iPhone Feature Requests

radioman

状元
Fully understand - Not to harp on this, but toggle thing... would it be possible (or practical given other tasks in on the Pleco plate) just to code the a "toggling" scenario for the current input, rather than utilizing two buttons now that are effectively toggling the input? I like the toggling approach because its what Apple uses (i.e., I am used to it) and I do think it is not a bad scheme with regard to method for switching. Then if and when Pleco's keyboard offering is in play, that could just be rolled in.

mikelove said:
radioman - an option to disable or at least bury radical input makes sense, yeah. Perhaps a graphical icon would be better than the text ones, particularly if combined with a different colored background. A toggle button could also work, certainly - it'd be better if embedded into a dedicated Pleco keyboard, though, and since in this scenario you're not using Apple's handwriting recognizer anyway there's not really any benefit to their alphabetic keyboard over what we could come up with.
 

mikeygow

Member
Hi Mike,

Other than a wider range of specialist dictionaries, I can really see how this can be improved.

However, can I ask about flashcard lists for the upcoming flashcard feature. What I would find amazing would be a flashcard system to revise books used during my time at Beida and Fudan. As there are hundreds of students using these books, I was hoping that it would be possible for Pleco to submit flashcard lists which could be downloaded through the in-app DL function.

i.e.
Boya Blue Book 1 Lesson 1 Flashcard List
Boya Blue Book 1 Lesson 12 Flashcard List
etc etc etc
(with vocab inclduing all those listed for each chapter - but also allowing customization of the flashcard lists - i.e. adding more words - once the flashcard list has been downloaded). doing this for the full range of BOYA books would save so much prep and home study time.

While I'm sure this would be a royal pain for you guys, this is where you Army of Pleco users would come in. Of course, it would maybe be necessary to insist on certain info or a template for the flashcard (i.e. side 1: verb, to have, you3 - side 2: 有).
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
numble - good point, we really need to make that button's tappable area bigger.

kenianbei - StarDict is a no-no because there are too many pirated dictionaries in that format; even though there are also some perfectly nice CC ones, the pirated ones (some of which are from publishers we do business with) are enough to keep us from supporting it. Converting those free Buddhist dictionaries is on our to-do list, though, we've just got a lot of other things on our plate at the moment :)

radioman - a toggle is certainly a possibility, but in general I prefer the tab bar since it's easier for new users to figure out; we don't want people buying the handwriting add-on and then not being able to tell how to access it. So the toggle would probably be an optional thing.

mikeygow - thanks! There are actually already a bunch of flashcard lists circulating around in our format, e.g. in the Flashcard Exchange forum, and both ChinesePod and Popup Chinese support exports to it, so it certainly seems possible to squeeze data into an appropriate template.

As far as making flashcards downloadable from our add-ons catalog, that's actually always been our plan; we want to put document files in there too eventually, there are a bunch of high-quality Chinese ebooks in Project Gutenberg for example that we could easily make available that way. We may eventually add support for adding additional file catalog servers to download those from, but that would take quite a bit of work (both in standardizing / documenting our file catalog format and in testing our download system with a wider range of web servers than the couple that we use) so it probably won't happen until after the first flashcard-equipped release.
 
After a couple of days of intensive Pleco use, I most often find that I want quickly to initiate a new search from wherever I am inside the app. There seem to be two possible pathways: the first is to hit the Back arrow and follow one's trail to the search screen, though this can be one step or several, depending on where one is (and sometimes it's hard to remember exactly how many steps away from the search screen I am). The second, regular one, is to hit the bottom right button, then Dict, then clear search field. Three steps guaranteed, every time.

Would it be possible to get somewhat more instant access to a fresh search screen? I'm no iPhone programmer or interface designer (as is evident from my somewhat vague speculations on interface tweaks I keep posting), but might a global gesture accomplish this, something like a right-to-left swipe, accessible from most screens in Pleco? Then, no matter where one was, one could optionally just right swipe (or hit a persistent "search" button, or some other, better idea that an actual interface designer can come up with) and be ready for a new search instantly.

Shelly
 

Henry

进士
A general wish: Although right now Plecodict is perfect for those studying Chinese in a classroom, I'd love to use a program especially for people that learn outside of the classroom - ie while communicating in Chinese with native speakers.

This would mean something like having the functionality in the document reader be available without leaving the email/sms/browser program. Being able to look up definitions/stroke order etc while reading and writing emails would be incredibly useful to me, and to the (increasing) number of non-native speakers living in China.

Regards, Henry
 

ozajicek

Member
Hello,
In STROKE ORDER Add-on, I would like to see whole character on backgrounnd and stroke order can be filled part by part with a different color.

It would help me a little bit.

Thank you.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Beijingmac - The problem with adding any universal gesture like that is that we end up needing to implement the darn thing in about a dozen different ways, and carefully coming up with workarounds / detection schemes in each case to make sure the gesture doesn't screw up some other thing you might want to do on that screen. We might be able to do something eventually with customizable toolbar buttons, or with tap-holding on the menu button, but it's unlikely we can come up with a gesture that we can use software-wide.

Henry - that unfortunately isn't possible on iPhone OS at all; there's just no way to run in the background and interact with other programs like that yet. (and for security reasons there may never be)

ozajicek - does it help if you turn on the character outline feature in stroke order? (Settings / Panels)
 

keruibo

Member
First, love the iPhone version! Excellent work all around.

Feature request:
I like the night color concept--in fact I'd rather just use those colors all the time.

Problem with that, though, is that when the HWR background is set to transparent (which also is a fantastic thing), the tracing is still black, so it's black writing on (mostly) black canvas...I can't see what I'm writing. This seems to limit HWR to day mode only. It'd be nice of the color of HWR tracing inspected the screen background color setting, and mapped an appropriate contrasting color--or alternately if the tracing color could be user-selected (maybe that would be even better, but it should in that case be a property within the day/night color schemes so it can be different for day/night)

Thanks again,
Rob
 

gato

状元
This would mean something like having the functionality in the document reader be available without leaving the email/sms/browser program. Being able to look up definitions/stroke order etc while reading and writing emails would be incredibly useful to me, and to the (increasing) number of non-native speakers living in China.

Henry - that unfortunately isn't possible on iPhone OS at all; there's just no way to run in the background and interact with other programs like that yet. (and for security reasons there may never be)
Maybe the program can automatic enter into "reader pasteboard" mode if it detects something in the pasteboard. That'll save some taps if someone were trying to read an email/text message with Pleco. Right now, the first screen is always the dictionary and you need three more taps to get into "reader pasteboard" mode.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
keruibo - excellent point; we're still trying to get transparent handwriting working better in general (kind of slow / unresponsive compared to the non-transparent one), but making handwriting stroke colors customizable certainly makes a lot of sense.

gato - already an option; Settings / General / Search Pasteboard on Startup can also dump the pasteboard to the document reader.
 

gato

状元
gato - already an option; Settings / General / Search Pasteboard on Startup can also dump the pasteboard to the document reader.
Great! Maybe we can have a stick thread of such settings that many people may want but that not set as default? Maybe have a section in the manual for such common configurations?
 

baillies

Member
mikelove said:
Beijingmac - The problem with adding any universal gesture )
Is there such a thing as a three finder tap similar to the two finger tap in the handwriting screen. This could be a universal gesture even during handwriting. Any sort of slide or hold would cause issues as you mentioned.

I also agree with making the dict change tap area bigger as this has happened a few times to me as well.

Is there an option to make the dict entry always above or below the selected word and scroll the screen accordingly. I prefer to have the dict entry above the word in the reader so I can keep reading but the screen would need to automatically move to accommodate this as needed.

i have found night mode to be useful, I would like to be able to read news in the reader in nightmode. Either having the reader able to access rss feeds or better still an option in the browser to use the reader font/background somehow would be good. i saw somebody post about tw.m.yahoo.com and I can read hk.m.yahoo.com but the white background and small font is much harder to read than the reader night mode.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
gato - good idea, should be easy to add to the manual.

baillies - multitouch gestures beyond two fingers are really dicey because not all of the fingers hit the screen at the exact same time; hence, you have to hold off on doing whatever you were going to do with a two-finger tap to check to see if a three-finger one is coming, or undo the two-finger action you were already in the process of doing when that third finger appears. So in theory we could use a three-finger tap for this, but it would be a ton of work to get it to behave properly everywhere, so I'm not sure if it's worth the effort; better to just make some little tweak through the menu button, e.g. allowing it to be tap-held instead of having to open it and then re-select the tab you're already in.

Always putting the popup bubble in the same place is tricky for scrolling reasons - if you always wanted it on top we'd have to make it possible to scroll beyond the top of the page, and you always wanted it on the bottom we'd have to make it possible to scroll below the bottom. Not impossible, but again, a lot of work. With the reader night mode issue, aren't there any online RSS readers out there that offer customizable color schemes? A built-in RSS client might be a nice addition too, but again, a lot of work.

A lot of these labor-intensive things should become possible once we get the flashcard module released - we have to make that the top priority since for a lot of people it's Pleco's most important feature, but once that's done there are all sorts of directions we can go as far as iPhone-specific features.
 
First of all, it's an amazing app! When I first lived in China, I had a little custom-built dictionary with handwriting recognition, which was pretty useful, but was still more designed for Chinese learning English, than foreigners learning Chinese - which showed in the interface. I've then used Wenlin a whole lot (even made a little screencast, because you can't really explain to people how brilliant it is: http://reganmian.net/blog/2006/05/02/screencast-wenlin-helps-you-read-chinese/).

Last year, a friend of mine in Beijing, who does translation professionally, told me about Pleco. I bought an iPod touch this fall, and was waiting for the release of Pleco with bated breath (I did use it for a lot of other stuff, and didn't primarily buy it for Pleco, but it sure helps!)...

The release is amazing - way better than anything else on the market. Even the test version is pretty decent, but when you buy the full package, which I did, it's something quite different! Great text recognition, very good interface for uploading files (the web interface works like a dream), I _love_ the text reader, I've dreamt about being able to take Chinese books with me and have mouseover lookup for a long time! And even if the flashcard thing isn't done, the fact that I can still easily add words I lookup to a list, is great for reviewing!

When it comes to dictionaries, I really love the Chinese dictionary included. My Chinese is pretty good, but I've never bothered to use a unilingual dictionary before. Now, with the built-on dictionary browser, it's very usable, and it's great to be able to switch through and see the different dictionary definitions for a term. If you are getting new dictionaries, it would be great to have a gigantic Chinese dictionary - the thing that is most frustrating to me is to not find things in the dictionary. And chengyu etc should definitively be covered.

Another idea is to include a dictionary generated from interwiki links from Wikipedia. I've blogged about how I went about extracting this dictionary here: http://reganmian.net/blog/2009/02/16/release-early-release-often-english-chinese-dictionary-based-on-wikipedia/. This idea starts with the fact that almost every article on Wikipedia (I'm not talking about Wiktionary here, which is sadly not very useful) has a link to the same article in other languages. It's relatively easy to download the whole thing, and extract all Chinese-English links (and filter out the ones where the Chinese entry does not contain Chinese characters). This is of course rough, but useful due to the massive amount of entries - especially good for names of famous people (something I always struggle with in Chinese), and place names etc. If I want to know what Michael Jackson is called in Chinese (迈克尔·杰克逊), Pleco won't help me - let alone if I want to know the name of the Norwegian prime minister... (谢尔·马格纳·邦德维克).

It's easy for anyone to generate this file - I included all the instructions (open source), but I would also be happy to generate a file for you in any format you desire, if this is interesting. Anyway, it's one of the first things I'll put on my Pleco when you can install user-generated dictionaries. (As well as the Norwegian-Chinese one, of course you can generate dictionaries for any language combinations).

(I also did something similar with KDE language files (http://reganmian.net/blog/2009/11/01/creating-a-dictionary-from-kde-translation-files/), which provides a huge deal of specialized computer expressions etc, but these are collocated sentences, which are more suited to a full-text search, and probably not fit for inclusion into Pleco.

Stian / 侯爽
 

numble

状元
I really like what you did with Wikipedia, Stian.

I don't know about the technology behind Hudong (http://hudong.com), but would there be an easy way of extracting all the article titles from Hudong as well? It's basically a Chinese language wikipedia that appears to be more popular amongst the Chinese. I find it to be a very good source of (Chinese) definitions of new slang, modern sayings/phrases and cultural phenomena. I know it usually doesn't have an English counterpart, and often doesn't have English in the articles themselves, but maybe there can be a public translating effort via a Google Docs spreadsheet or something.
 

dcarpent

榜眼
Congratulations on the launch of the iPhone version. I received an iPod Touch for Christmas (asked for it mainly to run Pleco) and decided to buy the whole package again rather than transfer, so I can keep my access to flashcards on my HTC Touch. (By the way, thanks for the academic discount; I’m a college teacher and I was happy to see that student AND teachers qualify.) There are some features on the Windows Mobile version that I prefer to the new iPhone version anyway, and vice versa, so having both is useful, if a bit of a luxury. It might take a while to completely wean myself from using a stylus.

By the way, if there are any ChinesePod users on this forum, the new app that they have released for the iPhone is really good, unlike their earlier attempt. If you haven’t already tried it you should. It’s a free download and if you subscribe to ChinesePod you get mobile access to much of the functionality of the web site. Real cool.

Back to Pleco and feature requests. The main thing that I would like to see change on future versions of the iPhone version (besides flashcards, of course!), is, as others have indicated, some way to make the search function more immediately accessible when you have drilled down several levels. Also, one feature that I use a lot on the WM version is the ability to move the cursor within the search field and selectively delete a single letter or character. This saves having to retype everything if you make a mistake on the last character that you input. One last minor gripe about the search field: Am I the only person who finds the constant presence of the grayed out characters a irritation? I keep wanting to clear them. I’m not sure if their presence there has a purpose or not, but I would much rather see a blank field.

One problem that I have with both versions (don’t know if this can be changed) is that the green that is the default indicator of the second tone is so light that I have difficulty reading any but very simple characters. This might due to my aging eyes and not a problem for most users. I tried finding a darker shade of green in the color picker but couldn’t get anything darker.

I would encourage you to make a custom Pleco keyboard a priority. Having to switch to the numeric keypad each time one enters a tone mark and then back again is a real pain.

I’m another person who almost never uses the radical lookup feature. I think it is important to have it, but I agree with others that it would be better to make this an option rather than always having it take up valuable space. On the other hand, I like having the buttons there for wildcard and full text searches.

Another item on my wishlist would be a dictionary that covers the classical language. Hanyu Da Cidian perhaps? ☺ (I know: fat chance!) I’d also echo kenianbei’s request for a Buddhist dictionary. I don’t know if Charles Muller, who runs the Digitial Dictionary of Buddhism (http://buddhism-dict.net/ddb/) would be interested in making his database available or not. It’s probably the best thing out there.

Thanks again for your great products!
 
Numble: Although I like hudong and baidu baike, the problem is that they are not open systems like Wikipedia. They don't use open licenses (so you contribute stuff for free, but then it belongs to those companies), there aren't (as I know) good APIs, and there is no way to download the entire database etc.

Whereas with Wikipedia, everything is openly licensed (CC BY SA now), and you download the entire database dump and do cool stuff with it. The result is that not only is it an awesome encyclopedia (although the Chinese version has some ways to go), but it also spawns all kinds of crazy sub projects that the creators had never thought of. Using Interwiki links to create a dictionary is just one cool example.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
挪威森林 - thanks for joining / posting! I've really been thrilled with the positive response the Guifan Cidian is getting on iPhone, actually - definitely a strong argument for pushing for more C-C licenses. And I'm glad you're liking the reader too.

A few people wrote me about your Wikipedia conversion post, actually - been meaning to take a run at converting that and a few other titles (some CC-licensed Buddhist dictionaries among others) but they've been stuck in the queue behind, well, iPhone :) I think we'd rather use your scripts and do the conversion on our end in order to automate update generation, but thanks very much for the offer of help - if we keep putting it off for too many more months feel free to send me a reminder note.

dcarpent - thanks! I'm glad we were able to arrange things for those academic discounts - bit more popular than we'd expected (as anyone can see from the top-10 in-app purchases ranking) but I'm inclined to believe that's more a function of Pleco having a student-and-teacher-heavy user base than people being dishonest.

WM and iPhone certainly both have their good points - I've heard from several users who are dead set against switching to anything that doesn't have a stylus, a segment of the market that pretty much all the big smartphone OS vendors are ignoring now; for a number of functions, handwriting / text selection not to mention general drawing / photo editing, there's really nothing better.

Features-wise, perhaps making a tap-hold on the menu button specifically jump to the dictionary search screen might make sense - we'd been talking about having that simply jump you back to the top level of whatever you're in, but jumping to the dictionary might be another configurable option for that. Those gray characters are kind of a standard thing in iPhone search fields, though we could provide an option to disable them I suppose.

You can move the cursor around on iPhone by tap-holding on the field. As for the dark green, drag the slider on the bottom of the color picker screen to darken / lighten the current color, or switch to RGB mode (switch at the top-right corner of the screen) and set the R/B dials to 0% and G to something less than 100%. For the keyboard, have you tried the tone bar option? (last item in Panels) Not quite as good as integrating it into the keyboard, but pretty close.
 

Eggwind

举人
If I want to know what Michael Jackson is called in Chinese (迈克尔·杰克逊), Pleco won't help me - let alone if I want to know the name of the Norwegian prime minister... (谢尔·马格纳·邦德维克).
Don't underestimate Pleco - it has both of these names if you install the free dictionaries and search with full-text search. Our dear Stoltenberg is in HanDe and Michael Jackson is in CC-CEDICT.

As for a Norwegian dictionary, I wonder if it would be possible to get the 93000 entry Stor Kinesisk-Norsk Ordbok by Rekkdal et al. It's distributed for free online by its creators as a FileMaker database, but I wonder what the license situation is, especially considering the paper version costs NOK 1000.
 
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