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FAQ: Is Ubuntu 17.10 Chinese Input Broken?

The new GNOME barely supports IBus, and fights with fcitx

Ubuntu 12 logo

As of Ubuntu 17.10, Canonical has dropped the Unity interface and returned to GNOME. In the process the fcitx framework was (temporarily?) left out of the package, leaving us with the long-abandoned IBus and minimal Chinese IME support.

While waiting for 18.04 to (hopefully) resolve this, we can get some basic Pinyin input working, but ibus-chewing and other IMEs are missing or messy, and installing fcitx is a gamble.

My best recommendation is that you go back to a previous version, but let's take a look at what you can do with Artful Aardvark.

 

Let's take a ride on the IBus

I'm assuming you've already upgraded to or installed Artful Aardvark with Chinese language support. If not, see the installation summary for previous versions here.

Click in the upper left "hot corner" or tap the Super key (Windows/Ubuntu key), and in the search box type "language" or "region". Select Region & Language:

 

Upon opening Region & Language, I recommend you first click the "Manage Installed Language" button to open the Language Support panel. That will initiate an automatic check for any missing pieces necessary for Chinese support. Install those if any, close Language Support, and return to Region and Language.

Then click the "+" button to see what IBus has available for us.

 

After clicking the "+" button, Add an Input Source will appear:

 

Looking at phonetic input only, Chinese (China) offers SunPinyin, which supports only Simplified characters. After installing it, logging out, then logging back in, it should show up on your input menu. I cannot get the gear button to work, so no customization is possible, but the basic IME does does function. I'll offer an alternative below, after looking at the installed Traditional character input methods: libpinyin.



 

In a clean install, Chinese (Hong Kong) offers no phonetic input at all! According to what I see in Terminal, Chewing is actually installed but it just won't work. The non-phonetic Quick is popular with Hong Kong people, but few know the others listed there.

In an upgraded system, Chinese (Hong Kong) may list Chewing, but you'll probably find that IME is broken. IBus just doesn't support it.


The Intelligent Pinyin IME offers Traditional characters, and you may also prefer it for for Simplified characters over SunPinyin. To add it, drop into Terminal and install ibus-libpinyin:

sudo apt-get install ibus-libpinyin

Then, after a logout/login, "Intelligent Pinyin" should be available in the Chinese (China) list. After selection, it may be customizable via the gear button in that last window or via "preferences" in the input menu (I couldn't get either to work), and also in the input menu you can switch between Simplified and Traditional characters. All good, right? Well...

...that will give you Traditional characters from the mainland character set. All applications will see your text as Simplified Chinese. If you exchange messages or documents with anyone who uses the Taiwan/Big5 character set and/or has their computer set to a Taiwan/HK/Macau locale, your text may become corrupted at the least convenient time.

So, what to do?

 

 

Move forward with fcitx! (If you can.)

To get fcitx back into Ubuntu 17.10, first install all the pieces in Terminal:

sudo apt-get install fcitx fcitx-chewing fcitx-pinyin

You may also want to add these input methods as well:

fcitx-sunpinyin fcitx-googlepinyin

I wish I could say just logout/login and you'll be done, but GNOME does not want fcitx right now. You will be able to select fcitx in the Language control panel, but the fcitx input methods will still not be listed in the Region and Language panel. And im-config is no help. Sigh.

This blogger offers some suggestions:

https://www.csslayer.info/wordpress/fcitx-dev/how-to-use-fcitx-on-ubuntu-17-10/ open new site in new window

If that works for you, or if you find alternatives, please let me know. I've tried three times up to where that blogger says the basics should be working, but just can't get fcitx to cooperate. So I stopped there.

 

 

I'm hoping that by 18.04 we'll have fcitx back as the default. I have only played with 17.10 in temporary virtual machinces, and have not upgraded my real installations from previous Ubuntu versions. But if you manage to get 17.10 working to your satisfaction, you may want to learn more about input methods, fonts, and OpenOffice/LibreOffice features:

And as always, feel free to contact me with any questions, comments and suggestions.

 

 

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