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Summary:

It’s been forever since I posted here, so I thought I would bring you nice folks a little something special. Today I bring you an interview with the creator of Jisho. Read on to the full article to learn about Jisho, and the diet coke swilling […]

It’s been forever since I posted here, so I thought I would bring you nice folks a little something special. Today I bring you an interview with the creator of Jisho. Read on to the full article to learn about Jisho, and the diet coke swilling student behind this great app.

Chris@TheAppleBlog:
I’m sitting here with James Van Dyne, creator of the snazzy looking Jisho. Can you tell us a little about your background and what Jisho is about?

James Van Dyne:
Sure. Basically – I’m an almost 20 programmer going to Texas state that is infatuated with the Japanese culture. Jisho is your basic Japanese English dictionary, perfect for students of Japanese, of which I will finally be again. I wrote it mainly because I knew I was going to need a good Japanese English dictionary, and all the current ones available for Mac OS X were either ugly, did too much, or all the above.
So, basically, Jisho is trying to fill this void, and maybe even make me some pizza money. A college student can only handle so much ramen.

Chris@TheAppleBlog:
For those who have used Jisho before, it has gone through a drastic change the way it looks and what it does in it’s latest version (1.2). What spurred the change in design between your older versions and the new look?

James Van Dyne:
The change in design was spurred by a couple of things. First, it was a common complaint that I was getting via email. It was pretty, yes, but hard to look at for a long time. That, and the interface couldn’t take Jisho where I wanted it to go. Secondly, was that I wasn’t even using it that often because of the interface, and was instead using Sherlock. You know it’s time for a change when you don’t even use your own software.

Chris@TheAppleBlog:
So on that point, why would someone use Jisho over say Sherlock or the Dashboard widgets of this nature?

James Van Dyne:
There are a couple of reasons. Sherlock and the Dashboard translation widgets generally require internet access. While I am online a lot of the time – I am not *all* of the time. Also the widgets only translate the word to kanji or kana without a reading for that kanji, while Jisho translates the word to kanji or kana and gives you a reading for the kanji, so you know how to pronounce it. Also, you get more information about the word, such as the part of speech

Chris@TheAppleBlog:
What do you consider to be Jisho’s strong points as compared to other applications of a similar nature?

James Van Dyne:
Well, I think the strongest point, is that it is still under active development, and has a long life ahead of it. Of course it has some features that other Japanese English dictionaries don’t have, such as converting Kana to Romaji (roman letters), and translating to Russian, French, and German.

Chris@TheAppleBlog:
So what do you see in the future for Jisho?

James Van Dyne:
I see it becoming the best Japanese English dictionary for the Macintosh. There are a lot more features that I want to see in it, and I know I will need as I continue my Japanese studies.

Chris@TheAppleBlog:
Do you plan to add anymore languages to Jisho beyond those already there?

James Van Dyne:
I would like add Spanish support, as well as improve on the current set of languages. If there are any other languages people would like to see supported, please email me, and I will see if we can’t do it. Of course though the major focus of Jisho will be a Japanese English dictionary. But if we can add support for Japanese to your native language, then we will.

Chris@TheAppleBlog:
Are you localizing the interface as well as the dictionaries? Do you plan to change this?

James Van Dyne:
I haven’t localized the interface yet, though I do want to, and I am always looking for localizers.

(For those who have not used it yet, Jisho accesses multiple language dictionaries, but its interface is in English only for right now. Localization is a geeky way of saying that your interface works in multiple languages. So if I were to say Jisho is localized in a certain language, that means its interface is translated into that language)

Chris@TheAppleBlog:
What macs do you use and make Jisho on?

James Van Dyne:
Originally I started development on a 12″ 900MHz G3 iBook. The first release was done purely on that machine. Since then I have upgraded to a 12″ 1.2GHz G4 iBook running Tiger and do all development on it. I also have a 400Mhz G4 tower running Panther that I test on.

Chris@TheAppleBlog:
Why the mac? Linux is up and coming and Windows has a much larger user base, so why did you pick the Mac and OS X?

James Van Dyne:
Why the mac? Because I love the platform. I came to the mac from linux in the fall of 2002 because I was sick of spending all my time tweaking my desktop. I don’t use linux on my desktop, and don’t have any machines that could run Windows decently, let alone the $1,000 dollars for a development environment on Windows. So, in short, I picked the Mac and OS X for Jisho because it’s what I use.

Chris@TheAppleBlog:
How much coffee do you go through a day, and what kind?

James Van Dyne:
I only go through a cup or two of coffee per day. I drink this coffee from the local coffee shop called Cafe Monteverde. It is really good and is fair trade coffee, so you get the good karma bonus with it. My drink of choice is Diet Coke. Which I go through enough of that to raise Coca-cola’s stock a few percent.

Chris@TheAppleBlog:
I heard from a little birdy that Jisho is going to be packaged on a cd distributed with a magazine. Which magazine and what did you think when they sent you the email asking for permission?

James Van Dyne:
It is supposed to be in the upcoming release of Macworld UK, though it may be an older version. The first though to my mind was “heck yes you can” in a Napoleon Dynamite voice in my head. I was kinda stoked honestly, I’ve never had my software distributed to thousands of people before.

As a sidenote, the title is not mispelled, it is a reference to this song

  1. [...] Today was also spent answering mails and such for people regarding Jisho. I also did an interview over at the apple blog. Sometimes I wish I had all t [...]

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  2. Chris, awesome interview! I thoroughly enjoyed it! :) Big thanks to you and James. I once studied some Japanese in high school, didn’t make it far, but it was pretty cool :)

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  3. I read this with interest, as a long-time student of Japanese and someone who is always keen to try out pretty new bits of software. I currently use JEDict, which is more fully featured, but costs a bit more ($25, although there used to be – and may still be – a $15 price for students, IIRC), although is perfectly usable without paying.

    Still, I gave Jisho a go, and presentation-wise, it does come across very nicely – DMG format for distribution with a pretty folder background image, all Cocoa, etc. The fact that it uses the JMDict file is a boon as it readily makes for multilingual lookups. But – and it pains me to say this – it is bloody slow. JEDict is consistently faster, even when searching through the enormous Monash name dictionary (details here). JEDict also features a very impressive radical/component-based lookup.

    Whilst JEDict does very much reek of Carbon, of which I have never been much of a fan, it is – as it stands – by far the more comprehensive tool. That said, I will be watching Jisho’s development with a certain keenness – I’d like very much to see what it grows into.

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