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Chinese Language Features
in Windows 10 & Windows 8

A Quick Start Guide to Using Chinese Language Features
in Non-Chinese Versions of Win 10 and 8

On this page - Chinese features overview:
Reading   ◊  Writing  ◊   Fonts  ◊  Display Languages  ◊   Other Features

Windows 10 setup pages:
Input methods setupTraditional character Pinyin input
Simplified character input alternative: MSZY
 Handwriting, speech, & language packs
Advanced features ◊ Help files - in English!
Missing, Broken, and Just Plain Lame Chinese Features in Windows 10

Windows 8 setup pages:
Input Setup  ◊  Pinyin for Traditional Chinese  ◊  Handwriting & Display Languages
Missing and broken Chinese features in Windows 8 and 8.1


Windows 7 Chinese character input example

Most versions of Windows 10 and 8 include the Chinese features of Windows 7 Ultimate, including display language packs and handwriting input. There are two types of single-language editions that I will discuss below, but Starter, Home, Pro, Enterprise, and Education editions work in multiple languages.

Windows 7 users: before you upgrade, see this list of missing, broken, and just plain lame Chinese language features in Windows 10. The July 2016 one-year Anniversary Update made many improvements, but may still be lacking features you need.

Windows 8 users: the free upgrade to 10 is a good idea for you, and I recommend you do so as soon as possible if you have an upgradable system. If you have a mainland China version, please see the next section.



Windows 10 introduces a finger-friendly Start menu, plus more consistent apps and setup across new and old control panels, helping to do away with the confusing "bipolar" nature of Windows 8 where changing a setting on the tablet side may not affect the desktop side, or may only be available on one side but still affect both, or whatever. More about that on the setup pages. But first, a general introduction to the Chinese features.


In the US versions and most other country editions, you can read and write Chinese while using Windows 10 or 8 in your own language (English, in my case) or you can change the display language to Chinese after installing a free display language pack. There are single-language editions out there, and I'll discuss those below, but owners of Starter, Home, and Pro editions have all language features at their fingertips, and Enterprise/Education users can request the same from their administrators.


In mainland China, Microsoft distributes a Simplified Chinese edition that does not allow installation of display language packs for other languages. You can read and write in any language with this edition, but your menus and dialogs will be in Chinese only. The Windows 8 Chinese Language Edition is only upgradable to Windows 10 Home China, and your license key will not allow you to swap in any other language edition. This is different from normal single-language editions, which are discussed next because they are also available in Chinese.


Single Language Editions are available in Simplified and Traditional Chinese, however (unlike the China edition discussed above) this edition should be legally upgradable to a multilingual edition. I'm getting mixed reports about this now though, and Microsoft Support people seem just as confused. I've also been told that hacks like replacing files or swapping in a different language ISO using the same key have stopped working, so I have removed that information here. Please let me know of your experiences with this version.



Chinese Characters in Windows 8 and 10

IE10 Bing Chinese search resultsUnlike Windows XP, you do not need to "enable East Asian languages" in Windows Vista, 7, 8, or 10 just to read Chinese documents or web pages. And if you need to write Chinese, setting up input methods is easier than ever.

However, in every version of Windows, there have always been Chinese applications and websites that do not cooperate. If you encounter problems, please see my ideas for troubleshooting non-Unicode programs and web issues. I will be updating that page for the latest versons of Windows as soon as I can, but the basics are the same.

Being able to read Chinese documents and web pages is not the same as displaying all Windows menus, control panels and other system text in Chinese. For that, you need to install a display language, which is now free. See the language packs section below.



Chinese Input Methods in Windows 8 and 10

Chinese input methods in Windows 8 and 10

The Cantonese Phonetic IME (CPIME) was included in an automatic Windows 10 update. See below for more information.

The Mandarin Hanyu Pinyin input method in the "Simplified" Chinese locales includes a Traditional character option, while the "Traditional" locales includes a Simplified Character option, both with some limitations. I go into detail on these in the setup pages listed at end of this article.

First, here's a summary of the "keyboards" you'll find in there:

The "Simplified, China" and "Simplified, Singapore" regional options include the Microsoft Pinyin phonetic input method, formerly known as SimpleFast until Windows 8.1. The MSPY New Experience input method has been retired, but in Windows 8.1 the popular Wubi stroke-based input method was added. New Experience was my favorite, but in China most users prefer Pinyin input methods that visually separate each syllable. See the list of setup pages below to get started.

The "Traditional, Taiwan", Hong Kong, and Macau regional variants include the New Phonetic input method, renamed "Bopomofo" in Windows 8.1 even though it will do Zhuyin *and* Pinyin. Also included are Cantonese Phonetic (CPIME, see the next paragraph), Changjie (Cangjie), Quick, Traditional Dayi, and Traditional Array. Although Bopomofo is the default keyboard for Taiwan, and Quick is the default for Hong Kong, these are easily changed. See the links at the bottom of this page for setup instructions.

Cantonese CPIMEThe Cantonese Phonetic IME (CPIME) with Jyutping input was added as part of an automatic update for Windows 10, but it cannot be selected from the Settings menu above. You can turn it on in the "additional settings" old-style Language control panel. See the CPIME FAQ page for setup help.

Other observations:

Windows 8 RT tablet users will need to enable the full virtual keyboard after switching the Bopomofo keyboard from Zhuyin to Pinyin, or the Latin letters will not appear. I show how to do this in the setup pages listed below.

Handwriting input is also available in all releases, in the new Touch Keyboard for Simplified and Traditional characters (and also in the old IME Pad in "Chinese, Traditional"), and all releases also include speech input. Finding and installing these is a bit different in Windows 8 and Windows 10: they do not require language packs to work, but in Win 8 they can be downloaded only with a language pack. In Windows 10 they are separate downloads. See my setup links below.

For setup instructions, see the links at the bottom of this page. See also my list of third-party input methods and tools.



Chinese Fonts in Windows 8 and 10

DengXian fontWindows 10 includes a new Simplified Chinese font named DengXian.

In Windows 8, JhengHei UI and YaHei UI were added for the new "Modern" User Interface. Some minority fonts were added then too, but I haven't been tracking those.

Windows 8 and 10 also include everything listed on my Windows 7/Vista Chinese fonts page. It doesn't seem necessary to create separate font pages for Windows 8 or 10 at this time.

You may also be interested in my survey of free and commercial third-party Chinese fonts. Some of those include more characters, while others offer interesting type styles.

If you don't have all the characters you need, before looking for additional fonts you should probably visit this FAQ page: How to enable Cantonese characters and Unicode Chinese Extensions



Display Languages (Language Packs / MUI) in Windows 8 and 10

All consumer versions of Windows 8 and 10 available in the US and most other countries include the "language packs" that were previously available only with the purchase of Windows 7 Ultimate. They're available to Enterprise and Education users as well, depending on your organization's IT policies. These packs are not available in single-language versions distributed in China and some other emerging markets.

Windows 8 Start screen in Traditional Chinese display language

The Chinese display language packs offer:

  • localization of tiles, menus, settings control panels, and other features, to allow native speakers of Chinese to work comfortably in Windows using their own language, and

  • OCR support, which is something new I saw go by in an update for the Windows 10 Insider Preview. I don't know much about the Chinese OCR feature yet, and I don't use OCR much myself, so please let me know if you try this.

In versions of Windows 8 and 10 released outside Taiwan, the Traditional character display language pack is available only within the Hong Kong regional settings. In Windows 8, that language pack download is required to install handwriting, but in Windows 10 handwriting is a separate download available in all Chinese locales. All include speech.

Handwriting and speech input install separately in the new Windows 10 Settings, unless you're using the old-style desktop control panels which work like Windows 8 where you must first install the Chinese language packs. But note that in all cases they do not actually require a language pack to work after installation, and can be used under any display language, including English. (In the Taiwan/HK/Macau IME, you can also use the old IME Pad. See the advanced features page for information on that.)

Seeing "tofu boxes"? Or question marks, or other garbage characters? If you encounter Chinese software or web pages that do not display Chinese characters correctly, it is usually not necessary to use the display language packs to solve those problems. See my page on non-Unicode programs and web page issues.

Microsoft Office language packs are an entirely separate product. Also called Language Accessory Packs beginning with Office 2016, they change the interface of Office applications like Word and Excel into another language, and offer additional tools such as Traditional/Simplified Chinese conversion. See my article on Office language packs.

For Windows Language Pack setup info, see the pages listed below.



Other Features in Windows 8 and 10:
Stroke/Radical Lookup, More Speech Features, & Other Stuff

As this is "Pinyin Joe's" website, you won't see much here about other input methods, but here are a few items you may find interesting:



Next pages:

Windows 10

Windows 10 Language and input method keyboard setup

Windows 10 Traditional character Pinyin input: two alternatives

Windows 10 Simplified character Pinyin input: the MSZY alternative

Windows 10 Chinese handwriting input, speech input, & language packs

Windows 10 advanced features: desktop language bar, IME Pad, and more

Windows 10 Help files - in English!

Windows 10 missing, broken, and just plain lame Chinese features

Windows 8

Windows 8 Language and input method keyboard setup

Windows 8 Traditional character Pinyin input: two alternatives

(Windows 8 MSZY also does Simplified characters. See Win 10 link above.)

Windows 8 Chinese handwriting and display language packs (Did not cover speech input, but that's in there too. See the Win 10 article link above.)

Windows 8 and 8.1 missing/broken Chinese features

See also

FAQ: How to type "ü" ("u" with an umlaut, the two dots above the letter)

FAQ: How to open the candidate list in Microsoft Bopomofo

FAQ: How to open the candidate list in Microsoft Pinyin

FAQ: How to select the Cantonese Phonetic IME (CPIME)

Zhuyin input, Zhuyin symbols, & Zhuyin/Pinyin "ruby text" (Win7, but universal. Includes discussion of the MS Word Phonetic Guide and ruby fonts.)

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