New Projects - Fresh from the Labs

Ding—German-to-English Reference (

Are you a Rammstein fan trying to decipher those wacky lyrics or a Porsche fan trying to figure out exactly what Doppelkupplungsgetriebe means? Are you chasing a German-English translator that's simple to use and painless to install? This is probably the best place to start, especially if you have to type such accents as umlauts and the like (see what I mean further on). According to Ding's Freshmeat entry:

Ding is a dictionary lookup program for the X Window System on Linux/UNIX. It comes with a German-English dictionary with about 253,000 entries. It is based on Tk version >= 8.3 and uses the agrep or egrep tools for searching. In addition, Ding also can search in English dictionaries using dict(1) and check spelling using ispell(1). It has many configuration options, such as search preferences, interface language (English or German) and colors. It has history and help functions and comes with useful key and mouse bindings for quick and easy lookups.

Ding is a simple yet powerful dictionary tool for translating between German and English. Note the handy collapsing menus for derivations on root words.

A particularly handy feature is quick access to Germanic characters—something most English-based OS installations won't be set up for.


Installing Ding is really easy. Head to the Web site, and you'll find a number of different packages along with a tarball. As usual, I'm running with the tarball for the sake of neutrality. Download the tarball, extract it, and open a terminal in the new folder.

If your distro supports sudo, enter:

$ sudo ./

If not, enter:

$ su
# sudo ./

You'll want to install the German aspell files for certain parts of program functionality. Once the installation has finished, run the program with:

$ ding 


Although I haven't much space to cover Ding's usage, the interface is pretty basic anyway. To start, enter a word in German or English, and either click Search or press Enter. At this point, any translated possibilities and variants show up below, with Deutsch (German) on the left and English on the right. You also may see a small cross icon next to each translation. Click it, and variants are displayed in a collapsible menu from the root word, such as plurals, example usage and so on.

It's well worth looking in the Preferences menu and clicking the Show umlaut buttons option. This shows the special Germanic characters most English editions of OSes won't be set up for. Other features include a spell checker, as well as orthography, but I'll let you explore things for yourself from here.

Although Ding may be rather gray and not pretty, it's nice and minimalist and easy to install with a minimum of fuss. I'm sure that 90% of its users will be those English-speaking Rammstein fans trying to work out what's being said, but why not?


John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.