Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Aspell, PSPELL, PHP and OS X

Until quite recently there was no way to use Aspell (via the PSPELL PHP libs) on an OS X host that was using the MacPorts system for package management.

This was simply because of the lack of a pspell variant for the php{45} packages.

Port of call
The ports system has the notion of a variant for packages that are conditional modifications of port installation behaviour.

There are two types of variants: user-selected variants and platform variants.

User-selected variants are options selected by a user when a port is installed while platform variants are selected automatically by MacPorts' base according to the OS or hardware platform (Darwin, FreeBSD, Linux, i386, PPC, etc.).

More stuff and less fluff
There are several ways of working this. The first would be to log a ticket at the MacPorts trac with a request to add the variant.

Depending on the package maintainer's load you may be a response pretty quickly. I've generally gotten something back within days of logging the ticket.

In the meantime your universe cannot come to a halt waiting for someone else to add the next greatest thing as a variant to your favourite package. So here's some manual steps to get things up and running in the meantime:

  • Install Aspell
  • Recompile and install PHP with the required PSPELL support
  • Check php to ensure the new PSPELL libs are active
  • Do a simple test to see if everything is working as it should

Install Aspell
I'll assume you're using MacPorts for your your package management on your OS X host.

Grab the aspell application, libs and whichever dictionaries catch your fancy:

$ sudo port install aspell aspell-dict-en

Be sure to install at least one dictionary or your spell checking days will be rather deflated.

Recompile and install PHP with the required PSPELL support
To manually add a compilation flag you need to edit the Portfile that comes with your installed PHP version. Mine is located at:


Edit the Portfile and add “–with-pspell=${prefix}” to configure.args. You can then re-ininstall PHP and it should now use the modified Portfile to compile PHP.

Check php to ensure the new PSPELL libs are active
Use the following script from the command line to determine if your PHP was re-installed with the required PSPELL bits enabled:

$ php -r 'phpinfo();' | grep PSpell
PSpell Support => enabled

Do a simple test to see if everything is working as it should
You should be able to just use the example from the PHP documentation page to ensure everything is fine:

$ cat /tmp/t_pspell.php

$ php -f /tmp/t_pspell.php
Sorry, wrong spelling

The packaging gods exist!
A few days after creating this ticket on the MacPorts trac I got a response from the package maintainer informing me that the variant had been added to all the relevant PHP packages.


If your ports distribution files are up-to-date you should now be able to do the following to see which variants are available for your PHP version of choice:

$ port info php5
php5 5.2.5, Revision 2, www/php5 (Variants: universal, darwin_6, darwin_7, macosx, apache, apache2, fastcgi, gmp, imap, pspell, tidy, mssql, snmp, macports_snmp, mysql3, mysql4, mysql5, oracle, postgresql, sqlite, ipc, pcntl, pear, readline, sockets)

PHP is a widely-used general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for developing web sites, but can also be used for command-line scripting.

Library Dependencies: libxml2, libxslt, openssl, zlib, bzip2, libiconv, expat, gettext, tiff, mhash, libmcrypt, curl, pcre, jpeg, libpng, freetype
Platforms: darwin freebsd
Maintainers: ryandesign@macports.org jwa@macports.org

Now that pspell is listed as a variant you can install PHP with this variant by doing the following, after removing previous PHP version:

$ sudo port install php5 +pspell

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