Thunderbird gets a new spell checker, Firefox may follow

Hunspell, an open source spell checker engine has been added to Thunderbird 3 development code replacing previous MySpell engine that currently ships with Thunderbird 2.x and Firefox 2.x.

Hunspell also replaced MySpell as’s spell checker last year as it provides some unique and welcomed advantages including support for Asian languages, Unicode support, morphological analysis and support for complex compounds and agglutinative languages like Azeri, Basque, Estonian and Hungarian.

MySpell dictionaries are fully compatible with Hunspell which definitely helps for a very easy transition.

Interestingly, while looking around about Hunspell I found that project Runasimipi is creating a Hunspell Runasimi dictionary to be used with localized versions of Abiword, and Firefox at least. This looks as an amazing coincidence for me, as some days ago I was thinking about starting a Runasimi localized Firefox.

Runasimi, better known as Quechua (ketch-wa), is and official language in Peru and the second most spoken after Spanish with about 3 million speakers. An estimated total of 7 million speakers are counted in several other South American countries including Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile and Brazil.


  1. David Naylor July 4, 2007 1:33 am 

    Morphological analysis… does that mean that it will be … umm … smarter?

  2. Andrew Shumate July 11, 2007 1:36 am 

    Good… I always thought Firefox’s Spell Check was horrible. (For instance: I just misspelled SPELL as speel and spell was not a suggestion.

  3. Dafin Aziz July 17, 2007 6:32 am 

    Can they please add a transparent(variable opacity?) spell check window. It would help a lot, eg when seeing sentences in context etc.

  4. Tim R November 12, 2007 9:27 am 

    Thunderbird spell check seems to run but never finds any errors. Have I installed it incorrectly? How can I tun spell checking on?

  5. Robert Boland November 14, 2007 6:29 pm 

    My spell checker finds nothing. I have the spell checker turned on (Tools/options/composition) but it fails to find even the simplest misspelled word.

  6. Jim Dodgen December 11, 2007 4:05 pm 

    Any way to get the spell checker to weight the first character higher when giving suggestions?

    “asitance” comes back with “hesitance” and other derivatives when I missspell “assistance”

    “dirivitives” offers up “primitiveness” when MS Outlook finds “derivatives” as the first hit.

  7. Richard Davis February 11, 2008 8:22 pm 

    The spelling check in Firefox is far from perfect.

    Firstly they offer no help to the bad typist. Since we are all typists now – and untrained in the main – we have more typing errors than spelling errors – and so-called spell checkers should take account of this.

    I often mistype “Politics” as “POlitics” but the spell-checker is no help here. Firefox would be better with a better spelling and typing checker – and a way for people to add their own suggestions as to the word they meant to type

    • Jeff January 7, 2010 11:50 am 

      The lexical analyzer in GNU Aspell looks for common typing errors on QWERTY keyboards, but the current Firefox spellchecker (Hunspell) is more internationalizable, and better supported on different platforms. They want one spellchecker for everything (Aspell is designed specifically for English), even if it does the job poorly.

  8. A deep look to Firefox 3 Beta 3 : Mozilla Links February 12, 2008 5:27 pm 

    [...] MySpell spell-checking engine has been replaced with Hunspell which does a better job handling complex languages including Asians, Hungarian, Basque, [...]

  9. chris Patton March 24, 2008 9:43 am 

    I have just downloaded thunderbird and it works perfectly with one exception. The spellchecker simply is inactive. I tryed to download load it from monzilla without sucess. What can I do/ You can probbably tell from ths that my speling is atrocious. All advice welcome Chris.

  10. nick mcaman July 28, 2008 2:04 pm 

    My spell checker finds nothing as well. Am I doing something wrong?

  11. John Spencer September 9, 2008 3:03 pm 

    The thunderbird spell checker is dead in the water.
    you have to recheck line after line after line cos the thunderbird
    spell checker just looks at your words and goes huh what.
    Jeez there it is, TOOLs composition, you tick the box and zip.
    Dead as a dodo doo doo nothing. God make another one
    that works or something, it’s a piece of ap.

    The only thing it’s good at is making you look like a tit.

  12. icoste February 11, 2009 3:44 pm 

    Im my honest opinion, firefox is great (the stable versions), and a lot better than IE.

    But when it comes to mail clients outlook is far better than thunderbird. I think that Mozilla need to look again at what they are doing as ive thought about using thunderbird several times but always stuck with outlook.

    Hopefully one day thunderbird will improve because im sure there is a lot of room for improvement!

  13. Tyrone May 25, 2009 8:13 am 

    Unfortunately, Hunspell is notoriously poor at making correct spelling suggestions even when given rather trivial misspellings. It is so poor, that I have found that quite often I have to cut & paste the email into Word for spell check.

    • Jeff January 7, 2010 11:04 am 

      Correct suggestions is where GNU Aspell shines. The lexical analyzer takes into account common typos on QWERTY keyboards, as well as homophone and other errors. Used with the right options, it is usually about 98% probability that what you meant to type will be in the suggestion list.

      Unfortunately, Aspell is designed for English. Hunspell, which was originally designed for Hungarian, is apparently better for internationalization (read: the one spell checker for everyone, because we don’t want to have to maintain different versions of Thunderbird and Firefox for different languages). Hunspell also has better support across different platforms, while Aspell is maintained primarily for Un*x and Un*x-like systems (Linux, FreeBSD, Mac OS X, etc). Even the Opera development group dumped Aspell in favor of Hunspell for Opera 10.

      You paste into Word; I paste into an editor that uses Aspell (which I’ve found makes much better suggestions than Word). {shrug} What else can a body do?

  14. Larry June 16, 2009 8:06 pm 

    Thunderbird’s spell check is so horrible.An otherwise great product dragged down by that. I type fast and need a spell checker that works. And this idiot program can’t replace a capitalized word at the beginning of sentence with a capitalized word.

    Actually went back to Outlook Express because of it.

  15. Jim September 23, 2009 6:27 pm 

    Fire fox spell checker..
    very poor! pick list bad.

    Suggest match 1 letter of word match and match last letter.

    The match 2 letter of word then match second from last.


    This works from most English words

    Also, “add word” does to add: “Wal-Mart”
    Nor allow phrase ” United States Navy”


    The best spell checker is in Word Perfect.
    It has the best look function, too!

  16. Ricardo February 2, 2010 4:28 am 

    Thunderbird’s spell check is a complete disgrace!! I write in 3 languages and have no problem with the others. It is even more important for the English dictionary to be good because so many like myself, who’s first language is not English, have to write it on the Internet. I constantly have to find the right spelling by going to Google … maybe I should switch to Google Mail.

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