University of Rochester Computer Science (URCS) WordNet Browser

License | Prerequisites | Downloads | Installation | Configuration | Usage Issues

This document outlines the care and feeding of the URCS WordNet Browser, an open-source, cross-platform tool for searching and browsing the WordNet database.


This program is copyright 2010 George Ferguson,

This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program. If not, see



The URCS WordNet Browser requires the WordNet 3.0 database files. Download WordNet from here:
Note that you must download version 3.0, even on Windows. For some reason, a Windows installer is not available for WordNet 3.0. Instead you can use 7-zip (free software), Power Archiver 6.1 (free software), or WinZip (commercial) to unpack the 3.0 archives.

The default installation locations for WordNet are as follows:

The database files will be installed in a sub-directory named dict. The URCS WordNet Browser can find WordNet in the default location, or you can specify an alternate location using the Preferences (Options on Windows).


The URCS WordNetBrowser requires the Java Runtime Environment (JRE), version 6 or later. If Java is not already installed on your machine, you can download it from here:
Use the latest version of the J2SE platform (version 6 as this writing). Either the JDK or JRE will work for running the URCS WordNet Browser.

On Linux, your package manager may be able to install Java for you. For example, as of this writing, on Ubuntu 9.10 you can install the sun-java6-jre package using the Synaptic Package Manager (or apt-get).

On Mac OSX, java comes with your system software. OSX versions 10.6 (Snow leopard) and 10.5 (Leopard) include Java 6. For more information: Apple Java FAQ (somewhat dated as of this writing).


Note that the cross-platform jar can be run on any platform. However the platform-specific installers provide versions of the application that are customized for that platform, and should provide a more seamless user experience. To learn exactly how this is done, study the source.



Download the Mac OSX disk image. Drag the application to wherever you want it. The disk image includes a shortcut to the Applications folder for your convenience in putting it there (if you like).


Download the Windows installer and run it. It will give you an Unknown Publisher warning. It will install the application in c:\Program Files along with Start Menu and Desktop shortcuts. You can also download just the standalone executable and put it wherever you like.


There is no good, standard method of installing applications into the Linux desktop environment. You should download the cross-platform jar and put it somewhere. You may be able to double-click it to launch it. Otherwise you need to invoke it from the shell as
java -jar .../URCSWordNetBrowser-X.Y.jar
where the ... depends on where you put it and the X.Y is the version number of the file you downloaded.

You can make a desktop launcher for this if you want. The details vary from distribution to distribution. If you'd like an icon for your launcher, try this: URCSWordNetBrowser.png.


When the URCS WordNet Browser starts, it will try to find the WordNet database files. If your environment contains the appropriate variables (WNHOME or WNSEARCHDIR), these will be checked. Otherwise the default locations are checked.

If the application does not find the WordNet databases, it will prompt you to locate them. The application will remember the location on subsequent invocations.

No additional configuration is necessary. Most View settings will be remembered by the browser and used as defaults in subsequent invocations.


Use of the URCS WordNet Browser is pretty straightforward. Type a phrase in the search box at the top of the window. To restrict your search to certain parts of speech, select "Show POS checkboxes" from the View menu.

The first search will load the WordNet indices (for the necessary parts of speech). This may take some time. Progress is indicated next to the search box. Cancelling a search takes effect as soon as possible (which may also take time).

Results are displayed organized by part of speech. Options on the View menu allow the display of additional information: definitions, examples, sense numbers, sense keys, and both semantic and lexical pointers (links to related synsets).

Results can be exported in three formats by selecting Save As from the File menu:

  1. HTML text which will redisplay like the main browser display;
  2. Plain text, which strips out all formatting; and
  3. XML, a structured format useful for importing into spreadsheets or databases.

Known Issues

No issues are currently being tracked.