Expand Mac’s Dictionary App by Adding Additional Languages

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As a writer, one of the most important applications I use in Mac is Dictionary (Applications → Dictionary.app). And, as the citizen of a country where English is a foreign language, I always wish to be able to add my own language to the Dictionary so I can quickly and easily translate between the languages.

“Be careful of what you wish, it may come true.” That statement is wise indeed. Especially when you wish upon a search engine named Google. I found out that adding other languages to Apple Dictionary is a snap.

Activating Other Built In Dictionaries on your Mac

First and foremost, let’s explore the Dictionary.app before we go too far. It turns out that Dictionary in Leopard already comes with six built in dictionaries plus access to Wikipedia as online reference.
Wait a minute, six? Most people thought there are only three: New Oxford American Dictionary, Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, and Apple Dictionary.

But if you go to Dictionary’s Preferences (Dictionary → Preferences or simply hit the Command + Comma button), you will have checklist options to activate another three: Japanese, Japanese-English, and Japanese Synonyms. (As to why Apple add built in Japanese dictionaries to Dictionary, you have to ask Apple directly.)

Another less-known feature that also can be activated here is Wikipedia search on another non-English language. Just select the Wikipedia from the list, and then look at the option panel that will show up below it. There are several choices of languages to be chosen by giving tick to the box, but user can add one more language from the drop down lists.

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After closing the Preferences window and restarting the Dictionary, you can see the full list of new active dictionaries.

Adding External Dictionaries

The first logical step to add more dictionaries is to search for ready-made “.dict” file. You can accomplish this by going to download sites or directly to google and seach “Apple Dictionary plugin” and/or “.dict”. There are several dictionaries available such as OpenThesaurus German Dictionary Plugin and Thai-English translation dictionary.

But you can go further by converting other ready-made dictionary format files and translate them into Apple Dictionary’s format. The steps are:

First: acquire the dictionaries

    1. Go to StarDict and choose one or more of the many available dictionaries.

    2. You can also go to the StarDict online dictionary.

    3. Choose the source and destination language.

    4. A link or links will show up and when you click on one of them, a pop up window will appear with the download link of the dictionary.

    5. Choose as many or as little dictionaries as you need.

Second: Convert the dictionaries

To convert the dictionaries that we’ve downloaded into something that could be opened by Apple Dictionary App, we need DictUnifier.

    1. Download the installer and run it.

    2. Choose (one of) the dictionary file(s) that you’ve downloaded.

    3. Click “Convert”.

    4. The conversion process will take from about several seconds to a few minutes.

    5. After finish converting, the converted dictionary will automatically exported to Apple Dictionary, and the Dictionary app will be opened.

Simple enough, but please note that some users reported that DictUnifier can not convert several StarDict’s dictionary. If this is the case, just remember to put the same name in the Dictionary Name and Dictionary ID fields.

Finally, you can learn more about Apple Dictionary and how to build your own dictionary by going to Apple’s Dictionary Services Programming Guide.

Do you have other favorite dictionary application? Share using the comment below.

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