More Chinese Fonts & Apps
« 1. More Fonts 2. More Apps: Input Methods & Tools 3. Encoding Standards »
2. Free and Commercial 3rd Party Chinese Input Methods and Tools
(Plus a few more goodies from Microsoft too!)
Free Chinese Applications
Free Online Chinese Tools
Commercial Chinese Applications
Free Chinese Applications
Pinyinput: a free Pinyin-with-tone-marks input method for Windows
Pinyinput can be selected from your Language Bar/Band and used just like other standard input methods. So far it has worked well in every application I've tried.
During installation you can place it in an English or Chinese IME, solving an MS Word font problem that was in previous versions.
Pinyinput works in 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7, Vista or XP. You can download Pinyinput from pinyinput.sourceforge.net. I have no relationship with the developer and can provide no support myself, but there is an extensive online Pinyinput discussion and support group on Chinese-Forums.com.
PinyinTones: a free Pinyin-with-tone-marks input method for Windows
Like the Pinyinput keyboard described above, PinyinTones can be selected from your Language Bar/Band and used just like other standard input methods. PinyinTones has been updated to include Windows 8 support for both desktop and Windows Store apps, and so far it has worked well in every application I've tried.
After installation you'll find three main differences between PinyinTones and Pinyinput. As you can see from my screenshots, PinyinTones displays the composition in-line, while Pinyinput uses a little pop up composition window. Also PinyinTones does not have a floating toolbar.
The third difference between these two apps is that PinyinTones installs in the Japanese IME for the same reason Pinyinput offers to install in English instead of Chinese IMEs: while using a Chinese IME in MS Word, the vowels with tones will always default to the SimSun font - even in the middle of a word that is in another font!
PinyinTones works in 32-bit and 64-bit Windows Vista, Windows 7, and all flavors of Windows 8. It does not work in XP. I have no relationship with the developer and can provide no support myself, but here is the PinyinTones download page and here is the PinyinTones discussion and support group on Chinese-Forums.com.
Perapera-kun: a free Mandarin-English pop-up dictionary for Firefox
This Firefox and Chrome app is highly rated. I've tried it and I agree, it's great! Just mouse over Chinese characters on a web page and Perapera-kun will offer definitions and Pinyin pronunciation for characters and words (cizu). It also does Japanese and Korean, and translates into English or German.
Download the app from the Mozilla.org Perapera-kun page or the Chrome web store, install it, and then go to the Perapera-kun website to download dictionaries and/or learn more depending on your version. The developer accepts donations via PayPal there, suggesting at least "a cup of coffee". :-) Now, I don't know the guy and I don't know where he drinks his coffee, but apparently he is studying in Japan and at a Tokyo Starbucks even a small latte was about USD $7 the last time I checked!
CantoFish: a free Cantonese / Mandarin dictionary for Firefox
The developer of CantoInput (see below) offers this pop-up dictionary plug-in for Firefox, which displays pronunciation in Cantonese or Mandarin for any Chinese characters on a web page. Yet another app I think would be very cool but that I haven't tried yet...I suffer with Internet Explorer almost exclusively so that I can support you, hope you appreciate it. If you use Firefox, see the CantoFish blog page on Wordpress for info.
CantoInput: a free Cantonese input method for Windows, Mac, Linux & other OS
CantoInput is a free Cantonese phonetic input application for any OS with Java installed. It supports Jyutping and Yale romanization, and Mandarin Pinyin as well, and it is very simple to install and use.
This is not an IME/SCIM integrated with the system. It runs in a little floating window, from which you can copy-and-paste your text into other applications. The candidate list is arranged by common frequency of usage but, as of version 1.10, the list does not sort any further as you use it. It also only allows you to type one character at a time, no two-character words, no phrases, no concepts. Still, I have found no easier way to add Cantonese to your system for free. Free is good. We like free. And I think this guy has done a really good job with this for what it is.
CantoInput was developed by a gwai loh, like me but apparently far smarter, named John Burket. When you download this, if the files are still hosted on github.com don't click on the "download" button unless you want the source code. Click on the "executable version" text link below the description. Visit the developer's CantoInput blog page on Wordpress to learn more.
CPIME: a free Cantonese Phonetic IME for Windows
CPIME is a free Cantonese phonetic input application for Windows that installs in your Language Bar like a Microsoft IME. There are Jyutping, Yale and Sydney Lau versions.
Created by an individual developer (who has a Japanese name, interestingly enough), this input method does not auto-sort the candidate list by your frequency of usage, and you can only type one character at a time. No two-character words or longer phrases. But I think it works well enough to meet many users' needs, and it is after all free shareware. Donations are accepted via PayPal.
As of version 6.2.6 I am unable to install this on Windows 7, but had no trouble getting it to run on Windows XP and there is also an online version. For more info and links to downloads and the online IMEs, visit the CPIME site at cpime.hk.
The official and unofficial Microsoft Cantonese IME
As of the Traditional IME 2010 Update, two variations of the Cantonese Jyutpin input method are available free for download from Microsoft. This update will install on Windows 7, Vista or XP SP3, with or without Office.
Before the 2010 update one Microsoft engineer, Michael S. Kaplan, did everything he could to ensure that a Cantonese IME was freely available for download. If you for whatever reason you cannot install the 2010 IME update, Here is Michael Kaplan's blog post offering a manual install of a Cantonese IME.
If you need to use Michael Kaplan's download please read his blog post very carefully, including all comments, before installing. If you have difficulties with this, I have two suggestions: (1) just try installing again because everyone is human and makes typos, and (2) if all else fails post questions for Michael as blog comments there because I can't really help you much.
Microsoft PRC MSPY 2010 Pinyin IME Update!
This free download adds many new Pinyin input features and often fixes problems with Chinese components in your system. Please see my download and installation instructions for the MSPY 2010 update before heading off to the Chinese language Microsoft pages. (Replaces the MSPY 2007 update.)
Microsoft Taiwan 2010 IME Update!
This free download updates the New Phonetic, Cangjie and Quick IMEs, adds a Cantonese Jyutping IME, and adds support for simplified Chinese characters! Please see my instructions for the Taiwan IME 2010 update before heading off to the Chinese language Microsoft pages. (Replaces the Taiwan Office 2003 IME update.)
The official and unofficial Microsoft Unicode IME
The Unicode IME is for inputting characters using Unicode code points. For example, typing "499F" will give you an obscure CJK Extension A character that can't be found with any other Microsoft Chinese IME.
If you have Windows 7 (or Vista or XP with the MSPY 2010 update) this is already installed in your Chinese Simplified/PRC IME Options menu under "Secondary Input Methods", along with GB code input. And in the Chinese Traditional/Taiwan IME, you bring it up by pressing the leading key (`) followed by "U" and then the Unicode number (or "`b" and then the Big 5 code).
If you are using a version of the Traditional IME that is missing these features (it was removed several years ago, and the 2010 update still doesn't have it), you can install it there manually using the instructions by Michael S. Kaplan, the same Microsoft engineer mentioned in the previous section, in his blog post on the Unicode IME.
This is a great tool but I discovered the hard way that it does not currently support CJK Extension B, even though Windows 7 and Vista include Extension B fonts like PMingLiu-ExtB and SimSun-ExtB! The only solution Microsoft provides is the Japanese IME Pad for Extension B characters. Can you believe that? Either that or one of us can enter all 46,000 or so Ext. B characters and their codes into the lookup table ourselves. Any volunteers? :-) There is however a third-party solution for Unicode lookup called BabelMap, which I discuss in my article on ancient, rare and obscure Chinese characters.
Google Pinyin input method
I have not used the PC version, but I do use Google Pinyin on my Android phone and it is very good...although I object to any Pinyin input method that automatically inserts a space between each Pinyin word/sound as you type. You can learn more from this Wikipedia article on the Google Pinyin input method and the Google Pinyin input method can be downloaded here. You may want to use Google Translate to convert the instructions to English. (See the Free Online Chinese Tools links above.) There is also an official Google Group for Google's Chinese tools.
Sogou Pinyin input method
The Wikipedia article on the Sugou Pinyin input method reports that Sogou had by 2011 reached an 83.6% share of the mainland China market, with over 300 million users, so there's got to be something to this one...even if it inserts apostrophes between every Pinyin sound, violating the rules of Pinyin. If The People like it, fine, whatever.
If the Chinese characters look like random "garbage" in the Sogou Windows installer or IME, see my FAQ on setting your locale for non-Unicode applications.
You can download the Sougou IME for Windows directly from Sogou at pinyin.sogou.com and there is an English-language discussion group thread on the Sogou IME at Chinese-Forums.com. See also my introduction to Sogou for Android.
Sogou has also added an option to search from the IME in Windows. This can be adjusted to, for example, turn off in Word, while working with your browser. Here's an English-language article on the launch of Sougou IME search features, at Tech in Asia.
OO Pinyin Guide (oopinyin) for the OpenOffice/LibreOffice Writer Phonetic Guide
Writer includes a Phonetic Guide feature, which allows you to place "ruby text" pronunciation guides above your Chinese characters. But unlike the same feature in MS Word, OpenOffice does not automatically look up the Pinyin or Zhuyin for you. A European developer currently residing in Shanghai is working on a Java extension for this. The last time I checked this was in the very early stages of development, but you can help by reporting problems and sending feature requests to the developer. You can download oopinyin from sourceforge.net.
Wubi Zixing Input Method
I've had enough questions about this and finally wrote up an FAQ page on where to find Wubi for Windows. If you have a different OS you may already have that input method, so please see my menus and search box at the top of this page. And I'll be glad to help further if I can, just don't ask me how to actually type with Wubi...I'm "Pinyin" Joe, after all. :-)
Commercial Chinese Applications
ChinaScribe is an inexpensive, innovative dictionary program for Windows that works alone or with Microsoft Word. It offers character lookup by English, Pinyin, or Hanzi, and also allows you to quickly insert your results into Word, in a two-line or three-line format very similar to ruby text. It will even translate blocks of text in Word, inserting English and/or Pinyin above the characters.
[These rest of these descriptions need updating, sorry. Coming "soon"...]
Chinese Plus, from Kingsoft, adds input methods, fonts and tools to Windows XP and 2000. One of the additional input methods is the convenient English-to-Chinese method. Unique utilities include a character-to-Pinyin converter (with tone marks), Chinese and English OCR scanning software, a Chinese and English text-to-speech reader, and the Kingsoft Powerword Chinese-English / English-Chinese dictionary.
The package includes thirty fonts licensed from Founder, fifteen each in traditional and simplified, including the Kai, Fangsong and traditional Hei fonts necessary to complete your basic set, plus Weibei, many other ornate and calligraphic fonts. The developers claim the product is in the latest GB encoding but appears to contain the base character sets for Big 5 and GBK. Installation instructions are in both English and Chinese. Prices range from approximately US $130 to US $300 depending on the number of fonts and utilities included in the package.
Chinese Star, from Beijing Chinese Star Cyber Technology Ltd., also adds input methods, fonts and tools to Windows XP and 2000. Additional input methods include English-to-Chinese and a full sentence Pinyin input method called "Intelligent Sentence Recognition". (I have not compared this to the "Full Pinyin" full-sentence input in the MSPY simplified input method editor that is included free with Windows XP.)
Like Chinese Plus, Chinese Star also includes the Kingsoft Powerword English-Chinese / Chinese-English dictionary. It also includes several font editing and art utilities, and the entire manual is in both English and Chinese. The 16 included fonts are in Big 5, GB2312 and Unicode, but I have not been able to obtain a list. The latest versions, Chinese Star XP and Chinese Star MP, sell for about US $300.
NJStar Communicator adds input methods and other tools to Windows, and some people still prefer this to the stock Windows IMEs - even though the last time I checked it hadn't been updated beyond Windows XP and really wasn't all that necessary for XP anyway. Note that it may try to change your system settings to a Chinese locale upon installation.
The NJStar Chinese Word Processor is also worth mentioning here, as it is optimized for Asian languages and also adds to your system additional input methods like English-to-Chinese, plus simplified and traditional fonts, Pinyin with tone marks, control over Pinyin entry that may interest teachers using it as an educational tool, Mandarin text-to-speech, an English-Chinese / Chinese-English dictionary including inline "popup" lookup, and a tool for exporting text as graphics right into an e-mail message. Text can be exchanged with MS Office XP and similar Unicode-compliant programs via an rtf file.
The TrueType fonts in the "Pro" package are Song, Kai, Hei and Fangsong in both traditional and simplified, plus two more traditional fonts in the "Plus" package. Prices range from US $99 to US $329 for the various packages, from a version with bitmapped fonts only to "Pro" packages with TrueType fonts and text-to-speech.
Q9 is a newly popular input method you might want to memorize if you are also going to use it on cell phones or PDAs. On a PC keyboard, you use the number/calculator keypad. The approach is similar to many traditional input methods, in that you memorize a way of inputting characters by strokes, but Q9 is quite an innovation in efficient input with only 9 number keys. (The zero and the decimal keys get used too, but who's counting?)
Methods like this require a very good knowledge of Chinese penmanship. If you didn't grow up writing Chinese, good luck. But Q9's speed is very impressive. About US $10 to add the basic Q9 method, and US $70 for a package of addtional features like fuzzy entry and a bundled dictionary.
Unfortunately, development of RichWin did not continue after Windows 2000 was released. Once one of leading add-ins for enabling Chinese in older versions of Windows, for many it was the only choice. Although no longer necessary in 2000 or XP, the developers could have offered enhancements such as additional input methods, fonts and utilities, but they did not. Three of their competitors have attempted this: see Chinese Plus, Chinese Star and TwinBridge in this section.
TwinBridge Chinese Partner / TwinBridge CJK Partner
Version 6 of this add-in is for Windows XP and 2000 only, and is priced at about US $180 for a Chinese-only version and US $300 for a complete Chinese/Japanese/Korean package.
Once one of the only choices for adding East Asian languages to previous versions of Windows, Twinbridge still offers some value by expanding on the basic East Asian capabilities of XP and 2000. For example, although the TwinBridge Pinyin input method is quite similar to methods included with Windows XP, TwinBridge also includes additional methods like English-to-Chinese that can be very useful at times. TwinBridge also adds several fonts and system utilities.
TwinBridge 6 includes 49 fonts, enough to complete most users' libraries, all mapped to the latest Unicode encoding (GB 18030) and containing the standard 13,000 Big 5 traditional characters and 7,000 GB 2312 simplified characters. They include the Kai, Fangsong and traditional Hei fonts needed to complete your basic set, plus many more including a zhuyin font, a zhuyin-plus-Kai font and many fancy printing fonts.
TwinBridge utilities convert between various encoding systems, and help with both Unicode compliant software (like the latest versions of MS Office and Adobe InDesign) and older ANSI software (even Notepad). It includes an ANSI converter, a single-byte converter, and even a text-to-graphics converter for use in software that will not accept East Asian content any other way.
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