- Chinese input methods for computers
Hundreds of Chinese input methods are available for entry of Chinese characters into computers, but most keyboard-based methods rely on either pinyin phonetic readings or root shapes in Chinese characters. Although the pinyin method is easier to learn, root shapes are often preferred by professional typists due to their faster input speed.
Other methods allow users to write characters on a designated "pad"; this requires extra equipment but can be performed using a mobile phone with a touchscreen.
Chinese input methods predate the computer. One of the early attempts was an electro-mechanical Chinese typewriter Ming kwai (Chinese: 明快; pinyin: míngkuài; Wade–Giles: ming-k'uai) which was invented by Lin Yutang, a prominent Chinese writer. It assigned thirty base shapes or strokes to different keys and adopted a new way of categorizing Chinese characters. But the typewriter was not produced commercially and Lin soon found himself deeply in debt.
Before the 1980s, Chinese publishers hired teams of workers and selected a few thousand type pieces from an enormous Chinese character set. Chinese government agencies entered charcters using a long, complicated list of Chinese telegraph codes, which assigned different numbers to each character. During the early computer era, Chinese characters were categorized by their radicals or Pinyin (or romanization), but results weren't completely satisfactory.
Chu Bong-Foo invented the input method used today in 1976 with his Cangjie input method, which assigns different "roots" to each key on a standard computer keyboard. With this method, for example, the character 日 is assigned to the A key, and 月 is assigned to B. Typing them together will result in the character 明 ("bright").
Despite its difficulty of learning, this method remains popular in Chinese communities that use traditional Chinese characters, such as Hong Kong and Taiwan; it is also the first method that allowed users to enter more than a hundred Chinese characters per minute.
All methods have their strengths and weaknesses. The pinyin method can be learned rapidly but its maximum input rate is limited. The Wubi takes longer to learn, but expert typists can enter text much more rapidly with it than with phonetic methods.
Due to these complexities, there is no "standard" method.
In mainland China, wubi (shape-based) and pinyin methods such as Sogou Pinyin and Google Pinyin are the most popular; in Taiwan, Boshiamy, Cangjie, and zhuyin predominate; and in Hong Kong, Cangjie is most often taught in schools.
Other methods include handwriting recognition, OCR and voice recognition. The computer itself must first be "trained" before the first or second of these methods are used; that is, the new user enters the system in a special "learning mode" so that the system can learn to identify his handwriting or speech patterns. The latter two methods are used less frequently than keyboard-based input methods and suffer from relatively high error rates, especially when used without proper "training", though higher error rates are an acceptable trade-off to many users.
Pronunciations are converted into relevant Chinese characters with phonetic methods. Homophones commonly found in the Chinese language are listed for selection by the user. Modern systems, such as Sogou Pinyin and Google Pinyin, learn the user's preferences and "predict" the most wanted characters based on the context. For example, if one enters the sounds jicheng, the software will type 繼承 (to inherit), but if jichengche is entered, 計程車 (taxi) will appear.
Chinese speakers find the phonetic system easy to learn, choosing appropriate Chinese characters slows typing speed. While there is yet no research comparing available typing speeds, most users report they can enter fifty characters per minute, and some can even reach over one hundred per minute.
- Cangjie method (倉頡; 仓颉)
- Simplified Cangjie (簡易倉頡, known as 速成 on Windows systems)
- CKC Chinese Input System (縱橫輸入法)
- Boshiamy method (嘸蝦米)
- Dayi method (大易)
- Array method (行列)
- Four corner method (四角碼; 四角码)
- Q9 method (九方)
- Shouwei method (首尾字型)
- Stroke count method (筆畫; 笔画)
- Stroke method (筆劃; 笔划)
- Wubi method (五筆字型; 五笔字型)
- Wubihua method (五筆畫; 五笔画)
- Zheng code method (鄭碼; 郑码)
- Shou-wei Hao-ma method (首尾號碼)
- Knot DNA method (筆結碼)
- Tze-loi method (子來; 子来)
- Renzhi code method (認知碼; 认知码)
Examples of keyboard layouts
A typical keyboard layout for zhuyin on computers, which can be used as an input method
The Wubi keyboard which is an input method
A typical keyboard layout for Dayi method
Sogou Pinyin is a popular Chinese Pinyin input method editor developed by Sogou, a Chinese search engine. It is also available on-line without installation, through a so-called "cloud input method".
Please refer to the term Google Pinyin.
- List of input methods for UNIX platforms
- List of CJK fonts
- Japanese language and computers
- Korean language and computers
- Han unification
- List of FEP software for Symbian S60
- Character amnesia
- Chinese character encodings:
- What Does a Chinese Keyboard Look Like?, article by Slate.com
- Overview of Input Methods, by Sebastien Bruggeman.
- 中文輸入法世界 Chinese input method news.
- What is an Input Method Editor and how do I use it?, a Microsoft article about Windows XP's Input Method Editor.
- Enabling International Support in Windows XP/Server 2003 Family, a Microsoft tutorial on how to install input methods on Windows XP.
- Tutorial on typing Chinese using PinYin method - based on HanWJ Chinese Input Engine
- IME Tutorial, tutorial on how to use Microsoft Global IME for pre-Windows 2000 systems.
- Microsoft Voice Recognition
- Typing Chinese Online with Optional Tone Input
- Online Cantonese Input
- SCIM's homepage
- Chinese Input Method Software
- InputKing Online Input System, an online IME with multiple input methods, supporting both simplified and traditional characters.
- G6 Chinese Input Method (preinstalled on some Android phones eg. by HTC)
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