Mobile Systems stands in the
top tier of PDA language database providers, and has for some
years now. They offer a wide range of English and language
translation tools, all quality applications. Their $39.95 Professional
Bundle includes an explanatory dictionary, synonym database,
English phrase dictionary, acronym database, and irregular
verb dictionary. It dominates the field in terms of language
tool completeness in one package. The separate Pocket Oxford
goes for $14.95 if you already have the viewer, $29.95 if you
The MSDict viewer was one of the first
to support Sony hi res, and recently led the pack again with
Palm DIA support . The customizable interface combines simplicity
with an attractive yet functional use of color. The main
screen with the word list features alternating (user selectable)
colors and the usual tools for input and navigation. The
user selects databases from a pull-down list. The screen
location of toolbar and the input box can be changed.
Preference settings include where to locate
the toolbar, how to apply finds and filters, text sizes,
and clipboard use. Popup activation can be through taps on
silk screen buttons or in the command bar. The most recent
update introduced the command bar option, which is most welcome.
Popup can be in simple mode which simply provides a window
with the definition, or to the full MSDict app. MSDict popup
still doesn't work with WordSmith. WordSmith challenges most
apps that deal with text fields because it doesn't use the
standard Palm OS fields. Under OS 4, a hack brings the popup
capability to the table, but I couldn't test it on my T3.
The last version worked well on my old T665C.
I have one minor complaint about MSDict's
implementation of multiple databases. If I have a word definition
on the screen and change databases, MSDict brings up the
word list with the previously defined word at the top. I'd
prefer that the word's entry in the new database be displayed
instead of the word list. A minor critique of an otherwise
The English Explanatory Dictionary possesses
a number of unique characteristics. First, the definitions
provide excellent explanations of the words. Although probably
geared to those who don't speak English as a first language,
it provides excellent help to those who do. Also as you can
see from the illustration, most definitions include a few
related words (not always synonyms) to illustrate the definition,
as well as an example of the word's use in a phrase or sentence.
Definitions also include pronunciation, grammatical information,
and other word forms. Tapping on the hyperlinked words or
double tapping on non-hyperlinked words brings up their definitions.
Very simple and intuitive.
MSDict's thesaurus, called Synonymous,
also sports some very nice features. Each synonym starts
with the definition associated with each particular use.
Then Synonymous presents three levels of relationships: synonyms,
cross references, and similar words. The richness of this
approach preserves and emphasizes subtle shades of meaning,
facilitating the choosing of exactly the right word for the
circumstance. The only other reference I've found with this
richness is the innovative Roget's 21 st Century Thesaurus edited
by the Princeton Language Institute, which doesn't come in
a PDA format. If you're seeking just the right word, here's
where you'll find it under Palm OS.
MSDict counts over 90,000 headwords in
the Pro dictionary, and the thesaurus over 57,000. The dictionary
finished middle of the pack in my word test, finding just
over half of the difficult words. The definitions provided
for those present, however, were among the best in the group.
Mobile Systems recently published their
PDA implementation of the Pocket Oxford English Dictionary,
9th Edition. Like the Explanatory Pro, this version possesses
interesting features. It includes pronunciation under the
headword for difficult words. Definitions are generally terse
but on point. Many words include etymology, alternate forms,
and grammatical forms. Some include cross references, phrases
and idioms, and usage examples where appropriate. Best of
all, some include a word builder feature that lists other
words related to the central concept. This Oxford execution
serves up a lush English language feast.
The Pocket Oxford boasts over 140,000 entries.
Surprisingly, both Oxford entries in this review lagged well
behind the pack in the difficult word test but fully mastered
the modern words. Although the two databases originate in
different Oxford print versions, their scores and inclusions
were virtually identical. In practice, I've found that words
not in the Explanatory Pro may usually be found in the Pocket
Oxford and visa versa, though not always.
The Pro Bundle also includes Acronymic
and irregular verb databases, and the fine English Phrases
database. I love this reference, and will discuss it separately
with several other gems I discovered during this review.
The acronym database proved more useful than I would have
thought. Though not the most comprehensive offering in terms
of the most difficult words, MSDict's products offer a great
deal of information on each word in the database, greatly
assisting in selecting the right word.