Thoughts for serious language learners

The Antimoon Blog header image

Holy crap! A ninja has just turned LDOCE into the best dictionary ever

May 8th, 2012 · 64 Comments · Uncategorized

As many of you know, in my 2009 review of English dictionaries for learners, the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (LDOCE) won in every content category. No other dictionary I tested has more example sentences, friendlier definitions, more accurate pronunciations, better coverage of American English or better-quality recordings.

But the dictionary has a fatal flaw: the software is awful. I had to write a cathartic rant about it just to keep myself from sending a mail bomb to the Pearson Longman headquarters. If you think I’m some kind of grouch with unrealistic expectations… well, yes, maybe I am, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Let me just list the most important problems: the 10-second start-up time, lack of mousewheel or trackpad support, slow and buggy scrolling, and pointless clicking required to do anything. In many ways, LDOCE feels like a university – lots of valuable knowledge, but hopelessly inefficient and full of pointless hurdles.

Enter Taku Fukada, an English learner from Japan. Like many other people, he read my dictionary review, decided to buy the LDOCE, and discovered that he hated using it. But, instead of whining about it like I did, he did what ninjas do: he silently solved the problem.

He took his ninja sword, cut through the jumble of bad design choices and poorly tested code, and built the awesomest dictionary application in the solar system, while making Longman and their contractors look like total asses. The Dark Ages are over! English learners can finally access great lexicographic content in a pleasant way. Can you tell I’m excited?

image

What’s great about Taku’s LDOCE5 Viewer

  • It’s ridiculously fast – it’s one of the fastest dictionary apps that I’ve used. It starts up in less than 1 second and goes straight to the search box (no useless “welcome screens”). Searches happen instantly, even for incomplete words.
  • No stupid limitations: Full support for mousewheels and trackpads. You can resize the window however you want. Copying works as you expect it to work (including phonetic transcriptions).
  • No useless junk on the screen: Just the search box, search results and the entry you’re looking at. The entry layout is very readable, by the way.
  • No pointless clicking around: No need to click on the search box, just start typing a new word at any moment. Use your arrow keys to switch between different meanings of the same word.
  • Very complete search: It will find everything that includes your search phrase: headwords, inflected forms, collocations, phrasal verbs, idioms, etc. If it’s in the LDOCE, it will find it. Instantly.
  • It supports all the content in the original LDOCE: phonetic transcriptions, word recordings, sentence recordings, additional examples, collocations, grammar boxes, thesaurus boxes, the Activator thesaurus, pictures. I think the only thing missing is the ability to record your own pronunciation.

With Taku’s software, the LDOCE mops the floor with every other English learner’s dictionary on the market. It’s truly a killer combination of excellent content and excellent software. There is no doubt in my mind that the LDOCE with Taku’s viewer is the best option for a serious English learner. I’ve been using it for the past two months and I can tell you I’ve never had so much fun with a dictionary. It is a sheer pleasure to explore word meanings, examples, and collocations with this app.

Taku’s LDOCE5 Viewer used to cost $5.35. Now it’s available for free. Of course, before you can use the viewer, you have to buy and install the original LDOCE with DVD-ROM, if you don’t have it already. Right now, the cheapest way to get it online is on Amazon.co.uk (for £21, which is about $33). For some reason, the dictionary is much more expensive on Amazon.com.

 

(I received an e-mail from a user, asking if I’m the real author of the LDOCE Viewer, hiding behind a false Japanese identity. No, but when Taku sent me a beta version of his app, I loved it, so I decided to help him. Specifically, I helped with the visual design, provided user interface ideas, and helped write the product page for the app.)

Share this:

Tags:

64 Comments so far ↓

  • Wojtek

    But there’s one caveat. It runs only on Windows, doesn’t it? And wouldn’t it be better to just convert the dictionary to dict or another popular dictionary format? Now, a PC is the only device you can use it on. No smart phones, no ebook readers, and so on.

    I’m sure anyone can find such a converter and use the dictionary wherever he wants. And no audio is not such a problem.

    • Tom

      Yep, it’s currently Windows-only, but AFAIK Linux and Mac are a serious possibility in the future.

      I like to have the best possible experience on each platform. There’s nothing stopping you from using other solutions on your mobile phone, smart TV, Google glasses, or smart refrigerator :) But on the PC, this is the pinnacle of software dictionaries. Why deprive yourself of good user experience?

  • Armatura

    Good work, but there are much simpler and more universal solutions – LDOCE and other major En-En dictionaries have already been converted into Lingvo, GoldenDict, StarDict and a lot of other popular dictionary formats, many of them can easily be run by free apps virtually on all desktop and mobile platforms (say, Fora Dictionary for Android). Google ‘em. Capricious, non-crossplatform dics and apps are no longer relevant.

    • Wojtek

      I agree. This is the same I am talking about a few posts above. I use GoldenDict and am very fond of it. It’s just brilliant and has saved me many hours of looking up. Working on KDE/Linux I even created an Oxygen-like theme, based on Oxygen icons. It looks much pleasurable.

      • Arrau

        I don’t think GoldenDict is a silver bullet.
        When I once tried GoldenDict, I couldn’t search for idioms and phrasal verbs.
        And its content layout is really bad (Of course, I know I can customize it in some degree).

        • Wojtek

          No, it isn’t, but it’s not GoldenDict but the source that you should blame. Crap in = crap out. :) It all depends on how a dictionary you use is organized. For instance, I have no difficulty in finding phrasal verbs or idioms in some dictionaries (en-en) but really have in Polish-English, English-Polish PWN-Oxford which is generally crappy and ridiculously designed.

          And GoldenDict is not the only one reader. You can choose another.

          • Tom

            Unfortunately, the user doesn’t care who is to blame for a crappy experience. As as case in point, I don’t give a damn if the original LDOCE app sucks because of Pearson Longman or because of IDM (the developers).

          • lmnnt

            Wojtek, beyond criticism can you actually offer a suggestion for a straight-forward and fast english polish desktop dictionary ?

    • Tom

      You should just use the LDOCE Viewer on Windows and other apps on other platforms. Why the heck do you have to use the same solution on all your devices??

  • Ricardo

    This is amazing!

    I’m using – as an alternative – babylon with the content of Collins Cobuild (friendly definitions), LDOCE5th (sentences and pronunciation) and Cambridge ALD (to cover what hasn’t been covered, like vulgar slangs – “get off” for instance). When I search for a word, I get the entries of these three dictionarys. It’s extremely fast and it works with a single mouse click.

    Even though it’s great, it has lots of drawbacks. I hope to find a way to buy this app and the convencional LDOCE5th to start using it soon…

    Thanks for this useful information!!!

  • christina stuart

    Unfortunate that Mac users are left behind with the Taku LDOCE5.

  • katarn

    boo that I can’t bring myself to use any dictionary. looking up words feels like such a drag. it’s just too impractical for me to actually do that. plus all too often, it’d immediately just kill the mood for me, esp if I were reading something. when I encounter a word I don’t know, I couldn’t possibly care less about its meaning. i can often tell hwat part of speech the word belongs to, and it usually provides me with enough information to stop worrying about the fact that i don’t know it, though. basically, I guess I’m just too lazy to do any extra work. it’s way easier for me to keep on coming up with a new excuse every time, rather than put in any more effort into learning english. even if i know doing something could enlighten or elevate me in someways i can’t help but sit around and do nothing. too bad I’m not a serious english learner.

    • Tom

      There isn’t one way of learning English. 80% of the time I do what you do — work out the meaning from the context. If you get a lot of input, there’s no time to look up everything. But sometimes I’m in the mood to get a fuller understanding of a word — if you see 3 example sentences instead of one, you get a better picture.

      Furthermore, a dictionary is really useful when writing. Say, you don’t know what word to use, you do some dictionary research, and – boom! – you find just the phrase you need. In this way, you can learn very useful phrases that are hard to learn from books.

      I’ve found that “being in the mood” to use a dictionary depends on the dictionary as well. If the software is slow and clunky, say, if you have to click in 5 places before you can look up a word, it will feel like major work and you’ll never be “in the mood”. An application that “just works” can make you be “in the mood” more often.

      It also depends on your computer skills — if you’re not good at using a computer, if you suck at typing, etc., looking up a word can be a drag.

      • katarn

        Thank you for your response, Tom.
        Certainly, there are quite a lot of ways to learn English, but they all require great amount of dedication and commitment. lol. personally, I feel pretty fine about reading books, learning pronunciation or talking to someone in English while playing games, but frankly, there’s only so much I can bear before I get completely overwhelmed with stuff. I’ve noticed that whenever i open a dictionary like ldoce it’s always full of words that I don’t know and some words even have multiple meanings. I know it’s only meant for reference purposes, but when there’s so much new info thrown at me I start feeling really bad about my vocabulary. imo being serious about learning English probably indicates that you are willing to force yourself to do things you’d rather not be doing. things like dictionaries, srs, not making mistakes etc. all sound like too much of a chore to do, so I’m mostly just going with the flow.

        • Tom

          Dedication and commitment mean different things to different people. Some people (like you) are quite happy to read in English; others are afraid to because of all the unknown words. They would say that reading in English takes dedication. On the other hand, there are people who are quite happy to add stuff to their SRS (it feels like collecting words and phrases, and many people like to collect stuff).

          Of course some steps take willpower. After I heard about SuperMemo, it took me a year to start my first English collection — I couldn’t get around to it. Once I started seeing results (rapid increase in vocab), I was hooked.

          Willpower is a limited resource, though, so you should pick your battles. The only truly essential thing is input. Pronunciation and output are also important. The rest is optional — certainly things like SRS and dictionaries become less useful when you get a lot of input.

          The worst thing you can do is make English a chore.

          • katarn

            Tom, your skills as a successful English learner are beyond reproach, and it’s obvious to me that your method worked out amazingly well for you. however, you also strike me as an extremely smart person. I’m not trying to diminish your accomplishments as you’ve clearly worked pretty hard to get where you’re at. from what I understand, though, your experience comes as a stark contrast to mine. throughout my life, I’ve been constantly failing at everything I can think of. slowly over time I’ve come to accept that I’m just not smart enough. I think people who are like me, will never manage to learn English well enough to pass for a native speaker no matter what they do. as for getting input, I’m not sure what I think about it. I guess, I would learn better English if I stuck with grammar textbooks and materials especially designed for English learners, instead of learning from randomly picked sources. limiting all my reading to English dictionaries and using srs would probably make my learning more efficient too. but right now, just thinking about dictionaries makes me feel bored out of my skull.

          • Tom

            Your writing sure looks native to me. 100% error-free. Seems like you’re just looking for reasons to doubt yourself.

            It’s possible to learn English with a dictionary + SRS and no other input, but that’s certainly not what the Antimoon Method is about. This sort of “locked-in” learning would be incredibly boring and would result in weird-sounding English (you need natural input to find out how to speak naturally).

            It could also be inefficient. Why? Because when I get natural input, I’m doing two things at the same time (getting entertained, learning things etc.). When I’m doing dictionary+SRS work, I’m just learning English.

  • Armatura

    Being available on mobile platforms and a nice integration with relevant dictionary & reading apps is of crucial importance. It’s hard to name any statistics, but apparently, people nowadays tend to read more on phones, tablets, e-readers than on oridinary desktop PCs. Personally, if the dictionary isn’t a single file file, which can be indexed by Fora or GoldenDict and opened by one tap from FBreader or Coolreader for Android, I would never use it, ’cause sitting in front of a PC with aching back, typing every word in LDOCE viewer search bar is a tantalizing practice, not much different from the good ole paper book + paper dictionary inhuman practices. ))

    • Tom

      I agree — tablets and e-book readers are best for reading long-form content. In that context, you need a dictionary that gives you instant lookup.

      But a dictionary is equally useful when writing stuff and reading short-form content (blogs, social networks etc.). I wouldn’t fire up a tablet just to check Reddit or Facebook. I wouldn’t write a blog comment on a tablet.

      I do these things on a PC, and I think the application which I describe in this post is, quite simply, the best thing ever on the PC. I certainly haven’t had this good an experience with a dictionary before (and yes, I have tried dedicated dictionary readers). And by the way, you don’t have to type anything — you can set it to automatically look up words that you copy to the clipboard.

  • Diego

    Doest it let you copy-paste the phonetic transcriptions?

    • Tom

      Yes. Of course, you need a Unicode font on the receiving end.

      • Diego

        Right, in that case I will give it a go as soon as I can.

        By the way Tom I discovered antimoon years ago and I loved your articles from the start, even more after I started using a SRS and getting input like a madman.

        Thank you very much.

        • Diego

          It works wonderfully well, the original software was absolutely useless in my opinion.
          I still like the Collins Cobuild a bit more because the definitions are complete sentences. If only I could copy its phonetic transcriptions!
          I guess I will end up using both…

  • Ondrej

    Just a simple question: Has anybody tried to run the application under Wine? There is a high probability there won’t be any problems for such a simple application and it would add support for Linux. But I’d like to have a guarantee that one can run it under Wine before I buy it.

    Thanks

  • Zetty

    Is it possible to save out the audio pronunciations? I’ve been looking for an easily accessible source of quality pronunciations in order to incorporate these within my SRS set.

    • Tom

      No, that’s currently not possible. Anki has a Record button that is supposed to record the audio that’s currently playing on your computer, so I guess you could use that to “capture” the pronunciations. Not sure how well that works.

  • martinus

    Hey, this baby’s great!

    How about making the same kind of application for Oxford’s Cambridge’s dictionaries? Oxford’s dictionary would definitely need it…

    See ya

  • Chetana

    Thanks a lot! I’ve already bought it. It’s really cool.

  • Eric

    Hi Tom,

    I just discovered your website by accident. But reading your articles/posts, I immediately became interested because I am also learning English as my 2nd language. Your approach and method is different from the others and it suits me fine. I can relate to your steps of learning English. “Input” and “Output” made an indelible concept in my mind.
    Do you know any dictionary software that I can also add example sentences aside from the examples that dictionary provides? I think that it would be helpful for me if I can add my own example sentences, say, like 100 example sentences or more.

    More power to you Mr. Tom

    • Tom

      No, I haven’t seen that feature anywhere. Remember that the law of diminishing returns is at work here: the more examples you’ve read, the less useful the next example becomes.

      • johnny

        Hi Tom,

        I have read your comparative review of different English dictionaries. But I found you missed the Merriam Webster Advanced English Dictionary. As I use it day by day, I found it has more examples concerning American English usage than any other learner’s dictionaries (even LDOCE). I’d like to hear your comment on this dictionary’s content quality. Thanks!

        • Tom

          I blogged about it a while back. It’s one of the three dictionaries that I use most frequently. I agree it has a lot of good examples.

  • Anibal

    After visiting this site for more than a year, I finally found out a piece of information that may be useful Tom!

    Here I go: quality of the recordings.

    Yeah. It may sound stupid, but I spent thousands of hours listening to english content with crappy earphones. I recently acquired a pair of really decent ones and there’s a huge difference! I can notice subtle differences that I’ve never noticed before… Due to this, understanding spoken English has become an easier task.

    And I’m not strictly talking about human speech, the differences are noticeable in songs too.

    Having good earphones is like wearing glasses (you’re able to see, but not as good as expected). You should write something about it somewhere in this site, because I think people should be warned about it as soon as possible… I regret doing it just now.

    The investiment is low and the return is high… At the long run, I guess hehe

    Cheers!!!

  • Adrian

    Hell0 Tom
    I’m Adrian from Argentina.
    I’ve found your site years ago and I can tell you that I’m really grateful for everything you wrote to motivate us.
    Imput and output. Those words still ring in my head all the time.
    So by the way What can I do to gen in touch with Supermemo users to exchange databases please? I’m not that smart to understand all the high tech explanations about SM and about what you said about the Japanese guy and the dictionary but I get by with my English learning own method.

    Thank you

  • Mohi

    I sent an email to Taku Fukada and made some suggestions about LDOCE Viewer, but apparently he doesn’t check his email, so I decided to post the comment here. It would be nice If you can deliver my message to him:

    1) Add a feature to customize background color
    2) Add a feature to change the viewer to “POP-UP mode” so that:
    a) Window mode set to “Always on top”
    b) The layout of the main window changes from left (word list) and right (descriptions and meanings) to top (descriptions and meanings) and bottom (word list)
    3) Change the caption of menu “View” to “Options”, because the items in that menu, especially playing British or American pronunciation, is not related to the VIEW of the software
    4) Add an option to automatically look up the word if it is double-clicked in the right panel
    5) Designing a better icon for the software

    • Tom

      As far as I know, there hasn’t been much interest in the LDOCE Viewer, so I wouldn’t hold your breath for further updates.

  • Lindy

    Thank you! The software is really good, but it has left out a feature that I find very useful – Menu. This feature often saves me a lot of time so I really hope he will include it in the next version.

  • seonghoon

    Hi, I’m Seonghoon from Korea.
    I purchased both LDOCE5 and this viewer after reading this post, and I found the viewer is very useful.

    Actually, I had hesitated to buy LDOCE for PC although using iOS version for a longtime as I don’t have enough information about whether its user interface is designed well or not.

    Thanks for sharing helpful information !

  • Hexi

    LDOCE5 Viewer is perfect.Thank you :)
    I want MED2 Viewer, OALD8 Viewer……

  • Walter

    LDOCE5 Viewer is very very excellent. Great! And the price is very cheap. But regretful, there are few people who had ever heard of the App. I wonder whether the author has the interest to write (or update) the next version if the LDOCE6 appears.

  • Cindy

    Hi
    I found this site looking for dictionary software for adult students from all parts of the world – learning English and I.T – so I’m trying to kill two birds with one stone!

    Problem is, we’re in the U.K. and all the reviews concentrate on AmE pronouciations, spellings etc. I’d be grateful for recommendations on user-friendly software that is a good resource for predominantly for BrE speakers.

    Many thanks!

    • Cindy

      ….it may not seem such a huge difference but, just as a quick example, reinforcing correct punctuation often gets bogged down having to go off on a tangent to explain that a ‘period’ in BrA means something very different in BrE, when all I want them to do is add a ‘full stop’.

  • Armin

    I bought (long long ago) the LDCE 4th edition with the CD-Rom included. Although the CD-usability was a bit slow I used it nearly on a daily basis on WinXP and WinVista 32bit. Recently I switched to a Win8 64bit system and the old CD isn’t running on 64bit system. :(
    What a tragedy! I’m afraid my English becomes worse now. Maybe you notice it already here in my comment ;). So I have tried to find help via Google to run it on my Win64bit system, and then I found your great blog and this page.

    So I think I will buy the 5th standalone DVD edition if I’m sure that it will run on 64bit Windows 8? By the way, is there still this annoying mandatory “put the CD into the tray every 30 days” copy protection as it existed for the 4th edition? How do you manage it on a notebook without DVD-drive?

    I would appreciate it, if anybody can confirm that it run on 64bit Win? If yes, I will buy the extra Viewer, too of course.

    Thanks for your blog posts about LDOCE!

    • Tom

      LDOCE5 + LDOCE5 Viewer works on Windows 7 64-bit.
      I never use the built-in software, but I just checked that it works, too.

      Your question was about Windows 8, but I think you can safely buy LDOCE5. Even if the included crap software doesn’t work, the LDOCE5 Viewer will. (BTW, I use it every day and am still amazed at how well it works.)

      • Armin

        Thanks a lot for the quick response, Tom. Hopefully they’ve found another copy protection now? I have to buy it anyway.

        • Tom

          There is an official patch which removes the CD check.
          Anyway, if you use LDOCE 5 Viewer, you won’t need the patch — it does not require the DVD to be in the drive.

          • Armin

            Thanks! Sounds good.
            I just bought both and I’m looking forward for the new user experience.

  • michau

    Hi,

    Amazon.co.uk isn’t the cheapest place to get LDOCE5. It’s much cheaper here: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Longman-Dictionary-Contemporary-English-5-DVD-ROM-Standalone-Pearson-Longman/9781408267660 (note the free delivery)

  • Jigit

    Does anyone know how to extract all audio files from LDOCE5?

    I mean all of them automatically and not one by one.

    I believe that listening to words and example sentences would be helpful in improving one’s vocabulary.

    Please help.

    • GJC

      Hi everyone!

      First of all, I want to apologize for the non-specialized and sometimes even vague terminology that I might use, since I am a complete layman on the matter.

      I have Longman dictionary installed in my pc, and would like to extract all the entries in batch, meaning by meaning, into an excel or word text file (utf8) for, as an English learner, I’d like to start a kind of systematic study of such fantastic learning resource.

      At no time do I intend to infringe any copyrights; I do own my own version, installed in my pc as I said. I will not share the data with any one; I just want to use it in just a different file format, namely in common paper notes .

      Hope to hear news soon.

      Thanks in advance.

  • G

    great job. i’ve installed it hoping it could have option for bookmarking or saving words in bank (list) to review later, i believe that would improve the memorizing ,process ; does it have this command ?Thanks

  • John

    It was an error occured when I installed LDOCE5 Viewer, the error code as follows:

    Error occurred
    Traceback (most recent call last):
    File “ldoce5viewer\indexer.pyo”, line 442, in run
    File “ldoce5viewer\indexer.pyo”, line 418, in _make_filemap
    File “ldoce5viewer\ldoce5\filemap.pyo”, line 50, in add
    UnicodeDecodeError: ‘ascii’ codec can’t decode byte 0xbf in position 13: ordinal not in range(128)

  • Jackie

    Does anyone if the latest Longman Dictionary (6th edition) still offers the DVD-Rom format or has it been totally replaced by the online version?

    I recently ordered and received the 6th paperback edition assuming there would be an accompanying DVD-ROM, but all I was given was a PIN code to be used for accessing the online dictionary. What happens if I want to access the digital features while offline? The website does not offer any clarification.

  • Tom

    Hi,
    All I was able to find out was that The Book Depository has 3 versions of LDOCE6, costing $63, $68 and $121. The $68 and $121 versions are “mixed media products”, the $63 one is “paperback”. Are you sure you didn’t order the paperback-only version?

  • Jackie

    Hi Tom, thanks for linking the first two versions. Yes, I’ve double checked the ISBN code of my copy, also bought from The Book Depository, and it’s an exact match with the ISBN code from the $68 version you linked to (i.e. 9781447954200). It is most certainly the mixed media edition that I bought.

    Incidentally, the $63 version is currently listed as $52.13, and the $63 version at $54.81, both in USD, for me. I wonder if that means anything. Generally, I have found the dictionary’s website to be very hard to navigate and the product information page for the newest edition to be quite misleading. It clearly lists DVD-Rom as part of the formats included in the 6th edition. See (http://www.pearsonelt.es/nb/corporate/catalog.asp?area=elt&etapa=659&metodo=Longman%20Dictionary%20of%20Contemporary%20English%206th%20Edition).

    I’d lost the CD-Rom from the 5th edition and thought I would be getting a new one with the 6th edition. In fact it was my primary reason for buying this version instead of the standalone 5th edition CD.

    Could you provide a link to the $121 version?

    What a headache!

    • Tom

      Here’s the link:
      http://www.bookdepository.com/Longman-Dictionary-Contemporary-English-6/9781447954200
      But I think this is just the hardcover version.

      If it is true that Pearson has switched from DVD-ROMs to an Internet-only dictionary then it’s a huge bummer. (Though it makes sense from a business perspective — you cannot pirate an online dictionary.)

      If you just lost the CD-ROM, I think you’re fully justified in downloading a pirate copy of the dictionary. After all, you paid for the license to use it, not for the physical media.

  • Derek

    Hi everybody, does anybody know how to solve the problem: LDoCE 5th, pop-up Dictionary doesn’t work properly, fe: BBC main site-works, other sites-doesn’t; CCN – doesn’t, etc. Word-works, email-works. I use Windows 7 64-bit, IE 11.
    Thanks

Leave a Comment

Current day month ye@r *