Dictionary! That likely isn’t the first type of app you rush to the App Store to install when you open up your new iPad. However, a handy, powerful dictionary can come in handy in almost all professions, and the iPad is the thinnest dictionary you’re likely to find.
The problem is, most dictionary apps are complete garage. They either rely on a constant internet connection (deal breaker for many), or have a poor layout that makes finding words and other information about each word cumbersome. WordBook tries to buck this trend by being optimized for iOS 7, and placing an emphasis on your information, instead of advertisements to pay for the service.
WordBook is almost completely a stock iOS 7 app. This means lots of white space, blue text, thin lines, and light typography and iconography. While some have voiced (legitimate!) concerns about iOS 7’s interface, I find that it works well for this dictionary app. It is a very vanilla design, but who cares: dictionaries tend to be very basic.
The design is also fluid: on the left-hand side, you have a list of words and a search field. On the right two-thirds, you have the word, its definition, and various other categories of information about any selected word or phrase. Along the bottom of the app are more options to specify what you want to search for and in what context the app should look.
WordBook does allow you to customize font style and font size (font size is controlled independently of the system settings). You can enable sound effects to make the app feel more playful, but I’ve been fine with leaving them turned off — since when has a dictionary been playful? All of this — and more — can be done in the settings of the app.
I did say that it was “almost” a stock design. Tapping the “Words” icon in the bottom left reveals the words of the day. In and of itself, this feature is nice and interesting. There are multiple words of the day, so it gives you something to look at and learn. The problem is the design — it’s horrendous. The faux-3D, sandpaper-esque background is awful. The ripped sticky note pinned up by the tacky thumbtack is just bad for iOS 7, it’s bad for any platform at any time.
Back to the good: WordBook is full of any feature I could ask for from a dictionary.
Most importantly, for me, is that the word database is stored offline. I currently have the slowest internet connection I have ever encountered. Certain popular apps would take minutes to load a single definition, as they rely on online dictionaries to present the data to them. While this ensures that word information is always up-to-date (though how often are definitions updated, really?), it can become an issue in certain settings. I enjoy apps that don’t require a fast internet connection to work, and WordBook fits this well.
The app also includes a puzzle solver, so its useful for the crossword junkies out there. It’s a niche feature, sure, but how many paper dictionaries will solve that one crossword or anagram that you can’t seem to get?
WordBook includes pronunciation information, definitions, the part of speech, and synonyms or antonyms. Additionally, the origin of the word is also shown. An audio pronunciation can be activated by tapping the speaker icon, but you have to be connected to the internet for this to connect and play the word.
The links tab gives you more ways to research the word and additional synonyms or antonyms. Hypernyms (more generic words) and hyponyms (more specific words) are also displayed and linked, so you can tap them and automatically be brought to their page.
WordBook includes a thesaurus, which works as you would expect. Again, tap on specific words to be brought to their respective pages.
Lastly, there are two additional tabs that you can use to set up your own search, based on online sources. For example, you can select a word, and then have the app search the definition on Wikipedia. This is configured in the settings of the app, and is one of the most useful features for WordBook — if you need a specific source or dictionary, you can add it.
These results are loaded in a Web View, so you lose some of the nice formatting and readability of WordBook itself.
You can also bookmark certain words, in order to quickly find them later.
As a writer, I use a dictionary every time I sit down and type. Quickly accessing synonyms, or looking up the specific definition of a word, is absolutely vital to what I do and the specificity I try to achieve. A good dictionary — and thesaurus, and pronunciation guide — is indispensable, even in today’s world of autocorrect.
Writing is just the art of communication, and everyone communicates everyday. Whether you are a writer, or a student, a banker, or an engineer, writing is important. As such, I highly recommend WordBook to anyone who needs a powerful utility always available on their iPad.