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Chinese Language Features in
Windows 7 and Windows Vista

A Quick Start Guide to Chinese Language Features
in Western Versions of Windows 7 and Vista

On this page:
Character Display    IMEs     Fonts     Language Packs     Wallpaper     Other Features

Setup pages:
1. Setup  ◊  2. Pinyin for Traditional Chinese  ◊  3. Preferences  ◊  4. Help Files
5. Zhuyin Setup  ◊  6. Chinese Fonts  ◊  7. Chinese Language Packs


For those upgrading from Windows XP, Windows 7 and Vista offer many powerful new Chinese features in much better, more powerful operating systems. For those upgrading from Vista, Windows 7 is not so much a great leap forward as it is the end of a bad dream: this is the stable operating system that Vista was intended to be.

Windows 7 Chinese character input example

The main focus of this site is of course Pinyin setup, but I also cover Zhuyin (Bopomofo), Chinese fonts, Language Packs and other features here. I also have a Frequently Asked Questions section that covers common issues with Windows and Office, and I've even written a short piece on the history, politics and proper use of Pinyin.

Windows 7 Home Premium   Windows 7 Professional   Windows 7 Ultimate
Click each image above to see the U.S. prices on
All versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista are eligible for upgrade,
but you should download the free Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor
or the free Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to ensure your PC is compatible.

You can read and write Chinese in all major versions of Windows 7 and Vista: Starter, Home Premium, Vista Business, Win 7 Professional, and Ultimate. Chinese features are also available in Enterprise, if your license includes these features and if your IT department decides to install them. IT departments sometimes customize Enterprise and Business/Professonal installations to remove language features. I think there was also a version of Vista called Home Basic, but I've never seen it so I can't comment on that one.

Windows Ultimate, and most installations of Windows Enterprise, also include "Language Packs" that will change the Windows and Internet Explorer UI (the user interface: menus, dialogs, etc.) into Chinese, but please note that you do not need Language Packs to view and type Chinese. Following is a summary of the most important Chinese features, with links to additional pages with more details.


Displaying Chinese Characters in Windows 7 and Vista

Unlike Windows XP, in Windows Vista and Windows 7 you do not need to "enable East Asian languages" as a separate step after installation of the system. The new Windows can display Chinese characters as soon as you start up the first time.

Windows 7 - IE8 -

Chinese should automatically display in Internet Explorer and most other browsers without any special setup. In the rare event that Chinese shows up as "garbage" or empty boxes, try manually adjusting the Encoding in Internet Explorer's "Page" menu.

Microsoft Word and most other applications should also display Chinese by default. Problems may occur due to missing fonts. Try selecting the text and choosing a Simplified or Traditional Chinese font from the font menu to fix this.


Chinese Input Method Editors (IME) in Windows 7

Windows 7 - adding Chinese keyboardsWindows 7 and Vista include an upgraded Chinese (Simplified, mainland / Singapore) Microsoft Pinyin "New Experience" IME, with better candidate prediction and even Traditional characters (in Microsoft's version of GB encoding).

The Chinese (Traditional, Taiwan/HK/Macau) New Phonetic input method, which includes both Zhuyin and Pinyin input, is upgraded in Windows 7 with new preference options such as candidate list font size.

Free updates were released in 2010 to update XP, Vista and Windows 7 with even more. The mainland MSPY 2010 update includes the new Sogou-like Microsoft Pinyin "SimpleFast", while the Taiwan Office 2010 update (for which you do not need Office) includes updates to existing input methods plus new (or returning) options for Cantonese Jyutping, Unicode encoding, and Simplified character support.

Windows 7 or Vista Pinyin Setup:

1. Adding Simplified Chinese Pinyin input
2. Adding Traditional Chinese Pinyin input
3. Adjusting the Language Bar and shortcuts
4. Learning to use the Microsoft Pinyin IMEs

Windows 7 or Vista Zhuyin / Bopomofo Setup:

* Adding the Zhuyin IME as your Traditional Chinese input method, typing
   Zhuyin phonetic symbols, and using Zhuyin "ruby text" above hanzi.

Chinese input method updates for Windows 7, Vista and XP:

* Downloading and installing the mainland/Singapore MSPY 2010 update
* Downloading and installting the Taiwan/HK/Macau "Office 2010" update

Pinyin Macros, plus more IMEs, fonts and apps:

* Pinyin tone mark macro for Word and Excel
* Wubi input method (Wubi Zixing) for Windows
* A survey of free and commercial Chinese fonts and applications.


Chinese Fonts in Windows 7

Windows 7 and Vista include the following Chinese fonts. I have a page full of actual examples of Windows 7 and Vista Chinese fonts for you, but first I thought I should list the font names as you will find them in many menus. In some programs you will see the same names with an "@" sign in front of them: those are the "vertical"/rotated versions.

Supported by Chinese (PRC) keyboards, including MSPY:

Microsoft JhengHei
Microsoft YaHei

Supported by Chinese (Taiwan) keyboards, including MSNP:

Microsoft JhengHei

*"HKSCS" fonts include Hong Kong Cantonese characters.
**PMingLiU is the default font for Chinese (Taiwan) keyboards.
***Simsun is the default font for Chinese (PRC) keyboards.

(Not listed here but also included: new fonts for Yi, Uighur, Tibetan & Mongolian.)

For more detail, including samples of each font, please see the following pages:

Chinese fonts included with Windows 7 and Vista
Chinese fonts included with Windows XP

See also my survey of additional free and commercial third-party Chinese fonts.


Language Packs (MUI) in Windows 7 and Vista

Windows 7 Simplified Chinese Language Pack UIWindows Ultimate, and most installations of Enterprise include "Language Packs" that change the Windows and Internet Explorer user interface (menus, dialog boxes, etc.) into Chinese or other languages.

You do not need a Language Pack to display or type Chinese.

You do need a Language Pack for handwriting recognition input in Windows 7, or if you want Windows and IE menus in Chinese in Windows 7 or Vista.

Language Packs will not change any of your English applications, and Chinese applications do not require Language Packs to display Chinese! MS Office Language Packs must be purchased separately. Other companies (like Adobe) usually require purchase of separate localized editions.

In Windows XP these were called as "Multilingual User Interface Packs", or MUI, and they were only available when purchased with Windows XP in a special bundle. But Windows Vista and Windows 7 Language Packs for over thirty different languages can be downloaded and added to Ultimate and Enterprise systems for no additional charge.

For more information, see:

Windows 7 and Vista Chinese Language Packs
Windows XP Chinese MUI Packs


Windows 7 Regional Wallpaper:
Scenic Desktop Pictures from China and Other Asian Countries

Great Wall wallpaperOK, so this isn't exactly a language feature per se, but Windows 7 includes some very nice desktop backgrounds, and they seem to be different across regions. I've collected the pictures for Mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and India and posted them to this wallpaper download page.


Other Features in Windows Vista and Windows 7:
Chinese Handwriting Input, IME Pads, Speech Features & IDN

As this is "Pinyin Joe's" website, you won't see much here about other input methods, including handwriting input and speech features, but here's a some basic info:

  • Traditional character handwriting recognition is available in every version of Windows, in the Taiwan/HK/Macau IME's Phonetic keyboard "IME Pad". If you don't have that in New Phonetic, try installing the 2010 update, but you'll also find it in the older "Phonetic" keyboard too. It will be in the Tool Menu.
  • Traditional and Simplified character handwriting recognition is also in the "Tablet PC Input Panel" (which works on all PCs, not just tablets). This is included in Windows Vista Ultimate and Enterprise, and also in Windows 7 Ultimate and Enterprise after the installation of free Chinese Language Packs.
  • IME Pads and other tools are available for inputting characters by radical, stroke, or Unicode number. If you do not have the Simplified character IME Pad, install the MSPY IME 2010 update. Information on the Traditional character IME Pad is discussed the first bullet above. I discuss these topics further in my introduction to fonts and input methods for ancient, classical and rare/obscrure Chinese characters, because I get questions about this mostly from scholars working with older texts.
  • You also need Chinese Language Packs for Chinese text-to-speech (featuring the voice of Microsoft Lili) and speech recognition input.
  • I also don't have much to say about international domain name (IDN) support, although this is big news for the Unicode and domaineer crowds.

For a brief backgrounder on all of these additional features, please see my earlier review of the Vista Beta 2 release and my intro to Windows 7 Chinese language packs.

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