Spelling checkers for work with TeX
“Traditional” approaches to the problem (of checking your spelling) were designed to work with a plain text file; in our case, we have an (La)TeX source. For the user, this is a simple-to-understand way to do the job; but for the spell-checker programmer, it requires heuristic (and hence fallible) analysis of (La)TeX macros and so on. The alternative, of viewing the text after (La)TeX has processed the results, is covered below.
The user of an shell/editor will usually find it embeds a spelling checker. For command-line use, there are several choices, depending on the system you're using.
ispell was long the program of choice; it is well
integrated with Emacs, and deals with some TeX syntax.
However, it has more-or-less been replaced everywhere, by
aspell, which was designed as a successor, and certainly
performs better on most metrics; there remains some question as to its
performance with (La)TeX sources. The most recent offering (which
is widely used in other open-source software projects) is
Hunspell is available for other architectures, too; a web
search shows versions available for Windows, at least.
For the Macintosh,
Excalibur has long been used;
its distribution comes with dictionaries for several languages.
Hunspell (see above) is actually part of OS X from version 10.6.
For MS-DOS, there are several programs.
Amspell can be called
from within an editor, and jspell is an extended version of
An alternative approach takes (La)TeX output, and checks that. A
straightforward approach is to produce PDF output, and process
pdftotext, using any plain text checker on the
result (the checkers listed above all work in this role). For this
to work reasonably well, the user should disable hyphenation before
making the PDF output.
The (experimental) LuaTeX/LaTeX package spelling goes
one step further: it uses
lua code to extract words
while typesetting is going on, but before hyphenation is
applied. Each word is looked up in a list of known bad spellings, and
the word highlighted if it appears there. In parallel, a text file is
created, which can be processed by a “normal” spelling checker to
produce a revised “bad spelling” list. (The package documentation
shows the end result; it includes words such as “spellling”, which are
Finally, TeXspell is a promising project by Jérome Eertmans. It relies on LanguageTool for grammar and spell checking, and OpenDetex for TeX document parsing. It's not yet fully usable but might be soon the most complete language checker for LaTeX documents.