Pleco Desktop


Staff member
@caesartg - cross-platform sync is a big part of the reason for this, yes. We're actually even looking into setting up a Chinese 分公司 just so that we can get an ICP号 and have an online Chinese dictionary that actually works well in China :) Dropbox at this point I'd be wary of even ignoring the China issues just because I'm not sure how long they'll stay in business - the recent fiasco with Facebook discontinuing Parse has me extremely wary of relying on any third party online service for any critical part of Pleco.

How is Pleco not working well on your iPhone 4? Just generically slow performance thanks to Apple's putting iOS 7 on a device that probably should have stayed on 6?

@Furio Petrossi - well it would all be strictly optional - we have no intention of forcing people to subscriptions like Microsoft and Adobe do - and at least on iOS we plan to keep offering the iCloud option and obviously not charging for that, but a monthly subscription fee lets us do a lot more than we could offering online sync for free.
Thanks Mike - I don't envy you the task ahead working out a legal China solution but I'm sure it will be an interesting challenge.

Pleco worked on my iphone 4 but the performance was poor. I originally had a full Pleco installation on my 8GB 4 S but I was spending so much time managing the memory, I gave up. I might end up with a 16GB+ iphone soon, so maybe I'll go back to an iPhone/Ipad flashcarding combo.

I'm okay with subscriptions if the service is compelling and the price is right. Workflowy was $5 a month when I used it. Lastpass is something like $12 a year. If I had a team using it, I'd be happily paying Quip $10 a month, rather than using the free offering. I had a 1TB $10/month Google subscription for a year before I moved to Baidu cloud and a Skype sub too. I think they were all worth it. Adobe though ask too much for something I would probably use 2 months in the year and then I would only use a small part of the whole offering.

If your dictionary licences allow for a seat-based service offering, perhaps you could offer a cheap subscriber service and still offer the app and one-off dictionary licences payments for both offline/online use. If the licences don't have that flexibility, I'm guessing at some point, the offline apps and attached licences will have a final iteration. I've had a good 12 years with my trusty Pleco Oxford pocket dictionary licence, so I can't complain too much!


Staff member
Yeah, we couldn't come up with a way to make it usefully fast on an iPhone 4 - about to drop support for them anyway once we start requiring iOS 9 in our next update.

Not sure what the price would be like yet, depends on how much we're offering, what it costs, what it replaces, etc. Would like to keep it pretty cheap but it has to be enough to make it worth our while to run the thing (on a vastly vastly smaller scale than most of the other people running subscription web services). A lot of our dictionaries would theoretically be something we could offer as part of a subscription, but some aren't, and in any case I have no intention of dropping offline apps or one-time purchases of anything anytime soon - to be honest, I was skeptical of the everything-will-eventually-be-a-web-app lobby even in the Palm Pilot days, and now right around the time that it starts to seem like it might make sense from a performance perspective, we get wearables and VR and once again hardware is being pushed to the limit + native apps start to look like they've got some life in them yet.
in any case I have no intention of dropping offline apps or one-time purchases of anything anytime soon - to be honest
A good idea to enlarge choice, don't restrictit it.
Italy is the 1th european Country for mobile communication, but a lot of contracts are for 1 GB/month (and in mountain or in 400 years old houses the communication is sometime difficult ;-) ...), wifi access to the Internet is not present everywhere and in foreign countries (France, Spain, Germany, Great Britain...) there are roaming costs very expensive for Internet access.
There are some interesting web based services (archchinese, yellowbridge, chine-informations, infocina...) to consider as competitors: it's a good idea to grow the market opportunities, but also to safeguard your treasure.
One feature that might be relatively easy to support to begin with is SRS in a web-based form. Truthfully, this is really what I'm looking for as it's much easier to do online than with my iPad. Basically, I'm always using my computer during the day, and it's easier to multi-task on a desktop than iPad/iPhone.

Something like this: might be a good way to start and then add features later?


Staff member
Tricky thing there is that we still need the rights to all of the dictionaries that people are likely to want to link from flashcards online - if anything the need for that is higher with flashcards since people will miss them more there than in a document reader or some such.
I just wanted to chime in and say that access to a desktop document reader would be extremely nice. Wenlin is terribly dated these days, and can't match Pleco's breadth of dictionaries.
I'd really like to see a desktop version. My smartphone recently exploded and unfortunately I have only been able to use a dumb phone :(
Pleco is by far my favorite dictionary and it's hard to use something else...

Actually, a web-based one would probably be best. Has this been mentioned? I didn't read the entire thread hehe
So interesting to read this thread - there's a lot of computing history here! :)
I'm a long-time user of Pleco on Android - I have a Nexus 7 tablet that I use only for Pleco at this point - but I've moved on to using Windows for mostly everything else. Even for phone: I'm rocking a Microsoft Lumia 950XL that I'm very pleased with, and I don't plan on changing mobile platforms any time soon, it's that good. Except for this little problem that I can't get Pleco on it... :'-(
I understand that with the changes that have taken place over the last 10 years that developing your product has been a huge moving target, so I wonder if you've considered progressive web apps as a solution? Developing individual apps for each competing platform is probably very time- and resource-intensive (although you should check out the cross-platform development tools that Microsoft has available through Visual Studio & Xamarin - my impression is it's a lot easier than it has been in the past), but using a progressive web app will likely provide all the functionality your platform-specific apps include but also work better for those of us who are not on iOS or Android and also those who want a desktop version - and it will work for iOS and Android too. Win-win-win-win... ;-)


Staff member
We actually already develop the Pleco core cross-platform, in the first + still best cross-platform language, C :) It's clean and organized and obsessively-performance-optimized and after a decade and a half is also relatively low on bugs, and our iOS / Android UI layer code is likewise mature and well-optimized. Throwing all of that away for a progressive web app seems like a terrible waste that would leave us with a vastly inferior product compared to what we have now.

We don't support mobile Windows because it's simply not a big enough market at the moment. We don't currently support desktop Windows because we don't have a good way to monetize a desktop app separately from a mobile app - there are not enough new customers to be gained from one, and existing customers would expect their dictionary etc purchases from us to transfer over to the desktop; charging a modest 'activation fee' or whatever for them would not nearly cover our porting costs, and making them buy all of their add-ons again at full price would leave us with few actual sales and a lot of ticked-off users. (a few enthusiastic forum users do not a successful product make - we'd need tens of thousands of people who'd already paid for Pleco on mobile to be willing to buy it again at full price to use it on Windows desktops, and I'm skeptical there are that many of them out there)

We are however planning to continue optimizing our app for iPads and for Chromebooks - we're happy to support desktop users on the platforms we're already on, we just can't really justify the massive expense of porting to a brand new platform.
andrewf, have you considered running pleco under an android emulator under windows? I believe there is a thread around here where some people are doing exactly that.

Sure, it's not a web app, but it does give you the chance to run the application somewhere different than an old piece of hardware.
I can't seem to post any app reviews from my iPhone for some annoying reason, but I wanted to chime in that I am looking forward to a desktop or web version of Pleco. I got this app last summer when I visited Guangdong and I paid $20 in-app for some Cantonese upgrades and honestly this was one of the top most worthy purchases in my entire life. I literally can't believe such a truly beautiful and brilliant app exists. In my opinion,Pleco literally make all other apps - translation or otherwise - look like trash...

My Chinese is probably at a weird intermediate level with an unbalanced high reading capability and almost zero hand writing capability... ah the awkwardness of immigrant childrens' native language skills. This summer I started really getting into reading Chinese light novels (like romance or fantasy web publications) and I used the clipboard reader function to read whole books! I loved being able to hear the app read the words out loud to me in Cantonese (my Cantonese is better than my Mandarin), and I love being able to see the mandarin pinyin, the simplified and traditional forms, and of course, the English definitions. I have learned sooo many new idioms thanks to Pleco!
When I am on my computer and not reading from my phone, I copy and paste portions into the website, but that website has a character limit so it's quite a hassle.

I know that there must be plenty of other treasures in the app, but here are the top ways I use the phone app after 1 full year of having it:
1) looking up Chinese words by inputting English words
2) copying and pasting huge portions of Chinese text / entire chapters / documents to slowly read through, sometimes translating word by word
3) using the character recognition from still images. (AMAZING. I used this for some papers at school, when I found interesting Chinese sources in the library but I couldn't just read and understand it from the actual book. Though, this only works for the left-to-right writing so far and not the top-bottom/right-to-left... right?)
4) looking up the definition and pinyin of Chinese words by handwriting the Chinese into the app on the iPhone

I am most looking forward to a Pleco desktop app or web program that allows for me to copy and paste large portions of text and go through it on my computer screen word by word, idiom by idiom with the pinyin, definitions, and simplified and traditional versions... That's what I'm looking forward to the most.

I also studied French in college and the most important resource I used for writing French papers was the website. That website lets me enter entire English phrases into the search bar and they would somehow crawl through English-French translations and give me a healthily long list of in-context examples with the French on one side and the English on the other side. This was vital for looking up expressions. The in-context part is also essential. When I compose emails in Chinese, I also use the Chinese-English version, and it's okay, but I find it frustrating that they don't include pinyin of the Chinese words. I am used to the Pleco app including pinyin everywhere a word appears, and I'm so thankful! If you do a web version, might I suggest to also consider looking into including a crawler that returns a rich list of in-context translation examples so that we could see what entire phrases could be translated as...?

Thanks for all your hard work! Good luck! You guys are truly making the world a better place!!!
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Staff member
Thank you very much!

I am most looking forward to a Pleco desktop app or web program that allows for me to copy and paste large portions of text and go through it on my computer screen word by word, idiom by idiom with the pinyin, definitions, and simplified and traditional versions... That's what I'm looking forward to the most.
FWIW you can actually get this right now on desktops in Wenlin, though they don't support Cantonese in their offline app yet.

A web version is a lot more likely for us than a native desktop version, since porting to Windows desktops is hard to justify financially without a significant number of Windows-based smartphones to underwrite that effort, and macOS we think Apple has mostly given up on. A crawler for example sentences might make sense, but it could take us a while to get it working well enough to provide useful results.
3) using the character recognition from still images. (AMAZING. I used this for some papers at school, when I found interesting Chinese sources in the library but I couldn't just read and understand it from the actual book. Though, this only works for the left-to-right writing so far and not the top-bottom/right-to-left... right?)
The OCR (at least on iOS) has a vertical/horizontal mode. It's mentioned briefly in the help doc and says:

The last two buttons are a bit more complicated. The second-to-last switches between horizontal and vertical text (Chinese routinely appears in both directions); Pleco will normally try to detect this itself, but if it gets it wrong you can tap on that button to force it to one mode or the other.​

It's the 2nd from (edit) RIGHT button at the top, second row, in this image snipped from the help:


A web version would be better than nothing. Still, the convenience of being able to use it off line is deal breaker for me. Many times when I travel on the train, airplane or coaches I use my Mac, and in those occasions there is no wifi, so I wouldn't be able to use a web-based Pleco. I hate looking at a small screen for too long, and I would love to see how faster it would be to access pleco's tools on a desktop version, like looking for strokes order without the need to change page and things like that that could take advantage of the big screen.
I also read comments of other people saying that the iOS version is more than enough for iPhone and iPad. Problem is, other than my 13 inches MacBook Air I only own an iPhone SE with a 4 inches screen, and this is not even close to the experience I would have on an iPad, because of the screen size.

I have an interesting QUESTION FOR THE DEVELOPERS: would it be possible to take advantage of ebook readers screen to consider making a Pleco app that could run on them? If that's even possible I mean. I'm asking because I bought a Kindle a few weeks ago, and the reading experience on it is amazing. I can read for hours without having my eyes and brain fatigued and damaged.
Actually, Web-based apps could work offline (if they can access a local database).
So it's a good idea to create scalable Web-Pleco.
Online version could be free (e.g. with limits on query-per-hour), offline - paid.
Because a web-browser could work offline :)
The difference between online and offline web apps mainly in app code/data location.
Online's located on remote server and offline's on local device (tablet/phone/PC/etc.) - that's all.
There are some technical details but from user point of view the difference is where an app and its data are located and where web-pages are generated.
As you know in a browser you could easily save a web-page on a storage and open that web-page offline - it's a simple example of how it works.

BTW, as web-apps are more universal and not so device specific as native apps are, it will help to get rid of many incompatibility problems and device-specific bugs.
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