Instant Dictionary

Instant Dictionary
Tip #194/04-May-2005

Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) has been released and it contains a great many new features. One new piece of software which comes with it is Dictionary.

Dictionary uses the New Oxford American Dictionary and also the Oxford American Writers Thesaurus to look up words for you. If you have an appropriate application open you can simply press Control Command D and a definition will pop up in a small tab above the cursor.

There are several caveats though:

  1. This only works with certain applications. It worked for me in Safari, Apple Mail and NetNewsWire Pro (the beta of version 2). It didn’t work in Microsoft Word, Entourage or Tex-Edit Plus.
  2. My tests suggest you need to be connected to the Internet for it to work.
  3. Since it uses an American dictionary it may not contain some, more international, words. It didn’t for example, find the Maori word marae, which means (more or less) meeting house. Although marae is of Maori origin it’s commonly used around New Zealand and will be understood by most English speakers.
  4. It doesn’t look up text you have highlighted, but rather text which is beneath the cursor. If you select some text and then move the mouse you may find it gives you unexpected results.

You can also use Dictionary as an ordinary application, which will work even if you’re not connected to the Internet. Open it up from the Applications folder and open the Preferences (from the Dictionary menu). The setting to change here is that the Contextual menu should open the Dictionary application.

It seems pretty obvious from the Preferences that at some time other dictionaries will become available.

But wait! There’s more. Tiger also brings us Dashboard and its Widgets. You can also access the Dictionary through a Dashboard Widget. But I guess you’ll have to wait a while to find out more about that.

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