WordDigest for IPhone

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WordDigest, a US$2 app from Global Delight joins the already swelling ranks of mobile dictionaries for the iPhone and iPod touch. This dictionary hopes to distinguish itself by offering a collection of more than 147,000 words (with International Phonetic Alphabet pronunciations for 87,000 of them), thesaurus, and spellchecker. It also features integration with online sources like Answers.com, Wikipedia, and Wikitionary.

(Image Caption: Word Power: WordDigest entries feature definitions, synonyms, and the International Phonetic Alphabet pronunciation, among other bits of information.)

As a low-cost alternative to some of pricier mobile dictionaries, WordDigest is a good choice, provided you can look past a few quirks typical of a just-released app.

Upon launch, WordDigest briefly presents you with a splash screen before showing its entire database in one flat list. You can either scroll through the list using the familiar flicking gestures or scroll to specific letters using the alphabet selector on the right. Global Delight added a neat little touch here--when you scroll using the alphabet selector, each alphabet your finger lands on is shown in large letters at the top of the screen, making scrolling even easier.

Still, if you're looking up a word, you'll likely head straight to the search field at the top of the word list. As you type, WordDigest scrolls you down to the words that begin with the characters you've entered--a nice approach. Clicking on a word takes you to its definition, though not with the sliding animation you might expect from an iPhone app. It made me think the app was having trouble keeping up with my actions.

Definitions come from WordNet 3.0 and are always accompanied with an example sentence demonstrating usage. WordDigest also lists synonyms and IPA pronunciation of the word. You can also click on a small blue arrow icon to see more details about the word such as its antonyms, synonyms, hypernyms, and hyponyms. A Thesaurus button at the top of the screen takes you to the Thesaurus entry for the word in question.

WordDigest also sports a Spell Check feature which I really liked. If you ever find yourself confused about the correct spelling of "receive" or "sieve," you can type the word into WordDigest; the app will show you the correct spelling and a few suggested alternatives, in case you weren't looking for the top hit.

Although disabled by default, the application allows you to see the origin of the words you look up, but this requires an active Internet connection and adds to the load time of word definitions. For that reason, I would keep the option turned off.

Other miscellaneous WordDigest features include the ability to look up words on Answers.com, Wikipedia, and Wikitionary at the tap of a button. (You need to set up which one you want to use in the settings and cannot look up a word in all three of them at the same time.) You can also mark select words as favorites if you think you might want to return to them later. A history feature keeps track of all the words you've looked up in WordDigest.

Although generally a great low-cost application, WordDigest does have some problems, a few of which should be dealt with over time. As mentioned above, the app lacks the standard animations between screens that you've come to expect from iPhone programs at certain places, which takes away from the overall fluidity of the user interface. At times, it gives you the feeling that you're using a web app.

Furthermore, there are a few places where WordDigest does not behave in accordance with Apple's Human Interface Guidelines, such as the Favorites screen. Not only does the slide-to-delete gesture not work for deleting entries here, hitting the Edit button replaces the tab bar at the bottom of the screen with a custom toolbar with two buttons on it for sorting and deleting entries. This toolbar is of a non-standard size and looks thoroughly out of place. Also, the delete button is labeled Delete All, even though it is capable of deleting only selected entries.

Still, these are minor problems that don't significantly detract from WordDigest's usefulness. The app puts a full-fledged offline dictionary and thesaurus in the palm of your hand. If you're currently seeking a mobile dictionary--or dissatisfied with the one you've already downloaded--WordDigest deserves a look.

WordDigest is compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.1 software update.

[Aayush Arya blogs about the Mac at MacUser.]

This story, "WordDigest for IPhone" was originally published by Macworld.

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