Terminology 3: A Cool Extensible iOS Dictionary App


There are a plethora of dictionary apps on the App Store, most of them free. iOS, unlike Android, has a system-wide dictionary accessible just by choosing the define option after highlighting a word. So why do you need to pay two dollars for a dedicated dictionary app? Because a more powerful dictionary app will improve your vocabulary along with your overall skill in English.

Terminology 3 is an extensible dictionary app. This means the app does a lot more than simply spew out a one or two line definition of the word and some synonyms. Just as you install extensions in Chrome to improve your productivity and get more features, you can do something similar with Actions in Terminology 3. Read on to find out all about it.

Just Another Dictionary App?

As a dictionary app, Terminology 3 ($1.99) does everything you’d expect. It will look up any word, list possible matches as you type, and has a complete offline US dictionary.

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But the app’s UI is a bit different from other apps. It’s really clean and you get to the search field by swiping in from the left edge – this is the default back gesture in iOS 7. Tap the X button on the top to exit a definition. The bottom option bar gives you access to your favorite words, recent searches, settings and a panel for Actions.

As any English teacher will tell you, the key to improving your vocabulary is word association. When you search for a word in Terminology, not only will it tell you the part of speech, list of synonyms, and the definition of the word but you’ll also see fields like less specific, more specific, or related. Viewing these associated words helps to extend your knowledge and ultimately, helps you to become a better writer.

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Remember how I said Terminology is an extensible dictionary app? Well, Actions makes it so.

With the help of Actions, Terminology can be the go-to dictionary app for anyone: from a teenager in a posh private school who thinks he knows everything, to your grandfather who needs a larger type in order to read, to the guy for whom English is a second language. In itself, Terminology is a basic app, but you can extend its functionality with Actions.

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What Are Actions?

After you’ve looked up a definition, you might want to learn a bit more about the topic. Maybe you read up on it in Wikipedia or if English isn’t your native language, you might translate the term.

Or, if you’re a 14 year old teenager who just read the definition of Continuum and went “huh?”, you might go see what Urban Dictionary has to say about it. Because everyone knows the best way to determine the meaning of words is by reading up on poorly written, slang-riddled, but sometimes hilarious crowdsourced explanations.

Either way, Actions lets you instantly expand your search to any of these pages with a simple swipe and tap. After you’ve installed an action, you can swipe in from the right edge, choose any one of those sources and the app will open the relevant page in the in-app browser.

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How To Add Actions

Go to Settings and tap Visit the Action Directory and the directory website will open up in Safari. From there, browse for the popular actions and tap install to install any action.

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You can do it faster by using the in-app browser. Open the Actions sidebar by swiping in from the right on the definition screen and choose Action Dictionary to get to the same directory site.

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One Step Forward

Terminology looks great on the iPad and if you use the iPad for writing, with an app like Editorial, you can create workflows for searching in Terminology directly from Editorial using x-callback-url. This spec was developed by Terminology app developer Greg Pierce and is widely used by other productivity apps. But be warned that understanding it to the point where it’s useful will take hours of acquainting yourself with the documentation; if you don’t do any serious work on the iPad it might not be worth it.

The spec came into being because of iOS 7’s poor state of inter-app communication. Unlike Android, you can’t just share something from one app to another. While this is changing with iOS 8, we don’t know all the details just yet. Drafts, an app which is also from the same developer, is the epitome of inter-app communication and iOS automation that heavily relies on X-callback-url integration.

Cool Tip: If you don’t want to get mixed up in all that but still desire these automation features, check out my guide on Searchr, a free app that performs with no setup required.

Final Words

In conclusion, Terminology, with its easily configured and readily available actions can be useful to anyone who wants to improve their English. The extensive features of Terminology will allow you to widen your scope and fine-tune your associative skills as well.

Last updated on 03 February, 2022

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