Ubuntu Chinese Setup
A Quick Start Guide to
Chinese Setup, Input Methods, Fonts, and Other Features in
Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin)
thru Ubuntu 16.04 (Xenial Xerus)
and everything in-between
[Looking for other versions of Ubuntu? Please see the menu above.]
This page describes how to install Chinese features in non-Chinese versions of Ubuntu 12 through 16. 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 introduced the fcitx (小企鹅 or "Little Penguin") input method framework (pronounced "fai-ticks"), which is also in Ubuntu Kylin. Ubuntu 10 through 14 relied on IBus while Ubuntu 9 and earlier offered the SCIM 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 Ubuntu 15.04 or later, 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.
If 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:
That will bring up the System Settings panel, where you'll find 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:
Double-click the Language Support icon to open that panel.
Then click the "Install / Remove Languages..." button:
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:
After the file installation process is complete, log out and log back in:
Then return to the Language Support panel:
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.
After selecting a keyboard input method system, log out and log back in again. Yes, again.
In Ubuntu 15 or later 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.
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.
In 13.10 - 14.10 you'll see an IBus language icon:
In 10.04 - 13.04 you'll see the IBus keyboard 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.)
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions, comments and suggestions.