Outlook: Spellcheck not working

September 18, 2018

I was working on my laptop, which has Office 2016 installed on it. Spellcheck worked fine in Word, but when I was in Outlook, no spelling errors were flagged. When I looked at the spellcheck settings in Outlook, all options were greyed out and unavailable. I couldn’t turn it on or off, or change anything else.

I consulted Dr Google, and found that a possible reason was a different version of Outlook and Word (see https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/msoffice/forum/msoffice_outlook-mso_other-mso_2016/outlook-2016-spellcheck-option-greyed-out/13c5c4f6-3735-4836-9e74-61eb9a6ddae5)

But I had installed Office 2016, so they should be the same version, right? And then I remembered something from way back when… When I installed Office 2016 on my laptop, I couldn’t connect to Exchange Server (which is part of Small Business Server [SBS] 2008) from Outlook. My IT guys told me the reason was that Outlook 2016 was incompatible with Exchange Server 2008, so with their help I’d uninstalled Outlook 2016 and reinstalled my earlier Outlook 2013.

I checked the properties of both Outlook and Word to see which version I was using. Unfortunately, Microsoft no longer has an ‘About’ option; instead, go to File > Account or Help and you should be able to find your version. If they are different (i.e. Outlook’s version starts with 14 [Office 2010], or 15 [Office 2013] and the Word version starts with 16 [Office 2016]), you now know that spellcheck won’t work in Outlook.

Personally, I think this is a bug. If the proofing tools (i.e. spellcheck) are associated with a version folder on the PC, then it shouldn’t matter whether you’ve opened Word or Outlook—the programs should use the proofing tools specific to that version. Yes, the words you’ve added to each may not be available to the other, but they should still point to the applicable proofing tools for the version. However, according to the information in the link above, it’s winword.exe that’s loaded for the spellcheck, NOT the proofing tools. So if winword.exe is in a different Office folder to Outlook (e.g. office 16 versus Office 15), Outlook can’t find the spellcheck tools. Go figure.

[Links last checked September 2018]


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