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Apple updates Dictionary app in Lion, still has a way to go


AppleInsider has spotlighted some improvements Apple has made to the built-in Dictionary app in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. Among the new features, the actual dictionary files used in the app have been updated from the second edition (2005) of the New Oxford American English Dictionary to the third (2010) edition. The third (2010) edition of the British Oxford Dictionary of English is also included along with the British Oxford Thesaurus of English. The Shogakukan Japanese dictionaries and Apple's own dictionary of trademark and product names have been updated as well.

The app now also uses a two-pane display, which makes it easier to navigate between words or phrases. Previously, you would be presented with only a list and have to click back and forth to the list in order to select a new word. Another welcome feature is a pop-up definition preview when a word is searched for using Spotlight. Now, hovering over the word in a Spotlight list displays the full definitions of the word instead of just the first few words of the definition. Apple has also added a new multi-touch trackpad command to its built-in dictionary. Now clicking on a word using three fingers will open up the in-line dictionary panel for that word or open that word in the dictionary app itself (depending on your Dictionary settings).

As a writer, I geek out over any improvements Apple makes with its dictionary features. However, I will not rest until Apple adds access to the excellent OneLook Reverse Dictionary from within the Dictionary app itself (much the same way you can access Wikipedia within the app). Sometimes you just want to see a list of words describing "red fruit" without having to manually think of every such word; alternatively, you may know the definition of a word, but not the word itself (such as "urge to travel"). Besides adding a reverse dictionary, I would also love to be able to bookmark favorite words and create word lists where I can group similar words together for quick access. For example, it would be nice to create a list of words or phrases I could possibly use to describe someone who is angrily shouting. I guess I can only hope Apple reads my words.

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