Empower InstaSpell has been around for quite awhile now but after RIM came out with a free native spell checker I thought it would be irrelevant. Now that I have had a few months to play with the native RIM spell checker I really have to say that InstaSpell easily outclasses the native spell check. It is almost like comparing WordPerfect spell checking with Microsoft Word. Ideally I wish RIM would just buy Empower’s product to replace their spell checker.
Some may call me nitpicky in this review but if you have ever used both programs side by side you would understand what I mean. Basic functionality such as spell checking anything other than emails is missing in the native spell check application. If you are curious to see why we gave InstaSpell the Editors Choice Award when compared to the RIM application then read the rest of the review after the jump.
Installation: This is about the only confusing part of InstaSpell. You need to first download the application and then the dictionary (The order is important). Once you have both installed you open up the application and click the button to install the dictionary. Keep in mind that the application is a bit large considering the fact that it has over 60,000 words indexed in less that 600k.
The RIM Native Spell checker:
First of all let me outline the shortcomings of the native RIM spell checker that was introduced in OS 4.2.2. First of all the spell checker has a definite lack of options as you can see below:
The ignore case/acronyms/words with numbers is a nice touch but my main gripe is the fact that there only the option to select if you wish to spell check an email before sending. This is extremely annoying because of one simple fact. If you don’t have this option enabled then the manual spell check option will only check either the subject or the body of the email but not both! I have no idea why they have this restriction.
The second gripe I have is that the process for spell checking before sending an email is annoying and lengthy. For example to cancel a spell check you have to go through the following 4 steps. You need to first click send, then see the spell check option, then click the menu button, then select cancel spell check, and then select the yes button for sending even though the spell check was canceled.
The third issue I have with the native RIM spell checker is that they do not allow you to import your contacts into the custom dictionary. The last issue is the straw that broke the camels back for me. It is the fact that the native RIM spell checker does not work with other native and 3rd party applications other than email. This means that even in RIM developed applications such as Google Talk you cannot spell check your messages. This is compounded by the fact that the native spell checker does not work with Text Messages, Notes, Tasks, Memos, Calendar items, or Contacts.
The InstaSpell Advantage:
First of all you get more useful options as you can see below:
You can also import your contacts into the custom word database so that it is not constantly checking names which is annoying.
The nice part is that it splits up your contacts dictionary from your personal custom dictionary as you can see in the menu. You can also manually add words and contacts this way.
The best feature in the whole application is the inline spell check option as you can see in the following screenshot. Unlike RIM’s application, InstaSpell automatically checks words as you type them so you know if you have any misspelled words. This means that you do not have to have the “spell check before you send” option enabled because you will know before hand if it is even worth spell checking a certain email.
Empower also found a way to automatically check both the subject and the body of an email unlike RIM’s native spell checker.
The other big kicker for InstaSpell is that it also works with 3rd party applications such as Google Talk and Yahoo. Another oversight of RIM’s that InstaSpell corrects is that it spell checks Text Messages, Notes, Tasks, Memo, Calendar, and Contacts.
The only issue I had with InstaSpell is that the custom dictionary is wiped clean every time you get a new BlackBerry or upgrade your OS. The nice part about the native RIM spell checker is that the information is stored in a database that is automatically sync-ed with your BES host if you have one. That means you do not lose your custom word list every time you change devices.
- Inline spell check as you type underlining misspelled words
- Great work flow (know which words are misspelled)
- Works with SMS, Notes, Tasks, Memo, Calendar, Contacts, and IM
- Imports your contacts
- Good options
- No backup of custom word lists
- Bit pricy when compared to the free version provided by RIM
The only gripe I have with InstaSpell is that it does not backup your custom word list. Other than that I really wish RIM would just incorporate InstaSpell into the BlackBerry OS instead of their tacked on spell check application. InstaSpell is like night and day when compared with the native RIM spell checker. If you are like me and only need to spell check certain emails every once in awhile it is nice to be able to visually see which words are misspelled instead of having to go through a 4 step process.
The only reason I could see for people not loving this application is that RIM’s native spell checker does a pretty good job for free. On the other hand if you are like me and want to be efficient the $15 is a small price to pay. Hopefully I can convince Empower to offer a discount for BerryReview readers in the near future. I think a $6–10 price point would be more reasonable considering the built in spell check functionality.