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Clouds vs. Software: a cage match to the death?

December 13, 2010

flickr - lordsutch

As a multilingual guy, I depend heavily on dictionaries. For years, I have had Babylon, a not-so-inexpensive multilingual dictionary, installed on my primary computer. Babylon is solid software, and for a time, I loved it. Not only could I have access to my primary languages, but I could load up an odd array of other languages: Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, etc. This was a godsend when I had to do Scandinavian collection development while working at Yale.

For German, I used Babylon mostly as a spellchecker or for those moments when I type a word and then ask myself, does that mean what I think it means? Part of the reason it costs money, of course, is that Babylon licenses its dictionary content from various publishers. Their German dictionary was never as good or as rich as my bound German-English dictionary, but it was way better than any online dictionary back in 2003 or so.

Not so these days, and, in fact lately I’ve felt let down by Babylon. Take this example. Today I used the word Rechteinhaber (rightsholder) in an email, and it just looked weird to me, so I did the Babylon ctrl-right click to check it out. Up popped faithful Babylon and gave me … nothing. Nichts. Nada.

Tossed the same word at, my favorite online German dictionary these days (with LEO in second place, although it failed with this word), and shazam:

On a whim, I tossed the word at the ultimate arbiter of language usage–namely, Google–and it tells me that Rechteinhaber pulls up nearly 2.7 million results. This not an exotic term, in other words.

Instinctively, I now use about 90% of the time, and rarely rely on Babylon. The latter must be upgraded at my expense from time to time, while the former costs nothing. One last fact pretty much seals the deal: Babylon can only be installed on one machine per license. I use at least three different computers on a fairly regular basis, which means that two of them cannot have Babylon installed.

The cloud is winning for me. Time to go shopping for my Chrome netbook, I guess …

  1. December 13, 2010 13:53

    I’m very fond of I use LEO for English as well, but pauker is just the best for Finnish phrases, contexts, grammar and has this nice suggest-as-you-type feature. But usually the pauker firefox search plugins are fair enough to get a quick start.

    • Dale permalink*
      December 15, 2010 09:35

      Hadn’t used Pauker before. Might have to try it out.

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