Do you want a quicker way to look up common words? Wish you had instant access to an encyclopedia? Need help with spelling or word usage? Or perhaps you'd like to find synonyms for a commonly used word or even learn how to pronounce it?
Built-in to Mac OS X is a very capable and flexible Dictionary application. You can find it in your Applications folder. It has much more functionality than a simple 'look-up a word' style dictionary though... and like many areas of your Mac OS X operating system has some clever ways to conduct dictionary and thesaurus searches and even access Wikipedia!
Now, I used the phrase "built-in" above, because of the high level of integration that the Dictionary has within applications like Text Edit, Safari, Mail, Pages, etc. Yes, you guessed it! You can use Dictionary without even launching the dictionary application. In today's tip I'm going to show you how to make the most of the dictionary in Mac OS X - and I have no excuse for bad spelling ;-)
"make the most of" = use to the best advantage : he was eager to make the most of his visit. - represent at its best : how to make the most of your features.
Once you open the Dictionary application you'll notice the Tabs below the Toolbar which allow you to switch search types. You can conduct searches in Wikipedia right from within Dictionary as well as use it as a Thesaurus.
Simply type a word into the search field and either select a word from the list or press Enter to begin a search... I use the word "begin" very loosely here. I find searching so instant that I barely notice the time between typing and reading the results!
Click on the tabs to switch to the other Search types. If you prefer here are the shortcuts:
Often when looking-up a word you find another word which you want to find out more information about. To go down this dictionary rabbit-hole would involve you selecting, copying and pasting the word into the search field and conducting a search, right? Nope. Mouse over most words and you'll notice that the word turns into a hyperlink. Single click on the word and you'll be taken to it's definition. Again, you can switch search types at any stage. The Back Button will take you back to a previous search.
Tip 3 - Search with Spotlight
So, let's move on to how Dictionary is integrated into Mac OS X technologies. First up is Spotlight. Use Command-Space bar or click on the Spotlight icon in the top-right of the menu bar and start typing a word you wish to look-up. In this instance, I've decided to search my Mac (and the Dictionary) for the word 'Live'.
Normally, I would recommend using the arrow keys to navigate through Spotlight's list... but as you can see in the picture above, hovering the mouse over an item for a second or two, reveals a yellow help box. In this case, hovering over our Definition, will display a mini definition for the word.
If you want further information, pressing Enter will launch the Dictionary application and conduct the search in the blink of an eye!
In applications which make use of the Dictionary, like Pages, Safari, Text Edit, etc, you can right-click on a word to display a contextual menu. Most times, I'll use this when my fingers can't keep up with my brain and I've misspelled a word... to view and choose the correct spelling. However, in the case of finding a definition, simply right-click a word and from the contextual menu choose Look Up in Dictionary.
Again, this opens the Dictionary application and conducts the search. However, you may prefer to stay within the current application and find the definition without switching between applications. To achieve this you can change the way a definition or search result is displayed from within the Dictionary application.
Choose Dictionary > Preferences
Select the contextual menu to Open Dictionary Panel.
You can also change the order of the reference sources and the default font size here.
Now back in your Safari, TextEdit or Pages window, right-click on a word and choose Look Up in Dictionary. A Dictionary panel appears which displays the definition using the Dictionary or Thesaurus. If you want to view this in the full-blown Dictionary application simply click on the More... button.
If, like me, you're a sucker for keyboard shortcuts, then here is one you can use to impress your friends ;-)
Place the mouse cursor over a word (in an application that supports Dictionary)
Hold down Control-Command-D
The Dictionary Panel appears for the word. You can release the D key and with the Control and Command keys still held down get an instant definition of the word your mouse cursor is over!
Releasing the D and Control and Command keys together keeps the Dictionary Panel on screen focused on the selcted word. Now you can easily scroll through the definition and move your mouse without losing your definition panel.
Mac OS X Dictionary features are very powerful and provide a high level of integration with supported OS X applications. Looking-up definitions, synonyms and using wikipedia has never been so easy and fun!
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