Chinese Input

under Windows 2000

and Word 2000 or 2002

with an Appendix on Linux


N. Sivin

Draft 7



Because of Win2K's support for Unicode, the world standard for inputting all major languages, it is unnecessary to use a front end such as TwinBridge for Chinese input. Versions of Word from 2000 on have a built-in facility for any language included in the Unicode standard.

In order to use Chinese input, follow these steps:

1. Enable Chinese in Windows.

2. Set up Chinese input in Microsoft Office and Word.

3. Begin typing Chinese

4. Convert old documents

If you find it necessary to use characters that are not in the Chinese font, Windows 2000 and later provide a character editor for the purpose. For instructions, see "Making Your Own Chinese Characters."

Win2K sets itself up differently on different computers. You may find that the instructions given below do not quite match what you see. If you let me know (see my address at end), I will include your variation.

Enable Chinese in Windows

In Windows 2000. On the Windows Start menu, point to Settings, and then click Control Panel. Double-click the Regional Options icon. On the General tab under "Language settings for the system," click Simplified Chinese, and then click Add (if there is such a button). When you click OK, your computer may demand the Win2K or Office 2000 CD-ROM so that it can copy font files to your hard disk.

Do not add Traditional Chinese, since all the traditional characters are available from within the simplified Chinese input method. If you find that all the boxes are already checked (which may happen depending on the Windows installation), uncheck all except "Simplified Chinese" and "Western Europe and the United States (default)."

Then click on the rightmost tab at the top of the dialog, "Input Locales." Under "Installed Input Locales" you will probably find only English. Click the "Add" button and, under "Input Locale," choose "Chinese (PRC)." Under "Keyboard Layout" choose "MS Pinyin" (or whatever input method you prefer). In the lower part of the dialog, you can set "Switch between Input Locales" to either control-shift or alt-shift. "Switch to English" can be left at "none," since the other hotkey is a toggle. Be sure to choose the "Enable indicator on taskbar" box.

You may wish to enable Japanese at the same time, but I would suggest learning with one language before moving on. There is no need, by the way, to buy specialized Microsoft products for multiple languages.

In Windows XP. Open Control Panel, select Regional and Language Options. Go to Languages; under Supplemental Language Support, select “Install Files for Asian Languages,” OK, OK. Wait for files to install, reboot computer.

Return to Regional and Language Options. Under Text Services & Input Languages, Installed Services, select Add. In Add Input Language dialog, choose Input Language, “Chinese, PRC,” OK. Choose Key Settings, “Switch between Input Languages,” make your choice of hotkeys, OK, OK.

Enable Chinese in Office

On the Windows Start menu, point to Programs, point to Microsoft Office Tools, and then click Language Settings. Check "Chinese (simplified)" and, if you have installed it, Japanese. You may find that as a result of the previous step they are already checked.

Choosing a Type Face

Win2K installs half a dozen type faces (what are called fonts in computerese) for use with East Asian script. They include Chinese: PmingLiU and MingLiU, designed for European languages, Chinese and Japanese, and Nsimsun and SimSun, designed for European languages and Chinese only, but also usable for Japanese. The Simsun pair is esthetically a little better, and is the default for Chinese. Since it is also used in menus, it is the one font among those listed below that you can't get rid of. If you are going to use Japanese as well, PmingLiU permits better consistency in forms between the two East Asian languages, and the ratio between full-size and small hiragana is considerably better. But because it isn ' t the default, it is more trouble to use. After a number of trials, I have settled on SimSun for Chinese and MS Mincho for Japanese.

. Despite the design emphasis noted in the rightmost column, all of these fonts work perfectly well for traditional and simplified Chinese. MS Mincho (the default font for Japanese input) and MS UI Gothic are designed for Japanese only, and Batang and Batang Che (not listed above) for Korean. Here is basic information on all but the last pair, which I have not tried: I welcome information based on your experience to fill in the blanks.



No. chars.

File size

Designed for


Mono (L), Serif (C)



Ch (traditional)





Ch (traditional)

MS Hei

Mono (L), Sans (C)



Ch (simplified)

MS Song

Mono (L), Serif (C)



Ch (simplified)


Mono (L), Serif (C)



Ch (s) default





Ch (simplified)

MS Gothic

Mono (L), Sans (J)




MS Mincho

Mono (L), Serif (J)



Japanese default

Arial Unicode





(C= Chinese, J= Japanese, L=Latin)

There are other very large, complete fonts, that include all supported languages, not just Asian ones. Arial Unicode may also be among those that Win2K puts on your hard disk. Others available from Microsoft or elsewhere include Bitstream CyberBit, Bitstream CyberCJK and Code2000. Cyberbit's European faces are identical with Times New Roman. Keep in mind that these files make large demands on a word processor's memory (13MB for Cyberbit), and thus tend to slow it down on an old computer or on one without RAM to spare. If you have no special reason to use a comprehensive Unicode face, you can avoid this memory burden by choosing one of the fonts that include East Asian characters listed in the table. If you do not intend to use Arial Unicode, to avoid this drag on memory, make sure that it is not installed (that is, automatically loaded in memory, so that it is visible among those listed in Microsoft Word). You may also come across Unicode East Asian fonts the names of which begin with "@". These are designed for printing in vertical columns (although they will do so only in an application set up for that kind of printing).

Once you have decided what font you want to use, you do not have to do anything until the next step. You can minimize waste of memory by uninstalling fonts you do not intend to use. If you don't know which ones you use, you might want to download PC Magazine's free utility FONTVIEWER2. It will search your whole hard disk (it takes a while), report how many files use each utility, and help you uninstall the ones that are just sitting there.

Begin Typing Chinese

Different versions of Windows install different help files for various input methods. If you get help in English when you hit F1, that is because the folder C:\WINNT\system32\IME\PINTLGNT\ contains a file named PINTLGNE.CHM. The corresponding file for help in Chinese is PINTLGNT.CHM; there may also be a help file for the input pad (see below), PINTLPAE.CHM. Some of what follows summarizes these three files.

Open Word. By default, the word processor will be enabled for English, and the little indicator at the bottom of the screen will read English (U.S.). To enable Chinese, normally all you have to do is alt-shift (or control-shift if that is what you previously set). If that does not do the trick, click on the dark blue EN icon in the system tray (you may have to minimize Word to get at it). It will change to the gaily colored Chinese icon.

When you want to type some Chinese, do alt-shift. A little toolbar will appear at the bottom of the screen (you can move it with your mouse). It will initially show, at its left end, either for English or for Chinese.

This is a little more complicated if you have also enabled Japanese. If the bar you see shows neither character, but rather a capital A, you are looking at the bar for Japanese. Alt-shift toggles between all the languages you have enabled, so you will have to press that hotkey once more to get Chinese. A third press will return to English input only. There is an undocumented trick that works on my desktop but not on my laptop. Once I have called up Chinese or Japanese with alt-shift in that Word session, I can start Chinese or turn it off with control-space. That ignores the installed Japanese.

The toolbar. There are 8 items on the toolbar:

1. the toggle for English/Chinese just mentioned, operated by pressing the Shift key alone;

2. a choice between the single and double Pinyin input systems, which you can ignore unless you want to learn the latter;

3. a toggle between English and Chinese punctuation;

4. a toggle to turn the soft keyboard on and off (see #7 for choosing the soft keyboard);

5. a toggle between fanti and jianti characters;

6. a toggle to open and close various pads for assorted input methods such as BoPoMoFo, radical-stroke, or a complete list of Unicode characters;

7. a switch for the option menu. It offers four basic choices: (a) a number of soft keyboards for punctuation etc.; (b) a user-defined dictionary file, which lets you view all the compounds you have defined; (c) a toggle to choose between a little input area near the cursor or one at the bottom of the screen, which takes up a lot more space; and (d) a Properties dialog that lets you set various options:  I would suggest that, until you have had enough experience to know what you want, you only set the unit of input ("conversion mode" 功能设置) to "phrases詞語" rather than "sentences整句" unless you are mainly typing in whole sentences for modern speech. Other options which you may decide are useful, under "user function," include "enable learning 自学习" and "enable user-defined phrase 用户自造词." The former rearranges choices of character by how often you have chosen them, and the latter remembers new phrases as you create them.

By now you will have noticed that, for the Chinese Input Method Editor, the menus and help are in Chinese. You will want gradually to explore both to learn about the IME's additional capabilities.

For the Japanese IME, the procedures are quite different. At least under Windows 2000, although there is no help file in English, the menus and dialogs, on the other hand, are normally set to display in English, or can be set to do so in the properties dialog. If you want to learn Japanese input, I suggest consulting the clear instructions with screen shots at (please let me know if this URL becomes unavailable).In my limited experience, entering non-vernacular kanji is so onerous that one is more or less forced to use Chinese input for them. An exception is Japanese personal names, which the Japanese IME handles rather well.

Typing in Chinese. When you enable the little toolbar with Alt-Shift, it will appear ready to type Chinese. If it is already present and you want to shift from English to Chinese or vice versa, you can click the leftmost icon on the little toolbar, but it is simpler and quicker just to hit the Shift key without hitting any other key; you will see the character for the language change on the toolbar. You can now begin typing. You can type the Pinyin for either individual characters or phrases. For letters that require an umlaut, type v instead of u (e.g., nv for "woman ").

As soon as you type in a Pinyin syllable, a character will appear in the text, probably the wrong one. All you have to do is press the space bar, and a bar (the "candidate window") will appear offering you ten numbered choices.

On some computers, pressing the space bar will only put a dotted line under the Pinyin, and you will have to press the space bar again to open the window. On others, or if you use sentence rather than phrase input, the IME uses the left arrow rather than the spacebar to convert Pinyin to graphs. Just move backward to the beginning of the Chinese that appears in the text.

Type the number of the character you want. If it is the character that first appeared, now highlighted on the bar, just hit the space bar again to put it in the text. If it is another character, you can click your choice with the mouse or type its number. If the character you want isn't visible, do PageDown, or use the mouse, to go to the next 10 choices. Keep going until you have found the character you want and have inserted it in the text. If the syllable corresponds to many homophonous characters, you can save a little searching by typing without pause or space a number for the tone (e.g., jing4), so that you will be shown only graphs with that tone.

For a phrase, just type the whole Pinyin phrase with no spaces in between. The space bar will show you the compounds with that pronunciation that are already in the IME's dictionary. If yours is not among them, you will be offered individual characters on the character bar following the compounds. When you have chosen the first graph you want, the little bar will show you homophones of the second graph in the compound. Once you have inserted the whole phrase that you want, it will become part of the IME's vocabulary. You can review your additions using the dictionary file mentioned above.

 When you are finished with Chinese, move the cursor out of the Chinese area; I use the mouse. Otherwise, your next move may change the graphs. You will also want to hit Shift to change the language to English. In some versions of the IME, the alt key will get you out of the Chinese, but in others it will erase it. You may find it easiest just to do alt-shift, which will get the whole Chinese apparatus out of the way and put you back into English.

If you have enabled learning, as you type Chinese, the characters and phrases that you use most frequently will eventually move to the head of the list in the candidate bar.

Converting Old Documents

Microsoft claims that if you have old documents that you created in Word using TwinBridge or a similar input program, you can convert them to Word2K Unicode. I haven't found that this works for my old files, created with word processors other than Word. To set it up, go to Start/Programs/Microsoft Office Tools/Microsoft Office Language Settings. The option is Tools/Options/General/English Word 6/95 Documents. Set it to Contain Asian Text. And good luck!

If you would like to know more about Win2K language support and options, there is fairly substantial coverage in Bill Camarda, Special Edition. Using Word 2000 (Indianapolis: Que, 1999), ch. 26.

Appendix: Input in Ubuntu Linux

Many who are fed up with Microsoft software's telling users what to do and to harassing those who want to do things their own way are fleeing to Linux. As Windows and Office continue to add bloat, many prefer programs that will carry out all the important functions without endlessly adding ones that no one will learn how to use. Although Linux used to be an operating system for experts, this has entirely ceased to be the case. It is easy to try, easy to install, easy to learn, and carries an excellent range of applications. Both the OS (operating system) and the programs are free. Furthermore, although Windows Vista has greatly increased its memory and hardware requirements, the latest versions of Linux work quite happily on computers that can no longer run any MS-supported version of Windows.

I am now using Ubuntu, which has become the most widespread of the many flavors of Linux. Like Windows, it supports Unicode as well as True Type and Type 1 fonts.

You can download a CD image of the OS, with programs included, without charge from, burn it onto a CD, and use it to boot your computer. (They will even send you a CD free if you ask for it.) That lets you try it out and confirm that it supports all of your hardware and does what you want to do. If and when you wish to install it on your system, either instead of or in addition to Windows, you do it from the same CD (unless you want to use your computer as a server, in which case you need more than one disk). You can also get documentation from the same site; if you don't like to read it on your monitor, you can download and print PDF files.

The counterpart of MS Office is It is included in the Ubuntu disk. Its Writer application is as versatile as Word, and works in much the same way. It can open and save in Word's file formats, *.DOC and *.RTF, so it can read the same files Word can. The new version of MS Office has adopted a file format based on OOo's own XML format. You will definitely want to download the 2.0 Writer Guide from to learn the differences.

Setting up in Linux

Enabling Chinese input in Ubuntu v. 7.0.4 is easier than in Windows. First, make sure you are connected to the Web. At Ubuntu's main menu, do System, Administration, Language Support (it will ask for your password to carry out this administrative function). Under Supported Languagescheck Chinese,make sure your default language (the one for menus, dialogs, etc.) is set correctly, and check Enable Support to enter complex characters.When you press OK, the OS will probably download and install various needed files.

The next step involves typing commands in the terminal (similar to a DOS prompt) and using your password again (that is how Ubuntu protects system files from damage), so you will need to learn these basic skills.

First, you need to know the proper abbreviation for your default language. To do so, type at the dollar-sign prompt:

locale | grep LANG=

(the vertical line is the upper-case broken line on your “\” key), and make a note of the result.

The second command is:

sudo apt-get install scim-qtimm im-switch scim-pinyin

The OS will ask for your password, and will then download the file and install it. When it is finished, it will return you to the prompt. Type:

im-switch -z <LANGUAGE CODE> -s scim

substituting the language code you noted down for “<LANGUAGE CODE>.”

All Linux commands are case-sensitive, so don't mix upper and lower case.

Yo begin Chinese input, you will need to log off your Ubuntu account and then on again.

Setting up in Writer

Open Writer and go to the Tools menu, then to Options, Language Settings. Click the box next to “Language Settings” to open the items under it. Select “Languages” and, under Default Languages for Documents, set “Asian” to “Chinese (simplified).” This choice, as in Windows, lets you use pinyin to input both jianti and fanti characters. Below, check the box “Enabled for Asian Languages.”

The next time you open OOo and go to the Options menu, you will find additional choices under Language Settings. Go to the “Asian Layout” item and select “Chinese (simplified).”

You are finished. Control-spacekey starts and stops Chinese input. A little toolbar like the one in Windows will appear. It works pretty much like the one in Word. Hovering your mouse cursor over each item on the toolbar will tell you what it does. When you type pinyin for a character or phrase, a line of numbered choices will appear. Use the Page Down key to go to the next line if what you want is not on the current one. When you find your choice, type its number and then the space key. The latter inserts the chosen character, not a space, at the cursor.

Keep in mind that the default Chinese font in Linux may not be the same as that in the Word file you received from someone. If you can't read the Chinese, or don't like the font, all you have to do is to select it and choose the Linux font you normally use. If you want to use the True Type Chinese font you were accustomed to in Word (e.g., Simsun), you can install it in Linux, but that's another story.

Copyright reserved by Nathan Sivin. Please email
nsivin! at sas! dot upenn! dot edu! (but use normal form and omit the exclamation points)
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Last Modified 2007.6.3