Google Docs Gets An Advanced Contextual Spell Checker

For the past two years or so, Google Docs has been my favorite word processing tool and I love using it every single day. Google Docs has all the things I need in a minimal yet advanced word processor program; the biggest advantage is that it is not as noisy as Microsoft office is. Sure, Microsoft Office has far richer controls and functions but in practice, I really don’t use any of those functions. Google Docs, on the other hand, stores all my documents in the cloud and allows me to collaborate over a document with friends or clients. I just love this real time docs experience!

The one thing I have always missed in Google Docs is a good full featured spell checker and a grammar corrector which would suggest me the correct usage of sentences, if in case they are as complex as this one is. The default spell checker in Google Docs is good but the spelling and grammatical suggestions are sometimes highly inaccurate and does not fit the context of the writing. There are a lot of words that don’t fit in a normal dictionary and Google Docs takes the usual approach of Microsoft office – dump in a dictionary of words, cross check each word against the dictionary database and show real time suggestions that appear to be a close match. Most of the times, it works. But sometimes, it doesn’t and if you are not cent percent confident regarding the suggestion, you have to Google it.

On another note, I really like how spelling suggestions in Google web search actually works. They are highly contextual and Google’s magical algorithm already knows whether I performed a spelling or grammatical mistake. Here is an example:

Google web search contextual suggestions

Before I could read my own query, Google matched it and found that although automapa is a proper word, it is not matching with the context of the query. A nearly close match is “automata” and lots of users have already performed the same query so there is a high chance that this user has performed a spelling mistake. Contextually perfect!

Good news for Google Docs users is that contextual spelling suggestions has been added to Google Docs recently. Google Docs will now show spelling suggestions that “grow and adapt with the web” so the usual dictionary route is dumped. This approach has a couple of advantages. First, no longer you would have top manually add local lingo to your Google Docs dictionary; if you are using a word that does not exist in a usual English dictionary but used by a lot of web users in their day to day web searches, chances are that Google will match that word in real time and show meaningful suggestions. Here is an example:

Contextual spelling suggestions in Google Docs

Second, contextual suggestions will be made even if a misspelled word is in the dictionary, and the best part is that the advanced contextual spell checker in Google Docs will “learn and adapt” to the habits of millions of other web users. This is really a welcome move to improve Google Docs spell checker and add a human touch, I just hope they add it to Android’s spell checker as well.

At the time of writing this post, the contextual spell checker is available for documents, presentations and excel spreadsheets written in English only; however, Google will soon roll out the same feature for other international languages as well.