Dictionary++ - An Open Source Dictionary App For iOS

Since iOS 5, Apple has included a system-wide dictionary within iOS, accessible from text fields in all applications on the platform. Whilst this is a fantastic solution when you come across an unfamiliar word as you’re reading a webpage or iBook, for example, it’s far from perfect when you need to arbitrarily define a word.

On OS X, this is simply a case of typing the word into Spotlight (however, I prefer to use LaunchBar to perform the same task). But on iOS, I’ve found myself jumping between three different processes:

  • Using Siri to “Define [word]“ (which actually uses WolframAlpha to find definitions for words). However, this solution not only requires a fast network connection, but also forces you to speak the word aloud (not feasible in a classroom situation, for example) whilst also relying on Apple’s speech synthesising (which tends to perform relatively poorly with my Australian accent).
  • Awkwardly accessing the system dictionary by typing words I needed to define into Notes.app, selecting each one and tapping “Define” in the resulting MenuController.
  • Using a third-party dictionary application from the App Store, however, as iOS already includes a full dictionary it seems ridiculously wasteful to download another dictionary.

Ultimately, none of these solutions appealed to me, and so I was incredibly happy to see this @reply from Daniel Stine about Dictionary+, which did exactly what I was looking for.

After contacting the developer, it turns out that Dictionary+ had been pulled from the store by Apple and so I thought it would be a fun weekend project to whip up a clone. The resulting app is Dictionary++. I don’t expect it to go anywhere, especially since it requires one to build, sign and install the app themselves. However, I am most welcome to pull requests and issues from those who do use it. Enjoy.

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