Upon discovering our blog, I’ve been kindly asked by Word Magic Software to provide a review for their app; English Thesaurus. It was good call because as a regular blogger, I often use synonym dictionaries. The app itself has positive reviews and is available at only $1.99 in the App Store.
Is it a good buy? What makes it stand out? And what could be improved? Keep reading to find out.
Look and feel
English Thesaurus by Word Magic Software was updated with a new look last week. While the previous user interface was a bit clunky and unattractive, the new update solves most design problems and provides users with a minimalist clean look. It’s simple and easy to use; white background, bolded and colored headers and titles – nothing revolutionary here on the graphic side but it works well. This app is, after all, a dictionary, not a game. As a user I appreciate the effort to keep it simple.
New queries can be made by tapping a little keyboard icon at the bottom of the “search” section (I was tempted on several occasions to slide it up because of the tiny arrows but that just won’t work). Favorite words can be saved, search history can be easily accessed and you will find in the settings relevant options about search results, voice, fonts and themes.
Usability: How well does it work
One of the best features of the English Thesaurus app is that it works offline; it can therefore be used at anytime, anywhere, with or without internet. Another neat feature is the use of phrases (i.e.: “well done”, “set back” or “hold on”). The results, although usually coherent with the official online Thesaurus, include several extra synonyms, and even sometimes different results and definitions altogether.
I tried the app with the phrase “well done” which, on the online Thesaurus, links to the main entry “crusty” and synonyms such as crisp, crispy and crunchy. On the app however it gives me the interjection (which is what I was actually looking for) and synonyms like Bravo, Good Work and Way to go. Both results are valid depending on the context, and suffice to type “well-done” in the app to get synonyms related to the gastronomic adjective.
Besides providing us with over a million synonyms, English Thesaurus also displays definitions and antonyms, information that is very useful for the average writer.
Overall, it works well. The synonyms are relevant (sometimes more so than on the official Thesaurus website, I found) and I enjoyed using it.
The English Thesaurus app is already a good app, but there are a few things which could improve usability and the global quality of it:
- Search: The search is available by default by tapping on the small keyboard icon in the lower part of the screen. Although I quickly found out how to use this feature, I would prefer to see the search bar present at all time; it is unlikely that while I am writing an article or an essay I will use the app only once, hence the usefulness of having the search component present at all time. To fix this, I had to go to the settings and set the visibility on. Another suggestion would be to make the search bar appear when the user pulls down the page, the same way Apple devices with iOS5 and iOS6 get the notification menu when you pull down any window from the top.
- Gestures: Although gestures are an integral part of iPhone and iPad use, I found it was left to me to “guess” a few times what gestures did what. For example, I spent 30 seconds looking for a back and forward button until I realized I was going to get to it by activating the gestures option in the settings and then sliding my finger to the right or left of the search page. This is a bit impractical; I believe gestures should be activated by default. The addition of arrows or any symbol hinting at next and forward could also be of use.
- Themes: After taking a look at alternative themes, I believe that besides the basic color changes (which are only eye candy), there is no need for the dozens of other available options; Bamboo, Carbon, Leather, Nature… They are all useless, ugly and do not help legibility at all. In fact, they impair readability and look cheap. As a designer, my advice would be to scrap them and leave the app with only the most basic color themes or create decent ones which are pleasant to look at.
Getting the App and other software
If you are a writer (casual blogger or professional), you can get the English Thesaurus app in the App store. I also currently have 5 promo codes for a free download; email me or leave a comment if you’d like to grab one of them.
Word Magic Software also offers solutions for heavy users; one of them is the Dictionary & Tools Professional 6 which is a mega dictionary with translations, synonyms, antonyms, idioms and more. Hit this link if you want to check it out and by the same occasion get a 20% off rebate.