Thunderbird – Now with On-The-Fly Spellchecking

If you’ve used Microsoft Word — or really any word processor released within the last decade — you’ve probably seen those squiggly red lines underneath misspelled words. And, that’s now been added to Thunderbird as well. (Thunderbird is the free e-mail client from the organization that made Firefox.)

The thing is, the feature has been added to the Thunderbird codebase but there hasn’t been a Thunderbird release since then ;). Bug 278310 dealt with adding inline spellchecking to Thunderbird and that bug was fixed on February 2nd which means that the last release (1.0) from December 7th doesn’t yet include that code. Fortunately, the Mozilla Foundation (the people that make Thunderbird) release “nightly builds” which are built every evening from the current codebase.

[If you’re not running Windows, you can skip to the last paragraph of this entry.] While the Mozilla Foundation releases nightly builds for each platform, some third party developers also release optimized builds — these are designed specifically for the processor in your PC and run faster than the all-purpose official builds. And, when it comes to Thunderbird, a fellow named Moox releases several optimized builds. Just go to the “Thunderbird Trunk Builds” section of the page and download the build with the most recent date that corresponds to your processor:

  • M3 for Athlon Opteron/FX/64/Sempron and Intel Xeon/Pentium M/Pentium 4/Celeron D
  • M2 for Athlon XP/MP/Sempron/Duron, Pentium 3 and Celeron processors
  • M1 for AMD Athlon/K6-2 and Intel Pentium/Pentium2/PentiumPro

Suppose you’re running an Athlon XP system — the build for you would be “mozillathunderbird_20050218_trunk_ce_m2.exe” (which is the latest “M2” build as of this writing). The builds from Moox are self-extracting .exe files which include a “Thunderbird” base directory; so, if you want to run Thunderbird from C:\Program Files\Thunderbird\, set the self-extractor to extract to C:\Program Files\.

Once you’ve installed the new Thunderbird (from Windows, above, or for other platforms, from the official site), you’ll need to activate it. Just load up Thunderbird and go to Tools -> Options -> Composition and checkmark “Enable spell as you type” (I’d also recommend checkmarking “Check spelling before sending”, just to be sure). And, while you’re in the “Composition” options area, you may also notice another new option, “AutoSave every xx minutes” — I find that pretty handy and I’ve turned that on as well.

PS Need spellchecking for input elements and textareas in Firefox? Give Spellbound a try.

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