In Search of a Dictionary
Something incredible/terrible happened earlier today as my Treo was ‘almost’ unable to help me find the answer to a question that I had – panic set in.
I was on my way to Paris aboard the Eurostar high speed train when I suddenly found myself wondering about the correct spelling for “offence” – with a ‘c’ or an ‘s’? At the time I thought that the fastest way to find the correct answer would be to connect to an online database with iNoah (which was installed on my Treo) or to browse to mobile.answers.com or Google. Alas, the train was speeding in and out of tunnels and my data connection was next to useless.
More panic – I want to figure this out now! I was rattling my brain – there must be a way to get the information that I needed and surely I must have loaded my Treo with an application for any such eventuality. Bingo! I suddently remembered that months ago I had purchased the Pocket Oxford Dictionary ebook for Mobipocket and so I loaded the ereader and twenty seconds later within four clicks I had the information that I was looking for. With or without a data connection I was finally happy that my Treo delivered.
However, upon my arrival I was none too happy about the panic stricken moment that I had had to endure and so I set out to look for as many of the available dictionary options. There are actually four:
1. A standalone dictionary application with its word database (2MB to 10MB) installed on the SD card. After testing many, I settled for “The English Dictionary with Extended Thesaurus” which is part of the SlovoEd dictionaries. It proved fast, easy to use and provides over 140,000 entries. I particularly like the ability to hyperlink any word in the search results to look up its own definition.
2. A standalone shell application which fetches dictionary data from the web. In this case, I selected iNoah which provides remote access to an extensive online dictionary. You can bookmark your searches and also double-click any word in the results to get its own definition.
3. An ebook containing the entire dictionary and viewed with an ereader. As I mentioned earlier, I use Mobipocket and in this case with the Pocket Oxford Dictionary ebook. It works surprisingly well and quickly in a very clean display.
4. A standard website or mobile optimized website providing dictionary results. The only standalone fully mobile optimized English dictionary that I was able to find was at www.dictionary.com/wml – a URL which unfortunately only works with Blazer and not Xiino. However, it proved easy, clean and fast to use. I didn’t quite understand why they were wasting one click on the landing page though.
I’ve limited the choices to my top four but if you conduct any additional search of your own for PalmOS or mobile dictionaries you’ll likely find hundreds if not thousands of additional one. The fact is that even these four are too many but each will have the option to choose the one that best fits their needs.
I have to admit that I was surprised to see how little creativity or innovation has been added to electronic dictionaries in general beyond the mere fact of digitizing them. Surely someone could have come up with a ‘fun’ way to intereact with a dictionary on a regular basis with for example word quizzes or any other such activities. SlovoEd does have a ‘Word of the Day’ but that’s not exactly an earth shattering concept. At a time when most Treonauts can look up definitions on the web in an instant the many dictionary developers must realize that unless they come to offer some form of added value or service many prospective users will find it hard to justify spending on an application that basically does exactly the same.
Still, if you’re looking to do a little bit more than simply finding the straightforward definition of a particular word then many of these options will do that well and a few very well.
Treonauts want a definition for everything…