I believe there is an old saying with something to the effect of “the best things in life are simple”. Or is it “free”? Or both? A common example of such elegant simplicity is Einstein’s famous equation : E =mc2 (the “2” here is, of course, in superscript format). This simple equation has gone down in the history books as one of the most revolutionary creations of theoretical and applied physics which has had such a wide range of effects – from the development of nuclear weapons, to the concept of black holes, computers and other bizarre phenomenon in the universe.
As we move deeper into this new age of accelerating information creation and exchange it is only becoming ever more vital to find and apply SIMPLE tools and solutions to the numerous tasks and obstacles which we must deal with on an everyday basis. The good news is that as the amount of information increases SO TO does the power of computing, and so we find ourselves in a feedback situation in which the technology creates new problems, amplifies old problems, and provides the potential to also solve these issues.
So, you can imaging how pleased I was as a writer, researcher, transcriptionist/editor, web designer and offline/online marketer (that is, a person whose main work in life revolves around words), to come across a funky, yet amazingly powerful little program which is extremely simple to use, and aids you in dealing with most of the common, significant issues you face in relation to the creation, manipulation, and transmission of words in all of the various applications in which words are a vehicle of exchange.
The program is called Wordweb, a comprehensive, multipurpose English language dictionary and thesaurus application whose features range from one-click look up of words, synonym and antonym word web, audio word pronunciation (in numerous accents), extendable dictionaries and so much more. As space in this post is limited, and since the Wordweb web site describes all of the features in detail, and since the software is free, quick to install and use, etc. I think the best thing to do is advise you refer to their site for more information. I also suggest you take a minute to download the free version of program (the licensing agreement basically states that if you are not wealthy enough to afford more than one round-trip international plane flight per year then you are free to use the full features of the software). I used the free version of the program for five years, until recently when I decided that I wanted access to some of the more advanced features which come with the registered Wordweb Pro version. I will say that this was one of the best $19.00 I’ve spent on business tools in a while). As with most other software programs (especially freeware) I recommend using the free version for a while to get a feel for it, experiment with the features as you read through the help tutorials and do apply the application to your word work. I assure you that this program will make immediate and significant improvements in your entire work process, and thus free up some of your energy to focus on the more creative aspects of your job.
The most practical and frequently-used feature of Wordweb is the one click “word look-up” function which works in essentially ANY program – both offline and online – that displays words. Some examples include : word processors, transcription software, web sites user interfaces of most programs, etc. Basically, any word can be looked up in the Wordweb dictionary by simply clicking [CTRL + right click], and then displayed with as many definitions are in the database (and you can extend the database with various dictionary upgrades) and numerous other helpful information for dealing with the word (ex. list of synonyms, audio pronunciation from within the program by simply clicking a speaker icon, links to the word in various online dictionaries and other sources, and many more very useful processes dealing with the meaning and use of words in their wide range of applications.
To illustrate the immediate usefulness of the program – if you have installed it and have it running – go ahead and take a second to [CTRL + (right click)] any word in this post and then click around from the definition page to explore the various additional information which is provided by the program related to that word. Since the function of this blog is to introduce budding transcriptionists to the skills and tools of the trade, I will detail some of the features which will be most helpful and quickly applicable, and then let you play around with it as you explore the web site, tutorials, and other resources to become more proficient in using the application. Once you see how easy it is to use, and how helpful in minimizing the effort of the most routine tasks you perform everyday as a wordsmith, I can guarantee you you will be hooked.
One of the most basic uses of the program in the transcription process is the ability to spell check words with one click and from right inside the transcription program (such as ExpressScribe). The program has good quality artificial intelligence programmed into it which allows you to type in a rough estimate of and/or [CTRL + (right click)] the word you need to spell check and the program will display a list of numerous words which are either the exact word correctly spelled (along with the definition and other info) or the closest estimates of the word you are looking for. For instance, if you [CTRL + (right click)] the word “mispelled” (go ahead, [CTRL + (right click) it!) the program will display “try misspelled” with a link to the correct definition, along with a list of numerous other rough matched of the misspelled word, which you can single click on to go to the definition page for that word. In addition, when the definition page comes up for the word the word itself is selected, and so you can simply hit [CTRL-C] to copy the properly spelled word and paste it right into the transcription text in your transcription software by pressing [CTRL + V]. Going even further into the functions, you have the option (through various tabs within the definition display page) to click through to synonyms and antonyms of the word (and other related categories) and then [CTRL-C] any of those and paste them [CTRL + V] right into the transcription text. So, the program is essentially a “quick-click” thesaurus, spell check, and linguistic database of sorts. All of these features are smoothly integrated into every step of your word workflow and are implemented in one or two clicks (for most operations).
These few basic features of the program are well worth the ZERO dollars you pay for the (freeware version of the) program and you can start using them immediately to increase the efficiency of your writing, editing and transcription work.
Another nice feature is the built-in audio pronunciation, which can come in handy when you are having trouble deciphering a word used by a speaker in the audio file you are transcribing. You will be surprised how many words we believe we know the correct pronunciation for, which turn out to have a dramatically different actual sound (including syllabic accent, intonation, etc.) especially when you account for the various accents of the language which the word is spoken in. For instance, quite a number of English words are barely recognizable when you compare the pronunciation between American English, British English, Australian English, etc. Not to mention the even more numerous tertiary English dialects (ex. Filipino-English, Chinese-English, Indian-English, etc.). The audio pronunciation database can also be upgraded to increase the number of audio pronunciations available and to add additional accent and specialized databases. It’s very helpful to have the proper pronunciation of a new word you have encountered so that you learn the correct pronunciation from the very beginning, instead of learning an improper sounding from the start and then having to unlearn your mistake. This is an important concept in the study of language (linguistics – especially the subtopic of second language acquisition (SLA) – of which a massive amount of research has been done in academia and the field). The reality is that it is much easier to struggle a little to learn the word (and pronunciation) correctly upon first exposure, than it is to go because and undo the improper definition/pronunciation after it has been reinforced over time through use. Try typing a rough estimate pronunciation of an unknown word from an audio file and you may very likely be surprised to find the correct word show up in the “related words” list. You can then verify further if it is the correct word or not by clicking the speaker icon and have the program pronounce the related word (or words).
If you are to settle for the integration and application of just these four core features of the program (ex. dictionary, thesaurus, spell check, and audio pronunciation) you will see a dramatic improvement in the speed and accuracy of your word work, especially if you apply that work to your tasks of writing, editing and/or transcribing. You will experience a dramatic increase in the speed in which you discover and correct spelling mistakes in your text, the efficiency of deciphering words through the context provided by the thesaurus features, as well as the efficiency of deciphering unclear words in an audio file through the same contextual features in combination with the audio pronunciation feature which provides multiple accents – an important feature for transcriptionists who often work on files containing speech by speakers of different accents from around the world. This is only becoming more important and useful as computing technology makes cross-translation of language faster and more automated, and as the force of globalization increases the amount of audio and text data to be translated and transcribed by teleworkers of various accents working online. In addition, since saving time equates to getting more work done and thus earning more money, this program is an important tool to add to your transcription (and general word-work) toolbox.
So go ahead and play around with Wordweb, and if it is helpful leave a comment describing how you have used and benefited from it.