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Create, add, and manage dictionaries

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Learn how to customize language dictionaries, manage user dictionaries, and edit word lists to ensure accurate and polished designs.

InDesign utilizes Hunspell dictionaries to verify spelling and hyphenation, allowing customization by adding words. You can assign different languages to text and ensure appropriate dictionary usage. You can also create additional user dictionaries, and import or export word lists for customization, including global words.

Customizing the dictionary allows you to add or remove words for spell-checking accuracy. Utilize the Dictionary dialog box to manage added, removed, and ignored words, including universal terms like last names and street names.

Set the default language dictionary

You can change the default language dictionary for a document or all new documents you create. Changing the default dictionary in an existing document doesn’t affect the existing or new text you type into a current frame.

Current document

  1. Open a document.

  2. Select Type > Character.

  3. Select the desired dictionary from the Language dropdown of the Character panel.

All new documents

  1. Start InDesign, but do not open a document.
  2. Select Type > Character.

  3. Select the desired dictionary from the Language dropdown from the Character panel.

Manage user dictionaries

You can create a user dictionary or add dictionaries from any of the following spaces:

  • Previous InDesign or InCopy versions.
  • Files sent by others.
  • A server where your workgroup’s user dictionary is stored.

The dictionary you add is used for all your InDesign documents.

  1. Select Edit > Preferences > Dictionary (Windows) or InDesign  > Preferences > Dictionary (macOS).

  2. Select a language from the Language dropdown.

    • Relink User Dictionary  icon: Select this to locate and open a user dictionary if you view a question mark next to it.
    • New User Dictionary  icon: Select to create a new dictionary. Specify the name and location of the user dictionary (which includes a .udc extension), and then select Save.
    • Add User Dictionary  icon: Select to add an existing dictionary. Select the user dictionary file, which includes a .udc or .not extension, and select Open.
    • Remove User Dictionary  icon: Select to remove a dictionary from the list.
    • Reorder dictionaries: Select a dictionary and drag it to change the order. The order of the dictionaries in the list is the order in which the dictionaries are checked.

The dictionary is added to the list under the Language menu. You can add words to the dictionary when checking spelling or by using the Dictionary dialog box.

Add or remove words from dictionaries

If, during a spell check, InDesign displays an unfamiliar word in the Check Spelling dialog, select the dictionary from the Add To menu and then select Add. You can also use the Dictionary dialog to specify the target dictionary and language and indicate how words are added to an exception word list.

  1. Select Edit > Spelling > User Dictionary.

  2. Select the Target and Language.

  3. Select any of the following from the Dictionary List:

    • Added Words: These are included in the specified Target and Language dictionaries.
    • Removed Words: These are excluded from the specified Target and Language dictionaries.
    • Ignored Words: These are ignored from the specified Target and Language dictionaries.
  4. Type or edit the word in the Word field.

  5. Select Hyphenate to view the word’s default hyphenation. Tildes (~) indicate possible hyphenation points.

  6. Select any of the following and then select Done.

    • Add: Adds the word typed or edited in the Word field to the select Target, Language, and Dictionary List.
    • Remove: Select a word and then select this to delete a word from the Target, Language, and Dictionary List.

Import or export a word list

You can export word lists to a text file (.txt) and then import that list of words into a user dictionary in InDesign. The words in the text file must be separated by a space, tab, or paragraph return. You can export added words and removed words, but you cannot export ignored words, which are used only in the current session.

  1. Select Edit > Spelling > User Dictionary.

  2. Select the TargetLanguage, and Dictionary List.

    • Select Import, locate the text file with your list of spelling exceptions, and then select Open.
    • Select Export, specify the filename and location, and then select Save.

The list of words is saved in a text file. You can edit this list of words in any text editor, and then import the word list. You can also send the word list to others, who can import it into their user dictionaries.

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