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Tech Tips, Tricks & Trivia

by 'Anil' Radhakrishna
An architect's notes, experiments, discoveries and annotated bookmarks.

WordWeb - the desktop English teacher

"Problems with grammar have I." - Yoda

Mispronouncing English words especially those which have originated from a foreign language like French or mis-spelling words while writing the way they sound can sometimes cause social embarrassment. WordWeb is much more than a cool & free dictionary & thesaurus. It has been a good & constant companion for me during the last 5 years. It has helped me with pronunciation of words that are spelled one way but pronounced differently.

I haven't tracked the additions across versions but noticed that in the current version 5.2, it utilizes the default speech reader Microsoft Sam's robotic voice (on Windows XP) to pronounce words when you click on the speaker button. You have the choice of installing .wav sound files of 84MB size to hear pronunciations from sweet sounding humans.

And of course with it's fine UI it scores better than a good paper-based dictionary or thesaurus.

The online version of Wordweb is ad-free (unlike many other dictionaries on the Web) but does not unfortunately list in the top results when you search for meanings of words. I wish it could also show the pronunciation key & a way to listen to

If you need help with words in any application on your computer, you can invoke Wordweb with CTRL + right click & presto you have the meaning.

Wikipedia also points out that it can provide the meanings of words from pictures, just CTRL + right-click on a word within an image. Although this does not work every time, it's amazing & I'm curious to know how it is implemented. If the feature is perfected, it could be a CAPTCHA killer.

To pick a few nits, the above feature works only when you allow the Wordweb's recommended installation option of letting it stay in the system tray.

I found that after you install sound files, you have to click on the pronounciation key and NOT the speaker button. There do not appear to be enough sound files mapped to the words. As a result, you may not hear pronunciations of some words & the general pronunciation help file opens up.

While it has a commercial version, it's incredible that such a nifty software is available free. Interestingly, the license terms state that it may not be used by people who own an SUV or take more than four flights a year! While this may not have a profound impact on the environment the clause serves to generate awareness among the IT user community about global warming.

Related links:
Building a web-based Urdu dictionary with ASP.NET AJAX AutoComplete Extender
The Cost of Leaving Your PC On
Revisiting "How Much Power Does My Laptop Really Use"?
Free Programmable & Searchable Dictionaries


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