes, I miss those tools. Oh, and the keyboard accelerators actually work. How about that?

The solution

So what do we do when Microsoft throws us a curveball like this?

Do what I did with the Print dialog (you can read about it in my book or see the discussion I have in the Word uTIlities Help file)—take back what is (rightfully) ours!

The nice part about this is that you can decide how fully you want to revert—you can keep the Spelling pane and add the Spelling and Grammar dialog, or you can more fully replace the Spelling pane with the dialog.

The first part of this is to add a macro that will give us the old dialog. So, press Alt+F8. Then, in the Macro name box of the Macros dialog, type SpellingAndGrammarDialog and click on Create (Figure 2).


Figure 2    Creating the SpellingAndGrammarDialog macro

This will open the VBA Editor, with the Sub and End Sub statements for the macro already created. All you need to add is one line of code:

Sub SpellingAndGrammarDialog ()
End Sub

Press Alt+Q to get back to Word and just remember to save the Normal Template.

To add this newly created tool over and above the Spelling pane, just add it to the QAT. To replace the Spelling pane, assign the F7 key to the macro, instead of ToolsProofing. If you really can’t live without the Spelling pane now and then, you can still access it from the Review ribbon tab (modifying the ribbon to point to the macro is beyond where I want to go with this post). Now, to get back to real efficient spell checking, just press F7!