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WordBook Review

Posted: 14 July 2005

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Software Author:   TranCreative
Product: WordBook Dictionary
Cost: $19.95
Reviewed By: Tim Hillebrand

Why anyone would not pack a dictionary in his/her Pocket PC when it doesn’t weigh anything is beyond me, especially when you consider that you can pay up to $2700 for a dictionary, and this one only costs $19.95.

What do you get for your $2700? You get a sagging bookshelf with four feet of books that weigh about 160 pounds. You get tree books that smell bad after a while. And of course the tree book version is obsolete the minute it goes on your shelf.

In contrast, the WordBook electronic dictionary takes up no shelf space, weighs nothing, and is totally hyperlinked. That means you can look up any work in the dictionary. Have you ever looked up a definition only to find that you didn’t understand the words being used to define the word you looked up? If this happens to you in WordBook, just tap any word you don’t know, and the definition pops up. This feature is called WordPicker. Just highlight a word and tap the WordPicker eyedropper icon in the bottom tray, and the definition comes up on the screen.

If you think that’s pretty cool, this feature is not limited to internal lookups. WordBook allows you to look up any word from any application at any time on your Pocket PC, even from Webpages and from any eBook reader. All you have to do is highlight the word, and if WordPicker is active, tap on its icon in the upper program bar and up pops the definition.

I’ve used WordBook for years now, and it has been my favorite when all is said and done, but it just keeps getting better. There have been many improvements including full VGA support and screen rotation. WordBook is Windows 2005 ready, but will work with earlier editions.

You are not getting some paltry dictionary with the limited vocabulary of a Neanderthal here. WordBook is a robust lexicon with 150,000 entries and 3000 new entries containing close to two million words, which is equivalent to an 1,800 page book. The Oxford English Dictionary consists of 20 volumes and 1,900 pages, and that’s the one that costs $2700.

The most exciting new feature is that it is now a self-pronouncing dictionary. Simply tap on the speaker icon and the word will be pronounced for you. The Speech Engine was developed by Carnegie Mellon University, and an American accent voice module is used with it. But, it is a computer-generated voice, so it can be a bit difficult to understand once in a while, but not usually.

Some of the user interface has been re-designed for more user-friendly operation. WordBook is now available for Windows Media Smartphones as well, but it does come with quite a footprint (about 12 Megabytes), so you will probably want to put it on a storage card, not in main memory. I’m planning to do a separate review of WordBook and report how it operates on my Motorola MPx220.

Let me emphasize that WordBook is not just an ordinary dictionary, as you may have already gathered, but there’s more. Tap on the magnifying glass icon and a whole world of words opens to you. Having trouble with a crossword puzzle? Tap on the Puzzle tab and get help using wildcards for missing letters. Remember the game of Anagrams? You can get anagrams with WordBook and find out how many words you can spell by re-arranging the letters in any word you type in the dialog box. The Wildcard feature allows you to search for words using ? * [] () {} syntax. Or, if you’re not quit sure of the correct spelling, use the Phonetic feature to find the word.

Whenever I need to come up with a clever name for a new business or Website or a title of any kind, I use the wildcard feature, and the results are amazingly helpful.

Another nice feature for vocabulary building is that WordBook displays the word of the day, an arbitrary word that you can store in the build-in Study List or Favorites List. WordBook also remembers your most recent look-ups for quick reference and can be easily accessed from the home screen along with other functions such as random word picker, Study List, and Favorites.

Looking up a word is easy and convenient. From any place in the program, tap on the keyboard icon at the bottom of the screen and the lookup screen appears. Tap in the word and it appears in a scroll list on the right. Tap on the word you want in the list and the definition(s) appears along with synonyms and usage examples that help you avoid using the word in an awkward construction. Note that the synonyms are all hyperlinked to their definitions, which makes this dictionary an excellent thesaurus as well, for most thesauri do not give usage examples, just a list of words.

Tap on the chain link symbol after the definition of a word, and it will take you to a Word Links page containing synonyms, hypernyms, derivationally related forms, and category domains with each of the terms hyperlinked to their definitions.

Under the Text tab, you can change the size of the text and elect to use ClearType. The Tools tab offers the following options: About, Options, Speech Volume, Show Word Picker, and Exit. Suffice it to say that the program is intelligently designed and easy to use.


Finally, when you download WordBook for the Pocket PC, you also get a free PC version for your desktop. Wow, a first-class dictionary for your desktop or laptop, and it’s free! Now that really makes WordBook a double bargain if you ask me. The only problem is that it doesn’t have that nice WordPicker function. You can get around it though by keeping WordBook active and pasting any word you want to look up into its dialog box.


WordBook is a world-class dictionary with a self-pronouncing speech engine that also serves as a powerful thesaurus with contextual usage examples. It functions as a valuable learning tool with its Study List and word of the day features. It is not only useful but also fun because of its Puzzle, Anagram, and Wildcard elements. The depth of its database gives the user a lexicon found only in the most expensive paper equivalents.

While WordBook is an excellent dictionary and learning tool with its Study List and Favorites features, I would like to see it have a grammar and punctuation guide. Maybe I’ll volunteer to write it for TranCreative one of these days. I would also appreciate a WordPicker in the desktop version, but I guess I can’t complain because that’s a free bonus.

If words and their meanings have any relevance in your life, you should not be without WordBook on board your PPC. Not having this powerful appurtenance on your Pocket PC would be tantamount to a dentist not having a drill. Don’t leave home without WordBook.

Where Can You Get A Copy?

You can download and purchase your copy from TranCreative.

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