WordNet+Artha: A great Linux thesaurus combo

Jack Wallen
Jan 30, 2011
Updated • Dec 12, 2012

I am a writer. I write loads of technical documentation as well as novels (check out my fiction on Smashwords and Autumnal Press). Because of my trade I am always seeking out tools to aid in my own process. And although the web has made everything so much easier, it is still good to have a few dedicated tools around to make everything easier.

One of the tools I take advantage of is a thesaurus. Since using a paper thesaurus is so '80s, it's almost a necessity to have one in the electronic form. My favorite to use is a combination of the tried and true WordNet and the GUI front-end Artha. With this combination you have a thesaurus at the ready with a simple hot key combination. Let's take a look at installing and using this handy tool.


The tools

You may have heard of WordNet before. It's a very handy command-line interface for the WordNet lexical database. By itself, WordNet is not terribly helpful (unless you are using it for writing scripts or applications). When combined with a front-end however, WordNet is very powerful. There are many front ends for WordNet, but one of the easiest to use is Artha. Artha is a free, cross-platform thesaurus that depends upon WordNet for the backend.


The installation of these two tools is simple. You can either search for them and install them from within your Add/Remove Software tool (search for "wordnet" and "artha" - no quotes), or you can install them via the command line. Let's install from the command line. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Open up a terminal window.
  2. Issue the command sudo apt-get install wordnet artha.
  3. Type your sudo password when prompted.
  4. Accept all dependencies (if necessary).

That's it. Once installed you will find Artha in Applications > Accessories.


There are two ways you can use Artha:

  • From the Artha window.
  • As a hot key tool.
Figure 1

The most obvious way to use Artha is from the Artha window (see figure 1). From within that window you can enter a word in the Query section and hit the Search button. This will bring up all of the information about the word you chose. As you can see, I searched for the word Linux.

Figure 2

The second, and more efficient, way to use Artha is as a hot key tool. When you close Artha (by default) it will minimize to the notification area so it's still running in the background. To look up a word all you have to do is highlight a word (in any application) and click the hot key combination Ctrl-Alt-w. When you do this a notification window will appear with the information about the word (see Figure 2).  If you hit the hot key combination a second time, the Artha window will appear with the information about your selected word.

Final thoughts

Writers tools are a must have for anyone looking to make their work more efficient and accurate. If you're looking for a solid thesaurus tool, look no further than WordNet and Artha.


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