Enso Words is a free program that offers a number of text-related functions that can be performed universally within any application.
These include a spellcheck, word definitions, thesaurus, word and character counts, uppercase/lowercase conversions, instantly Googling selected text, and others.
“Enso Words is part of the Enso group of applications, a collection of task-oriented software that employ the same basic interface and method of interaction with the user.
They are designed to perform simple tasks – tasks that might otherwise interrupt your workflow or require shifting your focus from your work- quickly and easily. Here are more notes on Enso Words:
- The User Interface: first select a text or word, then press a hotkey (the caps lock button) that brings out a kind of command prompt overlayed on top of all open windows in the top left corner of the screen. Here, you can type in a handful of commands that perform the available functions. The program will immediately offer several “autocompleted” commands that are filtered as you type, making it very easy to hone in on the task that you seek (see first screenshot above).
- Available tasks: include spell check, word definitions, thesaurus, word count, character count, uppercase selected text, lowercase selected text, Google selected text, calculate (for on-the-fly calculations) and even cut/copy/paste text for apps that do not support these natively.
- Online tasks: note that the word definition and thesaurus require an internet connection and will in fact open the answers.com webpage as reference. The spellchecker, thankfully, is local.
- The spell check: is performed within a window that overlays itself on top of your application, and is limited to English, at least at the moment. Unrecognized words are highlighted in yellow and left-clicking these will display a dropdown containing suggested spellings that you can choose. You can also add unrecognized words to the database. The spell check is powerful and works really well; one glitch, however, is that it can, at times, mess up your text’s formatting (this happened both in MS Word and Post2blog, the program I use to write my blog postings).
- The coolness factor: is undeniable. This software evokes a feeling of well-designed efficiency. My guess is that this has to do with (a) the simplicity of the interface, (b) the notion of using typed-in commands (with its suggested illusion that you can type in anything and the computer will understand), and (c) the overall sleekness of the visuals.
- Resource consumption: uses approx 38 megs of RAM, which is not an insignificant chunk for a universal spell check program. Such is the price to pay for coolness, but if you would rather install a free universal spellchecker that is lighter on resources, you probably will find a number of options. See ’the verdict’ section below for some that were reviewed on this site.
- Help: is close at hand; just type help in the Enso interface. You can easily get to a page that contains a list of all commands if you need it.
- More functions: in addition to Enso Words you can install other modules that expand the repertoire of commands at your disposal. Most of these are still in beta; click here to see the complete list of beta products. Note: you can download an setup file that installs all of them at once. The infrastructure is in place to allow people to write their own modules in the future (provided they know Python).
- The name: Enso, to quote one of their developers “refers to a Japanese Buddhist tradition in calligraphy of drawing a circle to represent simplicity and elegance”… which is what they are aiming for.
Wish list (or how this program can be even better)
- Fixing the issue with the spelling check messing up formatting.
- In addition to the lower/uppercase commands, having a “Proper” command that would lowercase a text yet capitalize the first letters at the beginning of paragraphs and after periods.
The verdict: this is an exciting and promising line of products. The spellchecker (which is the main draw for me) is very nicely implemented and has a nice feeling to it, and I’m sure that any glitches that exist at the moment will be fixed in future releases. Note that Enso Words is not the only universal spellcheck, as the Enso site suggests, but just might be the one that offers the best user experience. If you are looking for other freeware spellcheckers check out Freespell, TinySpell, or Cleverkeys (which also offers online word reference lookups). For other word reference resources check out Mobysaurus and The Sage.
A video that showcases the Enso UI and ideas behind the product(s):
Version Tested: Build 3268
Compatibility: Windows 2000, XP, Vista.
Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 12 megs).