I’m typing this right now as more of a test than anything. A test of what, you ask? A test of Microsoft’s new Editor extension that is available not only for its in-house browser, but for Chrome as well. What is it, exactly? Consider it a Grammarly alternative, offered from Microsoft, that works cross-platform thanks to the recent initiative that sees Microsoft’s own web browser built on the same stuff as Chrome is built on. While I’ve lauded this in the past for the open-source benefits to the underlying Chromium code base, the benefits look to – ahem – extend to extensions as well.
Microsoft is looking to bring some of the editing tools available in Word over to the internet as a whole, allowing users to get a better grip on spelling, grammar, and other language refinements. Once you have the extension loaded in and go to just about any website where you can enter text, the extension goes to work in identifying issue you may have with your writing.
So far, things are quite passive. As a matter of fact, I purposely connected the first four sentences in this post just to see if the extension would pick it up. It didn’t, but to be fair, turning on the free version of Grammarly didn’t do any better. For me, a standard proof read of every post will still be quite necessary as these plugins tend to miss pretty obvious, pretty glaring mistakes in writing. On the other hand, they do a better job than Chrome’s very basic built-in spell check. Catching the subtle, annoying difference in it’s and its in our language can be tough, but Editor managed to catch it each time and help me correct the issue. Simple spell check won’t do that.
The implementation is very clean as well, feeling way less imposing than Grammarly for my use. There’s no paid option with more capability, so Grammarly is a better option if you are looking for way more out of your grammar police for a bit of a fee. Misspellings are underlined with a squiggle and word choice suggestions are underlined with a blue double line. Simply left-clicking each of these will bring up the suggestions. Additionally, there aren’t a ton of settings to mess with either, and I like that. You basically can choose between the plugin monitoring spelling, grammar, and refinements and that is all. Oddly, the refinements selector was set to the on position, but grayed out. I’m unsure if that means it is forced on or completely left out.
To get everything running, you do need to sign into a Microsoft account, but those are free. The real trouble is in the extension settings, you can opt out of providing data to Microsoft to improve the product, buy your selection won’t stick. Go back to that setting after a few seconds and you’ll magically be opted in once again. There are multiple complaints in the reviews section about this, so hopefully it is just a bug that needs to get squashed.
Ultimately, I think it would be better all-around for Google to include a tool like this in Chrome. We already have a pretty nice AI-driven grammar checker in Gmail, so I’d love to see Google simply make this available in Chrome either as a setting or extension of some sort. For now, the Microsoft Editor extension is a decent tool to help wrangle your bad writing a bit, but don’t count on it to take care of all your mistakes. Sometimes a manual proof is still the best way to go.