Setting up GNU ASpell for VAOS

GNU ASpell is a free Open Source spellchecker that consists of a commandline program (aspell.exe) that can be used as a standalone spellchecker, and also a DLL (aspell-15.dll) that can be integrated into an application program. The ASpell package itself does not contain any dictionaries, but dictionaries to be used with ASpell are available for a wide range of languages. You can download and install as many (or as few) languages as you need.

Note: As ASpell is a freestanding application and may be used as an external spellchecker by other applications than VAOS it is recommended that ASpell is NOT installed in the same directory as VAOS but is installed in its own directory as you would do with any other program.

Obtaining ASpell

The main project page for GNU ASpell is here.

Note that ASpell is primarily a Unix/Linux project and that the current Windows port is of version 0.50.3 (which is older than the latest Linux version).

The download site for the current version of ASpell for Windows is here.

You need to download both the ASpell program (the Full Installer link) and one or more dictionaries, one for each language that you wish to use. Note that the English dictionary contains all you need for British English and US English and Canadian English in one file.

Note These files are executable installation programs. You can download the files and run them from disk, or you can run them directly from the internet. Downloading them and running them from disk is highly recommended for several reasons:

  1. It enables you to use "Run as" to run the programs from an Administrative account, which you will need to do if you normally log in as a non-Administrative user.
  2. It ensures that your anti-virus software will be able to scan the programs for viruses before the programs are run (this should also be possible of you run directly from the internet, but it depends on the AV package in use).
  3. It means that you will be able to keep a copy of the installer program so that you will always be able to reinstall it if you need to, or repeat the installation if there is a problem, or install on a second computer, without downloading the file again.

The ASpell 0.50.5 manual available here is probably the version most applicable to ASpell 0.50.3 for Windows. You should not need to refer to the manual to use ASpell with VAOS, unless you need to tweak the configuration.

Installing ASpell

You should have downloaded two (or more) files

  • Aspell-0-50-3-3-Setup.exe
  • Aspell-en-0.50-2-3.exe (or some other dictionary(ies))

You should run Aspell-0-50-3-3-Setup.exe first to install the ASpell programs, and then run the installers for any dictionaries that you may require.

You can install ASpell to any location you like, such as "C:\ASpell" or "C:\Program Files\ASpell". The dictionary files should be installed to the same location – the installer for the dictionary will suggest that location automatically, so you need only accept it.

Note that the default configuration for ASpell places the personal dictionary files in the ASpell directory. If you install ASpell to C:\Program Files then ASpell will not be able to create the personal dictionary files in the default location. So do not install ASpell to C:\Program Files unless you are going to reconfigure ASpell to create the personal dictionary files elsewhere.


Unless you intend to customize the ASPell configuration (see below) it is considerably simpler (though a little less secure) NOT to install ASpell into C:\Program Files. Use C:\Aspell, or some other directory of your choice.

Configuring ASpell

ASpell reads global configuration information from a configuration file named aspell.conf, which it expects to find in the main ASpell installation directory (or not at all).

ASpell also reads personal configuration information from a configuration file named .aspell.conf (note the initial dot). ASpell looks for this file in the directory identified by the HOME environment variable, if one exists, or failing that in the main ASpell installation directory. Note that Windows does not create a HOME environment variable by default, but one can be set up for each user by using My Computer | Properties | Advanced | Environment Variables.

ASpell can also obtain configuration information directly from the environment. If there is an environment variable named ASPELL_CONF ASpell will parse it for configuration information.

The ASpell program, aspell.exe, which is not used by VAOS, can also accept configuration via commandline arguments.

There are many options that can be configured for ASpell; these are listed in the documentation. Note that some of the options apply only to the standalone ASpell application and are not relevant to VAOS.

Note that when using the spellchecker in VAOS you will select a language to be used when checking each message, and that this language selection overrides any default made in the ASpell configuration files. VAOS also always overrides the character encoding specified in the configuration file to force the use of ISO 8859-1, which is the closest available encoding to Windows Latin-1 (CP 1252) which is used internally by the VAOS message editor.

Note that the personal dictionary files are by default named "xx.pws" (for added words) and "xx.repl" (for added replacements) where "xx" is the main language code for the language ("en" for English, "it" for Italian, etc.) so there is a separate personal dictionary for each language (but no distinction between, say, en_GB and en_US).


There are two things to consider:

  1. Is ASpell installed in C:\Program Files? If so you need to configure the location for user dictionaries so that it it somewhere that ASPell can write to.
  2. Do you want all users to share configuration and user dictionaries, or do you want separate configuration and dictionaries for each user? If you want users to have separate configuration and/or dictionaries then you will need to configure it.

Note that if Aspell is installed in, say, C:\ASpell and no further configuration is carried out then the personal files will be created OK, but will be shared by all users.

If you do need to customize ASpell configuration the recommended way is to create a directory called ASpell in the application data directory for each user and to set the HOME environment variable for each user to point to that directory. This means that ASpell will by default look for .aspell.conf in that directory (so each user can set up his own configuration in that file) and will place any user dictionaries (created by the "Add" and "Replace all" options when checking spelling in VAOS) in that directory.

If your VAOS installation is used by several people (and they each have their own Windows login) and you want to share a set of configurations and dictionaries between them then you can set the HOME environment variable to point to a common location that all the users can write to (or, if ASpell is NOT installed in C:\Program Files, you can just use the defaults).

vaoshelp/aspellsetup.txt · Last modified: 08.08.2008 14:30 by daniel
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