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6.1 Through the C API

The Aspell library contains two main classes and several helper classes. The two main classes are AspellConfig and AspellSpeller. The AspellConfig class is used to set initial defaults and to change spell checker specific options. The AspellSpeller class does most of the real work. The C API is responsible for managing the dictionaries, checking if a word is in the dictionary, and coming up with suggestions among other things. There are many helper classes the important ones are AspellWordList, AspellMutableWordList, Aspell*Enumeration. The AspellWordList classes is used for accessing the suggestion list, as well as the personal and suggestion word list currently in use. The AspellMutableWordList is used to manage the personal, and perhaps other, word lists. The Aspell*Enumeration classes are used for iterating through a list.

6.1.1 Usage

To use Aspell your application should include aspell.h. In order to ensure that all the necessary libraries are linked in libtool should be used to perform the linking. When using libtool simply linking with -laspell should be all that is necessary. When using shared libraries you might be able to simply link -laspell, but this is not recommended. This version of Aspell uses the CVS version of libtool however released versions of libtool should also work.

When your application first starts you should get a new configuration class with the command:

     AspellConfig * spell_config = new_aspell_config();

which will create a new AspellConfig class. It is allocated with new and it is your responsibility to delete it with delete_aspell_config. Once you have the config class you should set some variables. The most important one is the language variable. To do so use the command:

     aspell_config_replace(spell_config, "lang", "en_US");

which will set the default language to use to American English. The language is expected to be the standard two letter ISO 639 language code, with an optional two letter ISO 3166 country code after an underscore. You can set the preferred size via the size option, any extra info via the variety option, and the encoding via the encoding option. Other things you might want to set is the preferred spell checker to use, the search path for dictionaries, and the like — see The Options, for a list of all available options.

Whenever a new document is created a new AspellSpeller class should also be created. There should be one speller class per document. To create a new speller class use the new_aspell_speller and then cast it up using to_aspell_speller like so:

     AspellCanHaveError * possible_err = new_aspell_speller(spell_config);
     AspellSpeller * spell_checker = 0;
     if (aspell_error_number(possible_err) != 0)
       spell_checker = to_aspell_speller(possible_err);

which will create a new AspellSpeller class using the defaults found in spell_config. To find out which dictionary is selected the lang, size, and variety options may be examined. To find out the exact name of the dictionary the master option may be examined as well as the master-flags options to see if there were any special flags that were passed on to the module. The module option way also be examined to figure out which speller module was selected, but since there is only one this option will always be the same.

If for some reason you want to use different defaults simply clone spell_config and change the setting like so:

     AspellConfig * spell_config2 = aspell_config_clone(spell_config);
     aspell_config_replace(spell_config2, "lang","nl");
     possible_err = new_aspell_speller(spell_config2);

Once the speller class is created you can use the check method to see if a word in the document is correct like so:

     int correct = aspell_speller_check(spell_checker, word, size);

word is expected to be a const char * character string. If the encoding is set to be ucs-2 or ucs-4 word is expected to be a cast from either const u16int * or const u32int * respectively. u16int and u32int are generally unsigned short and unsigned int respectively. size is the length of the string or -1 if the string is null terminated. If the string is a cast from const u16int * or const u32int * then size is the amount of space in bytes the string takes up after being cast to const char * and not the true size of the string. sspell_speller_check will return 0 if it is not found and non-zero otherwise.

If the word is not correct, then the suggest method can be used to come up with likely replacements.

     AspellWordList * suggestions = aspell_speller_suggest(spell_checker,
                                                           word, size);
     AspellStringEnumeration * elements = aspell_word_list_elements(suggestions);
     const char * word;
     while ( (word = aspell_string_enumeration_next(aspell_elements)) != NULL )
       // add to suggestion list

Notice how elements is deleted but suggestions is not. The value returned by suggestions is only valid to the next call to suggest. Once a replacement is made the store_repl method should be used to communicate the replacement pair back to the spell checker (for the reason, see Notes on Storing Replacement Pairs). Its usage is as follows:

     aspell_speller_store_repl(spell_checker, misspelled_word, size,
                               correctly_spelled_word, size);

If the user decided to add the word to the session or personal dictionary the the word can be be added using the add_to_session or add_to_personal methods respectively like so:

     aspell_speller_add_to_session|personal(spell_checker, word, size);

It is better to let the spell checker manage these words rather than doing it yourself so that the words have a chance of appearing in the suggestion list.

Finally, when the document is closed the AspellSpeller class should be deleted like so:


6.1.2 API Reference

Methods that return a boolean result generally return false on error and true otherwise. To find out what went wrong use the error_number and error_message methods. Unless otherwise stated methods that return a const char * will return NULL on error. In general, the character string returned is only valid until the next method which returns a const char * is called.

For the details of the various classes please see the header files. In the future I will generate class references using some automated tool.

6.1.3 Examples

Two simple examples are included in the examples directory. The example-c program demonstrates most of the Aspell library functionality and the list-dicts lists the available dictionaries.

6.1.4 Notes About Thread Safety

Aspell should be thread safe, when used properly, as long as the underlying compiler, C and C++ library is thread safe. Aspell objects, including the AspellSpeller class, should not be used by multiple threads unless they are protected by locks or it is only accessed by read-only methods. A method is read-only only if a const object is passed in. Many methods that seam to be read-only are not because they may store state information in the object.