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Frequently Asked Questions

Why do you only allow (Microsoft/M$/The Evil Empire) Word for typists and proofreaders?
This project would never get anywhere if I had to contend with a hundred different word processing formats on a dozen different operating systems. In order to spend time completing pages and not converting files, I had to find a common denominator that I felt would give the descriptiveness (italics, etc.) the project needed and the commonality of being available to a large percentage of the population. Therefore, I chose Word, the most common word processing application for home computers. However, this does not mean that I can only accept submissions in Word. For Unix users or Windows/Mac users without Word, I have and will continue to accept plain text files such as those created by SimpleText, Notepad/Wordpad, or even just typing into an e-mail document. It takes extra time to reformat the page to match the original, but I'm willing to do that. If you have a different word processor than Word, or Word Perfect, please contact me and we can use a test file to see whether or not I'll be able to open a file created on your system. I am not being paid by Microsoft to promote Word - it just happens to be the word processor I own.

Why are the finished pages only available in Microsoft Word?
The final, complete dictionary will be made available in as many formats as I have the ability to create, including Word, text/ASCII, and HTML. The individual completed pages that you can currently download are available only in Word format because I don't think they're very useful to anybody right now. (A few of the first pages are also available in text format, for people who don't have Word.) But the individual pages are not meant to be a final product, so I have not taken the time to convert them into various formats.

Do volunteers get paid?
Not at this time. This project is being run without any sponsorship of any kind. That way, no corporate entity can claim ownership of the final product. Volunteers do the work because they like the language, like the idea behind the project, or maybe because they're bored. In order for the dictionary to remain free, I believe it's important to keep money out of the project at all stages.

Is this a commercial project?
No. The goal of the project is to produce a public domain (i.e. completely and totally free, forever) English to French dictionary. By virtue of being in an electronic format, it will also be a French to English dictionary, depending on the applications which are designed to use it. The project is run and organized by me, Tyler Chambers, in my spare time, using extra extra space that I had to buy in order to hold the large dictionary page images. I will make the work in progress freely available for anyone to download, and once the dictionary is finished, it will also be available for free. I don't want to make money from this - I want to further the learning of languages.

Will you do other languages besides French?
Yes. I have already acquired an English to Swedish dictionary published in 1906 (in Sweden), which, according to the Berne Convention, should now be in the public domain. And I recently acquired a Spanish to/from English dictionary published in the US in 1911. I am always on the lookout for out-of-copyright translating dictionaries, and I fortunately have a great resource in my own backyard - Powell's Books used bookstore, in Portland, Oregon. They are not a sponsor or in any way related to this project, nor have they paid me to endorse them, but they are the used bookstore where I located the Spiers dictionary and the English-Swedish dictionary. If you have a dictionary that you would like to donate to this project, please send me mail.

What's the point of creating another online dictionary?
This project is not trying to create an online dictionary. The point of this project is to create a completely free dictionary in an electronic format. If someone uses the dictionary file to create an online dictionary, that's great. I encourage that - this project is only as good as what people can think to do with the completed dictionary. I hope that many people will build online dictionaries based on this file. I hope that teachers will download the file to give to students in their French or English classes. I hope that someone or someones will create an easy-to-use application to use the dictionary on home computers and handheld devices - Mac, PC, Linux, Unix, PalmPilot, etc. The success of this project will be measured by how many people are able to use it.

Why don't you XML tag the dictionary to make it even more descriptive and useful?
I want to do this. If you aren't familiar with XML, it is a markup notation (much like HTML) which describes the contents and relationships of parts of a document. In a plaintext dictionary file, an entry might look like this:
ADMIRATION [a2dmi4ra1'shu2n] n. 1. !! admiration, f.; 2. (m.p.) étonnement,
m. Note of --, (gram.) point admiratif, d'admiration, m
If the entry were marked with XML tags, it could describe what each of the pieces of an entry are, like this:
<entry> <term language=English>ADMIRATION <pronunciation>[a2dmi4ra1'shu2n]</pronunciation></term>
<class>n.</class> <translation language=French>1. !! admiration, <gender>f.</gender></translation>; 
<translation language=French>2. (m.p.)
étonnement, <gender>m.</gender> <example><source language=English>Note of
--</source>, <target language=French>(gram.) point admiratif, d'admiration, m</target><entry>
The tags allow a computer program to consider data inside different tags in different ways. A user could search for "chat" and specify only English uses of the word should be displayed. The program would then return entries where the English word "chat" was used, ignoring entries which mentioned the French word for "cat" (chat). XML allows for more intelligent processing of the data. I would love to tag the Spiers dictionary with XML. However, I cannot locate an XML standard DTD for dictionaries, which means that I will have to design my own. If anyone knows of a standardized DTD that would fit this project, or would like to discuss building a standard DTD for translating dictionaries like the Spiers dictionary, please send me mail.

Why don't you just use an OCR program to read the text from the pages, instead of typing them in?
I have tried two of the main commercial OCR programs available - OmniPage and TextBridge - and the results were very poor. One problem is that the pronunciation key in the printed dictionary uses numbers placed above vowels to indicate the sound they make. Neither application could read any of those properly, and they shouldn't be expected to - it's not something you run into in 99.9999% of documents being scanned. The other main problem is the age of the dictionary itself - nearly 150 years old. Being that old, it has stains, smudges, rips, and creases that we humans can read through just fine, but computers have much more trouble with. And, the text isn't always completely straight (sometimes this is due to the scanning process, when a page won't lie completely flat on the screen), which causes even more problems with the software. The results were so bad from my attempts to OCR the pages that it took less time for me to re-type the entire page than to try and correct the mistakes made by the OCR program. I hope a future dictionary project, using a newer dictionary, will be able to make use of OCR software to reduce the need for so many volunteer typists. But it simply won't work on the Spiers dictionary.

Is the dictionary being destroyed for this project?
No, I am leaving the dictionary completely intact during the scanning process (rather than tearing out each page and scanning it individually). It makes the scanning go slower, but it keeps the pages in the proper order. After a page is typed and proofread, I must often refer back to the original dictionary to determine a letter, accent, or number, because it wasn't visible enough in the scan - it would be very difficult to find the right page to refer to if they were all loose from being torn out of the book. Plus, this way, the book itself may continue to live on after it has been digitized.