I think everybody needs a dictionary and a thesaurus, regardless of profession. With the advent of our smartphones and tablets, they’re a lot easier to cart around. Much like cameras, the most important dictionary or thesaurus you have isn’t the oversized monster of a medical dictionary you have on your shelf, but the one you have on your person. So apps are important.
Much like camera apps, though, a good app can make a huge difference. Up until recently, I’ve been using the Merriam Webster app, which was sufficient but certainly not impressive. That’s why I’m glad that Greg Pierce, the developer behind the widely acclaimed Drafts, got in touch with me about Terminology 3, the iOS 7 update to his popular — and much-loved — dictionary app. After only a couple days of use, Terminology 3 has earned a permanent place on all my iOS devices. Read on to find out why a dictionary app is worth every bit of your hard-earned cash.
With Drafts, Greg made an app that was simple, but powerful. In fact, the app is a delight because it’s simple — you have to dig deeper to really experience the benefits of the app’s automation power.
In the same way, Terminology 3 has been completely rewritten. It’s now a universal app, and one that requires a new purchase (instead of a free upgrade). While some users will feel that’s an unfortunate compromise of iOS 7, I’d say it allows Greg to really go for something new here.
And Terminology 3 does feel new. Compared to the original app, Terminology 3 is vastly simpler and much more in line with iOS 7’s inherent design qualities. Some people will lament the loss of the original app’s colour, which was more sepia in tone, but I think making Terminology 3 white puts a greater emphasis on content. Besides, who’s ever picked up a dictionary with sepia-coloured pages anyway?
In many ways, Terminology 3 hasn’t changed much of the previous version’s functionality. Search still works exactly the same, with words auto-completing as you type in the search field. Now, though, one complaint has been addressed. Searching for a word that doesn’t exist in the dictionary will bring up a “Did you mean?” entry. I’m not too sure if it’s bringing up results similar to what autocorrect would suggest, but in my testing, it seemed relatively accurate.
What’s more interesting, to me, is that the design now mimics and apes most of Drafts. The two apps never appeared as closely related as they do now, sharing a lot of common interface elements. Some of this is because Greg is using Apple’s stock iOS 7 buttons, but some of it is also because these apps are both focused on white space now when they weren’t before. I love the symmetry.
The app is also incredibly quick. This is because it stores everything offline, so it’s not checking with a database every time it needs to find a word. This makes it the fastest dictionary app with the cleanest design available at its price point.
More Than Just a Dictionary and Thesaurus
Of course, Terminology isn’t just about what it looks like or how fast is it — although those are great reasons to purchase it. It’s also feature-packed, carrying some innovations that I wish Drafts would adopt as Greg continues to develop both applications.
First of all, Terminology allows you to favourite words and see your history. It’s a basic, but appreciated feature. Not that I think Terminology requires it by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn’t offer a “Word of the Day” feature. When the app launches, it launches directly into search. You’re not there to play or learn something; you’re there because you need to define a word.
But the real killer feature is URL actions. Drafts users are going to be very familiar with this feature. URL actions allow you to trigger an event to occur with the text you’ve looked up in Terminology. Users can create their own URL actions, or they can install them from an outside directory. (Creating your own URL action isn’t hard, but I do wish the Settings menu didn’t feel as cramped as it does right now.)
Unlike some users, I prefer to just grab whatever I need from the directory and go to town with them. For me, the real lifesavers are Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary, which I seem to use all the time. You could even open up any terms in a new Safari tab and automatically search Google or DuckDuckGo or Bing for them. With URL actions, Terminology becomes the most powerful dictionary/thesaurus app in the App Store — no easy feat for the app with the simplest design.
It’s worth mentioning that actions in Terminology rarely open Safari or any third-party apps, which is different from the way they operate in Drafts. Terminology comes equipped with an in-app browser that makes looking something up very easy. For some people, Terminology could replace their Wikipedia app — simply because the in-app browser does the job well enough. (People needing power features in a Wikipedia app won’t be able to drop their favourite apps, though.)
Triggering a URL action is done by tapping the button that looks like a Play symbol. Better yet, they save straight to iCloud (along with your Favourites and your History). Drafts doesn’t offer iCloud sync, instead relying on Symperium, which I think is a shame as far as the immediate user experience goes. iCloud feels seamless, making Terminology an incredible value when you’re using it on multiple devices. Terminology is a universal app too. That means that adding the action to search Urban Dictionary on my iPad also added it to the directory on my iPhone. I really wish Drafts would get behind this too.
Terminology 3 is an incredibly powerful app that both surprises and delights the user. If you need a one-sentence summary of the review, I can’t write one better than that. Not only is the app a blazingly fast thesaurus and dictionary, but it’s also feature-packed. With iCloud support and customizable actions, Terminology quickly soars to the top of my must-have apps list. For previous owners of the app, the iOS 7 upgrade is worth the asking price. For people who are new to the app, what are you waiting for?