The overwhelming abundance of online dictionaries is providing us with multiple possibilities for looking up definitions, synonyms, usage examples and other information regarding words and expressions. However, we do not always have access to an Internet connection, especially when we’re travelling. At the same time, the odds that we would burden our luggage with an old fashioned dictionary are slim to none.
WordWeb is a free English dictionary and thesaurus utility that works perfectly even when you are offline, although it comes with a few extra online features. It’s also very small and provides the option of installing as a portable version onto a removable device.
WordWeb’s installation is pretty much standard for such a small utility: the process is fast and simple, although it does provide the user with a few install settings, specifically the option to run the program in the system tray (recommended) and to install it as a portable app if you wish to carry it with you on a removable device. The setup doesn’t contain any form of adware even if WordWeb is free of charge.
To function properly WordWeb requires one of the following operating systems: Windows 2000, XP, Vista or 7, with no additional requirements. Additional WordWeb versions are available for mobile devices in the iPhone App Store and Android Market.
WordWeb’s GUI is plain, yet most of its features are revealed as soon as you look up a word. The upper section displays all of the possible meanings of the word with usage examples, audio pronunciation, phonetic transcription and lexical category/categories. If you are connected to the Internet, additional tabs will appear besides the WordWeb tab, for three additional references: Wikipedia, Wictionary and WordWeb Online.
The lower section displays various tabs for word related information, such as nearest (other words with similar spelling), synonyms, parts (related items), type of (words with generic meaning) and types (similar items). Of course the availability of this information depends entirely on the word you looked up.
WordWeb was designed for efficiency, and it’s the small details that prove it. For example, if you’re viewing a word’s definitions, double-clicking on any of the words used to describe it will automatically look up that word. The program also comes with a set of hotkeys (which can be customized). By default, any word located under the mouse cursor (inside any application) will be looked up if you press Ctrl+ Right-click. You can also look up selected text using the keyboard hotkey Ctrl+Alt+W.
Hotkeys can be edited from the Options menu, the same place from where you can access WordWeb’s Preferences. The Preferences section, enables you to customize various aspects of the program, such as search results (for example you can include vulgar and offensive words to be displayed in the synonyms and suggestions), English Locale (show English varieties for various areas such as America, Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland…etc.) and WordWeb options (which types of information would you like to be displayed for looked up words).
- Small, unobtrusive program which can be set to run in the system tray.
- Auto- complete function.
- Wide range of vocabulary in both offline and online environments.
- Customizable hotkeys for quick word search.
- Support is enabled for multiple English varieties from different areas of the world.
- Very few terms have antonyms available.
- One-click word lookup (using the mouse) is not always accurate as sometimes the words end up misspelled and you have to re-type them in the correct form.
WordWeb may not be perfect, but it doesn’t have too many rivals in the free dictionary and thesaurus software category. TheSage is a free utility that contains a comprehensive dictionary with definitions, usage examples, phonetic transcriptions and word associations, developed as a fully portable application ready for offline use.
Artha is an open-source thesaurus, designed as a free alternative to the commercial version of WordWeb (WordWeb Pro) that has versions available for both Windows and Linux operating systems. As a result, the two programs have similar capabilities and GUIs.
For those in need of an offline PC dictionary, WordWeb is more than capable of solving their problem. Containing 150 000 root words and 120 000 synonym sets, WordWeb is also packed with useful features that aim to provide comprehensive information and efficient ways to look up words.