Thursday, September 15, 2005

Dictionary Everywhere!

A quick check: Should you need to look up for word definitions while reading webpages, where do you usually start?

  • a brick-size granddaddy dictionary?

  • a bite-size pocket dictionary?

  • a PDA?

  • dictionary.com?

  • Google? (type "define: xyz" and hit SEARCH)

  • ask mommy?


Well, here's the catch. Look no further than your Mac, if you already have Tiger (Mac OS 10.4) installed on it.

Here's how. Let's say you are not sure about what "abashment" means. All you have to do is to place your mouse pointer over the word, and click ctrl + command + d. Go on, try it. Bing! Without typing a word, you got your answer already!
dictionary pop-up widget
Not impressed yet? Now try this. While you bring up the pop-up thingy, don't let go of the ctrl key. Move your mouse around, you'll see that whatever word the mouse comes across shows its pop-up definition as well!

There is a handy menu on the pop-up widget for you to switch between word definitions and thesaurus.
switching between dictionary and thesaurus
If you click on "more" on the bottom-right corner, it will launch the actual Dictionary application. Make no mistake that it is housing the Oxford American Dictionary! That shall provide extra confidence boost in the word definitions you get.
Dictionary application
Besides Safari (for non-mac user, that's Mac's default nifty web browser), you can apply the trick to these applications, just to name a few. Note that in some applications it only works when you are editing the text, e.g. when editing an entry in iCal.

  • iLife series (iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, GarageBand)

  • Text Editor

  • Adium

  • iCal

  • Address Book

  • Mail

  • Dictionary (ironically)


For the other thousands of applications that don't get mentioned here, the trick may or may not work. At any time you can try the trick on any of them to see for yourself. If it works, it works. If it doesn't, then someone's got to do a better job!

Further tips


I find the default short-cut key rather awkward, because it requires me to twist my wrist in an unnatural way. Luckily, Apple has made this customizable. It's much better now after I changed it to ctrl + d.

Yet another Mac tip is on the web!

9 comments:

Pei Zuan Tam said...

Tip updated: holding the ctrl key to keep the floating dictionary active.

Fabrice Lyczba said...

This is cooool....thanks

Anonymous said...

Thanks, this is awesome.

How do you change the shortcut to ctrl + d?

Caribou4 said...

Thanks, you just saved me a lot of time as I use the dictionary constantly.

Anonymous said...

Great tip!

To clarify a bit, you must keep holding down BOTH ctrl & apple (command) keys to keep the mouseover dictionary active... at least in my Safari experience.

Can't believe this is not working in Firefox 2.0! :-(

Anonymous said...

This is great! How do change the shortcut? Ctrl-cmd-d is way too awkward for such a useful tool!

Tyler said...

Awesome tip. Is there a way to get that dictionary to recognize words in German (or any other language, for that matter) as well?

Anonymous said...

thank you! i use the dictionary a lot

Anonymous said...

why won't it work w/ firefox?