Take Advantage of the Reference Library in Your Mac | Computer Hardware

Take Advantage of the Reference Library in Your Mac | Computer Hardware

You may use red underlines for Mac apps to mark misspelled words, but did you know that macOS has also long included a full-featured Dictionary app? It provides quick access to definitions and synonyms in the New Oxford American Dictionary and Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus, along with definitions of Apple-specific words such as AirDrop and Apple ProRes RAW. But that is far from it.

Go to the same page

First, some basics. Open the Dictionary app from your Applications folder and type a word or phrase in the search field. As you type, the dictionary starts looking for words that match what you typed — you don't even have to press return. This is a great way to look up a word when you're not entirely sure of the exact spelling. If more than one word matches what you typed, click the keyword in the sidebar.

Notice the gray buttons below the toolbar, which represent the references the dictionary will consult for every search, including Wikipedia if your Mac has an Internet connection. In short, Dictionary gives you instant access to a dictionary, a thesaurus, and an encyclopedia of over 6.8 million articles in English. Click on a reference to limit your search to that source, or click All to scan them all.

If you want to look up words in another language and get the English definition, the dictionary even provides translation dictionaries along with a long list of other references. Choose Dictionary > Settings and select the ones you want to use. Then, drag the selected entries into the order you want them to appear under the toolbar.

Once you're in the definition, note that you can copy formatted text for use in other apps—always helpful when going over grammar and usage arguments on the Internet. In general, you can click to quickly look up almost any word in the dictionary's main pane. If dictionaries were this fun in school, we'd all have more vocabularies! Use the back and forward arrow keys to navigate through your recently viewed words.

Alternative search methods

As helpful as the Dictionary app is, you probably don't want to leave it open all the time. Happily, Apple provides several shortcuts for searching words:

  • Spotlight: Press Command-Space to invoke Spotlight, and enter your search term. If you get too many unhelpful results from Spotlight, deselect unnecessary categories from System Settings > Siri and Spotlight.
  • Look up: Better yet, hover over a word or phrase with the pointer and press Command-Control-D—you can also select “Word” by Control-clicking on the word. If the app supports it, macOS displays a popover with the definition. If you use a trackpad, you can also tap with three fingers on the selected word — make sure the “Lookup and data detectors” checkbox is selected in System Settings > Trackpad > Point & Click.

Now that you know how to take full advantage of the references Apple has built into macOS, it's time to get in touch with your inner logo file—find it.

(Featured Image by iStock.com/Chinnapong)

About the Author

Leave a Reply