I guess pretty much everyone who computes in Japanese knows about Rikai.com and Rikaichan, the wonderful website and browser plug-in that help you to read kanji by popping up a little window with the kanji’s pronunciation and meaning.

They’re fantastic, of course, but I’m planning on never using them again because I’ve stumbled upon something much better. It’s called Stardict, and it enables you to read kanji, not just online, but in other applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel. No more Alt-Tabbing back and forth between windows!

Another advantage is the wide-range of dictionaries available*. Of course it has the usual word, names, and places dictionaries, but it also has specialty dictionaries for terms related to business, computers, Buddhism, geology, classical Japanese, and even four-kanji idioms.

One other good thing about it is that you don’t have to have stuff popping up all the time if you don’t want it to. You can configure it so that it only shows you the reading of a kanji that you’re hovering over when you hit the <Shift> key.

Especially if you’re a third-rate translator like me, you’re going to want to download this free application right away.

Here’s the URL: http://stardict.sourceforge.net/index.php

*You have to download the dictionaries. You probably want the Tarbal files, and you have to uncompress them and copy them into the Stardict directory. A free program like 7-zip will do the job nicely.

For those of you who are just here for the photos, here’s a picture of Yoyogi Park: