Printing a dictionary frustrates many linguists and anthropologists. Converting lexical databases to formatted documents has been so difficult that—for some—it never gets done before editing is completed. The Multi-Dictionary Formatter (MDF) enables ordinary computer users to print a dictionary. Removing the difficulty from printing saves time; adding the ability to inspect fully formatted lexical entries throughout the dictionary-making process improves quality.

MDF is flexible enough to organize lexical data from all over the world for a variety of purposes and print it in several formats. It defines about 100 data field markers. The average dictionary compiler will use about 20 to 30 of them on a regular basis. The markers follow a mneumonic system for ease of learning and recall. Please note that Shoebox does not require you to use MDF. If you already have a well-organized set of markers for lexical data, you can continue to use them (by defining your own database type).

Shoebox includes MDF as a kind of export process in the Export command (on the File menu). If you use its system of data field markers, MDF can automatically format your lexical data as a dictionary or reversed index (finderlist).

  • MDF works on both Windows and Macintosh computers.
  • Shoebox can check consistency of the lexical data before exporting it.
  • You can print using Microsoft Word by exporting the data in Rich Text Format (RTF). Since MDF uses document templates and character styles, it requires version 6 or later of Microsoft Word.
  • You can also publish an electronic document by converting the exported file to Portable Document Format (PDF) using Adobe® Acrobat®.

Portable Document Format (PDF) files

If Acrobat® Reader is installed on your computer, the web server transfers PDF files one page at-a-time.

Title Pages File size
Sample page from a dictionary 1 19 KB
Sample page from a reversed index (finderlist) 1 11 KB
Nafaanra Dictionary 39 394 KB
Making Dictionaries, Coward and Grimes (2000) 243 2,224 KB