You are surely aware Win7 is pretty cranky with permissions and the UAC. But it’s also good protection from sneaky installers and such. If you like the Notepad++ editor and want spellchecking, you’ll need to install Aspell with the appropriate language spelling dictionary.
The problem is you can’t use the built-in functions to add words directly which aren’t already in your Aspell dictionary. If you try, you’ll get an error about lacking permission to write to some file. There is a user dictionary function, but Win7 tends to block that as implemented in Notepad++ and there probably won’t be a fix any time soon (the problem is with Aspell, not Notepad++). Nor is it easy to figure out the work-around.
Here’s what I do: First, create in your own user Documents folder a plain text file
en.pws. The top line must be as follows:
personal_ws-1.1 en 13
The “en” part is simply the Aspell language abbreviation for English. Please note the number at the end must indicate the number of words in your personal dictionary. Right now, I have thirteen words. They must be stacked below this line, one word per line. I put them in alphabetical order and ignore case for my own use.
Then place a copy of this file in the top Aspell folder where it’s installed. On my Win7 64-bit, that’s:
C:\Program Files (x86)\Aspell
You’ll get an argument from UAC, but it can be easily overcome if your user account as Admin rights. As you use the editor, whenever Aspell finds a word it doesn’t recognize, and you know it’s correct, simply note the word and add it to your copy of the personal user dictionary in your Documents folder. In fact, I tend to open the dictionary file in a separate tab while editing other files. Be sure to increment the count in the top line to match the number of words. You may need to run the spellcheck more than once to be sure you caught all the words. Then copy this file again, overwriting the last copy you placed in the Aspell program folder. After a while, you should find yourself doing this less and less.
The acronym is popular in some places: FOSS = Free and Open Source Software. Some of the best stuff I use on this Win7 laptop are free.
Libre Office: This is the recent fork of Open Office once owned by Sun. When Oracle bought them out, they shut down a lot of the Open Source projects Sun supported. Open Office sat nearly dead for a long time, then was spun off eventually, but now it seems the bulk of developers moved to the new fork. Libre can import almost every feature from any version of MS Office. An example of what doesn’t work is pivot tables in the Excel sheets, but then, Libre Office does over a million rows and Excel is limited to 64K. And while it imports and exports MS file formats with ease, including some older version the current MS Office won’t open, the native file format for Libre Office is usually smaller in size. It’s unlikely you’ll find any missing features you really need.
Pidgin IM: Instant Messaging client works with all the major protocols and some minor ones, too. Best of all, it doesn’t allow the worst of the snooping the other clients do, and doesn’t support the obligatory advertising junk which splatters the official clients. It works for me.
Bleachbit: A browser crap cleaner. It’s the only one I know for sure gets the nasty “evercookies” and almost all the various forms of persistent tracking measures various sites try to cram down your browser’s throat. You’ll need to spend some time reading what each of the options do and pick the ones which apply to you. It detects which browsers are installed. The best features are it removes all the web-bugs (tiny images with tracking codes imbedded), JScript tracking storage, and you really should have it eat your Flash cookies, too.
Free Commander: If you remember Norton Commander or Midnight Commander, this is for you. It’s a double-pane file manager which allows all the usual Windows features to work. Best of all, it’s the best and fastest FTP client I’ve ever used on Windows. I use it to upload files to my static website, and it allows editing the files in place with my favorite text editors. If you’ve never used a dual-paned file browser, you must not have had to move significant numbers of files. Just unzip it and install the executable that comes out.
I typically use two different text editors. One I use for files which need soft-wrapped lines. This is the Windows standard and is okay for most text files, but it works really well for stuff I intend to paste into the blog editor window. The other editor is the standard hard-wrap browser used for actually creating web pages. If you’ve ever had to go back and edit HTML, you’ll appreciate hard returns which limit the line length. But if you aren’t of a geek’s bent, you won’t like either one of my choices.
Notepad++: This I use for soft-wrapped files. It comes with a host of nifty plugins, and works with the famous Aspell library. The one problem you’ll have with this is you can’t easily add or edit the user’s dictionary. I’ll have to write a separate post on that issue, but it requires a bit of work because of the way permissions work on files. I find it worthwhile, because this is the best free editor for the purpose on Win7.
Vim for Windows: This is by far one of the best plain text editors ever invented. If you are a computer geek, you already know about it. If not, you can still come pretty close: Cream is an overlay of Vim which makes it more sane for non-geeks. The menu system is easier to understand, and most of your common keystrokes work the same as with other editors. What I find so important for me is the extreme adaptability; it can be configured in ways you’d never imagine. Explore the “Preferences” menus and sub-menus. I set it to display in a black background and colored text, and the syntax highlighting for HTML is extravagant. The editor does a fair job of applying HTML syntax to the text it affects, which helps you avoid forgetting to insert the closing tags on lots of things. It has lots of quirks, and you’ll have to learn an awful lot, but I get more from it than I’ve ever put in.
PuTTy: God bless Simon Tatham! My static site account runs on a Linux machine, and Linux rocks on the server. I can access my shell account from Windows using PuTTy. It opens a Linux terminal window via SSH protocol and I can hack to my heart’s content. Once you properly configure it, which means ignoring most of the settings and simply setting up the connections you use most, there’s nothing like it.
PySolFC: That’s Python Solitaire Fan Club Edition. The most extravagant collection of card and mahjong tile games you’ve ever seen in one place. It comes with built-in mood music. (I learned how to add my own favorites; it’s basically the old MOD music files.) It also comes with a large collection of event sounds, and you can turn them on or off individually. For an introvert like me, it’s one of the best ways to engage the ego so that the intuition can work away on something in the background. Good gaming.
Sumatra PDF Reader: This will hardly be as feature-full as the others, but it also lacks most of the security holes in the others. The one real drawback is the bundleware it seems we see everywhere these days, but it’s not hidden and it’s easy to say “no.” It doesn’t send any identifiable information about you, so far as I can tell, when it phones home periodically to check for updates. Yes, it does configure to be used in your browsers. (Libre Office will import and export PDFs if need editing capabilities.)
There are tons of other stuff out there, in varying degrees of complexity. Just ask; I may already know without having to research it.