Two Helpful Digital Dictionaries for Nonnative English Speaker

Being a nonnative, the hardest part to deal with is probably improving our writing style. It doesn't only require a good grammr, but also a good vocabulary knowledge. These two dictionaries have been very useful to me all this time. Both are free and compatible with Windows. If you have tired with your huge-size printed dictionary already, check them out below.


Instant Word Look-Up
It is pretty easy to get the definition of a word within a page on another application such as browser. Just hold [Ctrl] while right-clicking on a word, and the minimized main window pops-out with the meanings. It can also be configured to use hotkey instead, both for opening and hiding to the system tray. Make your own hotkey to open and use the [Esc] keyboard to hide it.

Bookmark capability
Any word's definition can be bookmarked. I rarely use this feature because I can just type the word I want in its dialogue box to get the definition. However, it may help you when you want to bookmark a relatively new word and recall it from the list.

Related words list
Aside from its definition, WordWeb can show you its various related words synonym, antonym, mostly related word forms and compounds, less or more specific words, words for part of an object, words for a collection (e.g. paper is a part of a page), and words with similar meanings. All the related words are grouped into tabs, so it is quite easy to look what you need for. Moreover, each word is clickable to get its own senses.

You can also see its pronunciation along with the usage examples. You can even choose to display vulgar and offensive words.

A word can have many meanings. It means you are likely to get lots of synonyms. To show only the synonyms specific to a sense, hover your mouse over a sense number.

Fast access to the word types
I'm pretty sure you know already that a word may have several word types such as adjective, verb, noun, and adverbs. In this case WordWeb provides fast way to go directly to each simply by pressing the appropriate buttons. These buttons are located at the side of the definition box.

Nine English language versions to choose
International, America, Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Asia. My suggestion is set it to International version since you can flag other versions whenever they exist. As an example, look up for the word color. You will see that other versions available, which are Canada, America, and Britain, are flagged accordingly. Look at the screenshot for better understanding.

Hear the pronunciation
This feature is useful when you decide to sharpen your speaking level skill.

Website: WordWeb
For: Windows 95/98/Me/2000/XP/Vista
Version tested: 5.00

The Sage

Frankly, this is my first dictionary to use. I was happy to discover and use it before getting caught by WordWeb. Unlike WordWeb, to enable instant look-up you must highlight the word before pressing the hotkey. It can't be hidden to the tray using hotkey as well. In short, it is less practical than WordWeb.

Another notable weakness is that you can't go directly to the word-type based meaning. If it happens the word you type has more than one word-type, you have to scroll down to find the specific meaning, e.g. the adjective meaning, if the position is at the lower part.

However, it has distinctive features. Firstly, each word typed will be saved temporarily in individual tab. This is good particularly when you need to compare two synonyms usage. Secondly, all related wods can be configured to be displayed directly without having to click any icon. Moreover, each meaning is contained with all the specific related-words in one group.

It packs 145,000 reference along with more than 200,000 meanings, and around 1,200,000 relationships between the meanings. The color of the fonts and icons are customizable, too. It allows you to do a wildcard and anagram search as well.

Website: Sequence Publishing
For: Windows 95/98/Me/2000/XP
Version tested: 1.40

Windows Software Buzz, Thursday, September 27, 2007 At 11:45 AM - Permalink
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