June 24, 2007

Breaking news: New online version of RID

It's been at least a few weeks since I used the Royal Institute online version of the Royal Institute Dictionary (RID). Well they pulled a fast one on me, because there's suddenly a new version of the dictionary.

The previous version was an electronic copy of RID 1982, which was created in 1996 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the king's reign. It was distributed on CD in limited numbers--I think 1200 discs were made. But after the web version went live, anyone could search the dictionary.

Well, the page has been redesigned, and despite still looking like it belongs in 1996, it purports to be the 1999 RID. If that's true, that would mean there are around 5000 more words, in addition to the spellings changes and other differences between RID 1982 and RID 1999.

Let me repeat, though. It's still as ugly as ever. And after seeing the search results page, I dare even say it's fugly.

Let's talk about the good and bad.

The good:
  • It's got basic but decent wildcard searching. Picking a random word, สนิท, I searched it as is and got just the one definition in return. Searching สนิท* returns สนิท, สนิทปาก and สนิทสนม. And *สนิท returns ญาิติสนิท, but doesn't return สนิท. (Mid-word wildcards also work, but in this case * stands for 0 to infinite letters--กร*บ returns everything from กรบ to กรอบ to กรมการนอกทำเนียบ.)
  • It's got full text search. This is an excellent addition. Have you ever wondered how many times the word กะเทย appears in RID? Have at it! (The answer is 5 times, including its own entry.) We know from its entry that the lychee is in the sapindaceae family, but how many other relatives of the same family are in RID? Search the Latin name and see! (The answer is 12: ขี้หนอน, คอแลน, คัน, โคกกระออม, คงคาเดือด, เงาะ, ชำมะเลียง, ต่อไส้, ตะคร้อ, ประคำดีควาย, มะหวด, ลำไย. See, you just learned that ลิ้นจี่, เงาะ and ลำไย are all related fruits!) One major drawback--it only gives you the top 5 most relevant results from each letter of the alphabet.
  • It's got browsing like a real dictionary. This feature is a bit hidden. Click on one of the letters of the alphabet on the main page, and that takes you to a search page for that specific letter of the alphabet. Then scroll down and it has a link to read words within that letter of the alphabet. It has them divided up into chunks of about 100 entries. They've even done something the physical dictionary doesn't (for space reasons, I'm sure): put each sub-entry on its own new line within the main entry. So that's pretty cool. It also makes it extremely easy to save the entire contents of the dictionary to your hard drive. I've got my Sunday afternoon activity planned now. :)
  • It runs in Firefox! Hallelujah! Praise be! The old RID online dictionary was literally the *only* reason I ever opened Internet Explorer anymore.
The bad:
  • No more pronunciation search. This was a handy feature of the previous version, whereby you could select to search specifically within the pronunciations and it would give you all the words that contained that word or syllable. So, if you searched ทัด you would get ทัด, and ทัศน์, for example. There's no easy workaround for this feature. Here's to hoping they add it back in soon.
  • The aesthetics. Bad design--very 1990s. And on the full-text search results, it's actually doing 40-some separate searches within each letter of the alphabet. They show a results heading for each letter (without stating that), which means if you only get one hit in the whole text of the dictionary, you're getting 40-some empty results headings. Bad design, and it is easily remedied. We'll see if it is, though.
  • No configurability. It needs a more robust set of searching tools, and ways to narrow searches based on parts of speech or other variables. This is especially important if we're only allowed the top 5 results in full-text search.
  • The character encoding doesn't always detect correctly. Not sure why sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't, but I find myself periodically having to manually set the encoding to Thai in Firefox.
Obviously we can't expect too much in the way of internet goodies from an institution whose membership has the same age, on average, as the institution itself. (It was founded in 1933, kiddies--do your homework before reading! :P) But they're employing a few whippersnappers on their staff. I'm very optimistic about this new online version of the dictionary, and hope to see more development soon. Riiiiight.

[Update: Added links to the Royal Institute's website and the new dictionary. Somehow it slipped my mind to add those before. Someday I'll get the hang of this fancy internet thing yet...]


  1. Thanks for the info!

  2. Um, not to be lazy, but what's the URL? :) The changes sound exciting, though, and I'm really hoping they'll get a good web designer on their team before long.

  3. Thanks for pointing that out. Silly me. New and improved Blog with hyperlinks!