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The Great Palm OS Dictionary Shoot-out: BDicty, Mi:D, MSDict, Oxford American, and PocketLingo
Posted December 2003 by Tanker Bob — page 4

MSDict 5.00.16 Professional Dictionary Bundle and Pocket Oxford English Dictionary from Mobile Systems

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 don't.

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 outstanding implementation.

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.




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Pros :

Attractive, intuitive interface

Best definitions in Explanatory Pro

Best thesaurus

Great word info in Pocket Oxford

Supports Palm OS DIA

Cons :

Not the most comprehensive word list

NEXT -> Oxford American Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus

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