Chinese Input Methods
in Ubuntu 14, 13, 12, 11, and 10
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How to Set Up Ubuntu Chinese IMEs
After installing Chinese support in Ubuntu 10 / Ubuntu 11 / Ubuntu 12, 13 or 14, you can select and configure input methods.
IBus-Table Chinese Input Methods:
The Pinyin input method supports simplified and traditional characters in the mainland standard GB encoding. This IME seems similar to Google Pinyin (and less like Sogou Pinyin now that the apostrophes are gone).
The SunPinyin input method was added as an alternative PRC IME beginning with Ubuntu 11.10. Developed at Sun Microsystems and now an open source project also adopted by the FIT folks, it is SLM (statistical language model) based and may be more accurate. I find it a bit more mature than some. But it too violates Pinyin parsing rules by inserting spaces between Pinyin as you type...and does it yet again by placing no space between "Sun" and "Pinyin" in the name.
The Chewing input method continues to offer traditional characters in the Taiwan standard Big5 encoding in addition to UTF-8, with Zhuyin ("chew-ing", get it?), Hanyu Pinyin, Eten, IBM and many other keyboards. Chewing is in both the IBus and SCIM frameworks. This one is similar to Microsoft's New Phonetic IME, but it's more 酷. :-)
The developers of the Pinyin input method at the top of this list have also released the IBus Bopomofo IME for simplified and traditional character Zhuyin input in mainland-standard GB encoding, and the Wubi86 IMEs as well.
Non-phonetic input methods like Wubi, Cangjie and Quick are not normaly in my menu, because being "Pinyin Joe" I don't use those. But these are the most popular stroke-based keyboards in the mainland, Taiwan, and Hong Kong respectively.
The m17n input methods are included in the Ubuntu 10.04 install but were dropped from Ubuntu 10.10. If you do a clean install of 10.10 or later and still want any of those relatively simple keyboards — like pinyin (m17n), a nifty little Pinyin-with-tonemarks phonetics IME, or the bopomofo (m17n) Zhuyin phonetic-symbols-only IME — you can still find m17n again, as I explain in my FAQ on installing m17n.
For Cantonese input methods, use Synaptic to search for ibus-table-cantonese, ibus-table-jyutping, or scim-tables-zh. You may also want to try the CAP IME , which may be more accurate due to the use of the statistical language model, and offers both Jyutping and Sydney Lau input. I have never tried any of those. You can also use CantoInput, which is a free Java app I have reviewed in my survey of third-party apps. As I mention on the fonts page, Ubuntu does include HKCS fonts.
SCIM Chinese Input Methods:
IBus is still not the most stable thing, so you may want to try installing the SCIM framework in Ubuntu and use the Smart Pinyin (智能拼音) IME instead. This one is very good and quite stable (and similar to Microsoft's MSPY), but I believe development ended in 2005. The Chewing IME (similar to Microsoft's New Phonetic IME) is available in both IBus and SCIM. My Ubuntu 9.04 input methods page contains more information on the features of these IMEs, and I can point you to more information on installing SCIM in Ubuntu 9 and up. As time has gone on, I have installing SCIM in Ubuntu has become more and more difficult, and I have not kept up with the details, but if you want to try it then hopefully this gives you a place to start.
Setup: Selecting IBus Chinese Input Methods in Ubuntu 10, 11, 12, 13, or 14
After installing Chinese support (including selecting IBus in the little menu I showed you there, then logging out and logging back in), you're ready to select input methods.
In 12.04, 12.10, or 13.04, Click on the keyboard icon at the top of your screen and in the menu select "Preferences".
Beginning with Ubuntu 11 you can also search via the Dash (or Ubuntu/Windows key) in the Application Lens for "Keyboard" or "input". In Ubuntu 10 this is also under System > Preferences > Keyboard input methods.
In Ubuntu 13.10 and 14.04, "Preferences" is gone, and the menu looks like the bottom example here. Choose "Text Entry Settings" instead.
You can also use the Dash to search using the words "Text" or "Language".
In Ubuntu 12.04, 12.10, or 13.04, this will take you to IBus Preferences where you need to click on the second tab, "Input Method", and click on the "Select an input method" menu. Ubuntu 12 introduced only small changes and is still very similar to the following screen shots, but you'll need to check a box next to a new "Customize active input methods" option before you can edit IBus Preferences. Scroll down to "Chinese" select the input methods you want, and click the "Add" button.
In 13.10 and 14.04 there's a new control panel called Text Entry Settings instead. Click on the "+" button to open the input method editor list, and type "Chinese" in the search box, click on a selections, then the "Add" button. Repeat as needed. These can be sorted to appear in your language menu in whatever order you wish, using the arrow buttons at the bottom of the resulting list in the Test Entry control panel.
Please don't forget this next step in 12.04, 12.10, or 13.04, even if everything seems to be working fine: when you make a change in IBus Preferences, I recommend that you always click on the keyboard icon and select "Restart".
The keyboard disappears and reappears, and now we're ready to configure your input method input methods. Later versions don't have this issue; in fact, they don't even offer "Restart" in the menu.
Before 13.10, you would see the message "No input window" in the menu if your cursor was not inside a document. This also happened if IBus was not working properly, regardless of where you clicked. If that is your situation, you may need to try dropping into Terminal and entering im-switch -s ibus or you may need to try other methods of restarting, reinitializing, or reinstalling IBus that have been posted on Ubuntu Forums and elsewhere. I have not seen this happen in recent releases.
Using Pinyin in the Chewing IME:
Many people want to use Hanyu Pinyin instead of "Bo Po Mo" to type traditional characters in the Taiwan Big 5 encoding standard.
In 12.04, 12.10, or 13.04, to switch the Chewing IME from Zhuyin to Pinyin, click on the Settings button in the Language Panel. In the Settings (設定) panel, click the third tab, Keyboard (鍵盤). Then click the first drop-down menu, and select the last item in the list: Hanyu (漢語). Click the Save (儲存） button, and you're done!
In 13.10 the floating language panel was missing, but it returned in 14.04, and appears whenever you place the cursor in a document or other text entry area.
14.10 also introduced a Settings item in the language menu, as you can see on the left here. By that version the Settings control panel was again available in English, where you can simply go to the "Keyboard" tab and select "hanyu".
Feel free to click around in this Settings panel and experiment with other configuration options for the Chewing IME.
Using Traditional Characters in the IBus Pinyin IME:
If you want to type traditional characters in mainland GB encoding, the IBus Pinyin IME offers that option. You'll find a 简/繁 button right on the floating language panel.
In 12.04, 12.10, or 13.04, you can also change the default from Simplified to Traditional characters set by clicking on floating language panel's Preference button (the one with the letter "i"). In Preferences, on the "General" tab under "Initial State" you'll find a setting for Traditional or Simplified Chinese:
In 13.10 the floating language panel was missing, but it returned in 14.04. Note the 简/繁 (Simplified/Traditional) button right there.
14.04 also introduced a 简/繁 option just above Preferences on the Language menu. In the Preferences control panel, you can change the default state from Simplified to Traditional, and there are several other options to play around with in there as well.