User Dictionaries – a Fundamental Design Flaw

I have just had to add several words to the user dictionary for the spell-checker in Notepad++, that I have already added to my user dictionary in LibreOffice, and to my user dictionary in (all under Windows 10 – does this happen with user dictionaries under Unix & Mac operating systems?).

Notepad++ spell-checker, not recognising the word 'Mabbett'

Under , a user should not have to accept a word’s spelling more than once.

User dictionaries should not be in a “walled garden” within an application. They should exist at operating-system level, or more specifically, at user-account level.

Or, until Microsoft (and other operating system vendors) implement this, applications — at least, open source applications like those listed above — should make their user dictionaries accessible to each other.

Some issues to consider: users with dictionaries in more than one language; security.

Prior art: I raised a Notepad++ ticket about this. It was (not unreasonably) closed, with a pointer to this DSpellCheck ticket on the same subject.

4 thoughts on “User Dictionaries – a Fundamental Design Flaw

  1. Aharoni

    I’d go further and say that there should be an option to share your dictionaries with the people who maintain them.

    English has huge spelling dictionaries. In fact, I was told that the dictionary that is shipped with Firefox is trimmed from the source data, and only 80000 or so most commonly words are included. The words you add to your user dictionary are probably names of people or technical terms from your line of work.

    For many other languages the dictionary is small or non-existent. Unfortunately I am not aware of any crowdsourcing platform for buildings such dictionaries. It would therefore be nice to build one by allowing people to share what they have.

    1. Andy Mabbett Post author

      Yes – I know what you mean.

      Here’s one I compiled in 2001 (last updated 2002), for birds that occur in the United Kingdom. It incudes both common and scientific names, as well as codes used by bird ringers, and the names of a few people, such as the authors some important field-guides.

      I made another, a long time ago, for my then employer, for places in, and people/ organisations associated with, my home city. The Wayback machine may have it, but is being flaky as I write.

      Perhaps a tool to extract spell-check lists for other languages, from Wiktionary, or Wikidata labels, could be built?

  2. Tom Forth

    My understanding is that Windows has had a system-level user dictionary since version 8. But that very few apps use it. — it’s certainly available to me as a developer of UWP apps, but the vast majority of apps (Microsoft Office, Chrome, etc…) are still written as Windows Desktop apps.

    A bit more digging suggests that Mac OS X also has a system-level user dictionary but that it too is ignored by many popular applications such as Microsoft Office and Google Chrome.

    So it seems that operating system manufacturers agree with you, it’s just that on legacy platforms they can’t force developers to use the systems that they’ve implemented. In newer operating systems like iOS and Android (and Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 S) a single system-level user dictionary is easier to enforce because almost all text input goes via the OS-managed input layer of an on-screen keyboard.


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