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(Plus a few more goodies from Microsoft too!)

Free Chinese Applications

Pinyin with tone marks

  • Pinyinput: Pinyin-with-tone-marks input method for Windows
  • PinyinTones: Pinyin-with-tone-marks input method for Windows
  • Pinyin macros: my macros for Word and Excel, on this website

Dictionaries (see also free online Chinese tools below)

  • CantoFish: Cantonese/Mandarin-English pop-up dictionary for Firefox
  • Perapera-kun: Mandarin-English pop-up dictionary for Firefox & Chrome
  • Pinyiner: Mandarin-English/Pinyin pop-up dictionary for Android

Input methods

Other good stuff

  • OO Pinyin Guide: Pinyin ruby text for the OpenOffice/LibreOffice Phonetic Guide

 

Free Online Chinese Tools

 

Commercial Chinese Applications

 

Detailed descriptions:

 

Free Chinese Applications

Pinyinput: a free Pinyin-with-tone-marks input method for Windows

PinyinputPinyinput installs in your system and works just like other standard input methods. It has performed well in every application I've tried.

Windows users please note that the latest version can install within an English or Chinese IME, solving an MS Word font problem that was in previous versions.

Pinyinput officially supports the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7, Vista or XP, and I've also gotten it to work on the desktop side of Windows 8 and 10 but not in tablet apps. The developer even tried to find backing for a Mac version on Kickstarter arrow - new site. Unfortunately that was not successful, but when I last heard from him he was still considering adding Zhuyin (Bopomofo) to the Windows version.

You can download Pinyinput from Pinyinput.net. arrow - new site 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. arrow - new site

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PinyinTones: a free Pinyin-with-tone-marks input method for Windows

PinyinTines

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 and 10 support for both desktop and Windows Store tablet 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 and not in the Chinese or English IME.

PinyinTones works in 32-bit and 64-bit Windows Vista and Windows 7, as well as Windows 8 and 10 on the desktop and in the tablet interface. 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 arrow - new site and here is the PinyinTones discussion and support group on Chinese-Forums.com. arrow - new site

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Pinyiner: a free Mandarin-English/Pinyin pop-up dictionary for Android

Just now trying out this free app on my Android devices! Press and copy Simplified or Traditional Chinese text from your browser, messeges, or other apps, and it automatically goes into the Pinyiner clipboard annotaded with Pinyin. Tap on a word there, and the English meaning(s) pop up. And yes, it's smart enough not to do anything when you copy English or other non-Chinese text. There is also an ad-free paid version. Download from Google Play arrow - new site

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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 arrow - new site or the Chrome web store, arrow - new site install it, and then go to the Perapera-kun website arrow - new site 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!

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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. See the CantoFish Firefox add-on page arrow - new site for more info.

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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 CantoInput Github page arrow - new site to learn more.

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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. arrow - new site

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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.)

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Microsoft Taiwan/HK/Macau 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.)

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Google Pinyin input method

Google Pinyin

The Google Pinyin input method can be downloaded here. arrow - new site You may want to use Google Translate to convert the instructions to English. (See the Free Online Chinese Tools links above.) You can also learn more in English from this Wikipedia article on the Google Pinyin input method. arrow - new site There is also an official Google Group for Google's Chinese tools. arrow - new site

I 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.

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Sogou Pinyin input method

Sogou Pinyin

The Wikipedia article on the Sugou Pinyin input method arrow - new site 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 arrow - new site and there is an English-language discussion group thread on the Sogou IME at Chinese-Forums.com. arrow - new site 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. arrow - new site

Sougou IME with search

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Unispim Pinyin Input Method

Unispim

I'm told this is also a popular input method on mainland China. Haven't tried it myself, but it looks very nicely done. Many thanks to Jim Satko in Beijing for this recommendation! (You can contact Jim via email by clicking here.) The developer is Thunisoft, a.k.a. Huayu. See the Unispim download page for more information.

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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. :-)

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Jade Gazebo Input Method

Jade GazeboThis free input method is shape-based, like Cangjie or Wubi, but it uses a graphical interface that you may find easier to use. Methods like this are always faster than Pinyin if you take the time to become an expert, but the developer says you can learn this one in five minutes! Please let me know what you think. Download Jade Gazebo here. arrow - new site -->

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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. arrow - new site

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Commercial Chinese Applications

ChinaScribe

ChinaScribe arrow - new site 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.

ChinaScribe

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[These rest of these descriptions need updating, sorry. Coming "soon"...]

Chinese Plus

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.

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Chinese Star

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.

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NJStar

NJStar Communicator arrow - new site 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 arrow - new site 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

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.

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RichWin

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.

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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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