Interfacing with the Dictionary App

I would be grateful for some pointers as to whether it is possible to create links to specific words and phrases in the Apple Dictionary app.

I ask for the following reason. The fundamental purpose of Hook, at least as I understand it, is to create a network (a graph) of documents (in the broadest sense) that are related to one another. Properly used this allows rapid navigation between those documents. For example, as a lawyer, I may read a client email and create a task or project in my “to do” manager. I link the email to the task so that, when I access the task, I can jump straight back to the email to send a reply. Equally, I may link the task to the contract I am drafting as part of that task and that contract to the precedent from which it is drawn. This is valuable; if I later access the precedent in the context of another project I can readily find all the contracts I have previously derived from it and thence those tasks/ projects/ matters.

This works, however, because I have a known start point in the graph of linked documents; the task, the email, the precedent, the contract. The problem – and I think this particularly applies to research and note taking – is that there are circumstances where one doesn’t have a known start point. There are times when the question is “what do I know about this topic?”. For example, I may have attended a CPD event some years ago and kept notes, but I might not even remember the event, let alone recognise its relevance, today (that’s certainly the case for my University notes, I’m always surprising myself that at one time I must have known the stuff well enough to pass an exam, but today …).

Search is not the answer, not least because many documents (images, diagrams, video and voice recordings) are not susceptible to search. Tagging relevant documents, or at the least key documents (in my example, say a copy of the course agenda), in some manner is often proposed as a solution. Certainly a tag could provide a set of entry points into the document graph, but creating and maintaining a a coherent tagging system is a non-trivial task. It not only requires a parallel document management approach (using Finder, Default Folder X or what ever) to apply tags, but is rat hole down which many, including myself, have plummeted in the past.

HOWEVER, there already exists a (very) comprehensive set of possible tags in the form of the Princeton WordNet database, which can be installed into the Apple dictionary courtesy of the “Terminology” dictionary provided by Agile Tortoise. My thoughts were that if I could use Hook to link documents to one or more dictionary entries (most likely nouns), I could later use the dictionary as a starting point for searches of the document graph. WordNet itself provides links to hyponyms, hypernyms and holonyms, so if there’s nothing linked to a particular noun, broadening the search would be following links in the dictionary.

IDEALLY a closer integration would be nice. If WordNet proves to be a good ontology for tagging – and I fully expect it to be as embodies, after all, much of the English language – Hook itself might access the dictionary, show which words are already linked to documents and (for searching) scan outward from an initial word to find the nearest neighbours that have linked documents. To give a trivial example: I link a PDF document or web page to the WordNet entry for “Tyrannosaurus Rex”. “Dinosaur” is a hypernym of tyrannosaur, in turn a hypernym of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Searching back from the dictionary entry for dinosaur might give me documents linked to any of its hyponyms.

If anyone from Hook would like to reach out, I’d be pleased to share my thoughts further.

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Welcome to the Hook Productivity Forum , @GaiusScotius. And thanks for reaching out. Dictionary integration was one of our initial requirements for Hook, but we didn’t see an API at the time so we suspended it. If one is using an online dictionary whose entries have a unique URL, one can hook items to them. (E.g., for my academic work I have access to SFU’s OED).

It may be possible for third parties to use Hook’s AppleScript dictionary to add functionality, building entire apps based on it. It needs some optimization though, which we will roll out.