RoadLingua Reader v3.2 & the WordNet v2.0 Lexicon for Palm OS & Windows Mobile

Reviewed by: Lianne Reitter, March 2004, send e-mail
Published by: AbsoluteWord, go to the web site
Requires: Palm OS v3.5 or higher, palmOne (Palm Inc.), Handspring, HandEra, Sony, Kyocera, Acer, Samsung, other PalmOS handhelds; available for Pocket PC/Windows Mobile
MSRP: $24.95 (WordNet & RoadLingua; over 130 other lexicons available)

I have a colleague at work who uses big words; not in a phony way though - he is just really well read and some of the English he uses is, well, beyond me. When I was a kid, I would learn the meaning of a new word contextually, by the way it was used in the sentence. For some reason (too much pressure and stress at work, meaning that I only listen to the last half of anything anyone says?), my brain doesn't work that way any more and I have to look these things up in a dictionary. Many a conversation has come and gone and I have left it not really fully understanding some of what was said because I couldn't parade my ignorance out in public and pull out a copy of Webster’s or Oxford (however small and abridged). Absolute Word’s RoadLingua and WordNet for my PDA to the rescue!

RoadLingua is actually a dictionary viewer available for both the Palm and Pocket PC. You don't have to purchase RoadLingua separately as it comes included with the first lexicon or dictionary you buy from Absolute Word.

WordNet is the English dictionary I use in times of need and it is just as simple to use as you might hope. The interface is well laid out with a search line at the bottom of the screen, waiting for your input. Stroke in one letter with your stylus and the word list immediately scrolls to the first word in its lexicon starting with that letter. Stroke in your next letter and the word list scrolls down to the first word with those two letters and so on until you find the exact word you are looking for. Once you have found your word, a simple tap with your stylus displays the definition, pronunciation, its type or state and any synonyms including links to any contained in the WordNet dictionary. The description makes the process sound slow, but it's actually lighting fast - possibly the fastest database lookup of its kind we've seen.

A history button to the right of the Search field lets you quickly scroll through your recent words, and an eraser icon to the right of that allows you to clear the search field completely, thereby eliminating the task of laboriously backstroking the last word or highlighting and deleting with a backstroke.

Here is a nice feature. You are reading your eBook and you come across a word you don't understand - something which doesn't make contextual sense. With RoadLingua and WordNet installed, you need only highlight the word and with a quick stroke of the stylus on the Graffiti area WordNet is launched with your query in the search field and the definition displayed for you to read. Hide WordNet again by tapping the icon in the lower right corner of the screen and go back to enjoying your read. This kind of program integration is extremely useful.

As a dictionary, WordNet fairs pretty well. It doesn't have some of the more difficult words I threw at it: "coracoid" (a small reptilian bone), "dittography" (duplication of letters or symbols), "esplees" (the yield from land, as rents or produce), "frenate" (to furnish something with a bridle), "konak" (a large official Turkish residence), "mafic" (pertaining to rocks) or "metanoia" (a profound transformation). But I'm going to forgive those because I did find "frangible", "googol", "lohan", "muliebrity", "oscine" and "plage" – go ahead, look ’em up! On the other hand it didn't have some of the really simple words such as "them", "their" and "to", but really, if you need to look up pronouns and articles you should really put down your daddy’s PDA before he catches you playing with it. Mind you, considering the melting-pot in which we live juxtaposed with the usefulness and near-ubiquity of PDAs, aren't pronoun definitions a genuine help to people for whom English is an important but nonetheless second language? Considering the size of the dictionary (15 MB and over 145,000 entries) it is mystifying that everything we use in basic grammatically accurate English is not completely included.

The very size of the dictionary means that most Palm OS PDAs have insufficient internal memory, but it's not a problem because RoadLingua is clearly designed to run its lexicons from storage cards. Installing WordNet to the storage card is a simple process at HotSync time and having all your dictionaries on the storage card will cause no problems for RoadLingua. The dictionaries that can be downloaded from AbsoluteWord’s web site are numerous. You can stick with just WordNet, the English dictionary, as I do, but you can add translation dictionaries for all the top tier languages (English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese), second tier languages (Scandinavia, central & eastern Europe, Russian, Portuguese), and many more if you are so inclined. There are also specialty lexicons covering law, science and variety of other disciplines.

So now when my colleague at work tosses out some word I don't understand, I just pretend I'm making a note in my PDA while in fact actually finding out that he has actually misused the word. Now what I need is an etiquette program to help me figure out a way to tell him he's wrong! RoadLingua is a well-designed reader which can be populated with a huge range of useful and accurate lexicons. Highly recommended.

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