Lingoes for Windows – Is it worth it?

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Some months ago, when I was translating articles from Antimoon into Spanish I remember reading one of Tom's recommendations: To have an offline dictionary program installed in your computer that doesn't require the Internet to work.

After that I decided to search the web to see what free dictionaries would be useful both for me and those who end up reading Inglesk. After reading about several dictionaries and trying some here and there I decided to have two dictionaries installed on my PC:

The first one is called Advanced English Dictionary, which is exclusive for Windows 8 onwards, and you can download it for free at the Windows Store. This dictionary's interface is beautiful and the dictionary itself is very complete. I love it :)

The second dictionary is called Lingoes, a dictionary "engine" for Windows that you can install several dictionary files (in .ld2 format) on. If by any chance you are familiarized with the program Babylon, Lingoes is pretty similar, but it's free.

Years ago you could download several premium English-learning dictionaries on Lingoes.net, like Longman and Oxford for English learners. Last year (or way before, I am not sure to be honest) almost all premium dictionaries were removed from the site, except for the MacMillan dictionary.

This dictionary (like almost all dictionaries I've tried with Lingoes) has all of its text compressed, without line breaks. That makes reading the definitions and example phrases a complete headache. But I liked that the dictionary provided the IPA transcription of each word in US English.

Well... it turns out that the author of Lingoes recently removed the MacMillan dictionary from the site, so there are no more "Premium" dictionaries available there. I tried other "regular" monolingual English dictionaries offered there, like the "Concise English Dictionary", "Vicon English Dictionary" and the "WordNet English Dictionary".

The "Concise" dictionary is a summarized version of the WordNet dictionary that includes the British pronunciation of English words... but not the US pronunciation. I liked the WordNet dictionary, because it includes example phrases for many words, and it's the most readable of all. But what disappointed me about all these dictionaries is that none of them shows the IPA pronunciation for words in US English, just in UK English.

Another thing: The dictionary files for Lingoes don't include audio files with word recordings. To be able to play words, Lingoes uses the voice engines installed in your Windows system to reproduce them artificially. And let me tell you, despite being artificial reproductions, as long as you choose a voice engine adequate for the word you want to know (like Microsoft "David" and "Zira"), then the pronunciations are very correct.


So... is it worth it to use Lingoes?


Well, that said... is it worth it to use Lingoes for your English learning? This is what I recommend you do. If you...
  • Will use bilingual dictionaries in English/(your-native-language) for your English learning, whether because you are starting from scratch or because you just prefer to use bilingual dictionaries...
  • You don't care about the IPA for English and you will not be learning it, but you will verify the pronunciation of English words using a voice engine like David (US) or Hazel (UK)...
  • Or if you DO want to learn the IPA, but only to learn the British pronunciation of English words, and not their US pronunciation...
Then install the Vicon English/(your-native-language) and Vicon (your-native-language)/English dictionary pair, and use them for your daily learning. See if a pair for your native language is available here. Later in this article I show you how install those dictionary files.

Now, if you will still be using bilingual dictionaries, but you want to be able to check the IPA pronunciations in US English for the words you look up, you will have to install an English dictionary that has the respective IPA pronunciations in addition to the previous Vicon dictionaries. In that case, I would recommend you try looking if its possible to get one of the Premium dictionaries I mentioned before (like the MacMillan or Longman) in another website. Try searching on Google something like "Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English lingoes .ld2"... and may Arceus be with you.

And finally, if you want to use an entirely monolingual dictionary with example phrases and US pronunciations transcribed in IPA for each word you look up, for now I recommend the Advanced English Dictionary if you have Windows 8+, or the LDOCE with the LDOCE Viewer recommended by Tom from Antimoon. In the future I will review more free and paid offline dictionaries for Windows 7, Mac and Linux.


Installing Lingoes and downloading your dictionaries


You can download the Lingoes installer right here on the official site. If you use a 64 bits computer you can download the 'x64' version to get a bit of extra performance. If you'd like to keep your version of Lingoes on a USB stick you can download the respective version too.

After downloading the program installer you will need to get the dictionary files themselves. Once again, I suggest you get an English/(your-native-language) and a (your-native-language)/English dictionary for Lingoes. Check the dictionary directory here to see if an English dictionary in your native language is available. If it is, just click on the entry, choose one of the server links, and download the respective dictionary file.

Once you have your installer and dictionary files in your hard drive, double click the Lingoes installer. You will be asked to set up the language of the program's interface. I suggest you select "English" so you get used to using interfaces in English.

Then click Next, accept the terms of use and whatever, just follow the standard installation routine just like in any other program. When the installation is complete, Lingoes will run for the first time. In the taskbar you will see an icon with a parrot. Click on it to open the blue program window.


Installing the dictionaries


On the top-left part of the window you fill find the "Previous" and "Next" buttons, then the bar where you can write the word you want to look up, then a web search bar, and at the end you will find the menu button.

Installing the dictionary files is simple. Just click on the menu button and select 'Dictionaries...' A list called 'Installed Dictionaries' will appear, where you will see all the dictionaries you have currently installed (including some dictionaries that might be installed by default).

To install a new dictionary click 'Install', open the dictionary file, and voilá! The dictionary will be ready to use. Do the same to install any other dictionaries you may have downloaded.

Now, on that same list you will see two tabs that say 'Index group' and 'Text capture group'. You will also see some red arrows. The index group is not important – that just determines what will Lingoes show as you type a word, just like Google Instant. However, the 'Text capture group" IS important, because it has to do with the Lingoes add-on for your Internet browser.


Installing the Lingoes Text Capture add-on for your Internet browser


Once the program and dictionaries are installed I strongly recommend you install the Lingoes Text Capture add-on, which connects the program with your Internet browser. This is how it works:

Let's say that you are reading an article in English on one of your favorite blogs, and you find a word you don't know. Instead of having to select and copy that word, and then paste it on Lingoes to look it up, the add-on allows you to do a special click on the word (like Ctrl+RightClick, or however you want to configure it), which will make a pop-up window appear.

In this little window you will see the results (one on top of the other) for the word you did the special click on. These results correspond to the entries for that word on each dictionary you have installed. If you move your mouse from the word, the pop-up window will disappear. You can also configure that little window so that it shows the first result only, like this:

These results will be organized according to how you ordered your dictionaries in the Text Capture group tab. Thus, if you want, say, to have the results of your English/(native-language) dictionary show first, you will have to click on the respective dictionary on the list, and then you press the red arrow pointing upwards (and that has a bar on top) to send the dictionary at the top of the list.

With the red arrows pointing down you can send dictionaries down the list, and if you "un-select" the checkmark on the left of the dictionary's name, that dictionary will no longer appear in the search results (unless you select it again).

You can download the add-on for Mozilla Firefox here, and Google Chrome here. Once you install the add-on you just have to configure it so you can start using it in your browser. To do this open Lingoes, go to Menu, and go to Configuration. Then open the Text Capture tab.

Under Capture word on screen you can configure features like the Mouse activation mode. This determines if the pop-up window will appear if you put your cursor on the word, or if you right-click or left-click on it, or if you click your mouse wheel, among other options.

You can also determine if the pop-up window will appear if you press and hold Ctrl, Shift, or Alt (or a combination of these keys) in addition to the previously established click. And you can also make the window not appear if you click on numbers or other foreign characters.


Using Lingoes and its web add-on to improve your English


Once the program and add-on are correctly installed and configured, all that is left is for you to get in a website in English, start reading, and use the "magic click" you configured on any word you don't know.

On the main window of the program you can click on the triangle at the right side of the speaker icon to open a drop-down menu where you will find all the Microsoft voice engines installed in your computer. Select an US voice, and when you search for a word you will be able to press the speaker icon to reproduce the word using the voice engine you selected.

I initially thought that these artificial pronunciations would be absolutely terrible. But to my surprise, the pronunciations are pretty accurate. They are not AS good as human pronunciations (obviously), but they are close enough.

Finally, if you are reading anything outside of your browser and you want to look up a word in Lingoes, just click on the icon with a parrot in the task bar, and start typing your word (you don't have to click the search bar to start writing). Press Enter, and check your results.


Lingoes is not the best dictionary program you can install in your PC, I admit. But it's free, and it's good enough. I think the pop-up window add-on is very useful, and if your Internet ever goes out, and you have ebooks or articles saved in Word in your hard drive, Lingoes allows you to train your English with those articles while your Internet comes back.

I hope this program will be useful in your English learning. In the future I will review dictionaries better than this one :D

Note: If you use an operating system different to Windows, like OSX or Ubuntu, then you can't use Lingoes... unless you run it on some kind of emulator. For these operating systems I've heard that the GoldenDict dictionary is good. In the future I will review this program (and others) in more detail, but you can check it out if you want.


Summary


If you want to use a bilingual dictionary, check the british pronunciations in IPA of English words, and you don't care about reading example phrases, then Lingoes is for you. Download it and install it.

If you want to use a monolingual offline dictionary, and you want to check out example phrases and US pronunciations in IPA in it, then use either the Advanced English Dictionary for Windows 8+, or the LDOCE with the LDOCE Viewer for Windows 7+.

Go to the Lingoes dictionary directory and download an English/(your-native-language) dictionary and a (your-native-language)/English dictionary. Install them via Menu → Dictionaries... → Install.

Install an add-on for your web browser, which allows you to summon a pop-up window with the results of your installed dictionaries for a word you've done a special click on.

Go to Menu → Dictionaries... → Text capture group, and use the red arrows to organize how the results will look like when you summon the pop-up window.

Go to Menu → Configuration → Text capture to configure your special click (Left click + press and hold Alt, for instance).

Go to any website in English and test your special click. If it works, that will be faster than copy-pasting words on Lingoes or other dictionaries to look them up.


Last updated: May 21 of 2015

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