Friday, 29 April 2016

A Spotlight on the Dictionary

My 7-year-old Macbook Pro keyboard has seen better days (some keys are also about to fall off in addition to those that already have)
I don't want to turn this blog into an Apple complaints board, but a few things have been bothering me as I've been looking for new devices on which to type and write and such.

I like writing. I don't even mind typing. Sure, I prefer the black ink of my Lamy or the clickety-clack of my Apple Extended Keyboard, but I will usually make do with anything. After all, writing is not just the tools you use, it is a state of mind.

I could "write" on my iPhone, if I wished. And indeed I have been known to make notes on there from time to time. But as an object, it doesn't inspire anything "writerly" within. It doesn't look like it's comfortable doing the "writing" thing. It looks like it wants to put away its tiny (and progressively more useless) touch keyboard and go back to being a time-wasting brain hole of food pictures, selfies and #blessed.

With my 7-year-old Macbook Pro on the fritz, the 9.7" iPad Pro looked tempting...until I discovered its awful flaw.

As a Mac user, I utilise a feature called Spotlight with almost reckless abandon. ⌘+Spacebar brings up a search bar allowing me to search for anything across the entire computer. I will search for application names and open them much more quickly than navigating to the application menu with the mouse ("You mean you have to use your hands??" "That's like a baby's toy!").

Spotlight will search file names, file contents, email contents, the internet and even the dictionary. It is this last function I find most useful when writing. Once a word is in the Spotlight search, a simple ⌘+D will open that word in dictionary where I can venture into the world of language. This is not just about definitions. The in-built thesaurus is a writer's delight, allowing quick and easy access to a superabundant repository of auxiliary expressions.

iOS, the operating system of the iPhone and iPad, also offer Spotlight, but for some reason do not offer dictionary integration. This is a shame because unlike the desktop OS X, there is no stand-alone dictionary application on iOS, only preinstalled dictionaries that can be accessed when you wish to "define" a word.

This tiny feature is what is stopping me from buying an iPad Pro. Well, that and I don't have the cash, but right now, I'm not even aspiring to one because of this little flaw. And that's a shame humiliation ignominy pity, because it is a really nice piece of technology that is incredibly portable and potentially very useful for writers. I guess we can always wait for version 2.0...

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