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adrianlondon

What could be better with Plecodict

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teachinator

Back to the original intent of this thread, I have a suggestion for a very minor change. I've been using PlecoDict for just over a week now and I just started trying out the flashcard feature. One thing that I would like to have is some visual feedback, when I tap the Add Flashcard (+) button, that the tap was received -- just the button going reverse-video for half a second to indicate that the card was recorded would be plenty.

It's just that when there's NO indication, I find myself thinking, "Did I miss the spot? Did my card not get added?" and I have wasted a bit of time going and checking (it was always there so far).

[Okay, later self-correction. I have been watching very carefully and now I think that there is (always?) a flash when the card is added, but perhaps sometimes it's just too fast for me to catch since I am tapping quickly and going on. So I will amend my request to ask that the indication last some minimum length of time -- I don't know what is reasonable to make something noticeable. But I know that I often don't notice the flash even when I'm looking at the screen.]

Hopefully this is what is wanted in this thread. I'm sure I'll have more as I play around with it.

Actually, I might as well toss this out -- another feature I'd love to see but that I think is outside the scope of PlecoDict is a stroke order indicator (for example, the character drawing itself on the screen in the correct stroke order). I realize this is probably an unrealistic desire as such a feature would take a lot of time to implement and is more of a frill than a necessity.

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mikelove

Actually, this feature is already available, it's just hidden in our slightly-ridiculous array of Preferences screens. If you go to the "Flashcards" section of Preferences, there's a check box there for "Pop-up message on flashcard add" - enable that box and you'll get a helpful little "Card Added" pop-up message whenever you add a new card. We don't enable it by default because we thought it would be more annoying for people who didn't want it to have it and not be able to turn it off than it would be for people who did want it to not have access to it.

And stroke order diagrams are coming in Pleco 2.0; should work really well, too, we've even got a stroke order testing functionality for the flashcard system.

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djwebb2004

Mike, I am a very happy user of Plecodict. But if there was one improvement I would like to see, it is being able to jump to a specified number in a Flashcard. If there are 1000 Flashcards, being able to go straight to #300 would be handy. Will that be in the upgrade?

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roddy
slightly-ridiculous array of Preferences screens

If I was going to make one suggestion for improvement, that's where it would be. There are a number of posts on here with people asking 'how do I / why can't I' questions, and very often the answer is in the preferences - but the preferences are perhaps a bit overwhelming. Obviously it's necessary to have them all and the customizability is great, but perhaps some kind of 'Set-up Wizard' that takes new users through them one-by-one, or '?' icons next to them that can be tapped for a pop-up explanation might be helpful. And perhaps a 'Main' preferences screen for those that are most commonly used.

Something else that people are often unaware of is that tapping and holding toolbar icons opens up further options. I'd imagine that's mentioned in the manual, but it could perhaps be indicated somehow?

Have also adjusted the title of this discussion to better reflect the general mood.

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teachinator

Here's another feature I'd like to see in Pleco. I looked through the manual and I don't think it's in there yet.

I'd like to be able to specify a default order in which it will cycle through the dictionaries for each new query. (I'm defining a new query as what happens after I tap the eraser button; is there a better way to start one?)

For example, for English-Chinese searches I have the Oxford, NWP, and LDC dictionaries installed. I'd like Pleco always to search in the Oxford first, then the NWP, and finally the LDC, which is the least useful for me because it doesn't have pinyin or English definitions, though I'm happy it's there because it seems to have so many terms the others miss. But what Pleco actually does is always start the next search in the last dictionary in which it did a successful search. This means that I'm very often getting my first answer from the LDC and having to manually cycle to a dictionary with a more useful entry.

Of course I could just tap a couple of times before (or after) searching to switch to the desired dictionary, but 1) I forget to do it beforehand, and 2) if I could avoid even a couple of extra taps each time, that would be nice.

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yonitabonita

I find the Preference settings a bit tricky to work out. I swear I consulted the manual and went through every line in the flashcards section but to this day I have no idea how the flags work. (it's ok, no one needs to explain it - I've decided not to use it).

My job as clueless user is not to worry about what's realistic for Pleco to achieve. In an ideal world where there were no licensing issues, budgets, markets, questions of feasibility etc.. my wish would be for Pleco to have 2 of Wenlin's functions.

1) I find Wenlin's explanation of the origins of characters invaluable when trying to understand and remember characters. If Pleco could somehow get this function, I'd be willing to pay.

2) I really like the fact that a definition pops up any time I click on a Chinese character with Wenlin. I'd reallllly love it if Pleco could do the same. Again, I'd be willing to pay for this.

You may say I'm a dreamer

I'm not the only one

(hang on, maybe I am)

Y

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mikelove

Lots of suggestions here...

djwebb2004: Actually, in 2.0 we're getting rid of the idea of flashcard "lists" completely; we're replacing them with "categories," the difference being that a flashcard could only belong to one list but can belong to as many categories as you like. So the whole concept of jumping to a particular # flashcard won't really apply anymore.

roddy: We've been wanting to do a setup wizard since the pre-PlecoDict days, actually, but it always seems to get punted to the next version. At the very least the Preferences screens definitely need a major reorg, the current groupings don't make all that much sense, the labels are less-than-intuitive and we could really use Prev/Next buttons on the bottom to expedite jumping between screens. The wizard is a trickier proposition, but it certainly might be possible, depending on how smoothly the betas go.

teachinator: This is definitely on tap for 2.0; when we designed the current software we really didn't think people were going to want to use more than one set of dictionaries at a time (this was before people started writing us to demand what eventually became the Complete version), but now that they do it's really something we ought to have. Particularly with the new C-C dictionary in the works.

yonitabonita: It's just as well not to learn how the flags work, since they're going away in 2.0 anyway (made unnecessary by our shiny new "categories"). Character origins are something we get quite a few requests for; for various reasons it's highly doubtful we'd be able to license Wenlin's, but we'd certainly be amenable to licensing another reference on this if we find one we like. Pop-up definitions are a definite 2.0 feature, it's become clear that the Copy to Input function isn't cutting it anymore.

Thanks, everyone!

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gato
The wizard is a trickier proposition, but it certainly might be possible, depending on how smoothly the betas go.

I personally don't like "wizards," because it tends to hide features too much and requires answers to too many questions.

Beside going the "wizards" route, you can also try hide some of the more obscure features by using either a separate "advanced" preference panel or maybe an advanced button on each panel. Having this would leave you with a less cluttered screen and perhaps give you more room to give each feature a more descriptive name. Currently, some of the labels a bit cryptive.

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randall_flagg

About the referral system that was mentioned earlier: I am up to 9 people now, and I am sure glad that there is no reward system! I would never be able to recommend plecodict as wholeheartedly as I am doing right now.

I also have something that I would love for the new plecodict to have. Wenlin has this great feature that whenever you click on a character, it gives you a list all possible combinations with this character, listed not in an alphabetical order, but in the order of frequency. I have found that this has been the most effective learning tool ever: Whenever you come across a new character, you just find out the three most common character combinations with this particular new character and then memorize them. It gives you much more of a grasp for the meaning of that character and its much harder to forget this character later on. Also, although it looks like so much extra work, I am convinced that it ultimately saves the ambitious learner a lot of time! If plecodict would have that, I’d be willing to pay…

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mikelove

gato - I mostly agree with you on wizards, but I do think there are certain instances when they can be useful; for example, bringing something to people's attention that many of them wouldn't be able to figure out otherwise.

One thing which we've already decided to do the first time people run 2.0 on Palm is bring up a dialog box asking them if they're familiar with the Palm OS menu bar and how to get to it; if not, we put a big friendly Menu button right in the toolbar so that they can easily find it. Far and away the most common category of tech support question we get for PlecoDict on Palm now is "how do I get to the flashcard system?" or "how do I get to the ordering screen?" or "how do I get to the Preferences panel," the answer to all of which is "use the menu bar," so we think it's worth a tiny bit of inconvenience to our Palm-savvy customers to make sure that everyone has full access to all of PlecoDict's features. We'll likely come up with a few other first-run questions like this by the time 2.0 has finished beta testing, and between them they should constitute at least a rudimentary "wizard." (though there'll almost certainly be a "Skip Wizard" button on the first screen to minimize the hassle for people who don't want to use it)

But the current Preferences screens are certainly more cluttered than they ought to be, a lot of the checkboxes/menus really need 2 or 3 lines of explanation, so that's definitely something we're working to improve on.

randall_flagg - 9 referrals, wow, thanks a lot! I was actually just having an e-mail conversation with a customer the other day about frequency lists - personally I'm not that big on them, most of the lists that I've seen tend to be way too subject-specific (e.g., lists based on newspapers that put 南斯拉夫 at a comparable frequency to 你好), but it certainly wouldn't be that difficult to implement if we found a (free) frequency list we liked. I'm inclined to think a better bet might be to search for words containing that character in flashcard lists - for example, enter a character and it'll tell you which HSK vocabulary words contain it.

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djwebb2004

Mike,

I wanted to comment on your statement that the next release of Plecodict will have no flashcards. I suppose Plecodict has 2 big drawcards for me: 1) the size of the dictionary, and the fact that it is the ABC dictionary, as I trust the scholarship of the people at the University of Hawaii; and 2) the flashcards. Plecodict without the flashcards? I'd rather just stick with the current version, or use Wenlin. If you do an update, will subscribers be able to double-install Plecodict so that version 1 and 2 are both on the machine? I certainly would not consider installiing anything that was going to remove my flashcard facility. I understand if the flashcard program became a problem to maintain owing to large numbers of queries over how to use the flashcards, rather than the main dictionary itself. But I think nearly all users of Plecodict will want to keep the flashcards....

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roddy

The flashcards won't be disappearing, they'll just be organized differently - while we'll have to wait for Mike to confirm, I'll wager there'll be a complete upgrade path from current version to 2.0, and all your flashcards will survive intact.

Actually, in 2.0 we're getting rid of the idea of flashcard "lists" completely; we're replacing them with "categories," the difference being that a flashcard could only belong to one list but can belong to as many categories as you like. So the whole concept of jumping to a particular # flashcard won't really apply anymore.

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mikelove

Yes indeed, we'd never get rid of flashcards - they're one of our software's biggest selling points. The first preview release probably won't include flashcards, and we actually are considering a "Lite" version of PlecoDict which would remove flashcards along with a number of other features, but the non-stripped-down, finished version of 2.0 will definitely have a flashcard function, and one that will be vastly expanded / improved upon from the current system.

And we're certainly not planning to leave your flashcard lists stranded - the current thinking is that there'll be some sort of 1.0.4 release, probably in December, which along with fixing a couple of the more vexing bugs that have cropped up in the last few months will also add a new "Export to 2.0" function - this will dump your flashcards to a file in the new, statistics-preserving 2.0 import/export format.

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roddy

Tell you what I'd like - this just popped into my head, so it might be useless - a small icon next to the input field which, when tapped, switches to your browser and does a Google search for whatever is in the input field. I quite often have to do that if whatever I'm looking for isn't in the dictionary.

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in_lab

I don't have PDA internet access, but I'd like the same kind of function using a static body of text. I've heard that Wenlin has a body of public domain? literature and you can search for words in this text. That sounds useful.

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mikelove

roddy - certainly doable, but I don't know how useful it would be on non-multitasking Palm OS; between shutting down PlecoDict, loading Blazer, running the search, closing Blazer and reopening PlecoDict you'd be spending a lot of time waiting. Might be a better bet on the Pocket PC version, actually.

in_lab - there's already going to be something like this courtesy of our new full-text search feature; you'll be able to search the full text of each of our dictionaries for every instance of a particular word, which should dig up lots and lots of example sentences. We've been considering adding indexed full-text search for documents in our new built-in document reader as well, but that probably won't happen until a post-2.0 release.

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teachinator

BTW, I'm glad the topic of this discussion was changed to "What could be better with Plecodict" rather than "What's wrong with Plecodict," since everyone including the OP agrees it's a great product. Now we're all going even farther afield with suggestions for new features. Here's mine, if it's not already in the works.

I'm usually very happy that Plecodict is generous about recognizing my sometimes scrawled characters (except for 心; why is it that it can't ever recognize that one unless I really exaggerate it? -- but I digress). However, now I find myself sometimes wishing it would enforce better writing on my part. Relaxed recognition is ideal for when I'm trying to quickly interpret something new I just came across; strictness would be more useful when I'm essentially testing myself by writing a character I should know and seeing if it gets recognized by the dictionary. So, if that feature isn't already available or being planned, I'm putting in my request.

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mikelove

We aren't planning a stricter character recognizer per se, but we are working on a "stroke order tester" feature which will require you to write characters very accurately (not only with regard to stroke order but also number, direction, separated-or-joined, etc). It's not quite the same as writing the character and seeing if it's recognized, but it might have similar benefits for your writing skills; you could have it randomly bring up the Pinyin and definition and have to recall/write the character accurately from memory.

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stephanhodges

One thing I've always wondered is why you can't show pinyin for ANY character in the dictionary? Perhaps a function that shows the pinyin WITH the enlarged character (when taping on a character).

Also, with the English to Chinese dictionaries that don't come with pinyin, why can't you generate your own? Most generation could be done algorithmically within the software at runtime, and you could keep an exception list for items that need to be manually overridden to choose the correct pinyin in a particular circumstance.

The exception list should be generatable by cross referencing with another electronic dictionary (in house, not within plecodict)

Crazy?

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mikelove

A lot of characters have more than one potential pronunciation, so if we wanted to show the Pinyin for a particular character in the magnify screen we'd have to list a couple of alternatives in many cases.

Generating Pinyin for an E-C dictionary presents similar problems - it's not just a matter of going through word-by-word, correctly segmenting Chinese text into individual words is one of the more intractable problems in Chinese text processing - there was a discussion on here recently about that very issue, actually. We could make some educated guesses and come up with a reasonably reliable breakdown, but there would still be numerous errors, so while we could certainly let you look up Pinyin for words with some kind of pop-up, actually embedding the auto-generated Pinyin in the dictionary entry would probably raise some hackles among the publishers we're licensing these dictionaries from (who wouldn't want to be blamed for our mistakes).

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