Loving Mac OS X Lion’s Dictionary

Dictionary apps aren’t sexy. Even Apple’s Mac app “Dictionary” doesn’t get stage time during press events. Yet, Dictionary is among the top reasons to buy Mac OS X Lion. Features like Wikipedia integration, multiple dictionaries, gesture support and multiple word views make Dictionary a pleasure to use. Here’s why you ought to get excited about a dictionary application.

Multiple Dictionary Options

With Lion, Apple has updated Dictionary’s “New Oxford American English” dictionary to the third edition of 2010 (previous versions used an edition from 2005). There are two thesauruses and six dictionaries to choose from:

  1. New Oxford American Dictionary
  2. Apple Dictionary
  3. Japanese Synonyms
  4. Japanese-English
  5. Japanese
  6. British Oxford Dictionary of English (also 2010 3rd edition)

Select the ones you’d like to use via the app’s preferences, and re-order them to determine how they’ll appear in the app’s toolbar.

Once you’ve made your choices and gotten the order just so, you can re-name each label in the app’s toolbar:

  1. Control-click (or right-click) the dictionary’s name.
  2. A contextual menu appears. Select “Edit Label.”
  3. A new sheet appears. Enter your custom label and click OK.

That’s it! If you change your mind, Control-click the label again and select “Revert to Original.”

New Two-Pane Display

Apple has given Dictionary a sidebar, similar to that in iPhoto and iTunes. Now, you can see the word you looked up as well as a list of similar and derivative words. Also, Lion’s dictionary shows every reference to your target word across all resources at once. Snow Leopard made you click between dictionaries, etc. one at a time. Below is a look at Dictionary in Lion (top) and Snow Leopard (bottom).

Gesture Support

Hover your cursor over a word and double-tap with three fingers to reveal the dictionary entry for that word. I use this feature often.

Lion’s Dictionary is a huge upgrade from its predecessors. Check it out if you haven’t.