Friday, December 7, 2012

CleverKeys and WordWeb: Reference Aids to Supplement Bible Software

Sometimes as you are reading something on your computer, you would like to have some quick information about the term: a dictionary meaning, an encyclopedia article, check in Wikipedia, etc. There are two programs I can recommend to make such a lookup quick and easy. Both of them are 'run and stay resident' program. I.e., you will usually have them start when you start your system, and they lurk in the background ready to be called up with a keystroke or mouse click.

CleverKeys is a free program available for both Windows and Macs, and it is the program I have ended up using regularly. It indicates that it was
developed for Dictionary.com by Art & Logic - is free software that provides instant access to definitions at Dictionary.com, synonyms at Thesaurus.com, facts at Reference.com and more — from almost all Windows [and Mac] programs, including word processors, Web browsers and most e-mail programs. With CleverKeys, the answers are just a click away.
It is a very lightweight program (only 5Mb on my Win7 system) and is highly configurable in terms of hotkeys and linked sites. (The default hotkey is CTRL-L, so be aware if you have any keystroke conflicts with that.) Simply highlight a word, hit the hotkey, and a webpage will open looking up that term.
Since it was developed by Dictionary.com, the default is to jump to that site which is built on the latest Random House Dictionary. Using CleverKeys to lookup Passover, you not only get that dictionary with pronunciation, definition, related questions, and origin, but scrolling down you also get info from the World English Dictionary, Word Origin and History, American Heritage Cultural Dictionary, and the 1897 Easton Bible Dictionary. One nice feature of here is that all the definitions on this page have with them a "Cite this source" link that will provide correct citation of the reference in a variety of style formats. The Dictionary.com site also provides and has links at the top of the page to Thesaurus, Quotes, Reference, and Translator resources.

CleverKeys does allow you to create your own weblinks (cf. graphic above), and I have created a link to OneLook Dictionary Search, a dictionary aggregator. For "Passover" it finds definitions in 42 online dictionaries including Dictionary.com, Wikipedia, Wiktionary, etc., and 6 "Religion" dictionaries including Easton's, the Catholic Encyclopedia (1914), the Glossary of Spiritual and Religious Terms (at ReligiousTolerance.org), Smith's Bible Dictionary (1860's at BibleStudyTools.com), Irving Hexham's Concise Dictionary of Religion (1999), and the Glossary of Biblical English of the Authorised Version of the Holy Bible (a bad link).

As you can see, we are dealing with mostly public domain resources, so the quality of results will vary, but that's the problem with most of what is floating on the web or is packaged for free with most Bible software.

WordWeb works a bit differently. It's a bit 'heavier' than CleverKeys (using 50+ Mb of memory), but it can do a bit more including work offline.
WordWeb is a comprehensive one-click English thesaurus and dictionary for Windows. It can be used to look up words from almost any program, showing definitions, synonyms and related words. It includes pronunciations and usage examples, and has helpful spelling and sounds-like links.
You can either use a hotkey combination or a key+mouse click combination to activate WordWeb, and you don't need to highlight the word. You just need to have the cursor on the term. Instead of opening a web page, it opens its own popup window. As you can see in the graphic below, it has a number of lexical and grammatical features: definition, pronunciation, usage examples, synonyms, and other ways of classifying the term.
You also have tabs that link into Wikipedia, Wiktionary, and WordWeb online with links into still more resources.

There are a number of ways that WordWeb is a more sophisticated program than CleverKeys, but I have uninstalled it because of its unique pricing policy. The program is indeed free according to these licensing terms:
You may use the program free of charge indefinitely only if
  • You take at most 4 flights (2 return flights) in any 12 month period
  • AND you do not own or regularly drive an SUV (sports utility vehicle).
I applaud their environmental concern, and I don't drive an SUV, but I have already had to make 4 round trip flights this year. If you don't meet the licensing terms, then you need to buy a $19 Pro version which does offer more options and functionality. So, instead of paying $19, I'm using CleverKeys. Do note that though the free version only runs on Windows, there is a $5 Pro version for Macs. There are also free Android and iPhone/iPad versions. We now also need to specify that the free version runs fine under Win8 desktop, but they have also a free Win8 app.

CleverKeys, WordWeb, and Bible Software
It is great that these programs work anywhere on your system: web, Word, email, etc. I was interested in these initially as supplements to the Bible software I've been using. If you have Logos, it does have just about everything (depending on your library) including the 2003 Merriam-Webster dictionary and at least 10 Bible-based dictionaries in their most basic library. If anything, Logos, is a bit of overkill, so sometimes I use CleverKeys to more quickly find some basic info or to jump quickly to Wikipedia. Even in their Starter collection, Accordance does include the 1913 Webster's Dictionary, the old Easton's, and the much more useful Eerdman's Bible Dictionary (2000). You can see where CleverKeys or WordWeb might still be useful for Accordance users. BibleWorks has never focused on such auxiliary reference works and only includes Easton's, the Fausset Bible Dictionary (19th century), and the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915). For BibleWorks users and for users of other programs like e-Sword, OliveTree, Laridian, and others which only include some old reference works, CleverKeys or WordWeb should prove to supplement their study nicely.

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