Using a Custom Spell-Checker in Excel and Word

John Partridge

Most computer users will be aware that Word (and most other word-processors) have spell-checkers – Word’s is also usable from Excel, and it is possible to make your own list of words, so that your articles for Worcestershire Record and your Excel spreadsheets for Worcestershire Biological Records Centre (WBRC) can have those Scientific Names checked for accuracy.

Pressing F7 brings up the spellchecker, and you can add words to the custom dictionary from here – but it will take you a long time.

The method that I have tried is to produce a list of all the species that have been recorded in Worcestershire, using Recorder and selecting the Preferred Names. Since the spell checker will not check the full Scientific Name, since it is usually two words, I split the names at the space between Species and Genus. (Using Data>Text to Columns), and then got just one of each using Data>Filter>Advanced Filter, checking Unique Values.

A single list is then put together which contains all the used Genera and all the used Species - surprisingly only around 17000 words. This list is then produced as a .txt list, and copied and pasted into the file custom.dic

But first you have to find it. On my computer a search reveals it at:

"C:\Documents and Settings\user1\Application Data\Microsoft\Proof\custom.dic"

Your new spell-checker can be used on your Excel sheet by highlighting all the species list, and pressing F7. If a mismatch is found, there are alternative suggestions made for replacement values – but whether these are useful depends on the extent of your mis-spelling.

Unfortunately, it will not be much use if you have paired up the wrong Genus & Species, because it will pass both of them, and it will not tell you if you have used castanea instead of castaneum or castaneus, for they are all in the dictionary.

A possible way round would be to make all the names into one word e.g. Misumena_vatia, both for the dictionary, and in your Excel spreadsheet. Unfortunately this seems to produce error messages because some of the entries are more than 65 characters long. Perhaps someone can come with another alternative.

If anyone would like a copy of my custom.dic, I will happily supply it.