How To Add Sources to the Mac Dictionary

It’s slow going so far with my edits in my 85k90 manuscript as I work on big picture development. Along with editing, I’ve been plugging away at my story bible and it’s starting to look like a real wiki. It’s also proving to be a great way to flesh out my story and find the parts that don’t stand up to scrutiny. So, despite the time it takes away from writing in my manuscript, it’s been well worth pursuing.

I’ve been using one of my favourite tools to help me with my work –  my Mac’s built in Dictionary app. It helps me find just the right word, define ones I sort of know but am unsure of, and get my facts straight using Wikipedia. That’s right. Wikipedia is built into my Mac. And yours too.

Finding Dictionary, Thesaurus and Wikipedia

Did you know you could easily access your Mac’s built in dictionary/dictionaries by highlighting a word in your document and right-clicking?  Scrivener also includes this app under Edit -> Writing Tools -> Look up in Dictionary and Thesaurus. You’ll notice there’s also a link for looking up in Wikipedia but I don’t take that route because it sends me to Safari and I want to stay right where I am. I can stay in Scrivener with the dictionary app while still enjoying a complete wikipedia experience. That’s great, right? But wait! There’s more…

If you want a quick definition, you can choose Look Up...  at the top of the list and get a pop up window with definitions from all of your dictionary sources (as well as App Store, Siri and iTunes results!) to open the Dictionary App itself, choose Open in Dictionary at bottom of the pop up or scroll down to Writing Tools -> Look up in Dictionary and Thesaurus in the right-click menu.

Pop Up Dictionary

Adding Sources

When the dictionary app opens, click on Dictionary ->Preferences in the main menu to be presented with a checklist of sources you can download into your Dictionary App. Now you can click on individual sources in the tab menu or choose All to see a listing of all available info.

Dictionary Sources on Mac

I added all of the English speaking sources. One of them is Wikipedia which brings up entry pages from the website and is the quickest and easiest way to find info while writing that I know of.

Wikipedia Entry in Dictionary App

Translations to and from English are also available in a variety of languages including French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese Dutch and Korean.

All sources will download individually to your computer when you check them off so pick only the ones you’ll actually use to keep it light.

Not seeing what you need?

You can find third party dictionary files to be found online (or, if you’re a real keener, make a dictionary yourself). With a bit of searching, I managed to find this set of dictionaries on GitHub. If any of these are useful to you, click on the green clone or download button at the top the list and choose Download Zip.

downloading dictionaries from GitHub

The entire folder of dictionaries will download. Open the folder you’re interested and find the file that ends in .dictionary. The icon will look like a lego piece.

In the dictionary app, choose File -> Open Dictionaries Folder and drag the .dictionary folder into the open folder. Add as many as you need.

Once you have what you need. Close the dictionary app and reopen it. At the bottom of the preferences checklist (Dictionary -> Preferences) you should see the dictionaries you added. Check them and they will appear in the app. You may need to widen the window to see them if you have a lot of dictionaries available.

And that it!

A wealth of info is now available to you where and when you need it with a simple right-click.

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Author: Anne Walk

Secret writer turned not so secret writer.

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