Since I first wrote this post there have been two updates to the app I’ve updated the post accordingly. (3/6/2013)
By chance I came across a new dictionary app for iOS and Android devices called 「萌典」(you can also find it by the English name “MoeDict”). It’s sourced from the Revised Chinese Dictionary put out by Taiwan’s Ministry of Education（教育部「重編國語辭典修訂本」）so it has official support. Let’s take a look at this brand new dictionary! Pictures are below the break at the end of the post.
Overall, it’s a very nice looking app. It’s bright, not too cluttered, and presents plenty of useful information. It’s retina-screen friendly if you’re in the need for that. Each entry has the pronunciation in both Zhuyin and Hanyu Pinyin, as well as the radical and number of strokes. The dictionary entries have some example sentences, much of which is pulled from classical literature or other historical documents. I like that because it provides some interesting historical and ancient context, which is helpful in some of my own research.
I really like just how simple it is. There’s no excess of information, no excess of graphics. Just a button for information and another button to clear/go back (admittedly this button’s use can be a bit unclear; sometimes it goes back, sometimes it clears the search bar). You get the information you need and that’s it. Slick!
Another great feature is the ability to click on and look-up words within the definitions themselves. While this is limited to selecting either single characters or phrases, it is still a quick way to get a better understanding of the entries themselves. To clarify, you can’t click and drag the cursor like in many other apps to select single or multiple characters to copy. And, while it does have a copy feature within the dictionary entries, it only copies the link to the internal dictionary and not the character itself. However, you can copy the character from the top of the entry; just not from the definitions themselves.
One thing that surprised me the most was the ability to use the dictionary online and offline, without needing any large downloads. I was quite impressed with that.
In a recent update, they’ve also added some new search features:
- Like most searches, you can add an asterisk or two periods between two characters to search for related phrases:見*萌 見..萌（will return 見微知萌）
- In addition, you can also search with a space after or before the character to search for phrases with that character either at the beginning or end of the phrase: 見<space> or <space>見
What’s Not So Good
Now the downsides. First of all, there’s no audio pronunciation for the entries. However, with great resources like MDBG, Skritter, and Pleco, you can easily find the audio elsewhere. Also, if you’re using a pure Chinese dictionary, you’ll likely be at the level where you won’t be needing the audio anyway. And, as this was meant for native speakers, so it isn’t surprising that it lacks audio.
Secondly, and this one is a little more annoying, is that the app seems slow. I ran it both on my iPhone and iPad (both fairly new devices, purchased within the past year). On both devices it was a bit slow. It would take a few seconds for some presses to work. I found myself hitting things more than once, thinking it hadn’t registered my press, when I just needed to wait. This, while frustrating, is a minor issue and likely to be worked out in a future update.
Indeed this has been fixed! The app moves a lot faster now, I’m quite impressed. The updates came fairly quick, too.
As this is still a fairly new app (released February 19th, 2013) there’s plenty of time and room for some of the little glitches to be worked out. That said, it’s a fantastic dictionary. It works offline, is universal for both iPad and iPhone, and has an Android version as well. While it lacks some of the more powerful features of, say, Pleco, it does provide a nice free alternative to their Xiandai Hanyu Guifan Cidian（現代漢語規範詞典）.
Overall, there’s some minor annoyances and weird interface choices, but it’s a lovely free dictionary that will work well for you.
iPad and iPhone App：https://itunes.apple.com/app/meng-dian/id599429224