Visuwords vs Erin McKean

A while back I wrote about a speech by Erin McKean, editor-in-chief of the Oxford American Dictionary, in which she talked about the future of the dictionary. One of the things McKean said was that the current crop of online dictionaries did not live up to their potential; apart from being searchable and having a few links, they were just the same as their print equivalents.

Evidently McKean hadn't come across Visuwords, which is the fantastic 'online graphical dictionary' pictured here (although in practice I've found it works better as a thesaurus). Type in a word and Visuwords graphically shows any related words in an expanding spidergram. Parts of speech (noun, verb etc) are indicated through different colours, and hovering over a word brings up a definition.

If nothing else, it's incredibly pretty (it even impressed one of our designers), although words with many associations tend to bring the web browser on my Mac grinding to a near halt.

I'm adding Visuwords to our list of production desk tools, which you can find on the panel to the bottom right of the blog. Alternatively follow the link in this post.


Grant Barrett said...

I think you'll find that Visuwords is the poor cousin of Visual Thesaurus. While the former may be free, the latter is far more reliable as a reference work and includes other languages. I think you'll find, too, that a visual reference work of any sort restores the serendipity missing from most online dictionaries but falls flat when it comes to many of the other ways that dictionaries are useful.

JD said...

Thanks for telling me about Visual Thesaurus – more functionality, less prettiness. And sadly not free.

To be honest I'm not sure that I would use either Visuwords or Visual Thesaurus over my trusty hard-copy OED, although I might occasionally turn to one if Roget's lets me down...