Sun, Jan 31, 2010 - Page 14 News List

Tech Review: Taiwan: Pleco for iPhone and iPod touch

By David Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The pop-up definitions also come in handy with a Pleco add-on unique to the iPhone: The Reader is a built-in Web browser and document viewer. The browser is set up so that when you copy Chinese text from a Web site, it automatically appears on the pasteboard, where you can tap on each character for the pop-up definition and pronunciation. You can actually do this directly in the browser by switching to “live mode,” but this makes Web pages slower to load (according to the manual, this function is still at the “experimental” stage).

The Reader also has a nifty feature that lets you upload and download documents from iPhone to your computer via a Wi-Fi network. Unfortunately, the document viewer doesn’t work well. The Web browser is supposed to let you view Microsoft Word documents and text files, but I only got a blank screen. Pleco is aware of the problem and is working on it for the future releases.

There is one thing missing from the iPhone version that some old-hand Pleco users will miss: the ability to create flashcards, which is also slated for a future release. And a note for new users: even though the basic search functions are intuitive, plan to spend time reading the manual and online forums to get the most out of Pleco.

All in all, Pleco has taken advantage of the iPhone platform to make a great piece of software even better. The free version, available on iTunes, comes with the open source CEDICT dictionary. There are three paid packages available, ranging from US$50 for the basic bundle to US$150 for the full-featured version, which includes seven dictionaries. The add-on features, such as the handwriting recognizer and document reader, cost between US$10 to US$15 if you don’t purchase the full version. And in a sign of goodwill, those who have either the Palm or Windows Mobile versions can transfer their licenses to their iPhone for free.

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