Choose your codepage:
How to read and input Chinese on PC and on the Net
Anyone who is using computer for long time knows about national codepages problem.
Of course, when localised versions of Windows appeared, especially Win95 which could support Unicode fonts, this problem became less significant. But if you want to support English, European languages and Chinese simultaneously, the solution is not easy. Most radical is to use Chinese edition of Windows. It has full Unicode support for text applications.
But if you are not sinophone, do you agree to read system's menu items using heavy book of Chinese-English dictionary?
There is another big trouble: traditional and simplified characters. It is connected to one more problem of different Chinese codepages. Simplified GB (GuoBiao) characters are used in continental version of Windows (for PR of China and Singapore) and traditional characters in Big5 charset are used in the version of Windows intended for Taiwan and Hong Kong. I do not mention other Chinese codepages because they are dying slowly with DOS.
Chinese input software must have very important function IME (Input Method Editor). The number of Chinese characters is measured with thousands. Long time ago, in the era of mechanical typewriting, the typewrighters suited for China looked like microtypographies. They had a case with types and a lever which was used to pick up a character from the case and strike it on ink-ribbon and paper. But the computer's keyboard is not a case with up to 5000 types. So there are some sophisticated methods to input Chinese characters. As for me, I am familiar with one called PinYin, or phonetic. It means that you are to input the character's transcription according to putonghua norm. (Putonghua, or Mandarin is the official variant of Chinese, based on Northern group of dialects.) Then the program offers you the list of possible characters. You must choose with keyboard's numeric or arrow buttons or with mouse the desired one. To speed this process up most programs allow to use shortcuts, abbreviations; some may offer the next character: i.e., when you have typed a character, the program offers the list of most possible next morphemes intending you are typing two-character word.
There are some programs that allow to support Chinese in English versions of Windows. They form a category of so-called Chinese environment software. Here I describe some programs which can be downloaded from Internet. All of them support PinYin IME. As standard, all downloadable software are demos or evaluation versions. Despite of it, they are quite functional, but some important functions are deleted or blocked, and fonts have awful look.
Here is the site of TwinBridge Software which made Chinese Partner, Japanese Partner and other software related to Oriental languages.
Chinese Partner understands Big5, GB and some non-Windows Chinese codepages. They say that the full version allows to convert text between GB and Big5; font face also may be converted between simplified and traditional. It is also possible to input non-Latin letters like Russian and Greek.
Demo version has no converter function. Built-in fontface is bitmap. If you purchase commercial edition, there are many optional font packs including true-type fonts for both GB and Big5.
UnionWay has developed the program called Asian Suite. As they claim, it can understand not only Chinese codepages, but also two Japanese ones.
Chinese Star was developed by Sun Tendy company. They also offer Japanese IME. Their IME panel has very remarkable function: when you are inputting traditional Chinese, the choice panel anyway displays simplified characters. This is useful for those who know less of traditional characters but pretend to look knowing.
NJStar's Chinese WP, unlike previously described titles, is not a viewer but self-contained text editor. It looks similar to most of word processors, but has unique features. There is built-in IME function allowing to choose between GB and Big 5 both in simplified and traditional fonts, which is becoming popular for recent versions of Chinese environment software. And there's also a rather exotic feature called DICTIONARY. I cannot say for commersial version, but demo's dictionary is empty. You must fill it with English translations by yourself.
Though not so versatile as typical Chinese environment software, this WP can be of some convenience for those who needs Chinese for typing only.
They also made normal Chinese module NJStar Communicator. It works good under Win 95, but has appeared destructive for my Win 98.
Standard distributive of Internet Explorer 5.0 has got IME modules for major Oriental languages. If you install the 5.0 for the first time, check the options of desired languages' support and input. Then there will be installed MS Global IME, the application based on ActiveX technology.
MS Global IME also works in Internet Explorer 4.x and in MS Word 2000. IME modules can be downloaded separately from the site of Microsoft. If you are experiencing trouble when downloading big files, you'd better use the FTP client which allows to download files in pieces and to try your luck here: scmondo.exe (code table: GB, IME: Pinyin), tcmondo.exe (code table: Big-5, IME: Zhuyin). For Japanese and Korean there are files jamondo.exe è komondo.exe.
If your favorite text processor is Word 97, you can download this file: chinput.exe. This is a macro by Erik Peterson that adds Chinese IME function to Word 97. Instructions on use are inside the file.
As a bonus, it is followed by Add Tones macro. That makes it possible to type pinyin with tone marks in Word 97. An useful function for the teachers of Chinese, who make learning materials of their own.
It is also possible to install additional hieroglyphic fonts into system. There is a good collection of Chinese fonts: http://www.51fonts.com/index1.htm. Choose those you like and download them with any download manager with interrupt file download function, such as Reget. Then extract them from the archives and copy into C:\WINDOWS\FONTS\ folder. These fonts work with MS Word 97 and MS Word 2000 normally. As I guess, the fonts with traditional typeface are based on GB codepage, so it becomes possible to type traditional characters without zhuyin in standard MS IME environment.
Added in June 2007
Oriental languages are supported in Windows 2000 and Windows XP from the scratch. All you need to do is to switch them on via Control Panel.
How to switch Chinese support in Windows XP:
Insert the Windows CD into the disk drive. Then open the Control Panel:
On the Regional and Language Options panel choose the Languages tab and under the headline of Supplemental language support check the Install files for East Asian languages option:
After clicking the Details button there appears the Text Services and Input Languages panel:
On the Add input language panel choose Cninese (PRC) and Chinese (Simplified) Microsoft Pinyin IME:
Now you can install the traditional characters' support. On the Text Services and Input Languages panel click the Add button; on the Add input language panel choose Chinese (Taiwan) and Microsoft New Phonetic IME:
After these operations you can enjoy inputting both simplified and traditional characters by means of pinyin.
A collection of downloable fonts: http://www.magic-live.com/fonts/.
Font converters for pinyin with tone marks: http://www.foolsworkshop.com/pfc/pinyinfonts.html.
© Dmitry Alemasov
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