An alternative to Rikaichan for Safari users

Published on August 31st, 2011.

I know I’m not the only person having issues with both Chrome and Firefox since installing Lion, and today I finally decided to just give up and turn to Safari. For the most part, I can live without plugins, but Rikaichan is a plugin I simply cannot live without. There is no real equivalent to Rikaichan for Safari users, but there is an alternative. Actually, you might have heard of LiveDictionary, a plugin that is a lot like Rikaichan but isn’t free. This is not the plugin I’m referring to because I don’t like it and there’s still no support for Lion and Safari 5.1.

The alternative is a very simple solution and all you have to do is change a few settings, because if you’re on a Mac, you already have what you need. Basically what you can do is activate a Japanese-English dictionary in the Dictionary app, which unsurprisingly allows you to look up Japanese words.

What you might not know about this, is that the Dictionary app has a built-in feature called floating dictionary. The floating dictionary is activated by hovering over a word and pressing the key combination cmd+ctrl+d.

And if the selection fails by just hovering, you can highlight whatever it is you want to look up, and press cmd+ctrl+d just like you would when hovering.

There are a few of pros and cons about this alternative that you need to know about however.

Pros

  • It’s built-in to the system, no need for a 3rd party plugin.
  • You don’t have to turn it off when you don’t need it. Rikaichan’s popups are pretty annoying when you don’t want them.
  • You get things like example sentences with translations which is perfect when you’re having a hard time understanding the word in context.
  • Floating dictionary is not a browser plugin, it works with any selectable text in almost any application, for example Twitter, Mail and Adium. It does not work in Adobe Air applications like TweetDeck.
Cons
  • It’s a dictionary, it doesn’t give you grammar like Rikaichan does. So you better know your hiraganas and understand Japanese grammar.
  • No names dictionary. Luckily there are plenty of tools you can use to add furigana nowadays, so you rarely need this.
  • With Rikaichan it’s easy to end up hovering over every single word, even though you know them, which is very bad if you’re thinking long term.
This alternative solution to Rikaichan is very good, in some ways even better. That said, it’s not the best solution for complete beginners, but for intermediate students of Japanese, this is an invaluable tool that works across your whole system. And if you read this and are a Chrome or Firefox user, it certainly doesn’t hurt to activate this and use it alongside Rikaichan.
  • stilltraveller

    Great post – I’ve never seen this before, definitely a good tool potentially. I’ve not upgraded to Lion yet, so I’m still using Rikaikun on Chrome, but good to know about this alternative, especially since it works across multiple applications. My only small grumble is that is a little fiddly having to always press cmd+ctl+d but that probably gets less so with more use.

    • http://yonasu.com/ Jonas

      Thanks! Pressing that key combination every time takes a little time to get used to, but I’m starting to think that it’s actually better that way. And I’m sure you can change that combination to something easier :)

  • Anonymous

    Yay, finally I can use the best browser with a plugins I have been missing, brb going to uninstall FF and Chrome.

    • http://yonasu.com/ Jonas

      Haha, I still need to use all browsers when developing. But Safari has been getting some good plugins recently, I have 5 plugins for it now :)

    • http://twitter.com/OTAKUPHONE Ragnar

      What plugins are you using? I don’t have any installed right now. And a most huge thank you for that tip! Have been on Safari for months now and been missing Rikaichan a lot.

    • http://yonasu.com/ Jonas

      I’m back with Chrome since it’s stable again… I don’t use any plugs for Safari.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1532743446 Krisz England

     Great, finaly I dont have to use a second class browser for a first calss plugin.

    • http://yonasu.com/ Jonas

      Firefox and Chrome are not second class browsers :P IE is.

  • http://www.givemeginandtonic.net Alex_Dedalus

    Thx for the tip, it works great. 

    Sadly this is far from being as powerful as Rikaichan who using the EDICT dictionary…something made for specifically for non-native speakers (whereas the Japanese-English dic in OS X is made for Japanese people) & who’s far more complete not only for things like names, toponyms etc..but also for slang/cultural/informal speech :(

    I can’t believe Safari is being kept apart from a plugin like this.

    Safari is the best browser on Mac (especially now with the new gestures in Lion.)… Firefox is a piece of #@&£ nowadays I can’t believe that some people are still using it & Chrome is simply not doing it for me compared to Safari….being forced to use it from time to time only for Rikaikun drives me crazy.

    I just wish someone would adapt the rikaichan/kun plugin to Safari :(

  • http://www.givemeginandtonic.net Alex_Dedalus

    Thx for the tip, it works great. 

    Sadly this is far from being as powerful as Rikaichan who using the EDICT dictionary…something made for specifically for non-native speakers (whereas the Japanese-English dic in OS X is made for Japanese people) & who’s far more complete not only for things like names, toponyms etc..but also for slang/cultural/informal speech :(

    I can’t believe Safari is being kept apart from a plugin like this.

    Safari is the best browser on Mac (especially now with the new gestures in Lion.)… Firefox is a piece of #@&£ nowadays I can’t believe that some people are still using it & Chrome is simply not doing it for me compared to Safari….being forced to use it from time to time only for Rikaikun drives me crazy.

    I just wish someone would adapt the rikaichan/kun plugin to Safari :(

  • André Moreira

    Thank you so much for the post. I was looking for something like this! =D
    You just made my day ^-^

  • Anonymous

    Hello! I tried setting up this capability on my mac, but when I hit cmd+ctrl+d it opens up a different, much smaller window that only shows the English definition and example sentences, not the kanji and its reading – ie., the most useful part!! I anyone else experiencing this? I’ve included a picture so you can see what I mean. Thanks so much! ^ ^;;

  • Archimaniak

    Huge thanks for this tip!!!!
    I was actually using Firefox on my old Mac just for Rika, but this Dict. option is more than enough for me at this stage!
    However, could you please specify how to activate the automatic floating window option? 
    Mine only works with the buttons pressed or better yet with the OSX Lion MacAir’s 3fingers clicking option!

  • sonicoliver

    You’d think that the first Con would be the deal breaker for anyone non-fluent enough to benefit from Rikaichan… What would be really great is to put edict or whatever database rikaichan uses into a custom dictionary to install in Mac OS… then you’d be able to claim the only “native” version of rikaichan.

  • DocC

    There’s a wonderful little app called PopClip which, when you highlight a word, presents a palette containing a range of commands. These include the ever-popular Cut, Copy, Paste as well as icons representing Search, Open Link, Look Up in Dictionary and Google Translate. Much more intuitive and user-friendly than USB overdrive. (You can also set keyboard commands in Keyboard Preferences as well as using contextual menus.)

  • laurapepwu

    This is SO useful, thank you for sharing!

  • fistania

    thank a lot! this is the first time i’ve heard this, really convenient! :)

  • Slugassy

    Thank you so much for this great and useful post.

  • http://twitter.com/stargateheaven ロイド 61degrees

    thanks so much i use this all the time now.. you can actually just 3 finger tap your trackpad instead of that combination too :)

  • Anca

    wow that’s really useful, I just bought myself a new mac and this is a very important tool that will help me not miss firefox :)

  • ForgotMyOrange

    You’ve written a lengthy, verbose, otherwise good blog post about a single feature – and yet no mention of how to actually “get it” ie set it up?
    You said [All you have to do is change a few settings]? Why not tell us what they are?

    You could have written “here’s a way of doing it” using half the words. That you don’t explain how to set it up is just frustratingly useless. I kept reading, thinking surely you’ll tell us what to do now…. surely… any time now…

    • Ragunaru

      Uh… how about you just open your Dictionary app, open preferences and… activate your Japanese dictionary? Like Jonas said in the 2nd paragraph.

  • ganbatte-guy

    This is very helpful, but still I like Chrome better ;) But there is another thing I just noticed today and want to share it with you, even most of you probably know it already: If you have IOS 5 in your iPhone you can use this same built-in dictionary with your iPhone. Here you can see how to use it: http://iphone-and-i.blogspot.fi/2012/01/iphone-4s-built-in-dictionary-app.html :)