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20 Dec 2009
Aspell under Windows

Aspell is a "cross-platform" spellchecker.

I say "cross-platform", since the official Linux release is currently 0.60.something, the official Windows version has been stuck at 0.50.something since 2002...

I recently needed to setup aspell under Windows centrally on a network share with a central config since it was going to be used by multiple PCs in the network for the very same task and I of course rather wanted to use the new 0.60 instead of the old one. So I googled a bit and I found many posts of people sharing the same fate as me, but I could only get three different answers:

  1. Get a patch for 0.60 that makes it compilable under Windows I only found one of those ominous patches and it was for VC++ with which I have made some bad experiences, so I refrained from doing that... Might work, might not, I don't know. Unfortunately I didn't jot down the URL of the page where I found it...

  2. Use the 0.50 version. Well, that's an option, but there is one very, VERY major disadvantage with that thing: You can't have a config file. I.e. in theory you can, but I couldn't figure out where to put it so aspell finds it and the crooked Windows port is compiled without the ominous --enable-win32-relocatable flag that would allow you to change the path it searches for the config file in. Which left me only with the third alternative.

  3. Use cygwin. That worked out pretty neat. First I thought I'd compile the 0.60 version under cygwin using mingw, but then I realised that there is already a precompiled package available! The only disadvantage here is the final size. Aspell itself is pretty much nothing, but cygwin adds a good 20MB to it...

So what I did was this: First I installed the package plus the two dictionaries I needed (en and de, both available as separate packages as well).

Then I did some file copying. I made the folder where aspell was to reside, let's call that x:\aspell and let's furthermore assume that cygwin is installed to c:\cygwin.

Then, from c:\cygwin\usr\bin I copied


to x:\aspell\bin.

After that, I copied the folder c:\cygwin\usr\lib\aspell-60_ to x:\aspell\data_.

And that's about it!

Now all that remains to do is to adjust the config file, I called it x:\aspell\aspell.conf:

prefix           /cygdrive/x/aspell
home-dir         /cygdrive/x/aspell/home
data-dir         /cygdrive/x/aspell/data
dict-dir         /cygdrive/x/aspell/data
local-data-dir   /cygdrive/x/aspell/data

Those lines tell it where to search for the data, dictionaries and user dictionaries.

Now you should be able to call aspell as

x:\aspell\bin\aspell.exe -a --conf-dir = x:\aspell --conf=aspell.conf --lang=en