Bug in AutoCorrect annoys multilingual users

It is not always easy being a multilingual user of computer software, a point which is made clear by a highly annoying bug that has always been present in Entourage and has not been fixed in 2008 (yet).

Let us imagine a user called Pierre, a Frenchman who speaks French and English. Let us also imagine that Pierre is an Entourage user. Pierre uses a French keyboard, and he does most of his writing in French. He has specified French as the default language in Entourage, and whenever he writes an e-mail message in Entourage, his misspelled words are underlined and, should they be listed in the AutoCorrect list as well, are replaced by the correct spelling. There is nothing special about this situation since everything works as expected.

Let us now imagine that Pierre works for an international company and that a large volume of his electronic correspondence is in English. He chooses English (US) as the default spell checker language in Entourage, and as soon as he starts typing messages in Entourage, the words which he misspells are underlined. And that’s it. They are underlined, but they are not replaced; even the most obvious misspellings, such as “taht”, do not change (to “that”, in this particular case). Pierre is amazed: in Word, all these words are replaced as soon as he has finished typing them, so why does it not work in Entourage? A quick look at Tools>AutoCorrect in Entourage provides the explanation: even though the default spell checker language is set to English (US), the title bar of the AutoCorrect window reads “AutoCorrect: French”. This particular aspect is also the main concern of this post: even though Entourage lets you define a default spell checker language, the AutoCorrect language setting remains tied to the user’s keyboard layout. In other words, even though Pierre is trying to write a message in English and therefore needs to have access to the US English AutoCorrect settings, Entourage only provides the French settings since his keyboard layout is French! There is absolutely no logic to this approach: what is the point of AutoCorrect being aware that “abcisse” is spelled “abscisse” in French when a user has to write text in US English?

Of course, this bug does not affect too many people: monolingual users in large countries, such as the US, the UK, France or Germany will never notice the problem since everything is working as expected (as described in my first scenario). Any Entourage user who speaks more than one language, however, will be surprised by what at first seems to be a very half-baked solution: the spell checker seems to work, but it doesn’t correct any misspelled words, at least not in all of the languages which he or she knows. This might lead the user to believe that AutoCorrect does not work properly in Entourage, which is absolutely not the case; it does work, except that it does not work in any of the languages not specified by his or her keyboard layout. In other words, if Pierre wanted to access the US English AutoCorrect settings, he would actually have to switch the keyboard layout from French to US English and, by doing so, would have to remember an entirely different keyboard configuration (AZERTY vs. QWERTY). Additionally, he would also have to switch between the two keyboard layouts constantly, which, after some time, would either force him to get used to typing without relying on AutoCorrect or to give up on Entourage entirely.

In an ideal world, Entourage would base its AutoCorrect language not on the keyboard layout, but on the spell checking dictionary that is currently active. If this configuration were implemented, monolingual users would not notice any difference, and neither would the multilingual ones (once they had realised that AutoCorrect suddenly starts working). What can therefore be done about this issue? As usual, Microsoft needs to be told about this issue as frequently as possible, so if you share my frustration with this bug, click on Send Feedback on Entourage in Entourage’s Help menu and tell the Mac BU that you would like this bug to be fixed.

Incidentally, the same bug affected PowerPoint in Microsoft Office 2004, but it has now been fixed. Kudos to the PowerPoint team! Let’s hope the Entourage team will follow your good example!

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1 comment to Bug in AutoCorrect annoys multilingual users

  • jan

    Office 2007 Powerpoint is back with the bug, but haven’t installed SP2 to see if they fixed it again…