How to Fix: Thunderbird Spell Check Won't Work

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Bill V. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I recently upgraded to Windows 10. Everything worked fine for a few months, but all the sudden my Start Menu stopped working. To fix that issue, I created a new user account and migrated over my data to the new account. Everything worked fine after that - however, my Thunderbird spell check won't work. If I go to Tools -> Options -> Composition -> Spelling tab, it has a check mark beside 'Enable spelling as you type', but the 'Language' option is grayed out. How can I fix this? "

My response:

I have not had this problem before, so I asked Bill if he would like me to connect with him using my remote desktop support service to have a better look.

Sure enough, the "Language" option was grayed out; this lead me to believe that he was missing a dictionary, which the spell check uses in order to work properly. At this point I discovered that immediately below the "Language" option was a link to "Download more dictionaries" - I clicked that and installed "US (English)" and after a few more clicks, everything was working properly. Below I'll explain what I did step-by-step in case anyone else has this issue.

How to Fix: Thunderbird Spell Check Won't Work

Here's how to get the Thunderbird spell check work if the "Languages" option is grayed out:

  1. First, launch Thunderbird.
  2. Next, enable the Menu bar if you have not already. To do so: click the Menu button near the top right of the Thunderbird window, then click Options, then place a check mark beside "Menu Bar". You should now see the menu bar at the top.
  3. Now it's time to download a dictionary. Click Tools -> Options, then go to the "Composition" menu at top of the Options window, then click on the "Spelling" tab.
  4. Under the "Spelling tab" you should see: "Enable spell check as you type" and it should have a check mark beside it. If your "Language" pull-down option is grayed out, then will need to download and enable a dictionary. Click the "Download more Dictionaries" link. This will open up a new tab in Thunderbird; in order to access that tab you will have to close the "Options" window. Do that and you should be able to access the "Dictionaries" download page.
  5. Click the link to download the "English (US)" dictionary (or whichever dictionary you prefer). A new window will appear, click the "Add to thunderbird" option, then "Install now".
  6. At this point, Thunderbird will report the dictionary was installed at the very top of the screen. Near the very right of that is an option to click that says: "Add-on manager" - click that button.
  7. The "Add-ons manager" tab will appear and you should see a "Dictionaries" heading on the left side of the window, with the dictionary you installed on the right. Now it's time to verify that the dictionary is selected for use. Click Tools -> Options from the very top, then go to the "Composition" menu, then select the "Spelling" tab. It should say: "Enable spell check as you type" with a check mark, then underneath that: "Language: English (US)", or whichever language you specified.
  8. Now it's time to test your spell check. Close all the Thunderbird tabs except for the main Thunderbird window. Next, click the "Write" button to create a new email, then enter in some text with some incorrect spelling to test your real-time spellchecker. It should work.

Additional 1-on-1 Support: From Dennis

If all of this is over your head, or if your spell checker still isn't working - I can help using my remote desktop support service. Simply contact me with a brief message detailing your problem and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question - or even a computer problem that needs fixing - please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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