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Chinese Language Features
in Windows 10 & Windows 8

A Quick Start Guide to Using Chinese Language Features
in Non-Chinese Versions of Win 10 and 8

On this page - Chinese features overview:
Reading   ◊  Writing  ◊   Fonts  ◊  Display Languages  ◊   Other Features

Windows 10 setup pages:
Input methods setupTraditional character Pinyin input
Simplified character input alternative: MSZY
 Handwriting, speech, & language packs
Advanced features ◊ Help files - in English!

Windows 8 setup pages:
Input Setup  ◊  Pinyin for Traditional Chinese  ◊  Handwriting & Display Languages
Missing and broken Chinese features in Windows 8 and 8.1


Windows 7 Chinese character input example

All versions of Windows 10 and 8 for the US and most other countries include the Chinese features of Windows 7 Ultimate, like display language packs and handwriting input. There is nothing extra to buy.

However, at this time I cannot recommend that Windows 7 users upgrade. See my FAQ on missing and broken features in Windows 8. On that page I have noted when there is a fix available, but many problems remain in Windows 10. I am working on a separate list for Win 10 as well.

If you have Windows 8, the free upgrade to 10 is a good idea. If you have Windows 7, I recommend waiting for an update to the Chinese input methods and other features, which I hope will arrive in late 2015 about the same time as Office 2016.


In the US versions, and most other country versions, you can read and write Chinese while using Windows 10 or 8 in your own language (English, in my case) or you can change the display language to Chinese after installing a free display language pack.

In mainland China, Microsoft distributes a single-language version of Windows 8 that does not include display language packs for other languages, leaving you no way to change the menus and dialogs to English or other languages. As far as I know, this restriction has gone away with the Windows 10 upgrade for Intel-based tablets and PCs. (Owners of Atom-based Windows 8 RT tablets are still out of luck, even after using a Registry hack to upgrade.) Please let me know if your experience is different.


Windows 8 Start and Desktop screens

Windows 10 introduces a finger-friendly Start menu, plus more consistent apps and setup across new and old control panels, helping to do away with the confusing "bipolar" nature of Windows 8 where changing a setting on the tablet side may not affect the desktop side, or may only be available on one side but still affect both, or whatever. More about that on the setup pages. But first, a general introduction to the Chinese features.


Chinese Characters in Windows 8 and 10

IE10 Bing Chinese search resultsUnlike Windows XP, you do not need to "enable East Asian languages" in Windows Vista, 7, 8, or 10 just to read Chinese documents or web pages. And if you need to write Chinese, setting up input methods is easier than ever.

However, in every version of Windows, there have always been Chinese applications and websites that do not cooperate. If you encounter problems, please see my ideas for troubleshooting non-Unicode programs and web issues. I will be updating that page for the latest versons of Windows as soon as I can, but the basics are the same.

Being able to read Chinese documents and web pages is not the same as displaying all Windows menus, control panels and other system text in Chinese. For that, you need to install a display language, which is now free. See the language packs section below.



Chinese Input Methods in Windows 8 and 10

Chinese input methods in Windows 8 and 10

The Pinyin input method in the "Simplified" Chinese locales includes a Traditional character option, and the Pinyin input method for "Traditional" locales includes a Simplified Character option, both with some limitations. I go into detail on these in the setup pages listed at end of this page.

First, here's a summary of the "keyboards" you'll find in there:

The "Simplified, China" and "Simplified, Singapore" regional options include the Microsoft Pinyin phonetic input method, formerly known as SimpleFast until Windows 8.1. The MSPY New Experience input method has been retired, but in Windows 8.1 the popular Wubi stroke-based input method was added. New Experience was my favorite, but in China most users prefer Pinyin input methods that visually separate each syllable. See list of setup pages below to get started.

The "Traditional, Taiwan", Hong Kong, and Macau regional variants include the New Phonetic input method, renamed "Bopomofo" in Windows 8.1 even though it will do Zhuyin *and* Pinyin. Also included are Changjie (Cangjie), Quick, Traditional Dayi, and Traditional Array. Although Bopomofo is the default keyboard for Taiwan, and Quick is the default for Hong Kong, these are easily changed. See the links at the bottom of this page for setup instructions.

Other observations:

(Windows 8 RT tablet users will need to enable the full virtual keyboard after switching the Bopomofo keyboard rom Zhuyin to Pinyin, or the Latin letters will not appear. I show how to do this in the setup pages listed below.)

Handwriting input is also available in all releases, in the new Touch Keyboard for Simplified and Traditional characters (and also in the old IME Pad in "Chinese, Traditional"), and all releases also include speech input. Finding and installing these is a bit different in Windows 8 and Windows 10: they do not require language packs to work, but in Win 8 they can be downloaded only with a language pack. See my setup links below.

Cantonese is missing! The Cantonese Jyutping phonetic input method, last updated as "Hong Kong Cantonese 2010", is simply not available in Win 8 or 10. But there is hope that it will show up in a free update in late 2015.

For setup instructions, see the links at the bottom of this page. See also my list of third-party input methods and tools.



Chinese Fonts in Windows 8 and 10

DengXian fontWindows 10 includes a new Simplified Chinese font named DengXian.

In Windows 8, JhengHei UI and YaHei UI were added for the new "Modern" User Interface. Some minority fonts were added then too, but I haven't been tracking those.

Windows 8 and 10 also include everything listed on my Windows 7/Vista Chinese fonts page. It doesn't seem necessary to create separate font pages for Windows 8 or 10 at this time.

You may also be interested in my survey of free and commercial third-party Chinese fonts. Some of those include more characters, while others offer interesting type styles.




Display Languages (Language Packs / MUI) in Windows 8 and 10

All consumer versions of Windows 8 and 10 available in the US and most other countries include the "language packs" that were previously available only with the purchase of Windows 7 Ultimate. They're available to Enterprise and Education users as well, depending on your organization's IT policies. These packs are not available in single-language versions distributed in China and some other emerging markets.

Windows 8 Start screen in Traditional Chinese display language

The Chinese display language packs offer:

  • localization of tiles, menus, settings control panels, and other features, to allow native speakers of Chinese to work comfortably in Windows using their own language, and

  • OCR support, which is something new I saw go by in an update for the Windows 10 Insider Preview. I don't know much about the Chinese OCR feature yet, and I don't use OCR much myself, so please let me know if you try this.

In versions of Windows 8 and 10 released outside Taiwan, the Traditional character display language pack is available only within the Hong Kong regional settings. In Windows 8, that language pack download is required to install handwriting, but in Windows 10 handwriting is a separate download available in all Chinese locales. All include speech.

Handwriting and speech input install separately in the new Windows 10 Settings, unless you're using the old-style desktop control panels which work like Windows 8 where you must first install the Chinese language packs. But note that in all cases they do not actually require a language pack to work after installation, and can be used under any display language, including English. (In the Taiwan/HK/Macau IME, you can also use the old IME Pad. See the advanced features page for information on that.)

Seeing "tofu boxes"? Or question marks, or other garbage characters? If you encounter Chinese software or web pages that do not display Chinese characters correctly, it is usually not necessary to use the display language packs to solve those problems. See my page on non-Unicode programs and web page issues.

Microsoft Office language packs are an entirely separate product. They change the interface of those applications into another language, and offer additional tools such as Traditional/Simplified Chinese conversion.

For setup info, see the pages listed below.



Other Features in Windows 8 and 10:
Stroke/Radical Lookup, More Speech Features, & Other Stuff

As this is "Pinyin Joe's" website, you won't see much here about other input methods, but here are a few items you may find interesting:



Next pages:

Windows 10

Windows 10 Language and input method keyboard setup

Windows 10 Traditional character Pinyin input: two alternatives

Windows 10 Simplified character Pinyin input: the MSZY alternative

Windows 10 Chinese handwriting input, speech input, & language packs

Windows 10 advanced features: desktop language bar, IME Pad, and more

Windows 10 Help files - in English!

Windows 8

Windows 8 Language and input method keyboard setup

Windows 8 Traditional character Pinyin input: two alternatives

(Windows 8 MSZY also does Simplified characters. See Win 10 link above.)

Windows 8 Chinese handwriting and display language packs (Did not cover speech input, but that's in there too. See the Win 10 article link above.)

Windows 8 and 8.1 missing/broken Chinese features

See also

Zhuyin input, symbols, & Zhuyin/Pinyin "ruby text" (Win7, but universal. Includes discussion of the MS Word Phonetic Guide and ruby fonts.)

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