Thursday, January 17, 2008

Software Review and Strange Search Terms

In an interesting twist of fate, I noticed yesterday one of the search terms that brought someone to my blog also gave me opportunity to do another software review. I really like doing them, and you all seem to like them, so it was fortuitous for all concerned that a hapless individual was searching the Interweb yesterday for something that allows me to both help them, and give you a look at software you may or may not be familiar with. However, a caveat: This is not a comprehensive examination or test of the software in question. Just so you know, none of my reviews ever are. They're just things I found that I thought were cool, and that I thought you might like too. Okay, /disclaimer; onward.

More...The search term that brought the person to my blog:

what is riffling

First, let me help that person out. According to WordWeb:

rif·fle [ ríff'l ]

verb (past and past participle rif·fled, present participle rif·fling, 3rd person present singular rif·fles)


1. transitive and intransitive verb flick through pages: to flick through the pages of a book, magazine, or newspaper, glancing casually at the contents

2. transitive verb shuffle cards: to shuffle playing cards by halving the deck, lifting the corners, and flicking the cards so that they overlap as they fall

3. intransitive verb become choppy: to become rough and choppy when passing over submerged rocks ( refers to water )
Water riffles over the rocks.

noun (plural rif·fles)


1. quick look at book: a quick flick through the pages of a book, magazine, or newspaper

2. shuffling of cards: the shuffling of playing cards

3. U.S. submerged rocks or sandbar: an area of rocks or a sandbar lying just below the surface of the water

4. rough water: an area of rough water caused by submerged rocks or a sandbar

5. grooved part of sluice: the bottom part of a sluice that has grooves for collecting gold or other mineral particles

[Mid-18th century. < ?]

Okay, so that should take care of that. By the way, all you writer types: If you're not using WordWeb, you're missing out. It's a dictionary/thesaurus that has links to web definitions for words, it runs in the background of your system and can be used with almost any program, and best of all, it's free. There is a pro version, too, if you're interested. Check it out.

I like that it's typically stronger than the standard dictionary and thesaurus found in most programs. Sure, you can customize those, but you can do a lot of neat things with WordWeb too. It will automatically detect and use any additional dictionaries you have, so if you're writing a mystery romance about a French porn star who inadvertently sleeps with the Minister of Defense, you can use a French dictionary to look up the French words you want to use. You can also have it look over cross-references, select only a particular part of speech when a word can be more than one (like "riffling" above, both a noun and a verb), and it will automatically replace words you look up with the click of a button. Additionally, it links to any related Wikipedia articles on the word, can use Wiktionary, and has a direct link to the WordWeb dictionary online if you want more indepth analysis. It does stand alone, however, and runs locally on your computer. No Internet connection is required to use it, but it becomes more powerful if you have one available.

Since it's a tabbed layout, none of those things get in your way when you're using it, which is nice. You can also set up a keystroke look-up hotkey. Want to strike a single key to get your definitions? Just set the program up to respond to the key stroke or combination, and that's all there is to it. (Just make sure none of the programs where you'll use WordWeb are already using that combination natively.)

WordWeb's been a great help to me since I installed it, and I can't imagine writing without it now. I have it installed on both my local system and one of my flash drives, along with a lot of other portable applications, so when I travel or am away from my own computer, I can still use at least the local copy of WordWeb when I'm working. It's a boon, and something I think belongs in every writer's toolbox, unless you're still using a typewriter. Then you're on your own.

Check the WordWeb website for more details, and a free download. If you like it and are so inclined, you can also purchase the pro edition there. I'm sure you'll like it.


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