Can Anyone Recommend a Personal Dictionary for Mac OS X?

Hey All,

I’m desperately looking for a personal dictionary app to store the dozens of doezens of words I come across and want to hang on to as a writer. I’ve been keeping them in a Moleskine for years, but I’d much rather have them on my Mac at this point.

I’m looking for something along the lines of Word Word or Word Locker. They are both pretty much what I want, in terms of functionality, features and purpose —but they’re only available for iOS, which I don’t have. (Moreover, a link for Word Word’s developer site from the App Store leads to dead link on a Japanese page; Word Locker’s link leads to a page in the Netherlands that has many iOS apps, but not Word Locker.)

Any recommendations? Anybody?

Why not a Scrivener project? One document per word. The document title would be the word, the body would be the various definitions. Or a folder with the title being the word, and one document per definition in that folder. The sources for each word could be tracked either in the document notes, or the references pane. You could keep webarchives of the pages from which the definitions come and link them in the references panes as well. If you don’t need anything to be compiled, you could keep everything outside the draft folder, so that all source materials (webarchives, scans, photos of pages, etc…) could be kept with each word.

That’s interesting, but seems like it would be overkill.

It might seem that way, but this technique actually works very well. Consider how something like this might have been done prior to the digital age: you’d very likely use something like index cards to jot down words of interest, what they mean, and how you’d like to use them. The Moleskine or similar pocket journal approach is another answer. I personally feel that Scrivener’s index card and/or Inspector approach is a perfect translation of this task to a digital format.

The key way of looking at it, in my opinion, is to perhaps never even bother with going any deeper than the corkboard, and optionally using the Inspector’s tools if a little extra is desired. Just think of these things as literally being the cards you’d write on, or the pages in your journal. You can make the index cards taller if you need, and they are easy to sort, shuffle, add and remove. The fact that they can be representative of a huge chunk of text or a node in a complex network of ideas doesn’t mean they have to be. This usage is very lightweight, as well. In fact the underlying RTF file for storing text isn’t even created until you go in and start writing. If all you do is put in a word for the title and nothing else, it is merely a single line of text in one file (the master Binder file). If you then go on to write synopsis, a text file is created at that time to hold the information. If you write in the Inspector notes, an RTF file is created, etc. It all expands only as you need it.

Lest you think I’m just theorising here, I do actually use Scrivener for this very thing. I write down words of interest, or basic concepts, and store them literally just “on a corkboard”. That is how I interface with them, and if I need them in a project I’m working on, I drag them from my “Journal” project into my WIP project’s binder. It’s all very seamless and I like how I can make it only as complex as I need it to be. If I want to use keywords and references and such, I can, but I don’t have to and I very often don’t. Most often these kinds of entries are nothing but a title and maybe a synopsis.

Yeah, I was showing the possibilities, not the required level of details you would have to use. Stop at Title=Word, Body (or synopsis) = definition, and you’re done, and don’t have to buy or install another piece of software. But if you want to go into deep detail, you have everything you might need in Scrivener.

Scrivenings mode with titles turned on means that if you keep your definitions in the body, then you can see them as one continuous document. An upcoming update will automatically display (some of) the body text in the index card if there isn’t any other text there, so you’ll be able to view things in the cork board as Ioa does with no extra work.

okay. this seems to be the best solution going—though i do find it odd that this app does not exist for the desktop. it’s especially frustrating that solutions exist for iOS with the type of functionality that actually encourages learning and using the word, not just storing it.

with all of the tools for writers available for the Mac, something like this seems like a no-brainer. but if you guys are saying it doesn’t exist, i guess it doesn’t exist. i asked the Literature and Latte folks and they said, “you should ask in the forums.” when i asked the ScribbleCode folk i was told, “Usually when I am looking for software in such situations, I go and ask on the Literature and Latte forums as there are a lot of Mac writers on there familiar with a lot of software I haven’t come across.”

sigh. maybe i need to find someone who can build it?

Keith became a programmer because nothing like Scrivener existed. :wink:

Robert, you beat me to it; I was going to suggest “Do a Keith!”
Mr X

Well, it might very well exist, the Mac third-party software ecosystem is huge and often times a program will be described as doing one thing, but actually be quite good at doing other things as well (like Scrivener for that matter). I just don’t know of anything off-hand, and Scrivener is so good at stuff like this that I often do not end up looking for something more specific, because keeping my knowledge in one format is useful, when that knowledge tends to spread and be shared by other projects.

Tinderbox, or the cheaper and much easier to learn Twig, might actually be good for this sort of thing as well. Notational Velocity is another “Swiss Army Knife” notepad that excels at rapid searching & note creation.

Thanks, Amber. Notational Velocity looks like the best option I’ve seen thus far. Much Appreciated.

Tinderbox always felt too serious for my tastes (especially at $249) and it seems Twig is no longer being developed or supported.

Unlike others, I like the idea of my vocabulary list being in a separate app that I can engage outside of the confines of writing or what have you. I’m continuing my search and reaching out to developers, mainly because I’m enamored with the possibility of a dictionary specific app—espeically since at least two exist for iOS.

I use DEVONthink Pro for this, but only because I already have that application, and use it for vast swathes of my digital life (from lists of Christmas presents, to interesting words, to articles from academic journals, to recipes from the internet…).

Actually, I have just had a thought. There used to be a lovely Mac application called ProVoc, by Arizona Software, which was designed as a vocabulary trainer for language learning, and I have used it in the past for both French and Italian vocabulary lists. The application has been “retired” now, which is a bit of a shame, but it is still available from . You might find that useful if you just used it as a repository for your words and definitions – you wouldn’t need to use the training functionality. It even has a dashboard widget. Other user-configured vocabulary applications may also be available, intended for learning foreign languages, but I haven’t looked into that area recently. And obviously, ProVoc is no longer being developed so it may not work on future versions of Mac OS X, but I have just checked it on my Mountain Lion installation and it seems to work fine.

In a similarly tangential vein, my son is very keen on Anki (open source). Again, the intention of the application is that you train yourself to remember things that you need to learn, but you could equally use it just as a storage device. The principle here is that you have cards modelled on flashcards, with a question on one side (or in your case, the word you want to record) and the answer on the other (the definition). The cards can be organised into decks.

Both ProVoc and Anki are available free of charge, so it won’t cost you anything to see whether they might be bent to your purposes.

Thanks, Siren!

I had looked into ProVoc already and it was one of those “if all else fails options”—mainly because it didn’t “feel” like a fix to me and also because it was no longer being developed. Anki seems promising enough.

I’m getting closer to what I need!

I appreciate all of the answers and suggestions. Just about every reply has given me a new idea or shown me a new way to use/look at an app. This is kinda awesome.

There’s always EverNote. Cross platform and syncs automatically. Always backed up. Free.