Sneak Peek: Discourse, Beautiful Dictionary App for iPhone

A few days ago I stumbled upon the preview page of Discourse, an upcoming iPhone app developed by Emilio Peláez (the developer of Notified, available in Cydia) and designed by Mathieu White which, according to the website, aims at being a unique and fresh dictionary app for iPhone. Can a dictionary app be unique? – I asked on Twitter. What could a developer ever do to make sure his take on digital dictionaries – a rather boring subject, one might think – feels fresh and innovative?

I got into Discourse’s beta group and Emilio was kind enough to let me talk about the app on MacStories. I’ve been running the app on my iPhone since last night and, admittedly, they’re building something that feels fresh, beautiful and, to an extent, unique. Here’s a sneak peek.

Without giving away too many details about the app now, let’s just say that Discourse revolves around the concept of letting you read items in the dictionary as if the app was a real book with pages and great typography. Instead of constantly having to jump between sections and menus using buttons and dialogue boxes, all you have to is swipe to reveal a word’s definition, then swipe again to go back to the search box. Same applies for navigation inside the Settings: with a simple gesture, you swipe to the next page to adjust some options then you go back to the main screen with a second swipe.

The app requires an internet connection to return results, as it seems to be based on Wordnik’s database. In my tests, I found it to be pretty fast at retrieving definitions both on 3G and Wifi. The main point of Discourse, clever navigation methods aside, is that it looks beautiful. The app literally shines on the Retina Display, with a wood-like tabbar containing awesome glyphs for you to tap on and crisp dictionary pages waiting to be read and admired. Everything about Discourse’s UI screams “look at me!”. It’s a really great looking app.

Discourse it’s not ready for public release yet, as the devs are busy squashing out the bugs and improving the engine. Once the app is out we’ll compare it to the dictionary app we’re currently using on our iPads and iPhones here at MacStories, Terminology. From the first look we were given, anyway, it looks like Discourse will be a simpler, more attractive alternative with less features but more innovative UI schemes.

We’ll keep you posted about the development of Discourse.

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