Activating Dictionaries in NeoOffice 1.x

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N.B. This article covers the steps required to activate writing tools in NeoOffice 1.2.2 and earlier; for the steps to use in later versions, see Using Spellcheck in NeoOffice and related articles instead.

NeoOffice activates the language tools (spell check, thesaurus, etc.) for the language that is set as the default in the System Preferences when you launch NeoOffice, provided your language is one of the 12 shipped in the default NeoOffice install or you have the appropriate language pack installed.

Note that all the writing tools (dictionary, thesaurus, hyphenation) may not be available for all languages; some languages may have only one (usually the dictionary), and some may not have any tools at all.


Activating the Writing Tools for Your Preferred Language

First, check to see if your language is one of the 12 shipped in the default NeoOffice 1.x install; if your language is not one of those 12, you need to download and install the appropriate language pack in order to get the writing tools.

In order to active the writing tools for your preferred language, simply ensure that language is set as topmost one in the Languages: list in the Language tab of the International pane of the Mac OS X System Preferences before launching NeoOffice for the first time.

Note that some languages and local variants, such as Hungarian (Magyar) or Português do Brasil, do not appear in the Languages: list by default; you will have to press the "Edit…" button, check the desired language, and click "OK" before you will be able to move that language to the top of the list.

DO NOT use the Dictionary Autopilot (in the Autopilot submenu of the File menu) to add or enable writing tools in NeoOffice 1.2.2; doing so will install files that only work with 2.0 and which will cause NeoOffice 1.2.2 to crash when those writing tools are used. Only use the methods described on this page for adding and enabling writing tools.

Enabling Writing Tools for Additional Languages

NeoOffice 1.x does not activate all available dictionaries because of a crippling bug in the code which causes tremendous slowdowns when more than one or two dictionaries are activated. By default, NeoOffice uses only the dictionary for your default language.

If you desire to use writing tools for additional languages (e.g., to work on a document in French and German), you can follow these steps to activate the writing tools for additional languages (again, provided you have the appropriate language pack installed for languages other than the 12 in the default NeoOffice install). If you use Norwegian (Nynorsk or Bokmål) and run a version of Mac OS X prior to 10.4, see the section Norwegian and Mac OS X 10.3.x below for additional required steps.

For each additional language whose writing tools you wish to enable, perform the following steps:

  1. Install the appropriate language pack, if necessary.
  2. In the Language tab of the International pane of the Mac OS X System Preferences, set the language whose writing tools you wish to enable to be the topmost in the Languages: list.
  3. Launch NeoOffice.
    NeoOffice will enable the writing tools for the language selected in step 2.
  4. Quit NeoOffice.
    If you wish to enable writing tools for more languages, repeat steps 1-4 for each additional language.
  5. Finally, in the Language tab of the International pane of the Mac OS X System Preferences, set the language you wish to use for the user interface in NeoOffice to be the topmost in the Languages: list (i.e., choose the language that was set as topmost before beginning this process).

If you have multiple users on the same Macintosh, you will need to repeat steps 2-5 for each user, as the list of enabled writing tools is set per-user (each language pack needs only to be installed once, though).

Selecting the Dictionary to be Used in a Document or Section

If you have multiple languages and dictionaries enabled, you can control which dictionary is used in a document (or section thereof) by setting the appropriate preferences.

To set the language of an entire document, select Preferences… from the NeoOffice menu, then click the "plus in a box" next to Language Settings to expand that section. Next select the Languages item and set the "Default languages for documents" as desired (either for all new documents, or for the current document only with the appropriate checkbox).

To set the the language of a particular section of text, select the text and choose Character... from the Format menu; set the appropriate language via the appropriate Language box in the Font tab.

Be sure to set the language of the document and/or each section of text appropriately or spell-check will not work.


offers simple steps for constructing a macro to automate this process, for those who regularly use two or more languages. See this post on trinity for the steps.


Sometimes this process gets convoluted; there is a trinity thread that attempts to walk through troubleshooting why language (and thus dictionary) settings "don't stick" sometimes.

Changing the language of the NeoOffice user interface

NeoOffice uses the topmost language in the list in the International pane of the System Preferences to determine the interface language. For details on using an interface language other than the one specified in the System Preferences, consult Changing the Language of the User Interface.

Language-specific Notes

Norwegian and Mac OS X 10.3.x

Due to bugs in Apple's language codes in versions of Mac OS X prior to 10.4, dictionaries are not activated automatically when Norwegian is set as the top-most language in those versions of Mac OS X.

Beginning with NeoOffice 1.2 Alpha, if you choose "Norsk" in the System Preferences, NeoOffice will activate the Bokmål dictionary. In order to enable the Nynorsk dictionary, follow the steps below (if you do not wish to use the Nynorsk UI, simply quit NeoOffice after verifying the dictionary has been enabled and return the checkboxes to the state prior to following the below steps).

In order to work around the Apple bug and enable the Nynorsk Norwegian dictionary, follow these steps:

  1. First, ensure you have downloaded and installed the Scandanavian and Baltic language pack.
  2. Select the NeoOffice application in the Finder and choose Get Info from the Finder's File menu.
  3. In the "NeoOffice Info" window, click on the triangle to the left of Languages: to expand that section.
  4. Uncheck all of the languages except the variant of Norwegian you wish to enable.
    You must be a user with administrative rights in order to uncheck these boxes.
  5. Launch NeoOffice; your dictionary will be enabled, and NeoOffice will display the user interface in that variant.
  6. If you wish to enable dictionaries for a second variant, quit NeoOffice and repeat steps 4 and 5.
    Both dictionaries will remain active once they have been activated; however, only the language (Nynorsk or Bokmål) that is checked in the Languages: section of the "NeoOfficeJ Info" window will be used as the UI language. If more than one language is checked, NeoOffice will use the one that is first alphabetically.

Apple fixed this bug in Mac OS X 10.4, so users can add Nynorsk or Bokmål to the Languages: section of the International System Preferences and follow the normal steps to enable those dictionaries and choose one or the other as the UI language.

N.B. This Apple bug was partially worked around in NeoOffice 1.2 Alpha; however, users of Mac OS X 10.2.x and NeoOffice/J 1.1 will need to follow the full set of steps above.

English and non-US locales (NeoOffice/J 1.1 only)

N.B. This bug has been fixed in NeoOffice 1.2 Alpha. If your locale does not appear in the "Default languages for documents" item, please file a bug. (Also note that explicitly setting the "Locale Setting" is no longer necessary. As long as the correct language is selected in "Default languages for documents", the correct currency will be chosen.)

Note: The following is applicable to all non-US English locales (e.g., Australian English, Canadian English, etc.) for which NeoOffice/J has a language option; substitute your language/currency in the appropriate places. It is also applicable to all locales that are not the "mother locale" for a language, e.g., fr-CA, fr-BE, etc.

For all English speakers, NeoOffice/J 1.1 installs the English (US) language dictionary and currency settings by default. If you wish to use the English language writing tools and currency settings specific to a non-US locale, before launching NeoOffice/J for the first time make sure you have your preferred English locale (e.g., British English) properly set in the Mac OS X System Preferences. This locale should be at the top of the list of languages in the Language tab of the International pane of the System Preferences (if need be, click the Edit List... button to add it).

Even with your preferred English locale at the top of the list, NeoOffice/J 1.1 may still default to English (US). If so, after launching NeoOffice/J 1.1, open the Preferences, expand the Language Settings section and click on Languages. Choose, e.g., English (UK) from the "Locale setting" menu in the right-hand pane; this will auto-populate the "Default currency" with GBP £ English (UK) and the "Default languages for documents" with English (UK) in the "Western" slot. This should properly set your version of English as the default language for all new documents.

If you have already installed NeoOffice/J 1.1, and the language settings are defaulted to English (US) and won't change to, e.g., English (UK) using the steps above, you can fix this by re-installing NeoOffice/J after you have set the System Language to, e.g., British English. You will also need to reset the NeoOffice/J preferences to their defaults prior to launch, so remove your ~/Library/NeoOfficeJ-1.1 folder as well.

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