The Hazards of Love

while I’m rebuilding my jhbuild setup in order to roll out gnome-utils 2.27.1 ((hopefully before the cut-off time for the 2.27.1 release)) I started pondering on a couple of questions:

  1. why are we still shipping the dictionary applet?
  2. and, more importantly: why are we still shipping a DICT protocol client?

okay, I wrote them both — and I was just trying to save them from the horrid death-by-code-rotting fate they were condemned to — but at the time I did not stop and consider why ((the software engineering and programming challenge were, foolishly, all I was interested in; I was young and eager to prove myself)).

who in their right mind would still use a DICT client — when it’s not perfectly clear ((go on, look at the two dictionary providers we install with gnome-dictionary, and consider that those two have been the same since 2.12, that is seven development cycles ago)) that only a few DICT servers are alive enough to be useful, and mostly for the english-speaking only world?

so, I ask the interwebs: what kind of electronic dictionary do you commonly use when you need one? do you use Wiktionary and Wikipedia? do you use another web service ((with a public API, hopefully))? or do you use something local, with files you update semi-regularly? what do you use when you need to translate something?

I’d like to address this issue during the 2.27 cycle because I don’t want to let gnome-dictionary end up like gfloppy — a survivor of a different era that only recently we were able to just remove for something far more powerful and useful.

43 Replies to “The Hazards of Love”

  1. I use Google too, I just didn’t know about define:word. You learn something new every day. ^.^;

  2. Gjiten locally and the ALC dictionary online for Japanese. Lexin and Nordstedts online dictionaries for Swedish. Google search for English (Google really pretty much sucks for my other languages).

    But for a lot of Japanese and English I use an electronic pocket dictionary (we have three different Casio EX-Word dictionaries at home). Pretty much beats any online and paper resource I’ve ever tried.

  3. I generally use qstardict with the web plugin as well as local dictionaries.

    If translating I tend towards online dictionaries

  4. I use dict (either command line or using the Fantasdic GUI) to connect to a local server, for both English, translations, and thesaurus. If I require real information (for English) I use the OED online, but its interface is cumbersome.

    For languages other than English, I almost have to rely on paper sources.

    The web doesn’t offer, as far as I’ve seen, anything better.

  5. Why is the constancy of the dictionary providers an argument against shipping the applet?

    I use the applet all the time, and one of the pluses I find in it vs. other similar utilities (google, say) is precisely the constancy of the providers…

  6. I actually reach for gnome-dictionary all the time. It’s really handy to have it sitting right there on my panel where I can quickly learn what those big fancy words mean, or make sure I’m using a word correctly so I don’t sound like an idiot.

    Two simple enhancements would drastically increase its usefulness:

    1) Spelling suggestions!

    2) Let me resize the damn popup window so I can read more than a few lines at a time. And remember the size I choose for future sessions.

  7. I use gnome-do’s define action all the time during the day. That uses the gnome dictionary app, I guess it could just open a web browser search though?


  8. I use gnome-dictionary constantly, through gnome-do. I do miss greek dictionaries though.

  9. @mariano: no, those are two different discussions. the first is why are we still shipping an applet and the second is why are we still shipping a DICT client

    @daniel: no, the whole point of this discussion is how can I keep the dictionary inside gnome-utils without making it irrelevant until we’re forced to removed it because it’s just a relic of the past.

    @all gnome-do users: in theory, gnome-do (like the deskbar-applet) should use libgdict and not invoke gnome-dictionary directly; but I lost all hope on that front ages ago.

    @matthew: if you want something you can resize and remember the size you should be using gnome-dictionary, not the applet.

  10. Echoing Matthew’s comments here. Imo the applets popup window should just autoresize vertically to hold the whole definition or to the edge of the screen if its longer.

  11. I use usually for DEEN translations, but would very much appreciate an offline dictionary – like Ding, but with better looks, and with better desktop integration (Babylons OCR magic comes to mind).

  12. I tend to use the dictionary client when doing translation work. using define:term searches on google though give better results these days though. I wouldn’t be so sad to see it go, especially since I have moved more to online services like rosetta for translation work and there integration with a web service might be better.

    gnome-dict has served me well though, I will be raising a glass in it’s honor if it is put to rest.

  13. I use for translating between german and english. It also has french, spanish, italian and chinese.

  14. I always do:

    telnet 2628
    define wn word

    If I had gnome I’d probably be using your client ;-)

  15. StarDict if I have to do a lot of defining or translating individual words.

  16. I mostly use Stardict, a GTK+ dictionary application with a hideous, hideous UI and local dictionaries (I am still using the now taken-down Longman & Oxford dictionaries, but there are lots of others, especially for Asian and European languages).

  17. From a distance, an online dict server is a web service “avant la lettre”.

    For Free software translations, I often use If the gnome dictionary applet could talk to that service I’d switch to it over a browser UI in a second.

    Furthermore I think the dictionary should autodetect locally running dict services:

  18. Whenever I’m online I use the wiktionaries. However, dict and gnome-dict are still very important for me because they are the only (free) dictionaries I can keep in local for whenever internet is not available.

    If you want to update gnome-dict to a newer technology, you could consider linking it to wiktionary, and add some option to cache and update the database.

  19. I actually use gnome-dictionary quite often, in fact it’s in my session auto-run in the lab account at university so it’s always running somewhere there along terminal and web browser. True it’s only english and only the few old dictionaries but that’s just what I need when someone says “nereid” or “nonillion”.

    For the other dictionary needs it’s wikipedia or

  20. Jamie pretty much described my setup: local dict server with a bunch of dictionaries, command-line dict client, fall back to OED and Google Translate (which I have a command-line client for).

  21. I can’t live without

    I use it from firefox search add-on, and I’m very happy.

    I’ve tested dictionary applet and I must agree: it’s disappointing.

  22. I use define: in Google, wiktionary and, probably in that order.

  23. I’m afraid I tend to to turn to my OS X machine and look things up on its built-in, offline dictionary.

  24. And how about integrating the Gnome Dictionnary in other app, like say Evince, to allow me look up words I don’t know or whose meaning I’m not sure ?

  25. “And how about integrating the Gnome Dictionnary in other app, like say Evince, to allow me look up words I don’t know or whose meaning I’m not sure ?”

    Great idea. highlight word, right mouse, translate. that would be very helpful when reading english ebooks

    what i use:
    EN->DE and DE->EN @ via the ff-search via the ff-search

    and now that i’ ve seen it here define: word via the ff-search :->

  26. Just my two cents on this old now blog post. I fell here searching for a way to add custom dictionary to the dictionary-applet, but don’t found the way I need.

    What I really need is Word Reference. It doesn’t provide any dict protocol. Only a open search plugin for Firefox and other enables browser. Maybe it’s a way to follow. But, in this case, the result is a web page, and not a definition list.

    Don’t know really. The dict applet (and Gnome dictionary) must not disappeared but must provided more modern way to add sources.

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