Tips & Tricks

Enable Select/Copy/Paste in your
Macintosh Dashboard Dictionary

Make Your Mac Dashboard Dictionary
More User Friendly

Enable Select, Copy and Paste Functionality.

Have you ever been using the Mac Dashboard dictionairy and wanted to copy a word from the dictionary text, to be pasted into whatever it was that you were writing, only to find that you can't even "select" text in the Dashboard Dictionary, let alone, "copy" it? Well here's the answer.

As an author, I find myself regularly referring to the Thesaurus portion of the Mac Dashboard Dictionary, in order to find the right word or to figure out a way to repeat an important point, without using the same words. In fact, I keep 3 or 4 Dictionary windows open in the Dashboard, for this purpose. I type in a word that is close to what I want, in one window. Then I use the synonyms in that window, as search terms in other windows. When I finally find the word that I want to use, I would like to just double-click it or drag across it, to select it and then use Command-C, to copy it.

But alas, for some unknown reason, Apple has disabled the ability to "select" text in the Dashboard Dictionary and this means that I have to type in those synonyms into the other search fields. Of course, this slows me down and as a writer, every extra moment spent looking for a word, increases the possibility that I will lose my train of thought.

So being a problem-solver at heart, I set about trying to figure out what was blocking this functionality. Since I have written several Dashboard Widgets and this Dictionary is a Dashboard Widget, I knew that there was a good chance that I could find a work-around. I did.

This requires only a little technical skill. I can tell you exactly how to do it. But if you don't feel comfortable with these instructions, then let someone else who is more geeky do it for you.

  1. Using the Finder, go to your computer's root folder. Once in the Finder, you can do this by pressing "Shift-Command-C".
  2. Then go to the "Library" folder, found in that root folder. If you don't know how to get to the "Library" folder, then you should probably stop now, because it's likely that what follows is beyond what you want to tackle.
  3. In the "Library" folder, open the "Widgets" folder.
  4. In the "Widgets" folder, you will find the "Dictionary" Widget. Make a copy of that file on your Desktop, by pressing the "Option" key while dragging the file to the Desktop. You should now have a Dictionary widget in the "Widgets" folder and another on the Desktop.
  5. Then, in the "Widgets" folder, Right-Click on the Dictionary Widget and select "Show Package Contents".
  6. In the folder that opens, you will see a file named "Dictionary.css". Open that file either in Xcode or TextEdit.
  7. Near the top of that file (about 8 lines down) you will see the following line:


  8. Change the word "none" in that line to "auto", as shown below.


    That's all there is to it.
  9. Save that file.
  10. Log out and log back in.
  11. Enjoy using your more functional Dictionary Widget.

I hope that this helps.

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Copyright 2006 John Gaver
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