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FAQ: how to use the Microsoft Pinyin
Chinese Input Method Candidate List

Getting Chinese to Work on Windows Shouldn't Be This Hard...


How do I get the "candidate list" to appear in the PRC/Singapore Chinese (Simplified, China) Microsoft Pinyin IME, how do I use it, and how do I adjust it?

In Windows 8 and 10, when you type in the Microsoft Pinyin (MSPY) IME, apostrophes are automatically inserted, and the candidate list appears by default:

In Windows 7 and earlier, the candidate list can also be set to appear automatically, as shown here. We will discuss how to change this setting later in this article.

Chinese simplified character pinyin input MSPY New Experience example


To navigate the candidate list, there are just a few things to remember:

• To accept the highlighted choice, press <Spacebar> or click/tap on that choice

• or type the number next a character, or click/tap on any character in the list

• To move through the list one-by-one, use the <down arrow>and <up arrow> keys

• to move through the list page-by-page:
      hover over an end to reveal an arrow button and click there, or
      press the "[" and "]" bracket keys, or
      press the <Page up> and <Page down> keys


The Windows 10 first-year "Anniversary Update" (version 1607) added emoji to MSPY. Click on the smiley face at the far right end of the candidate list to bring up the list.

There are hot keys for many other MSPY features, and those same features can be displayed as icons on your taskbar by activating the desktop language bar:

In the image shown above, the "CH" and "M" show that MSPY is selected. The other buttons are as follows:
• Chinese/English. Hot key: <Shift> (can be set to <Ctrl> or "None" in Settings)
• Full/half width.  Hot key: <Shift+Spacebar>
• Punctuation. Hot Key: <Ctrl+Spacebar> or hit <Shift> for Chinese/English
• Traditional/Simplified characters.("Extended" is no longer an option, and this
   is a new set of Traditional characters. See the missing/broken/lame features page.
• Options. Takes you to Settings > "Language & region".


Customize MSPY in Windows 10 and 8 by going to Start > Settings > Time & language > Language & region > mainland/Singapore region Options > Microsoft Pinyin Options.

In Windows 10 the desktop language bar "Options" (gear) button takes you halfway there.

In Windows 8 some of these options are in a similar spot, while others are in the "classic" control panel described in the next section for older systems. But your choices in Win 8 are a bit more limited, and sometimes you have to make the same change in both the new and old panels separately.

In the Options panel you can choose full or "double Pinyin"; choose your default language and 中/英 hotkey (or "None"); select domain lexicons (technical and business terms, mostly) and built-in special phrases; turn on automatic sorting of your candidate list and other system training; adjust the candidate list length, size, and font; "cloud input" phrase lookup on Microsoft servers as you type; fuzzy input, and more.


For more on MSPY in Windows 10 and 8, see the Win 10 missing/broken features FAQ and the Win 10 Help files page, or the Win 8 missing/broken features FAQ.



Customize Windows 7 and earlier to set the candidate list to display by default and make other changes.

In default mode the candidate list does not display, when you press the <space bar> you will only see one character, word or phrase:

Chinese simplified character pinyin input candidate list step 1

To see the candidate list, press <left arrow> to move back over the character, and the list will appear.

Chinese simplified character pinyin input candidate list step 2

To see phrases, keep moving left with <left arrow>:

Chinese simplified character pinyin input candidate list step 3

You can then can scroll through the list with <down arrow> and <up arrow> to move through the choices one-by-one, and <Page Up> and <Page Down> or the "[" and "]" bracket keys to move through pages.

Select any character or phrase with <space bar>, type the number, or click on it.



To make the list appear automatically as you type in Windows 7 and earlier:

Chinese simplified character pinyin input candidate list step 4

In Windows XP, on the Language bar click the Context menu and select "Properties":

Opening the XP PRC IME Properties window

Then in the Properties window click the checkbox for "Prompt step-by-step":

Setting the automatic candidate list option in Windows XP

While you're in there, I recommend that you also make sure that "Enable learning" is checked so that the list will sort according to your frequency of usage over time. (Also notice that under "Candidate option" you can set the list to "Row style" or "List style", although I did not circle that here.)

Setting the XP PRC IME to learn from your frequency of usage.

When typing, to select a character or phrase from the list you can:

  • type the candidate number,
  • press the down arrow and then use the up and down arrows to move around, then press enter to select a candidate,
  • or click on it with a mouse.

While you are on the sentence line, when you press <space bar> twice or <Enter> once, you have accepted the suggested character(s) there.


In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, on the Language bar click the Options menu and in the menu click "Options".

Chinese simplified character pinyin input MSPY New Experience setup step 1

In the dialog box that appears, make sure the Input Style is "MSPY New Experience", and click the checkbox next to "Candidate Prompt - MSPY New Experience".

Here it is in Vista (Windows 7 initially shipped with this version too):

Chinese pinyin input MSPY New Experience setup step 2

And here it is in Windows 7 after installing the MSPY 2010 Update:

MSPY 2010 Candidate List Options

You can also select preferences like "Horizontal window" or "Vertical window", and "Word prediction".

While you're in there I recommend that you also look at "Self-learning and User-defined Phrase", and check "Enable self-learning" so that characters sort as you use the IME. After installing the 2010 update you'll find this in the area right above the candidate style preferences, but in the 2006/2007 versions it's in the next tab, "MSPY New Experience & Classic Input Style" and look under "Dictionary Setting":

Chinese pinyin input MSPY New Experience setup step 3



Need more help?

For more information on using this IME, see my pages on where to find English language "user guides":

English Language Help Files for Windows 10
English Language Help Files for Windows 7 and Vista

In Windows 8, to get at the Help files and the rest of these settings in the first releases, turn on the old-style Language bar (on the desktop Taskbar). You'll find instructions for this towards the end of my page on Windows 8 Traditional Chinese Pinyin input (search for "Advanced Settings"). Then follow the instructions for Windows 7/Vista.

For Windows XP, see the Windows 7/Vista Help page and you'll get the general idea. Sorry, I never got around to doing a separate page on that.

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