The Best English Dictionary App

The best English dictionary app for Android could easily be Merriam-Webster. I wholeheartedly recommend it to all students and learners. These are the reasons.

Fair Price

Yes, I’m referring to the paid version of Dictionary – Merriam-Webster. There is a free version as well, but why bother when the app costs only $2.99. Compare that with other app dictionaries in Google Play Market, and you will immediately see why this is a clear win. Kudos to Merriam-Webster for making their English dictionary available to the learners who cannot afford overpriced editions of other publishers.

Functional Design

The Merriam-Webster application is clean, modern and functional. Type in the word to get brief explanations (if you only need to refresh your memory, just look here). Scroll down to see detailed definitions. Flick left or right to browse your past words. A menu reveals favourites and Word of the Day. If in Dictionary, tap the clearly visible T button to switch to Thesaurus (yes, it has thesaurus as well!), and tap D to return. Tap the words throughout the app to jump to a new heading.

Rich in Linguistic Content

Merriam-Webster app offers a dictionary page with brief and full definitions (idioms,  phrasal verbs, pronunciation…), many origins, synonyms and antonyms, usage notes. As previously mentioned, it has Thesaurus as well, fully integrated with the definitions and grouped by synonyms, related words, near antonyms and antonyms.

Dictionary that Works Offline

As expected, the paid version works offline. However, there is a restriction: prerecorded pronunciation will play only online (but, I don’t think this is a big issue).

To conclude, Dictionary – Merriam-Webster is an excellent app to learn and improve your English language. I recommend it to all people who need a decent offline dictionary/thesaurus on their phones and tablets.

Visual Understanding Environment – Free mind mapping for your brainstorming

If you like to represent your thoughts, project or plans in the form of logical maps and flowcharts – VUE is just for you. This is a free program that all students, academic workers, CEOs, managers, writers and others will learn to appreciate, thanks to its simple use and powerful options, including fully fledged presentation mode (yes, no need for Power Point!).

Visual Understanding Environment is created by Tufts University as “a concept and content mapping application, developed to support teaching, learning and research and for anyone who needs to organize, contextualize, and access digital information”. They succeeded in making a Java-based program that runs on most operating systems and allows great creativity in brainstorming and visual organisation of material.

Features

With VUE you can:

  • Make mind maps and charts
  • Format easily and annotate items
  • Use layers
  • Analyse charts
  • Add semantic relations
  • Share your work
  • Export in several image formats and PDF (the latter is usually available only in commercial apps)
  • Map the content dynamically and use “outside” sources
  • Make presentations
Visual Understanding Environment chart sample
Speech production process "mapped" in VUE (Adapted from Lever)

This just a beginning, and for the full list of the features visit the VUE feature page. What we particularly like and wish to mention here is the “presentation mode”: by creating “pathways” (the order in which nods/items are trigged) users can “replay” the path in full screen. This, together with annotations allows seamless presentations, just like in the Power Point. Even without annotations and keywords users can have rudimentary presentations.

Other mindmapping software

We discovered VUE just recently. For some time we used XMind, but we did not like it because it requires paid version for some usable export options. The chance was then given to FreeMind, also a very good application, but we did not like the interface. Office applications not being suitable for mind maps we ventured into Wikipedia discovery – and found VUE.

The VUE homepage lists many tutorials, and that is where you can download this great program.

WordWeb – English dictionary application worth using

Dictionaries of English language are easy to find, but not all are easy to use. Most require working connection and they show ads. WordWeb does not! We will focus on this nifty dictionary, especially on “pro” version of the software, although free version is also available.

Stand-alone app

WordWeb is stand-alone application. You can download it from the official site, install and use without internet connection. It comes with WordNet database created by Princeton University. The database itself is very good, and you will rarely need any other explanations. However, if there is a need, upgrade is available for additional money.

Synonyms, antonyms, types – widening and narrowing meaning

WordWeb Pro is not only a dictionary, but thesaurus as well: very easy to use synonym, antonym finder. Here is the example for word “site”:

Screenshot of WordWeb
WordWeb tabs with different dictionary content

This screenshot illustrates many things. We can see that “site” is pronounced similarly as “cite” and “sight”. Tab type of lists words like “computer”, “position”, “parcel of land”, while tab types contains, amongst others, words “active site”, “camp”, “ground zero”. The first tab lists less specific words, second most specific words, so you can narrow or widen your search. Of course, there is a list of synonyms, in this case “internet site”, “place”, “website” and so on.

IPA transcription not available in default dictionary

There is one thing I feel represents major drawback: there is no IPA transcription. WordWeb with its default database (Princeton) displays nonstandard phonetic transcription (so “site” is /sIt/). I have not used Oxford or Chambers English Dictionary with WordWeb, which are also available as additional purchases, so I don’t know which transcription is used there. However, on brighter side: most of the headwords have pre-recorded pronunciation, in British and American English,  available as separate (free) download.

Language treasure in tabs

In other searches, WordWeb will display different tabs, depending on the search:

Synonyms Words which mean the same in some context
e.g. close is a synonym of shut.
Antonyms Words meaning the opposite in some context
e.g. big is an antonym of little
See Also Mostly related word forms and compounds
e.g. cut gives see also cut off, cutter, etc.
Type of Shows less specific words.
e.g. a comedy is a type of play
Types Shows more specific words.
e.g. flower has daisy as one of its types
Parts Shows words for part of an object
e.g. tree is one of the parts of a forest
Part of Shows words for a collection or the whole
e.g. bumper is a part of a car
Similar Words with meanings that are close
e.g. big is similar to huge

(Taken from WordWeb help file.)

We used WordWeb’s built-in anagram option to create a puzzle: “New meshing ‘twixt cowl”. Can you solve it? Hint: see the address bar!

Windows integration, options

The program integrates nicely with Windows. Just highlight a word and press shortcut keys to pop up the definitions. If the explanation is not enough, you can click on Wikipedia tab, which will show proper page on world’s most used reference site. It is also possible to use full text search, solve anagrams, add own definitions and create word lists (great for learning). You can use it with Microsoft Word and other processors.

Optional dictionaries

If default dictionary does not suite your needs, you can buy additional ones:

Oxford Dictionary of English
Chambers Dictionary of the English Language
Chambers Thesaurus
New Oxford American Dictionary
Australian Oxford English Dictionary
Canadian Oxford English Dictionary

It really is great dictionary, thesaurus – and more

If you are looking for great dictionary / synonym / antonym tool – you should try WordWeb Pro. Indeed, there are many free sites out there, and word definitions are easy to find, but you have to have internet connection and be patient with all those ads. WordWeb Pro works offline, with powerful dictionary tool just a shortcut away.

Free version is available here.