My favorite feature in Tiger

Apple made a big fuss over Tiger, saying it was their biggest upgrade in years. From a developer’s standpoint, there is really is some big stuff – if all your users have Tiger as well. I can’t use any of those cool things, but I’m looking forward to them in the future.

As a user, there are new features that are supposed to be very exciting, but for the most part I just end up unimpressed. Maybe if dashboard came with widgets that didn’t suck, I’d be more impressed.

There is one feature, however, that well and truly rocks. The dictionary. It is a true dictionary, not just a list of words for the spelling checker (in fact, sometimes the two do not agree). It is a full-on dictionary with alternatives, common phrases using the word (under “wolf” you can read about crying wolf and throwing someone to the wolves, among other things), and usage notes. Who’s or whose? Affect or effect? It is filled with concise and well-written guidance for an excitingly complex language. Connected is a thesaurus. Double-click any word in any definition and you jump to its definition. I spent a couple hours the other day, starting with moor, passing through Scotch, and ending somewhere around horse. High was a good read.

I do occasionally use it for spelling help, but much more I use it to learn more about particular words. Knowing the dictionary is there has increased my curiosity about the ins and outs of some words and has allowed me to use others with confidence.

There are probably other online dictionaries that are as good – I’ve never done a survey of the field – but man am I glad I have this one. I realize now I should have been using a dictionary more my whole life, but now any word in any document is just a right-click away, and I’ve learned tons. I’ve gotten much closer to words I thought I knew intimately.

As a bonus, no one is bugging me to put a thesaurus in Jer’s Novel Writer any more.

1 thought on “My favorite feature in Tiger

  1. Hoo, boy, you sure know how to turn a gal on — if she’s a verbivore.

    Yes, there are other dictionaries available in cyberspace, but none that I know of has that super-duper ease of use that you describe.

    If I have interpreted your description correctly, this dictionary is built-in to the software, and the user can access it without even being online. That immediately puts it way ahead of dictionaries that the user has to purchase separately and add on, or that the user has to be online to access.

    Many of my students could benefit from a dictionary that they could access while they’re writing with just a mouse click or two. As it is, a few of my very dedicated ESL students use a dictionary regularly (usually the old-fashioned kind printed out on paper and bound within a cover), but the vast majority find a dictionary (of either electronic or physical sort) just plain too bothersome. If they’re working in a campus computer lab, they can connect to online dictionaries either by typing in a link or by clicking on links provided by the college’s library system, but that’s still much more of a bother than having the dictionary constantly on standby whenever the word processor is running.

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