Pleco for Android + More Dictionaries!


Pleco has announced its long-awaited Android version (screenshots here)! This is interesting to me, because one of the major reasons I switched from an Android phone back to an iPhone was Pleco. I haven’t seen the Android version in action, but looking at the screenshots, it would seem that the iPhone is getting more Love.

From the Pleco Android beta announcement:

> This is an experimental release of our Android software; we’re making it available now for the sake of people who don’t want to wait any longer for the finished version, but there are quite a few bugs / ugly interfaces, the documentation is almost nonexistent (though you can get a pretty good idea of how it works from the iPhone version documentation), and there are also a few major features missing, so if you’re not very computer-savvy we’d recommend waiting for the finished version to be ready before downloading it, or at least waiting a few weeks to see what the feedback from other testers looks like in our discussion forums.

> In general, though, we’re very pleased with how our Android software turned out and with how much functionality we have been able to get into this first release. OCR (see below) is working beautifully on Android (both live and still, though currently only in “Lookup Words” mode), as are full-screen handwriting recognition, audio pronunciation, stroke order, and all of our add-on dictionaries. We’ve even gotten a significant portion of our document reader module working; there are no bookmarks or web browser yet, and it’ll choke if you try to load the complete text of 红楼梦, but for short-story-sized text files and snippets of text copied in from the clipboard it works quite well.

Meanwhile, the iPhone and iPad versions forge boldly ahead as well. I’m looking forward to the upcoming UI redesign. This part of the announcement was interesting:

> Central to this is a new feature we’re calling “merged multi-dictionary search”; basically, instead of typing in a word and having to flip between different dictionaries to see which matches they come up with, you’ll get all of the results from every dictionary in a single, sorted, duplicates-merged list, providing better information and doing it in a simpler way. That particular feature is actually likely to show up in an experimental form (off-by-default option) in a minor update we’ll be putting out in a few weeks; we want to make sure it’s working really well before we put it at the center of our product.

When I heard that Michael Love was looking for more dictionaries to license for Pleco, my initial reaction was, “why do you need more dictionaries? Add more dictionaries and it’s just too much hassle to navigate through them all.” And that’s a problem that this new “merged multi-dictionary search” would solve. I’m very interested to see what that ends up looking like, and how it affects the user experience.

So what are the new dictionaries being added to Pleco?

1. “the Oxford Concise English & Chinese Dictionary (now known as the Pocket Oxford Chinese Dictionary)”
2. “the Classical-Chinese-to-Modern-Chinese dictionary”
3. “the Traditional Chinese Medicine dictionary”
4. “the expanded edition of the Tuttle Chinese-English dictionary, and its companion English-Chinese title”
5. “a really nice multifunction Chengyu dictionary (detailed explanations, usage notes, antonyms/synonyms, etc)”
6. “a lovely little Chinese-Chinese student dictionary”
7. “another Chinese-Chinese student dictionary that would be our first title ever to be oriented around non-mainland users (i.e., the original print version is in traditional characters)”

Wow. And Pleco is still searching for a decent Cantonese dictionary and a character etymology dictionary to license.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I have been looking forward to some of the dictionary updates to Pleco. The usage examples of Tuttle are excellent. So, an expanded version would be great. As for having too many, I frequently come across entries that only occur in one of the 4 dictionaries I’ve installed on Pleco. Also, users always have the choice of purchasing a selection of dictionaries that serves there needs. Beginning students benefit much more form the Oxford and Tuttle dictionaries which include pinyin and usage examples.

  2. The Android version is still in a relatively early beta. It looks great, but there are still quite a few bugs to be ironed out. I received an email about the beta and am running it currently. I think it is an open beta for anyone who wants to get involved. Check out the pleco forum if you’re interested:

  3. Pleco’s Android build is a little rough around the edges, but it’s in beta, and that’s to be expected. I installed it as soon as it was released and have been using it quite a bit without any problems.
    A few months back, I switched from an iPhone to an Android device. However, I couldn’t give up Pleco, so I’ve been lugging around both phones just so I would have access to Pleco. It’s nice to final go back to carrying just one phone. As someone who relies on Pleco on a daily basis, it’s nice to be able use both the phone I want and my favorite app.

  4. awesome. really looking forward to the new dictionaries, especially the classical one.

  5. Sandra Rosenzweig Says: June 3, 2011 at 6:35 am

    Mike Love also was looking for a restaurant menu dictionary to license. Although there are at least two very good ones for English, neither were in anything like camera-ready (or, more to the point, digital-ready) shape. I’m really impressed by how feature-rich acnd how stable this beta is. I’m so dependant on Pleco Dict that I choose my phone based on whether Pleco works on it.

  6. gregorylent Says: June 3, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    sheesh, i have had pleco for a year, cannot figure it out .. most complicated app ever .. and the ocr? pretty, and useless.

    • Have you contacted Pleco about these issues yet?

      Most of our customers seem very happy with OCR – 6 months after its release it’s still our top selling add-on – so perhaps there’s a way we can help you to configure it to make it work better for you. (have you tried the new update with still image support?)

      As far as the interface, if you simply ignore the options you’re not interested in it shouldn’t really be harder to work with than any other Chinese dictionary app – however, if there are any particular features that you’re having trouble with / options you’re confused about / etc just send us an email and we’ll be happy to explain them. (we’re also working on a big user interface revamp, though there’s only so much we can do to make it less complicated)

    • Haters gonna hate…

      • I think Pleco’s interface does a good job of implementing a lot of complex features. It can look a bit daunting for a complete beginner, but once you learn to just just focus on the features that you need, you realise quickly that it is so much more powerful than any other dictionary.

        I think the “merged multi-dictionary search” will go a long way towards simplifying life for new users, especially if it is switched on by default. I remember scratching my head a little at the two character dictionary abbreviations, and why my results changed when I clicked on them.

        One feature that confused me a little until just recently is the meaning of the ‘show all dictionary entries’ toggle button (典/果) – I asked a Chinese speaker what the characters meant and she was confused as to why the character for “fruit” would be used (果 also means ‘result’, which is I guess why it is there to show search results only).

        I love the idea of more dictionaries, especially merged together- can’t have too many opinions on usage and meaning in my view.

        Thanks for continuing to support and develop such a great product!

  7. I’ve had friends with iOS talking about Pleco forever, so glad to see a beta on ‘droid, will download it now and see what all the fuss is about. seems perfect for my 60-minute metro rides…

Leave a Reply