I have installed Kate editor into my Ubuntu MATE 16.04.6 LTS system as simple as
sudo apt-get install kate .

In its Settings → Configure Kate, Editor Component, Editing, Spellcheck tab I see that it does not detect back-end for spell-checking:

No backend found for spell checking Configure - Kate

$ kate
Sonnet: No speller backends available!
No language dictionaries for the language: "en"

I have the following packages installed related to spell-check:

$ dpkg -l | grep -iE "dict|spell.*(check|correct)"
ii  anthy                                                       9100h-25ubuntu1                                 amd64        input method for Japanese - backend, dictionary and utility
ii  anthy-common                                                9100h-25ubuntu1                                 all          input method for Japanese - common files and dictionary
ii  aspell                                                      0.60.7~20110707-3build1                         amd64        GNU Aspell spell-checker
ii  aspell-en                                                   7.1-0-1.1                                       all          English dictionary for GNU Aspell
ii  dictionaries-common                                         1.26.3                                          all          spelling dictionaries - common utilities
ii  enchant                                                     1.6.0-10.1build2                                amd64        Wrapper for various spell checker engines (binary programs)
ii  geany-plugin-spellcheck                                     1.27+dfsg-2                                     amd64        spellcheck plugin for Geany
ii  hunspell-en-ca                                              1:5.1.0-1ubuntu2.2                              all          English (Canada) dictionary for hunspell
ii  hunspell-en-gb                                              1:5.1.0-1ubuntu2.2                              all          English (GB) dictionary for hunspell
ii  hunspell-en-us                                              20070829-6ubuntu3                               all          English_american dictionary for hunspell
ii  hunspell-en-za                                              1:5.1.0-1ubuntu2.2                              all          English (South Africa) dictionary for hunspell
ii  hunspell-ru                                                 20120501-1                                      all          Russian dictionary for hunspell
ii  iamerican                                                   3.4.00-5                                        all          American English dictionary for ispell (standard version)
ii  ienglish-common                                             3.4.00-5                                        all          Common files for British and American ispell dictionaries
ii  ispell                                                      3.4.00-5                                        amd64        International Ispell (an interactive spelling corrector)
ii  libaspell15:amd64                                           0.60.7~20110707-3build1                         amd64        GNU Aspell spell-checker runtime library
ii  libenchant1c2a:amd64                                        1.6.0-10.1build2                                amd64        Wrapper library for various spell checker engines (runtime libs)
ii  libgdict-common                                             3.18.0-2                                        all          GNOME Dictionary base library - common files
ii  libgtkspell0                                                2.0.16-1.1ubuntu1                               amd64        a spell-checking addon for GTK's TextView widget
ii  libgtkspell3-3-0:amd64                                      3.0.7-2                                         amd64        spell-checking addon for GTK+'s TextView widget
ii  libhunspell-1.3-0:amd64                                     1.3.3-4ubuntu1                                  amd64        spell checker and morphological analyzer (shared library)
ii  libhunspell-dev:amd64                                       1.3.3-4ubuntu1                                  amd64        spell checker and morphological analyzer (development)
ii  libjazzy-java                                               0.5.2-1                                         all          spell checker java library
ii  libkf5sonnet5-data                                          5.18.0-0ubuntu1                                 all          spell checking library for Qt
ii  libkf5sonnetcore5:amd64                                     5.18.0-0ubuntu1                                 amd64        spell checking library for Qt
ii  libkf5sonnetui5:amd64                                       5.18.0-0ubuntu1                                 amd64        spell checking library for Qt
ii  libmatedict6                                                1.12.0-1                                        amd64        MATE desktop utilities (matedict library)
ii  link-grammar-dictionaries-en                                4.7.4-3                                         all          Carnegie Mellon University's link grammar parser (English dictionary)
ii  myspell-en-au                                               2.1-5.4                                         all          English_australian dictionary for myspell
ii  myspell-en-gb                                               1:5.1.0-1ubuntu2.2                              all          English (GB) dictionary for hunspell - dummy transitional package
ii  myspell-en-za                                               1:5.1.0-1ubuntu2.2                              all          English (ZA) dictionary for hunspell - dummy transitional package
rc  myspell-ru                                                  0.99g5-20                                       all          Russian dictionary for MySpell
ii  python-enchant                                              1.6.6-2                                         all          spellchecking library for Python
ii  python3-enchant                                             1.6.6-2                                         all          spellchecking library for Python 3
ii  wamerican                                                   7.1-1                                           all          American English dictionary words for /usr/share/dict
ii  wbritish                                                    7.1-1                                           all          British English dictionary words for /usr/share/dict

How should I fix this?

2 Answers 2


To fix the problem we need to install only one package related to Sonnet:

sonnet-plugins (see packages.ubuntu.com)
spell checking library for Qt


sudo apt-get install sonnet-plugins

as it depends on almost all spell-engines - aspell, hunspell, hspell, voikko
and then restart Kate.

It is strange why I have not it installed before. It was recommended by other installed library:

$ aptitude why sonnet-plugins 
i   sonnet-plugins    Depends    libkf5sonnetcore5 (>= 4.96.0)     
i A libkf5sonnetcore5 Recommends sonnet-plugins (= 5.18.0-0ubuntu1)
  • 1
    I just searched on my system, Kubuntu 18.04, using your command. You have a lot more packages but didn't have libgspell-1-1:amd64, libhfstospell9:amd64, and sonnet-plugins. Anyway, you found the solution!
    – DK Bose
    Aug 19, 2019 at 11:53

I'm running kbuntu 20.04 LTS, and I had the same "hspell Init failed" error when loading kwrite or kate using CLI. I ran the suggested fix, sudo apt-get install sonnet-plugins But I still had the hspell error.

The actions below fixed the problem for me: sudo apt install hspell

GUI and CLI instructions are provided below.

GUI Instructions I ran synaptic. Searched for sonnet-plugins. Right clicked. Selected properties. Clicked "install suggested". Then Applied the marked changes. When the "Are you sure you want to apply these changes?" dialog window popped up, then I clicked the 'show details' button on. The package hspell was marked for installation.

After the hspell package was installed by synaptic the hspell errors went away.

Summary: if you have the hspell error on KDE after installing sonnet-plugins then install hspell.

sudo apt-get install hspell

Post Incident Analysis: In my scenario KDE had already installed sonnet-plugins, but KDE had not installed hspell. I suspect that hspell was not installed because it was a "suggests" install for sonnet-plugins, but not a "depends" for sonnet-plugins.

Here's the output of apt-cache used to assert my assumption. sudo apt-cache show sonnet-plugins

Package: sonnet-plugins
Architecture: amd64
Version: 5.68.0-0ubuntu1
Priority: optional
Section: universe/kde
Source: sonnet
Origin: Ubuntu
Maintainer: Ubuntu Developers 
Original-Maintainer: Debian/Kubuntu Qt/KDE Maintainers 
Bugs: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+filebug
Installed-Size: 238
Depends: libaspell15 (>= 0.60.8), libc6 (>= 2.14), libhunspell-1.7-0, libkf5sonnetcore5 (>= 4.96.0), libqt5core5a (>= 5.12.2), libstdc++6 (>= 5.2), libvoikko1, zlib1g (>= 1:1.1.4)
Suggests: hspell
Filename: pool/universe/s/sonnet/sonnet-plugins_5.68.0-0ubuntu1_amd64.deb
Size: 50884
MD5sum: 35f928ecd0870b56faa5058a030687d0
SHA1: 191622b4487124b9f0e27d5f8e712b4c09c7deed
SHA256: ef1620c998e436e94816a6d3b42ab00ec363e863922f6024431c88068f72c234
Homepage: http://projects.kde.org/sonnet
Description: spell checking library for Qt, plugins
Description-md5: cc9e6cd09ccc937f16470287bb2b0ff8
Task: kubuntu-desktop, lubuntu-desktop, ubuntustudio-video

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