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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

Posted by Andrew on August 24, 2005 at 08:11 PM

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by skillllllz | Aug 24, 2005 9:18:26 PM

Don't forget about http://www.m-w.com/palm.htm and http://www.m-w.com/palmthes.htm for mobile versions of Mirriam Webster's Dictionary and Thesuarus.

by Azizi Jennis | Aug 24, 2005 9:57:00 PM

A great article as always. I use the Pocket Oxford Dictionary with Mobipocket as well. It's still attractively priced at $20 as a bundle with the Oxford Thesaurus.

by A. Davis | Aug 24, 2005 11:36:45 PM

I tend to agree with the first comment... both have been linked on the Reference page of my site for some time now. http://mobileoptimized.com/Reference.html. Neither allows for offline access, but in my experience, its a rare event that I don't have a data signal.

As for the dictionary.com/wml link... this is one the things, at least in my opinion, that makes Blazer a good browser. No, its not always the fastest out there, but then again its prettier than Xiino. Blazer is both a regular html browser as well as a WAP/WML browser. I've had other phones and other browsers and most are either WAP/WML only or html only. Blazer's ability to support both gives it access to even more sites.

by A. Davis | Aug 25, 2005 12:47:46 AM

You know... I really it when they include the sentence ending period in the URL. :(

It should be:


by olac | Aug 25, 2005 3:11:53 AM

Great article, as always.
But my best choice would have been Ultralingua !

by Andre Hiyung | Aug 25, 2005 3:23:17 AM

I like to use mobipocket. Mobipocket co-operate with Oxford and therefore offers extensive collection of Oxford Dictionaries.

by lou w | Aug 25, 2005 5:33:33 AM

Why didn't you just use a spell checker (like lexspell)?

by Wouter | Aug 25, 2005 7:39:52 AM

Did any of those dictionaries tell you that both offense en offence are correct, but offence is more used in the U.K.?

by A. Davis | Aug 25, 2005 1:21:38 PM

The 9.95 English Dictionary is pretty nice too...


by A. Davis | Aug 25, 2005 1:29:58 PM

One more for you... I just saw this over at PalmAddicts...

"From Judy (Waterford, Michigan, USA) this morning. I recently downloaded the SixinOne dictionary from Freewarepalm.com. It's pretty cool for a free multilingual dictionary. You type in a word in one of the six languages: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Turkish - and it gives you the word in the other five languages. There is no pronunciation but it is free. Some sites that offer SixinOne mention using a viewer that allows you to have more features. I haven't tried that yet but the basic free dictionary is fun and contains over 6000 words. By the way, Sammy and staff, it is very cool that you now have podcasts available on your website. Thank you for adding those and enhancing a very good site even more.
- Sammy (Manchester, UK)"

by Anon E. Mouse | Aug 25, 2005 1:51:30 PM

Also, you can browse to the Palm-optimized Google page at www.google.com/palm and type a query of the form:


by Jeff | Aug 25, 2005 3:09:22 PM

Quote about dictionary.com:
I didn’t quite understand why they were wasting one click on the landing page though.

You can instead go to:


and you will automatically get a text box for the "look up" feature.

by Andrew | Aug 25, 2005 7:46:19 PM

Skilllllz - the main problem with Merriam Webster's mobile version is that while the search box is optimized the actual definition is not.

Wouter - of my listed options only SlovoEd provided me with the 'offence' and 'offense' definitions.

Thanks everyone for the kind words and feedback!

Cheers, A.

by Roy | Jun 1, 2006 6:14:28 PM

Do you have a recommendation for a spell checker for the TREO 650 that works on email?

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