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Kotoba: The Best iOS Dictionary App You’ve Never Heard Of

I love dictionaries. For as long as I can remember, I’ve made a habit of looking up every single word I encounter that I don’t know or am even unsure about. The fact that MacOS and iOS have built-in dictionaries that you can invoke via a contextual menu item is one of my favorite features of both OSes. Part of that is the extraordinary convenience, and part is that both systems use the same excellent source: New Oxford American Dictionary. (MacOS also includes the excellent Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus — which is apparently coming to iOS, finally, in iOS 12.)

But MacOS goes one step further (dating back to its roots as NeXTStep) — it has a built-in Dictionary app, too. I’ve wanted an app like this on iOS since the original iPhone. The App Store is replete with dictionary apps, but most of them are junk. I just want a simple one that uses the system dictionary. My friend Will Hains, who among other things runs the excellent @DFStyleguide Twitter account, shared that desire and went ahead and made one. It’s called Kotoba. It’s been on my first home screen for over two years now.

The catch: App Store guidelines disallow using the built-in system dictionary to create a dictionary app (I presume due to licensing issues with Apple’s dictionary partners), so you can’t get it from the App Store. Hains released it as open source, though, so if you have a developer account, you can build and install it yourself.

Bonus Catch: Kotoba currently crashes on iOS 12 (including beta 2, released earlier today). Radar.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018