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29 January 2006

Try One with Greek Spellchecking in vim

Not quite there yet, need wide curses

After getting utf8 input in my vim right (see older entries), my next task on the wish list is to get spell checking going for Greek text inside vim. Why? Obviously my spelling is lousy in Greek, so a spellchecker is a huge improvement for me. The spellchecker to have for vim seems to be Aspell. Downloading and compiling is easy enough, so I did that. What I did not get just right yet is the display of that pesky Unicode UTF-8 stuff... but I learned something in the process.

Even while I was running ./configure I was informed, that...

checking for wide character support in curses libraray... no
configure: WARNING: Aspell will not be able to Display UTF-8 
characters correctly.

...bummer. With Greek, UTF-8 is what we want. I gave it a try anyway. The compile and install went just fine, same for the English, German, and Greek dictionaries I had downloaded. Having such a program out there, and for free is big in itself.

So I tried running it. The documentation is there, but it is a bit thin on what one should expect when actually running the program. Which isn't too bad, since the usage is pretty simple, all keyboard commands are right there on the screen. As for the UTF-8, no luck, the configure message was right, display of UTF-8 is hosed. I went looking into the man page to see if there are any options I might try. To my surprise there is an option --encoding=something, that one has to set up for utf-8. But to even greater surprise, the man page says that utf-8 is not implemented yet. I tried that option anyway and it works. Looks like the man page is outdated in this point.

Without --encoding=utf-8 Aspell is just plain clueless about the Greek text coming in, it gets just plain messed up, Aspell just can't read the text. When I use that option this gets better, obviously Aspell can now read the text. But the display of the text and the suggestions is still messed up. Reason: I need a curses library that can handle "wide" text, e.g. UTF-8 Unicode. And here is the point where I learned something else too: Very likely the suboptimal and error prone display of UTF-8 in mutt and lynx on my system is due to the same curses library that is not UTF-8 aware. My next try will be to get hold of another curses library, maybe I can get one to compile on Mac OS X and see how that changes the game.

Posted by betabug at 22:59 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
ch athens
Life in Athens (Greece) for a foreigner from the other side of the mountains. And with an interest in digital life and the feeling of change in a big city. Multilingual English - German - Greek.
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Hi there...

Hi Sascha,
I came across your website by accident when I was searching for ''Expat in Athens'' type things.. Just wanted to let you know that I co-run an expat group in Athens for young people (i.e. under 40) which we set up about 4 months ago and is turning out to be pretty big (60 people involved, 25 turning up regularly!) and fun - we get togethre for dinner, drinks etc. every 1 - 2 weeks. If you'd be at all interested (?) you can register at
By the way, I lived in Geneva the last 4 years (although I am British) so we could reminisce about Co-op and Migros : )

Posted by: Jenny at January 31,2006 09:04
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