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Ubuntu Chinese Setup

A Quick Start Guide to
Chinese Setup, Input Methods, Fonts, and Other Features in
Ubuntu 18.04 (Bionic Beaver), 18.10 (Cosmic Cuttlefish)
and the new GNOME

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

Ubuntu logoUbuntu Chinese input: zhongwen shezhi







This page describes how to install Chinese features in non-Chinese versions of Ubuntu 18.04 and 18.10. The preview version of this new GNOME-based interface, Ubuntu 17.10, required its own FAQ page. If you need an earlier version, see the setup pages for Ubuntu 12.04-17.04, Ubuntu 11, and Ubuntu 10 (they share the same input methods and fonts) or Ubuntu 9.


Canonical has dropped the Unity interface and returned to GNOME. The basic installation includes the IBus input framework Open new window — which may or may not have everything you need — and many users will want to manually install the fcitx framework Open new window which is now the standard in China.


No need to install a fully localized Chinese Ubuntu desktop. Just click EnglishIf you're doing a clean installation, at the Welcome screen it's OK to select English as shown here. --->

It is not necessary to use a Chinese language desktop. Chinese input methods and interfaces will still be available. You can select "English" or another language now, and use Chinese menus later if you wish.


Adding Chinese language support:

After your install is complete, log in, then click on "Activities" in the upper left corner or tap the Super key (Windows/Ubuntu key).

In the Activities search box, type "language":

Ubuntu Dash : search for Language Support

Double-click the Language Support icon or just press your <Enter> key to proceed. 18.04 is shown above, 18.10 to the left.

(Pretty icons are one of the main attractions of Cosmic Cuttlefish, but most of us are sticking with Bionic Beaver because it's an LTS, and in fact I've found no language improvements in 18.10.)



In the Language Support panel, click the "Install / Remove Languages..." button:

Ubuntu Language Support panel


In the Installed Languages panel, select Chinese (Simplified and/or Traditional), and then click the "Apply Changes" button (not shown here), after which the necessary fonts and other bits will be downloaded and installed.

Ubuntu Installed Languages panel : installing Chinese


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

Ubuntu 11 logout

Let's take a ride on the IBus

After logging in, click again on "Activities" at the upper left or tap the Super key (Windows/Ubuntu key). In the search box type "region", then select Region & Language:


Click the "Manage Installed Language" button to reopen the Language Support panel, which will cause the system to automatically check for any missing pieces necessary for Chinese support. Allow that install to proceed, then close Language Support and return to Region and Language. Then click the "+" button to add input methods.


After clicking the "+" button, you'll see "Add an Input Source":


Chinese (China) input methods

If you select "Chinese (China)" from the above list, you'll see the following choices. As Pinyin Joe I'm looking for phonetic input methods. The default install includes Intelligent Pinyin, which supports Simplified and Traditional characters. After selecting it here, log out and log in, and then it should show up on your input menu.


The gear button in the Region and Language panel will allow you to select Simplified or Traditional and other options:

I am told at this point these systems produce Chinese in UTF-8, rather than, say, mainland GB encoding. So this ought to be good enough for Traditional characters too. But when working in Traditional characters I prefer to use keyboards and candidate lists intended for a Traditional locale. The Chewing IME, for example, is designed to be very familiar to Traditional Chinese users. More on this in the next section on the Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan input methods.

Other input methods are available via manual install, including the (Simplified character only) SunPinyin which in some ways offers a superior candidate list algorithm. I have not yet played with this, but as an example to install SunPinyin you would drop into Terminal and enter this:

sudo apt-get install ibus-sunpinyin

Chinese (Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan) input methods: where's Chewing?

In an English-language Ubuntu system, the default Traditional character locale is Chinese (Hong Kong), which offers no phonetic input at all, unless Chewing was carried over from a previous install during an upgrade...and if it still works. QuickClassic is a version of the non-phonetic Quick (簡易) input method popular with people in Hong Kong, but I need Chewing ("酷音", a "cool" name that also kind of sounds like "Zhuyin", though it supports both Bopomofo and Pinyin).

I first tried to add Chewing without success, using this in Terminal:

sudo apt-get install ibus-chewing

This produced a message saying the latest version is already installed, so nothing happened. It's there, but it's not being displayed. Why? Because in the infinite wisdom of GNOME, many IMEs are hidden when you're in other locales which is a problem because Chewing is tied to Chinese (Taiwan).

By the time 18.10 came out, I'd found this reported as a GNOME issue new site and learned we need to enter this in Terminal to generate these Chinese (Taiwan) locale features:

sudo locale-gen zh_TW.UTF-8

Now try pressing the "+" button again. "Chinese (Taiwan)" should be in the list:

Click on "Chinese (Taiwan)", and you'll find Chewing in the list of input methods:

Select it and it's yours. To change the keyboard from Zhuyin to Pinyin, in the main panel you'll need to select it again and click on the gear icon:

In the Chewing panel's "keyboard type" menu, Hanyu Pinyin is "hanyu". You may also want to poke around elsewhere in this panel to set the preferences to your liking.

Chewing seems to behave a bit strangely in GNOME, but at least it's there. Still, you may want to look into fcitx.


Forward with fcitx?

If IBus just doesn't take you where you need to go, consider fcitx. Fcitx has been the standard in China for Ubuntu Kylin for quite some time now, and if you'd like to install it see this article posted by a member of the fcitx team when this problem presented itself in 17.10: open new site in new window


For either framework, to learn more about input methods, fonts, or OpenOffice/LibreOffice features see the next steps below.


Next steps:

Ubuntu Chinese IMEs

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

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