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2. Getting Started

2.1 Requirements

Aspell requires gcc 2.95 (or better) as the C++ compiler. Other C++ compilers should work with some effort. Other C++ compilers for mostly POSIX compliant (Unix, Linux, BeOS, CygWin) systems should work with out any major problems provided that the compile can handle all of the advanced C++ features Aspell uses. C++ compilers for non-Unix systems might work but it will take some work. Aspell at very least requires a Unix-like environment (sh, grep, sed, tr, etc...) in order to build. Aspell also uses a few POSIX functions when necessary.

2.2 Obtaining

The latest version can always be found at GNU Aspell's home page at

2.3 Support

Support for Aspell can be found on the Aspell mailing lists. Instructions for joining the various mailing lists (and an archive of them) can be found off the Aspell home page at

2.4 Helping Out

I have very little time to work on Aspell so I desperately need other people to help with the development of Aspell. There are a lot of things that need to be done before I consider Aspell complete. See section B.2 for a list of them. I would really appreciate some help with doing them. If you are interested in helping with one of them please let me know.

I am also looking for someone to eventually take over the maintenance and development of Aspell. If you are interested please contact me directly.

2.5 Compiling & Installing

2.5.1 Generic Install Instructions

./configure && make
For additional configure options type ./configure --help. You can control what C++ compiler is used by setting the environmental variable CXX before running configure and you can control what flags are passed to the C++ compile via the environmental variable CXXFLAGS. Static libraries are disabled by default since static libraries will not work right due to the mixing of C and C++. When a C program links with the static libraries in Aspell it is likely to crash because Aspell's C++ objects are not getting initialized correctly. However, if for some reason you want them, you can enable them via --enable-static.

Aspell should then compile with out any additional user intervention. If you run into problems please first check the sections below as that might solve your problem.

To install the program simply type

make install
After Aspell is installed at least one dictionary needs to be installed. You can find them at The "aspell" program must be in your path in order for the dictionaries to install correctly.

If you do not have Ispell or the traditional Unix ``spell'' utility installed on your system than you should also copy the compatibly scripts ``ispell'' and ``spell'' located in the scripts/ directory into your binary directory which is usually /usr/local/bin so that programs that expect ispell or spell command will work correctly.

2.5.2 Curses Notes

If you are having problems compiling than the most likely reason is due to incompatibilities with the curses implementation on your system. If this is the case than you can explicitly disable the curses library with --disable-curses. By doing this you will lose the nice full screen interface but hopefully you will be able to at least get Aspell to compile correctly.

If the curses library is installed in a non-standard location than you can specify the library and include directory with --enable-curses=«lib» and --enable-curses-include=«dir». Lib can either be the complete path of the library (for example ``/usr/local/curses/libcurses.a''), the name of the library (for example ``ncurses'') or a combined location and library in the form ``-L«lib dir» -l«lib»'' (for example ``-L/usr/local/ncurses/lib -lncurses''). Dir is the location of the curses header files (for example ``/usr/local/ncurses/include'').

2.5.3 Upgrading from Aspell .33/Pspell .12

Aspell has undergone an extremely large number of changes since the previous Aspell/Pspell release. For one thing Pspell has been merged with Aspell so there in no longer two separate libraries you have to worry about.

Because of the massive changes between Aspell/Pspell and Aspell 0.50 you may want to clean out the old files before installing the the new Aspell. To do so do a ``make uninstall'' in the original Aspell and Pspell source directories.

The way dictionaries are handled has also changed. This includes a change in the naming conventions of both language names and dictionaries. Due to the language name change, your old personal dictionaries will not be recognized. However, you can import the old dictionaries by running the ``aspell-import'' script. This also means that dictionaries designed to work with older versions of Aspell are not likely to function correctly. Fortunately new dictionary packages are available for most languages. You can find them off of the Aspell home page at

The Pspell ABI is now part of Aspell except that the name of everything has changed due to the renaming of Pspell to Aspell. In particular please note the following name changes:

pspell -> aspell
manager -> speller
emulation -> enumeration
master_word_list -> main_word_list
Please also note that the name of the language-tag option has changed to lang. However, for backward compatible the language-tag option will still work.

However, you should also be able to build applications that require Pspell with the new Aspell as a backward compatibility header file is provided.

Due to a change in the way dictionaries are handled, scanning for .pwli files in order to get find out which dictionaries are available will no longer work. This means that programs that relied on this technique may have problems finding dictionaries. Fortunately, GNU Aspell now provided a uniform way to list all installed dictionaries via the C API. See the file ``list-dicts.c'' in the examples/ directory for an example of how to due this. Unfortunately there is isn't any simply way to find out which dictionaries are installed which will work with both the old Aspell/Pspell and the new GNU Aspell.

2.5.4 Upgrading from a pre-release snapshot

At the last minute I decided to merge the ``speller-util'' program into the main ``aspell'' program. You may right to remove that speller-util program to avoid confusion. This also means that dictionaries designed to work with the snapshot will no longer work with the official release.

2.5.5 Sun WorkShop 6 Compiler Notes

Thanks to Flemming Frandsen Aspell should be able to compile with the Sun WorkShop 6 Compiler. However, you may still have some problems. See the README file in the suncc/ directory for more detail.

2.5.6 Win32 Notes Getting

The latest version of the native Aspell/Win32 port can be found at Building

There are two basically different ways of building Aspell using GCC for Win32: You can either use the Cygwin compiler, which will produce binaries that depend on the posix layer in cygwin1.dll. The other way is using MinGW GCC, those binaries use the native C runtime from Microsoft (MSVCRT.DLL). If you intend to use or link against the Aspell libraries using a native Win32 compiler (e.g. MS Visual C++), you will need the MinGW built ones to avoid problems caused by the different runtime libraries.

Building Aspell using Cygwin: This works exactly like on other posix compatible systems using the "configure && make && make install" cycle. Some versions of Cygwin GCC will fail to link, this is caused by an incorrect in the /lib directory. After removing or renaming this file, the build progress should work (GCC-2.95 and GCC-3.x should work).

Building Aspell using MinGW: To compile Aspell with the MinGW compiler, you will need at least GCC-3.2 (as shipped with MinGW-2.0.3) and some GNU tools like rm and cp. The origin of those tools doesn't matter, it has shown to work with any tools from MinGW/MSys, Cygwin or Linux. To build Aspell, move into the win32 subdirectory and type "make". You can enable some additional build options by either commenting out the definitions at the head of the Makefile or passing those values as environment variables or at the make command line. Following options are supported:

If set to "1", the binaries will include debugging information (resulting in a much bigger size).
Enter the path to the pdcurses library here, in order to get a nicer console interface (see below).
Enter the filename of MS lib.exe here, if you want to build libraries that can be imported from MS Visual C++.
If set to "1", Aspell will detect the prefix from the path where the DLL resides (see below for further datails).
Sets a prefix to be used for cross compilation (e.g. "/usr/local/bin/i586-mingw32msvc-" to cross compile from linux).
There are also a MinGW compilers available for Cygwin and Linux, both versions are able to compile Aspell using the prebuilt Makefile. While the Cygwin port automatically detects the correct compiler, the Linux version depends on setting the "TARGET" variable in the Makefile (or environment) to the correct compiler prefix.

Other compilers may work. There is a patch for MS Visual C++ 6.0 available in the win32/ directory, but it needs a lot of changes to the Aspell sources. It has also been reported that the Intel C++ compiler can be used for compilation. (PD)Curses

In order to get the nice full screen interface when spell checking files a curses implementation that does not require Cygwin is required. The PDCurses ( implementation is known to work, other implementations may work however they have not been tested. See the previous section for information on specifying the location of the curses library and include file.

Curses notes: Directories

If Aspell is compiled with WIN32_RELOCATABLE=1, it can be run from any directory: It will set «prefix» according to its install location (assuming it resides in «prefix»\bin). Your personal wordlists will be saved in the «prefix» directory with their names changed from ``.aspell.<lang>.*'' to ``<lang>.*'' (you can override the path by setting the HOME environment variable). Installer

The installer registers the DLLs as shared libraries, you should increase the reference counter to avoid the libraries being uninstalled if your application still depends on them (and decrease it again when uninstalling your program). The reference counters are located under:


The install location and version numbers are stored under

HKLM\SOFTWARE\Aspell Win32 consoles

The console uses a different encoding than GUI applications, changing this to to a Windows encoding (e.g. 1252) is not supported on Win9x/Me. On WinNT (and later) those codepages can be set by first changing the console font to ``lucida console'', then changing the codepage using ``chcp 1252''.

Some alternative shells (e.g. MSys' rxvt or Cygwin's bash) do a codepage conversion (if correctly set up), so running Aspell inside those shells might be a workaround for Win9x.

2.6 Using aspell-import

The aspell-import Perl script will look for old personal dictionaries and will import them into GNU Aspell. It will look for both Ispell and Aspell ones. To use it just run it from the command prompt. If you get an error about /usr/bin/perl not being found than instead try ``perl «bindir»/aspell-import''. When running the script if you get a message like:

Error: No word lists can be found for the language "de".
This means that you have not installed support for the given language, in this case ``de'' for German. To rectify the situation download and install a dictionary designed to work with GNU Aspell 0.50 or better.

next up previous contents
Next: 3. Basic Usage Up: GNU Aspell 0.50.5 Previous: 1. Introduction   Contents
Kevin Atkinson 2004-02-10