After the Deadline

OpenOffice.org Grammar Checkers

Posted in Talking to myself by rsmudge on June 14, 2010

OpenOffice.org 3.2.1 was released a few weeks ago. To commemorate this, I’d like to write about the different proofreading tools available for this platform. It’s a common misconception that OpenOffice.org checks grammar out of the box. It doesn’t. OpenOffice.org does, however, have an API that lets developers add a grammar checker via an extension.

There are proofreading tools / grammar checkers for OpenOffice.org. A few that you may want to look at include:

Language Tool

Language Tool is a rule-based grammar checker with an impressive community developing rules for 18 languages. The inner-workings of this system were a heavy inspiration to AtD’s grammar checker implementation. We use Language Tool to check grammar for our French and German offerings of After the Deadline.

Readability Report

I saw Neil Newbold of the University of Surrey, the scientist developer of Readability Report, speak recently. I felt like I was listening to my proofreading brother from another mother. After the Deadline started life as a style checker hosted at PolishMyWriting.com. The AtD style checker uses best practices and suggestions from the Plain English movement to help you clean up your writing. Readability Report does the same thing for OpenOffice.org. It’s a style checker (rooted in Plain English) AND it’s a readability checker.

Some of the readability heuristics are incredible. Neil does some neat NLP work to decide which sentence is your simplest sentence and which sentences are your weirdest sentences. If you want to learn more about how these work, I recommend reading Neil’s paper The Linguistics of Readability: The Next Step for Word Processing that was presented at the  NAACL Computational Linguistics and Writing Workshop in Los Angeles, CA.

Coming Soon: After the Deadline for OpenOffice.org

Since you’re here, I presume you know about After the Deadline. It’s a proofreading software service. After the Deadline uses statistical language models to offer smarter grammar and style recommendations. It also uses the same language models to detect over 1,500 misused words. If you write weather when you mean whether, After the Deadline can help you.

Recently, I started developing an After the Deadline extension for OpenOffice.org. I was so excited when I started this, I couldn’t stop until I had a beta ready for you to try (yes, you can download and install it now). It’s really cool to use After the Deadline in a word processor, like OpenOffice.org Writer.

Because After the Deadline is a software service, this extension requires an internet connection to check your grammar, style, and misused words. If you’re not connected, it will silently do nothing. Rest assured, we’re not keeping your data and this extension communicates with our service over SSL.

The code is available in a public subversion repository and there is a category in the AtD ticket tracker for this OpenOffice.org extension.

6 Responses

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  1. Aldi said, on July 6, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Thank you for the OpenOffice.org plug-in and keep up this great work! Language checking is one of the areas where OpenOffice.org is still a bit behind, but as it seems, this has changed now…

    • rsmudge said, on July 6, 2010 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I still consider the extension beta, if I continue to hear a thumbs up from folks like you, I’ll release it as-is. If you find any issues, let me know. :)

      • Dick Jenkin said, on July 16, 2010 at 12:08 am

        I would like to suggest that the sentence below (copied from your comment 6July) needs to have the grammar checker run over it:

        “I still consider the extension beta, if I continue to hear a thumbs up from folks like you, I’ll release it as-is.”

        The first comma should NOT be a comma! On every keyboard for at least 100 years (and today) there are two keys which lots of people these days don’t seem to know about. They are “;” and “-“. (The last one should be a dash. Most word processors can alter a hyphen to a dash automatically when required.) In this case I would use a semi-colon but certainly not a comma. The old rule is “if two sentences can stand on their own they should not be joined by a comma”. I hope the OO.o grammar-checker doesn’t let this through – it is one of the most common grammatical errors these days.

      • rsmudge said, on July 16, 2010 at 3:59 am

        AtD doesn’t look at punctuation. It would let this through. Apparently I don’t do well with punctuation either. :)

  2. Dan said, on July 16, 2010 at 2:44 am

    I installed After the Deadline for OpenOffice.org (Beta), from the link.you provided: http://www.afterthedeadline.com/download.slp?platform=OpenOffice Immediately my firewall Outpost began blocking a “suspicious packet” which traced back as per below:

    OrgName: Layered Technologies, Inc.
    OrgID: LAYER-3
    Address: 5085 W Park Blvd
    Address: Suite 700
    City: Plano
    StateProv: TX
    PostalCode: 75093
    Country: US

    ReferralServer: rwhois://rwhois.layeredtech.com:4321

    NetRange: 72.232.0.0 – 72.233.127.255
    CIDR: 72.232.0.0/16, 72.233.0.0/17
    NetName: LAYERED-TECH-
    NetHandle: NET-72-232-0-0-1
    Parent: NET-72-0-0-0-0
    NetType: Direct Allocation
    NameServer: NS1.LAYEREDTECH.COM
    NameServer: NS2.LAYEREDTECH.COM
    Comment: Please send all abuse complaints to
    Comment: abuse@layeredtech.com
    RegDate: 2005-09-07
    Updated: 2008-03-24
    RTechHandle: JPS66-ARIN
    RTechName: Suo-Anttila, Jeremy Paul
    RTechPhone: +1-972-398-7998
    RTechEmail: jps@layeredtech.com

    OrgAbuseHandle: LAT-ARIN
    OrgAbuseName: LT Abuse Team
    OrgAbusePhone: +1-972-398-7998
    OrgAbuseEmail: abuse@layeredtech.com

    OrgNOCHandle: LIT-ARIN
    OrgNOCName: LT IP-Network Team
    OrgNOCPhone: +1-972-398-7000
    OrgNOCEmail: ipnet@layeredtech.com

    OrgTechHandle: LNT3-ARIN
    OrgTechName: LT NOC Team
    OrgTechPhone: +1-972-398-7998
    OrgTechEmail: ipnet@layeredtech.com

    Every few minutes Outpost Firewall notified me of additional incoming “suspicious packets”, so I uninstalled After the Deadline for OpenOffice.org (Beta), immediately these “suspicious packets” trying to enter my computer stopped.

    • rsmudge said, on July 16, 2010 at 3:58 am

      Yes, this is because After the Deadline relies on a software service. It communicates your text (via SSL) to our server where it’s processed. This is explained on the After the Deadline download page. You’re welcome to run your own server using our open source software, instructions for this are on the download page too.

      A simple DNS query reveals the culprit:

      $ nslookup en.service.afterthedeadline.com
      Name: en.service.afterthedeadline.com
      Address: 72.233.69.38


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