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Ubuntu Chinese Setup

A Quick Start Guide to
Chinese Setup, Input Methods, Fonts, and Other Features in

Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin)
thru Ubuntu 15.10 (Wily Werewolf)
and everything in-between

[Looking for other versions of Ubuntu? Please see the menu above.]

Ubuntu 12 logoUbuntu Chinese input: zhongwen shezhi


This page describes how to install Chinese features in non-Chinese versions of Ubuntu 12 through 15. Ubuntu 11 and Ubuntu 10 have their own setup pages but share the same input methods and fonts, while Ubuntu 9 offered the last in an earlier generation of IMEs.

Ubuntu 15 introduces the fcitx (小企鹅 or "Little Penguin") new site input method framework (pronounced "fai-ticks"), which is also in Ubuntu Kylin. new site Ubuntu 10 through 14 relied on IBus new site while Ubuntu 9 and earlier offered the SCIM new site platform. They shared some input methods, but setup was different.

IBus was a mess in the last few releases, probably because fcitx was coming. See my Ubuntu 14 Chinese bugs FAQ if your ibus-pinyin input method is broken, or if your Chinese text is replaced by "INVALID UTF-8". If 13.10 is your poison of choice, see my Ubuntu 13.10 bugs FAQ.


If you're upgrading to 15.xx from an existing installation of 14.10 or older, fcitx will be installed. If IBus is running OK and you want to keep it, you're all set. If not, I suggest you try fcitx.

If fcitx does not show up in the Language Support panel, you'll need to go into Terminal and run im-config. When the configuration list comes up, click "OK" and then you'll be asked "Do you want to explicitly select the user configuration?" Click "OK", select fcitx, and click "OK". Exit terminal, and logout/login.

After logging in, skip down this page to where I show how to make sure you have the fcitx menu <--- by clicking this jump link.


No need to install a fully localized Chinese Ubuntu desktop. Just click EnglishIf you're doing a clean installation, at the Welcome sreen you will be asked to pick a display language, as shown on the right here. --->

It is not necessary to use a Chinese language desktop if you don't want to, because Chinese input methods are available in any locale. You can select "English" or another language now, and use Chinese menus later if you wish.


After installation, add language support:

After the installation is complete and you have logged in, you will find more than one way to get into the Language Support control panel.

The "old" way is to click the menu at the upper right of the screen, and select System Settings:

Ubuntu 12 Settings menu

That will bring up the System Settings panel, where you'll find Language Support:

Ubuntu 12 : System Settings : Language Support


The new way is to tap the Super key (the Ubuntu/Windows key on your keyboard) or click the Dash icon at the upper left of your screen, and type "Language" into the search box:

Ubuntu Dash : search for Language Support

Double-click the Language Support icon to open that panel.

Then click the "Install / Remove Languages..." button:

Ubuntu Language Support panel

I've cropped out the "Keyboard input method system" menu because in some cases you need to install languages first to ensure all input method frameworks are available.

After you click the Install/Remove Languages button, the Installed Languages panel will appear. Scroll to and select the languages you want to install, then click the "Apply Changes" button:

Ubuntu Installed Languages panel : installing Chinese


After the file installation process is complete, log out and log back in:

Ubuntu 11 logout

Then return to the Language Support panel:

Ubuntu language support panel title bar

Beginning in Ubuntu 15 you'll have the choice of fcitx in the "Keyboard input method system" menu. I suggest you use fcitx, as Ibus has had problems lately. (If fcitx is not there, go back and install the Chinese language(s) as shown above, and be sure to log out and log in. If you don't log out and in, the menu usually will not change.)

In Ubuntu 10 through 14, select IBus unless you have a very specific need for one of the alternatives. (For info on adding the old SCIM framework to this menu, see the input methods page.) You can also add fcitx to these releases too, as explained near the end of my 14.xx bugs FAQ.

Ubuntu keyboard input method system menu


After selecting a keyboard input method system, log out and log back in again. Yes, again.

Ubuntu 11 logout

In Ubuntu 15 with fcitx selected, you should see the fcitx keyboard icon on the top panel. If you see the IBus "En" language icon instead, try the command line fix below.

kcitx penguin The fcitx penguin may put in an appearance in place of that keyboard icon at some point. Do not be alarmed. He's just showing you his calligraphy brush.

fcitx keyboard icon in the Ubuntu top panel

In 13.10 - 14.10 you'll see an IBus language icon:

Ubuntu 1310 input method menu icon

In 10.04 - 13.04 you'll see the IBus keyboard icon:

Ubuntu input method keyboard menu icon

If the icon is not there, or if you see the wrong one, go back to the Language panel to recheck your settings, log out / log in, or if that doesn't work then restart. If it still refuses to appear, open Terminal and run:


Then click through the dialogs to select fcitx, or IBus, or whatever you need. Logout and login again. You should see the keyboard icon now. (In older systems, you can also try im-switch -s fcitx or im-switch -s ibus as appropriate.)


Next steps:

Ubuntu Chinese IMEs

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

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