The Deluxe American Heritage Dictionary, third edition. (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by J. Blake Lambert
The American Heritage Dictionary is great because it offers much more than definitions--wonderful photos and drawings that tempt you to learn. While the PC version (available for Windows and as a DOS TSR) doesn't have the illustrations, it is still superb.
The software lets you look up a word in the included AHD and Roget's II Thesaurus simultaneously, viewing either or both as you wish on the left two-thirds of the screen. You can browse, type in a word, or double-click on any word to look it up--even a word that's within a definition or thesaurus entry. The program remembers which words you've already looked up, so you can review them.
The right side of the screen displays an alphabetical list, which can be all the words in the dictionary, alternate spellings for a word it could not find, or a list resulting from a search. Crossword cheaters can use wild-cards and pattern matching (? for any character and * for any number of characters, as with DOS) to create lists. For anagram aficionados, AHD will track down all words that can be made by rearranging the letters in a given word.
With the WordHunter feature, you can find just about anything by using logical AND, NOT, and OR expressions to search the dictionary. To find dog breeds of Tibetan origin, enter tibet and dog (the program returns Lhasa apso, Shih Tzu, Tibetan spaniel, and Tibetan terrier). I was able to search for all the definitions that mention or quote Shakespeare (there are 144) and get a list of colleges and universities in a certain state, including enrollment and even a brief address. You can copy and paste a word, definition, thesaurus entry, or results list into another program.
The dictionary also includes abbreviations, biographical and geographical information, and even Indo-European word roots. The deluxe installation adds etymologies, antonyms, regional variations, word histories, and usage notes (advice on which of several similar words to use).
At roughly 15MB, AHD is a disk hog, but worth it. The Word for Windows macro didn't work on my system, but you can write your own with WordBasic or Windows Recorder. Although the Windows and DOS versions can share the same data files (saving space on your hard drive if you choose to use both), the Windows version seemed to find entries in searches that the DOS version didn't.
Even with its problems, The Deluxe Ameican Heritage Dictionary is a must for word and knowledge lovers of any age. It's great to have such a thorough and interesting dictionary available for the PC, where you're able to search and jump quickly through its entries. Now if we could just get those cool illustrations from the print version ...