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Apple Mac OS X tips and tweaks

Date: 6th December 2011     

Use Spotlight as a thesaurus or dictionary

If you use your Mac to write articles, stories, reports and other documents using a word processor you will know how valuable a spelling checker and thesaurus are and the ability to research topics on the internet. All word processors these days have a spelling checker built in and they check the text as you type, giving immediate feedback if a word is misspelt as you work.

Not all word processors have a built in thesaurus though and when you are stuck for a great word you must look elsewhere for ideas. One solution is to use Spotlight as your thesaurus and it's convenient and easy to set up.

Press Command+Spacebar and Spotlight's search box appears. Type in a word or phrase and half way down the list of results is Look Up and the word you typed. Let the mouse hover over this in OS X Lion and a panel appears at the side. This may contain a spelling definition or alternative words from a thesaurus. You can choose what you would like to appear in the Spotlight panel by configuring the Dictionary app.


To configure Spotlight to display thesaurus entries for the search term (or the dictionary entry if you prefer), go to the Applications folder and run Dictionary.app. Click Dictionary, Preferences and a list of reference sources is displayed. Whichever is higher in the list - thesaurus or dictionary - then that is what Spotlight displays. If you want Spotlight to display the thesuarus entries when you enter a search term, just click and drag it to the top of the list.


It is a shame that you can't get Wikipedia entries in the the same way. Dragging it to the top of the list doesn't seem to affect Spotlight and you get the dictionary or thesaurus entry depending on which is higher.