Using Japanese on your Computer

Information on setting up your computer for Japanese (read and write/type)
The following was mostly compiled by Paul_b

What’s an IME?

An “Input Method Extension” is the software that allows you to type Japanese (or other languages) on your computer.

Windows IME

Windows Instructions

Installing the Japanese IME is the best place to look for good instructions. GMAN: Windows XP Japanese Input is also very thorough.

A detailed tutorial with screenshots for Windows XP can be found here. A follow up tutorial on using the Windows IME can be found here. Or go straight to Microsoft.


IME Problems

  • I can’t find the language bar
If you can’t see the language bar at all or if it doesn’t seem to be showing all the buttons try the following.
  1. Right click a blank space on the task bar.
    1. Choose ‘Toolbars’
    2. If there is a tick next to “Language bar” then uncheck it.
  2. Right click a blank space on the task bar.
    1. Choose ‘Toolbars’
    2. Click “Language bar” to set it to checked (with tick).
The language bar should now be fully visible on the right hand side of the taskbar.
  • Whatever I type comes out as ハナミミンソクチスチソカイト
You have accidentally selected KANA on the language bar. Ensure you can see the right hand of the language bar (see above) then un-check KANA.
  • It asks for my Windows XP disk but I don’t have one.
If you have a legitimate copy of Windows XP but your disk is lost / broken then you should be able to get a replacement or borrow one. MS Global IME 5 doesn’t require a Windows disk to install but is for Windows Me, Windows 98, Windows 95, and Windows NT 4.0 users who don’t have Office XP. I am highly doubtful that it will work otherwise (although a few people seem to say it does).

If you note what file name(s) it is looking for when installing you may be able to get them copied from a friends computer.
If you still can’t get anywhere then use a third party IME. NJStar Communicator is a reasonable product and has a 30 day trial period.
  • My ” has turned into a @ !
Unfortunately when you have Japanese selected as the input language it automatically defaults to the Japanese keyboard and you can’t select your national keyboard in the normal fashion. The Japanese layout is quite similar to the American so US users won’t have much trouble. People with UK keyboards will find their pound (sterling) sign has disappeared and several bits of punctuation have been shuffled around. In more extreme cases (German Keyboards I think) some of the actual alphabet letters will have swapped position.
The easiest solution is to “Get used to it.” Sorry.
Alternatively I’ve heard some people have succeeded by copying around keyboard files in system directories and / or editing registry values. This is not for the faint of heart to attempt! But if you try it and it works please give full details here. 😉

  • My (backslash) has turned into a (yen symbol)!

You set the default for non-unicode programs to Japanese didn’t you? Set it back to English (see next section).

  • Some of my IME’s conversions seem to be messed up.
Sometimes (rarely) your IME’s dictionary can become corrupted. If you’ve tried everything else to fix your problem you can reset your dictionary to the original default settings and content. However you will lose any setting changes and word additions you’ve made.

Language Bar -> Tools -> Properties -> Dictionary -> Fix (button)


IME Shortcuts

These shortcuts should work with MS Global IME for Windows XP in Standard mode however they can differ according to settings made.

  • Switch language (e.g. [EN] to [JP]) : <alt>+<shift>
  • Hiragana mode : <ctrl>+<capslock>
  • Katakana mode : <alt>+<capslock>
  • Switch Direct input to Kana (and vice versa) : <alt>+`
  • Change selection to KATAKANA : <F7>

From the language bar select Tools → Properties → Settings to add or change keyboard shortcuts. For example setting re-henkan (再変換) to a key (like F12) is a very good idea. re-henkan can be used as a quick (if not entirely reliable) way to find out how a word in kanji is read.


Who needs English anyway?

There are some extra, somewhat extreme, steps you can take to make using Japanese on your computer even easier.

1. Set “Default language for non-unicode programs” to “Japanese”

Instructions are given in GMAN: Windows XP Japanese Input.

2. Remove the English Language Input

Again in the GMAN link is a picture of the Text Services and Input Languages dialog. It should have Japanese keyboard and English keyboard shown by now. Select the English keyboard and click Remove.
The first one above will enable many Japanese programs and games to run properly when they would otherwise display Mojibake. There are few side effects except that the backslash character will display as a yen symbol.
The second one removes the [EN] and [JP] selection from your language bar – you are always JP. I do this because it is confusing being able to switch between English and Japanese in two different ways. 1. By switching from Japanese language input to English language input and 2. By switching between Japanse (hiragana) and Japanese (direct input).


Linux IME

See your distribution documentation for more details, there are several ways to input foreign characters under Linux. The most popular method is a combination of programs.

  • Smart Common Input Method (SCIM) — SCIM is a front-end to various back-end modules for different languages. There are back-end modules for Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Swahili, Arabic, you name it. SCIM provides a central place to select and configure these various back-end modules.
  • Anthy — Anthy is a Japanese input module that provides Hiragana, Katakana input and dictionary lookup for Kanji.

Most Linux distributions make this easy for you by providing packages that you can just install and be done with it. For instance, in my distribution (Gentoo) I just had to install the ‘scim’ and ‘scim-anthy’ packages.

How to Make Your Japanese Keyboard Act Like Your Native One

See Pluckerpluck’s article on setting up your computer to treat a Japanese keyboard like a non-Japanese keyboard. ADD LINK

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