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Ubuntu Linux 9 Chinese Setup

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A Quick Start Guide to Ubuntu 9 and
Chinese Setup, Input Methods, Fonts and Preference Settings

Updated for Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) and Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope)

Installing Chinese   9.04 Input Methods »    9.10 Input Methods »    Fonts »    Preferences »

The free Ubuntu operating system includes easily installed Chinese fonts and input methods (Pinyin, Zhuyin and others) plus with Asian language features. The growing popularity of Ubuntu — and the release of the Ubuntu Netbook Remix — convinced me to begin offering an Ubuntu Chinese setup guide here.

Ubuntu logoUbuntu Linux Pinyin SCIM

1. Installing Chinese Features for Ubuntu 9.xx and OpenOffice

You do NOT need to do anything on the command line to install these features anymore. Just run the installer, click around in a few menus and dialog boxes, and you're done! I'm no Linux expert, but this was easy.

Ubuntu English or Chinese localized setupInstalling Ubuntu:

I'm going to assume that you're wanting to use Chinese in an English language Ubuntu system. During installation, just click "English" when presented with localization choices in Step 1.

It is possible to install Ubuntu as a localized Chinese system with most of the GNOME menus and dialogs in simplified or traditional Chinese, but this is not necessary. You can get Chinese features working in the English version just fine.

I'm not going to provide full instructions on installing Ubuntu as this is now a fairly simple process and is well-supported on the main Ubuntu website and other forums. My next step picks up after installation and updating are complete.

Installing Chinese on an English Ubuntu 9.xx system:

Make sure you are connected to the internet whenever you update Ubuntu. It will need to download many files for Chinese support.

If you are using the standard Ubuntu desktop, select "System", "Administration" and "Language Support":

Ubuntu System Menu - Administration - Language Support

If you instead are using the Ubuntu Netbook Remix:

  • in the 9.10 Netbook Desktop, click "System" (1) and then in the lower half of the screen you'll see "Administration" (2). There you'll find a "Language Support" icon to click on (3).
  • in the 9.04 Netbook Desktop you'll find "Administration" at the lower left of your desktop (1), and after clicking there you'll find a "Language Support" icon to click on (2).

Unbuntu Netbook Desktop 9.10:
Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix desktop - System - Administration - Language Support

Ubuntu Netbook Desktop 9.04:
Ubuntu 9.04 Netbook Remix desktop - Adminstration - Language Support

After you click "Language Support", in the dialog box or netbook screen that appears next, do the following:

  • In Ubuntu 9.10, pull down the "Keyboard input method system" and select "IBus".
  • In Ubuntu 9.04, click to check/tick the little box next to "Use input method engines (IME) to enter complex characters".

This is Ubuntu 9.10:
Ubuntu 9.10 Language panel

...and this is Ubuntu 9.04:
Ubuntu 9.04 Language panel

Then click the button that says "Install / Remove Languages...".

"Installed Languages" will appear. Scroll down to "Chinese", which is a simple choice in 9.04 but in 9.10 you now have this split into "Chinese (simplified)" and "Chinese (traditional"). There's even a "Chinese Min Nan" option now! I haven't tried that one, since I only know enough Taiwanese to get my face slapped ;-) but this is yet another first for Ubuntu.

Click the checkbox or checkboxes in the "Installed" column as shown below. Usually you will want to leave all of the "Components" boxes checked as well.

This is Ubuntu 9.10:
Ubuntu 9.10 Intstalled Languages - Chinese

...and this is Ubuntu 9.04:Unbuntu 9.10 Installed Languages

Click the "Apply Changes" button. Enter your administrator password if required, and the system will download and install a big package of Chinese fonts and other resources for both Ubuntu and OpenOffice.

Ubuntu logoutWhen you get a dialog box telling you "Changes applied", click the "Close" button and then in Language click the "x" in the upper right hand corner to close that too.

Then (as you may have learned from a little note in the Language control panel) you must log out to let the changes take effect.

When you log back in, you'll notice a friendly little keyboard icon at the top right of your screen. Versions 9.10 and 9.04 are shown here:

Ubuntu SCIM keyboard icon

In Ubuntu 9.04 you are now good-to-go, with several Chinese input methods from the SCIM framework already set up in their default configurations. Ready to try them out? Read on: Ubuntu 9.04 Chinese input methods »

In Ubuntu 9.10 you're not finished. 9.10 has switched us to the IBus framework, and this requires at least one more step before you can begin typing Chinese, more if you want to get SCIM back. Read on: Ubuntu 9.10 Chinese input methods »

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Installing Chinese   9.04 Input Methods »    9.10 Input Methods »    Fonts »    Preferences »

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