kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
[personal profile] kake

A few months ago I posted about Chinese keyboard input via pinyin, mostly focusing on OS X (since that's the platform I use). Here's an update on things I've found out since then.

Firstly, I came across a couple of comprehensive websites on the subject: Pinyin Joe covers MS Windows, Ubuntu Linux, and smartphones, while [chinese mac] unsurprisingly covers OS X and other Mac operating systems.

There are also a few specific things that I've found particularly useful on OS X (10.6, though some of this applies to older versions too). One of these is that if you switch to pinyin input and then bring up the input methods menu again (by clicking on the little flag in the menu bar), it will have various extra pinyin-specific options including a Preferences dialogue. Under the General section in this, you can increase the font size in the "candidate window" (character dropdown) — very handy if you don't have brilliant eyesight.

Another Preferences option is "show input keys", which if ticked will show the pinyin and tones as you scroll down the candidate list. This does seem to slow things down a bit, but it can be useful on occasion if you're feeling the need to review your tones.

Something else I didn't realise before is that in pinyin input mode I can type "yu2" instead of just "yu", and it won't bother showing me things like 芋 (yù/yu4/taro).

Finally, in the comments on my previous post, [personal profile] pne asked about typing words rather than individual characters in OS X pinyin input. My reply was that while I'd noticed this was possible, I hadn't yet figured out how to add new words to the "dictionary" that OS X uses to decide which combinations of characters are plausible words. I have now! All you need to do is this:

  • Switch to pinyin input mode (see instructions on my previous post).
  • Type your word (e.g. type "niurou" for 牛肉/beef).
  • Press SPACE to get the dropdown — if your word appears, just choose it. Otherwise, there are a couple of possibilities:
    • It may offer a word that isn't actually the one you want, for example suppose you type "huangjiang", aiming for 黃姜 (turmeric), but it only offers you 黃醬 (yellow bean paste). If this happens, just press BACKSPACE and it will jump back to the first component it recognises (which may be a single character or a multi-character word), and offer you a dropdown for this.
      • If the correct character(s) are shown in this dropdown, just select them by pressing ENTER, and it will set these down and then move on to offer you a dropdown for the next recognised component (again, maybe a single character or maybe a multi-character word).
      • If this component is a multi-character one, and the correct characters aren't shown in the dropdown, press BACKSPACE again to break the component down even further.
    • It may not have any matching words at all — in this case, when you initially press SPACE it will just jump back to the first component it recognises, and offer you a dropdown for that one, then proceed as above.
  • The clever part is that it will now add this word to its dictionary, so the next time you type it, it will be there as an option in the dropdown.

Note that the above is more complicated to describe than it is to do — just have a play around with it and it should soon make sense. I also made a slightly clunky diagram, which may help.

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.


December 2012


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