How To Spell Check A Document Without A Word Processor

Ads by Google

Still copying text into Word so you can check your spelling? Stop. It’s 2013, and spell check is built into everything from browsers to PDF readers.

Old habits die hard, and when it comes to computers, it might mean you’re working harder than you need to. For a long time word processors like Word were the only programs on a computer to feature built-in spell check, meaning copying text to and from them was the quickest way to check for obvious mistakes.

That’s been over for a while, however. Here’s how to check your spelling in your browser, PDF files and more.

Spell Checking In Your Browser

This is either going to be painfully obvious, or blow your mind, but your browser has spell-check built in. Whether you’re filling out a form, sending an email or writing a document anything you spell incorrectly will be underlined in red. Right-click to see a list of suggestions.


How this works, and the dictionaries used, varies depending on your browser of choice. Here’s information direct from the companies behind your favorite browser, if you’re interested:

Note that third-party extensions can switch out the included spell checking for an alternative service. Dave points out that ezAutocorrect brings autocorrect to Chrome, for example, correcting your mistakes immediately. Danny points out that Ginger offers both spelling and grammar check for Firefox and Chrome.

Ads by Google

Spell Checking PDF Files

PDF files aren’t really meant to be edited – they’re the web’s answer to printed paper. So spell checking a PDF file without first copying the contents can be tricky.

Still, there’s ways to get around this. If you’ve got Adobe Acrobat you can edit a PDF with relative ease, complete with spell check, and there are tools for converting PDF files to DOC. But Adobe Reader, and similar software, doesn’t allow you to directly check the spelling of documents you’re reading – there’s just no point if you’re not also editing it.

The exception, of course, is a PDF form. Not sure what that is? Some PDFs are filled with text boxes to be filled out, so you can print and sign a filled-in form. And if you’re using Adobe Reader 7 or later, you’ve got access to spell check while you’re doing this. Just start filling out the form and any spelling mistakes will be pointed out to you:


Do you want to spell check in a language other than your system-wide default? Download this language pack for Adobe Reader (Windows) and you should be set.

Email Clients

I’m going to sound repetitive here, but odds are your email client already includes spell check. Major clients like Outlook, Thunderbird, Mac Mail and more all come with this ability built-in. Even the default client for Windows 8 includes it:


Mis-spelled words will be underlined, so click to see suggested alternatives.

Online Spell Checkers

Of course, if all else fails you can always copy the content from one program and paste it into another. A word processor is an obvious choice, but did you know there are websites that offer online spelling and grammar checks? After The Deadline, for example, offers an online form that can check your writing for mistakes:

There are other tools for the job. Tina outlined the top 5 OCR spell-checking tools, but most of her examples should work for just about anything you want to make sure of. Use them if you’re uncertain.

Other Programs

Still not sure if spell check is working? Remember, you may not be seeing any words underlined because you’re spelling everything correctly. Unlikely, sure, but it never hurts to type some gibberish (eg, asldhgopeyur) just to be sure.

This is far from an exhaustive list. I neglected to mention, for example, that if you’re using a Mac you’ll find spell checking and autocorrect follows you basically everywhere – even in simple programs like TextEdit. And a number of web services – including Gmail, Google Docs, and WordPress – provide a spell check you can use in addition to the one built into your web browser.  Spell check is a feature that’s built into almost everything, and in some ways it’s harder to find programs without spell check than ones with it.

Still, I’d like to know: which programs do you wish offered spell check? Let us know, but don’t be surprised if someone else tells you it’s already possible.

Ads by Google
Comments (16)
  • British Bob

    In my experience all spell checkers have a very basic problem…..Language! Even if they claim to be in a language you’re familiar with, often they are not.

    I am very tired of spell checkers trying or even changing basic English words.

    I am English not American so as an example I would use words like “recognise”….which is currently underlined in red because Chrome (firefox etc.) believes it should be the American spelling of “recognize.”

    Others are “neighbour” (neighbor) “favour” (favor) authorise (authorize) honour (honor.)

    There are many other examples, but generally when I write something I wish to express myself whether that be a resume, email or even a letter.

    Sometimes part of expressing one’s self is allowing everything to come through and the sterilising (sterilizing) of nationality defeats the purpose.

    When I load an English (U.K.) spelling checker I expect it to be just that. Not “well U.K. with bits of American!” and auto correction (as with apple and MS word) become very tedious.

  • Schalk

    I often have to review very large pdf documents and write a report.
    I want to spell check the pdf document without editing or converting it to word.
    Are there any spell checkers that will do the job?

    • Justin Pot

      I mean, not really. PDFs aren’t meant to be edited: they’re the virtual equivalent of a printed document. I could be wrong, but so far as I know nothing like what you’re looking for exists.

  • Matthew Gunnin

    I think you meant, “ezAutoCorrect”, not “exAutoCorrect”

    • Justin P

      Another way to spell check a document: upload it to the web and wait for the comments. :)

  • Gillian

    Did you mean to say that you might be repetitive, rather than receptive? (Beginning of the section on e-mail clients)

  • Scott

    I sometimes type long-ish emails first in a text editor like Metapad, which I can keep “always on top” so I can view videos and other content on the web in my browser in the background. :-) But it has no spell checker. Few free text editors do, from what I can tell. (DocPad does, but its ‘always on top’ feature is less than reliable and that feature is more important to me in a text editor right now than a spell checker.) Nevertheless, I would like to be able to spell check the contents of my Metapad text, but I don’t want to install a third-party spell checker that only checks everything I type anywhere on my computer. My browser and email client (Outlook 2007) do that on their own. And I really don’t need it anywhere else than my text editor.

    So… is there any spell checker that any people have found reliable and safe (including any of those mentioned above) that you know for sure can be customized to work with just ONE program (in my case, Metapad) rather than only working ‘globally’ ?

    Thanks ! :-)

    • Scott

      Okay, I found that Tinyspell allows me to disable it for all applications except my chosen one(s). That should work for my purposes. :-)

Load 10 more
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.