One of my clients has been singing the praises of Grammarly‘s free app for months, but unfortunately my laptop at the time was almost old enough to drive a car. I attempted to install it anyways, only to watch my computer freeze and stutter through even the most mundane task.
Obviously, this was less than ideal, and not something I could entirely blame on the company. After all, it was made with modern systems in mind, and my laptop was telling me that my computer is so old that Windows Vista was no longer going to receive updates from, well, essentially anyone.
Fast forward a few months and I was able to pick up a newer laptop. Despite the initial bugs that are inherent in Windows 10 (and they are many) I finally got it up and running and decided to give Grammarly another go.
After a few weeks of having it installed, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is very, very, very….okay.
It isn’t that it’s a bad app by any stretch. It was a cinch to install, and it performs exactly as they advertised. Both of these are great, and refreshing in a time when most apps simply purchase 5 star reviews to make up for not producing a final product.
Unfortunately, it feels more or less like a second stock spell checker at times. It does catch more typos and grammar mistakes than Microsoft Office’s built-in spell checker, but it isn’t anything earth-shattering.
I’ve used other Word-based apps before, and they all, more or less, perform about the same. I would assume Microsoft wants Office to be fully compatible with apps, especially as they push their computer experience to be more like their phone experience. However, there is a reason that I am not using a smartphone, and that is because I’m not really interested in playing Candy Crush on my computer.
As a result, adding on this app makes the load time take forever for just opening Word. I don’t know the mechanics of it, but I can only assume there’s something in the background that is trying to link Office to Grammarly’s server, and that back user communication usually has hiccups.
It’s nice having Gramarly off to the side of the ribbon; being a free app, I fully expected having something glaring at me the entire time I’m typing. The small notification on top of the icon is a nice touch, albeit it’s a bit odd; rather than displaying a true number of errors, it vaguely reads “1+”, “2+”, etc. What I don’t like about the notification system is that it’s so tiny that it sort of looks like a white blur on a red smudge.
So what causes the “+” amount of errors? That is where they get you. Spelling and grammar issues are, for the most part, included in their scans. However, if you want the full functionality, you must pay for premium. And while that may not sound like a good enough incentive, they have a better one – by ominously telling you that, without the premium version, several errors have been left untouched. To further add urgency to this sales pitch, errors can be “advanced” or “critical”, both of which simply redirect to where you buy it.
My last complaint is actually an included feature, and that is, while Grammarly is active, you are unable to use CRTL+Z, or the shortcut for the “Undo” function. While this in and of itself isn’t a deal breaker, it’s odd to me that an app to help you edit yourself wouldn’t allow you to undo changes during the editing process. Editing gets messy fast, and sometimes you go a little nuts with the deletes and changes.
Considering that not all of their suggestions are winners makes it harder to justify paying for premium. In fact, just like with the stock Microsoft checker, you may find yourself actively ignoring more suggestions than better developing your skills.
Overall, it’s a neat little tool that works better than Clippy would in helping you sound like a sane person who knows what they’re talking about. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel like it was designed with writing in mind so much as trying to help reduce the risk of you sending out an embarrassing email mistake to your entire company.
In short, it’s a free spelling and grammar checker that works slightly better than the stock Microsoft free spell checker, but slow performance and odd design choices mar it. Finally, holding your mistakes ransom is a tactic that I always despise, and although a grammar mistake isn’t the end of the world, I still don’t love having unknown issues lorded over my head.
What are your thoughts on Grammarly? Do you know of any better tools to use instead? Drop a comment and I’ll check it out!