Ever wonder how to input Chinese characters into your computer? There are actually several methods for Chinese input, but I want to focus on what I personally find to be the fastest and most widely-used method: Pinyin.
Don’t know pinyin? Learn pinyin on your iPhone
UPDATED: Things have changed a bit in the latest version of Mac OS X, so please refer to the updated guide on how to type Chinese (Mac) if you’re running Mac OS X Yosemite or later.
Adding Chinese Pinyin Input Methods
First, open your System Preferences from the Apple menu.
Then, Select Language & Text
Make sure the Input Sources tab is selected, then scroll down to until you find “Chinese – Simplified” and “Chinese – Traditional”. Check the one you prefer to use. I personally use both and then use keyboard shortcuts to quickly switch between them as needed. Deselect all sub-options except for “Pinyin – Simplified” and/or “Pinyin -Traditional”.
Make sure “Show Input menu in menu bar” is checked (near the bottom of the window) so you can see which input method is currently selected by looking at the menu bar.
Switching between input methods
At this point, you will see a new menu bar item at the top of your screen.
Tapping on said menu bar item will reveal the input menu. You can switch back and forth between input methods by selecting the method of choice here.
Using keyboard shortcuts to switch between input methods
If you’re like me, you don’t like taking your hands off the keyboard while typing. And, when typing, you’ll often need to switch between English and Chinese. So, let’s set up keyboard shortcuts to quickly switch between English and Chinese Pinyin input methods.
In the same Language & Text window, click on the “Keyboard Shortcuts…” button. Then, select “Keyboard & Text…” in the left column, then scroll the right column down to the bottom to find the option for “Select the previous input source”. Clicking near the right edge of this row will highlight the current shortcut. When highlighted, hold the control key down and press the spacebar. Afterwards, you should see that the shortcut has been set to “^Space”.
From this point on, you can type control-space to toggle between input methods. You can also hold the control key down and tap space (without letting go of the control key!) to reveal a handle input selector.
Note: on Mac OS X Mountain Lion, the input selector will only appear when using the “Select the previous input source” option and does not appear for the “Select next input source” option.
Give typing in Chinese a try
Now that you’re all set up, open up your favorite text editor and try typing Chinese!
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