In both OpenOffice and LibreOffice, the problem of spellchecking multiple languages within the same document has been there since day one (StarOffice) and I cannot understand why it’s not been fixed (it’s an infuriating irritation and has annoyed many of us users for years).
The problem is so bad that my pragmatic solution is to cut the text out of LibO and paste it into Microsoft Word where it’s checked and corrected, then when finished I paste it back into LibO.
If you think about it, this is an absolutely ridiculous situation. LibO’s developers have known about this problem from old [others and I raised the matter years ago] but they’ve chosen to do nothing about it. One can only assume that they take precious little notice of complaints from within these posts and or they consider fixing such a basic and prosaic LibO design limitation as too demeaning or unimportant for them to bother with.
In essence, the whole spelling/dictionary matter is a mess. Leaving aside the separate but related problems of grossly outdated dictionaries, dictionary engines with horrible and inadequate pattern recognition and the lack of any half-reasonable grammar checker, the installation and management of dictionaries per se is so bad that I know of organizations that have ditched LibO completely and returned to MSO just on that matter alone!
Even in the new version 6, many issues need addressing but here I’ll keep the focus narrowly on just one aspect of the spellchecking subsystem. It’s best to illustrate with an example (the one that brought me here looking for a quick fix, which I’ve failed so far to find).
First, the environment: the new LibreOffice 6.0 running on Windows 7 (but it’s immaterial, as all past versions have been the same—same with Linux versions too).
A shortened version of the problem:
I often write documents that contain more than one language within them, and as I’m not a fully proficient speller in my second languages, I require LibreOffice to recognize spelling errors and correct them within these ‘foreign’ text sections.
Here are the LibO 6 setup conditions for my problem:
Default UI: en_US; Default Locale: en_AU; Default Docs: en_AU; 2nd language: de_DE (German).
Installed dictionaries: en (English, all - US, AU, GB, etc.—latest Marco Pinto); de_DE (German); Fr and Es also installed but not used here.
Start by writing in English.
Then change to writing in German, then set (flag) that section as ‘German’ by highlighting it, then selecting the German language in Styles (why Language is hidden in Styles is of itself a $64,000 question.)
Then proceed to see if the second language speller (de_DE) is actually working by deliberately misspelling common words in the 2nd language (from long experience, one must always do this with LibO, it’s too risky to just assume it works—invariably it doesn’t).
The test failed (you’d think by version 6 it’d be fixed, wouldn’t you!). Here, the misspelt test word ‘Strassenbahnn’—a misspelling of Straßenbahn meaning ‘tram’ in English—is not detected as an error. Moreover, LibO makes no corrections or suggestions whatsoever. Actually, it says the ‘Spelling Check is Complete’ (meaning the spelling is correct when it is not).
No matter what the excuse, this is diabolically bad programming to say the least. Errors such as this should never occur in any program—irrespective of any installation mistake by the user. If there is actual text within the selection to be checked then it should pull up an actual dictionary even if it is an incorrect one. Here, we know that LibreOffice cannot have actually selected any dictionary—not even the default English one—because it failed to detect a word that is misspelt in every language! Bottom line: there was NO error message when something was clearly, blatantly, wrong!
Ensuring the German text is highlighted, I go to ‘Tools’|Spelling’ then select ‘German’ from the list of languages (all this additional mucking about ought to be unnecessary).
LibreOffice then finally tries to correct the incorrect German spelling but gets it wildly wrong. ‘Strassenbahnn’ is not corrected to Straßenbahn, instead the correction LibO finds is word ‘Vennbahntrassen’ (a compound word that’s not even close and which not even Google can Translate (I vaguely know the meaning but that’s another matter).
Note: This illustrates my earlier point about the pattern recognition algorithms within the LibreOffice speller being of very poor quality.
In summary, to put it bluntly, alone—just in this small section of the spelling subsystem in LibreOffice—there are two problematic matters that should have been fixed ages ago. First, is the horribly confusing ergonomics associated with the spelling subsystem, and second, the diabolical bug that says the text spelling is correct when the speller doesn’t even check it. I’m almost lost for words over such a huge bug!
From a user’s perspective there’s seems to have been precious little ergonomic design gone into LibreOffice—for example there’s no proper context-sensitive help. These matters ought to addressed ASAP. Perhaps specialists in ergonomics rather than programmers ought to head the design process. (This is not to say that LibO is alone or that MS is much better, that horrible Ribbon in MS Office ensures that many users grudgingly still persist with LibO.)
The Document Foundation ought to take these periphery issues seriously. When we’ve such important opensource software that’s been flaky for years and still remains unfixed, then it’s little wonder that cities like Munich are prepared to cut their losses and flee from opensource back to Microsoft. Everyone, in the opensource movement ought consider this a tragedy.