App review: Oxford Deluxe English Dictionary and Thesaurus for iPad

As an English student I often refer to the Oxford dictionary, and since I don’t like paper it was an obvious choice to go for the app version. There is no iPad app unfortunately (as of March 15 there is), but running the iPhone version scaled up works just fine, and if there was ever something that  really worked well as an app it would be this. The bigger the book you’re reading, the more annoying it is to carry around. Dictionaries are infamous for weighing a ton and being a pain in the docking port to bring everywhere, so it’s really nice to be able to put all that functionality into an app for your tablet or cell phone.

Dictionaries are after all mighty useful things, both for students, writers and frankly people in general. There are a few different versions of the Oxford dictionary (and other dictionaries) in the app store, from different developers even. This “deluxe” version is the most expensive at $55 (app store link), but still cheaper than the book version and it also has a few features that you definitely won’t find on paper, and not even in the other versions in the app store.

The app works pretty much as you would expect. You can find words either by browsing an alphabetical list like you would a paper dictionary, but also by searching which is much quicker and also one of the reasons the app is superior to the paper version. One nice feature is that you can search any form of a word and it will show you the base form. If you search “tablets” it will return “tablet”, if you search “went” it will return “go” and so on. It will also return close matches to words as well as try to guess what you meant if you spell a word wrong. Another neat feature is that you can click any word that’s part of the text definition of another word and go to the definition for that word directly, e.g if you looked up Tyrannosaurus Rex and it said it was a dinosaur you could click “dinosaur” and go to the definition for that word. You can also click the red word on top to go to the thesaurus entry for that word. Simple things, but it adds to making it a better experience than using a paper dictionary.

One of the most impressive features however is the built in database of recorded words. The app description states that over 55000 words have been recorded and are available in the app, so while it doesn’t have all words in the English language it has a lot of them. I used this feature a lot last semester when I had a course in phonetics and it’s excellent for learning the right pronunciation of certain word. These are in British English though, so if you want the American pronunciation it might not help you on all words.

There isn’t an awful lot more to say about this app, other than that an iPad version would be nice considering the price. It’s a dictionary like you’re used to in paper form, but with some extra features that really make it a lot more usable in my book. A must have if you use a dictionary often, even if the app is more expensive than similar apps.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets and tends to stick with his choice of device for a long time as a result of that. After a five year break from writing, he's back to share this view with the world once again.