June 9, 2008

Translate words with EuroOffice Dictionary extension

Author: Dmitri Popov

Need a multilingual dictionary tool that allows you to quickly translate words and expressions without leaving the convenience of OpenOffice.org? Drop in the EuroOffice.org Dictionary (EOD) extension.

Extension series

Using EOD is dead easy. Since it's just a regular OpenOffice.org extension, you can install it by using the Extension Manager (Tools -> Extension manager). Once installed, the EOD adds a dictionary toolbar that gives you access to all dictionary features. Select the source and target languages from the drop-down list to the left, type the word you want to look up in the Word to Translate field, and the translation immediately appears in the Translation field. Both fields also act as drop-down lists. The list in the Word to Translate field contains word forms of the entered word as well as related expressions; for example, if you type "favorite" in the field, the drop-down list will also contain the words "favoring" and "favoritism." The list in the Translation field contains a list of possible translations of the source word.

The Free edition of the extension comes with English, German, and French dictionaries. The Professional Edition, which costs ââ¬4.90 (about $7), adds extra features, including Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Spanish, and Dutch dictionaries, as well as the ability to add words to the dictionaries on the fly. For example, if the word you want to translate is not in the dictionary, you can add it by clicking the Add new word button in the Dictionary toolbar, and then entering the source word and its translation.

Cursor monitoring is another useful feature of the Professional edition. It allows you to look up a word by placing the cursor at the word's beginning. With this technique you don't have to fiddle with the toolbar every time you want to look up a word. That's a great help when you are reading a text in a foreign language with a lot of unknown words. Better yet, you can then replace the original word with its translation by selecting it from the Translation drop-down list in the Dictionary toolbar. While this won't replace a dedicated translation tool, it works fine for quick-and-dirty word-by-word translations.

For a comprehensive overview of the differences between the Free and Professional versions, take a look at the comparison chart on the extension's Web site.

If the default dictionaries don't satisfy your linguistic needs, you can easily add your own dictionaries. EOD supports dictionary files in CSV and DICT formats. To create a custom dictionary file in the CSV format, use a text editor to create a text file and enter dictionary entries in it. Each entry has a simple structure: word;translation1;translation2. So, for example, an entry for the word "monkey" and its Danish translation looks like this: monkey;abe. Save the file in UTF-8 encoding and name it using the format SL-TL.CSV, where SL is a two-letter abbreviation of the source language (e.g. EN for English) and TL is an abbreviation of the target language (e.g. DK for Danish). To add the created dictionary to EOD, select the Add new dictionary item in the Languages drop-down list in the Dictionary toolbar and select the created file.

In addition to dictionaries in the CSV format, EOD Professional can handle DICT files, which allows you to use a plethora of existing dictionaries. To make it easier to manage and edit dictionaries, EOD Professional comes with a dictionary manager that lets you quickly add, remove, and edit dictionaries.

There are plenty of free dictionary resources available on the Web, and there are many good paper dictionaries out there. But if you are looking for a tool that can help you quickly look up words and expressions directly from within OpenOffice.org, the EuroOffice Dictionary extension is worth a try.

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