No Longer Spellbound

One last thought about spell checking.

I mentioned a few days ago how much I depend on red-squiggle on-the-fly spelling and grammar checking, especially in Word.

From time to time, though, I have to admit that I've typed a word I thought might be misspelled and then sat, waiting to see if the red squiggle was going to show up or not. Sometimes, I've even been known to type some garbage like "zyzxzzpz" to see if it gets squiggled, thus letting me know that the spell checker wasn't just still in the background doing its work.

Until I discovered the spelling icon in the Word status bar, that is.

One of the components of the on-the-fly spell checker is an icon in the Word status bar. This icon shows the status of the spelling and grammar checker: whether it is still working or not, and whether there are errors in the document or not. Think of it as a subtle "The spelling check is complete" dialog that doesn’t interrupt your work process.

Here's how it works. Look for the icon at the bottom of the Word window that looks kind of like a book. It will likely be in one of three states: an animated pencil drawing on it, a big red X over it, or a blue checkmark on it.

The pencil indicates that the spelling and grammar checker is still working, the red X means that there are errors in the document (click it to navigate between them), and the blue checkmark means that the check is complete and there are no errors.

Armed with this information, I know when I see the blue checkmark that I'm ready to print or send off my document. (Or publish this blog post--there it is. Go!)

Comments (22)

  1. Francis says:

    I use that icon for an entirely different purpose: to see whether Word’s sometimes overzealous background spell checking is the reason why my computer is locking up!

    (If only the spell checker were a separate thread, with idle priority….)

  2. I think it’s a waste of screen space.  The total amount of time I want to know the spellcheck state doesn’t multiply out to being worth reserving even a single pixel’s worth of constant screen.  

  3. Dave says:

    Carl: You can just right click the status bar to get the settings menu and turn off the "Spelling and Grammar Check" item if you want to remove that "waste of screen space".

  4. Jeff says:

    Note that at least as of beta2, the status bar doesn’t always remember what you’ve unticked.  For example, try unticking View Shortcuts.

  5. jensenh says:


    That looks like a bug.  I repro it in my current build as well.  I’ll check into it.

  6. [ICR] says:

    I use this alot. If you are typing a long paragraph it’s easier to quickly glance down to the icon to check if there are any errors rather than scan the document.

    I use it less for reviewing after I have finished, as I do that whilst I’m proofreading.

  7. If I never sent out a document until the Spelling and Grammar Status button showed a check mark, I’d never send out a document. I use a *lot* of words Word doesn’t know about (especially names), and I’m not about to add all of them to my custom dictionary or even bother to Ignore them. But I didn’t know I could double-click on the icon to find them; that’s a useful tip.

  8. shawnst says:

    Cool feature, didn’t realize it existed even in older versions of Word.

    However I have to say I just hat it when people on are team still miss errors be fore sending there mail about a moral event cursing on Lake Washington form Seattle to Kirkland.

    Checkmark icon, ready for print! 🙂

  9. shawnst says:

    … though I should have tried that paragraph in Office 2007 before posting. 🙂

    It caught 5 of the 7 errors I introduced, none of which were caught by Office 2003, and of those 5 errors it offered correct suggestions for 4 of them. (1 error with no suggestion) Awesome!

  10. Milan says:

    So you remembered! Finaly.

  11. Guido says:

    Why that image with the key of all three icons isn’t on the tooltip for that icon is beyond me 😛

    That’s where "super" tooltips become useful (if they are implemented, that is)

  12. edithst says:

    Thank you so much for explaining the  spell check icon. I’ll bet lots of ordinary users like me never knew it existed. It’s so much easier to use than spell checking the normal way. It might be nice if in Office 2007 there could be a tooltip for spell check that lets people know about it.

  13. Tomo says:

    Well that’s very nice, and it’s good to know that one of my favourite features of Word 2003 is still there.

    Have a look at the status bar in Word 2003 <a href="">circled</a&gt;

    You’ll notice the ‘spellcheck’ icon also has a label next to it showking what language it’s set to – I hope this is still there, as there’s nothing more annoying than when Word 2003 resets itself to American spelling.

    (The black bar is because I’ve cropped vertical space rather enthusiastically.)

    On another note – Word 2003 resets to American spelling rather a lot on my laptop. True, my laptop has an American keyboard, but its locale is set to the UK, so why does it keep changing?

    You’ll also notice that I’ve got the toolbars on one line, and that the ruler is visible – I use the ruler often, as it’s the easiest way to setup tab spacings and indents, because I can immediately see what the change I’ve made will do.

  14. Simon Masters says:

    I am looking to parse text to obtain strings in a format for AI processing:

    For example I want to "spell check"

    Simon Masters has eMail Address

    and get

    <Subject Text:=Simon Masters bProperNoun:=True> <Verb: To Have Tense:Present> <eMail:>

    If anyone has any ideas I would like to hear


  15. Gerv says:

    If you are dependent on red-squiggle-underlining, then switch your browser to Firefox 2.0 alpha 3 and you can have it in web page form fields too 🙂

  16. Frank says:

    I’m trying to add a custom dictionary (Irish).  I’m told to save as Unicode which I do.  Though it shows up in dialogue box it still doesn’t work. Any thoughts, ideas?

  17. To answer Tomo, you need to set your location in the Control Panel as well as the language in Word (and disable auto switching). See

  18. Lyle Jenkins says:

    I can’t get the spelling icon to appear on the status bar in Beta 7.

    When I right-click on the status bar, "Spelling and Grammar Check" is checked.

    I tried unchecking it and re-checking it a few times (and restarting Word).

    Nonetheless, all I see on the left of the status bar are page no., word count and macro buttons and on the right display modes and zoom.

    No spelling icon.  Any ideas?



  19. Lyle Jenkins says:

    I found the answer to my question about why the spelling icon was not appearing on the status bar.

    You also have to have "Check spelling as you type" checked in Word Options.

    That is easy to miss if you _don’t_ want spelling to be checked while you type; i.e., don’t want distracting squigglies, but want to have the spelling icon on the status bar at the end for a spelling check before sending out your document.


  20. Andres says:

    I have a problem with teh spellcheck. Everything that I type is correct. Even when I put something like asfklajsf, it says that is correct.

    If anyone has an answer plese help me.

  21. Stevbe says:

    <in the Control Panel as well as the language in Word>

    wonderful … why do I need to tell it two times? That’s right … MSOffice could care less about the OS … nice to see MS working together to make out computing life easier 🙁

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