How to type in Chinese on a MacBook Pro (with pictures!)

27 Jan

My laptop is pretty much my constant companion, so I’ll be posting a lot about computers. First things first: how do you type in Chinese?

I’ve finally gotten to a point where I need to search in Baidu or Google, or type brief passages. Up till now, my use of actual characters has been infrequent enough that I’ve mostly just plugged pinyin into a translator and copy-pasted. I decided this morning that wasn’t going to cut it anymore, so I decided to configure a Pinyin keyboard on my Macbook.

An easy two-minute thing, right? Wrong. So wrong. At least for this renowned techie.

The first thing I consulted, as usual, was Google. I must’ve checked almost a dozen Yahoo! Answers, but couldn’t find anything for the Macbook Pro, or at least whatever version I have. After almost 20 minutes, I gave up and decided to actually use my brain to figure it out.

Apple is pretty friendly and the labels are pretty clear, but it still took me quite a bit to get through this whole process. Below is my edited step-by-step. I’ve cut out my dead ends and missteps, so you don’t have to go through the irritation I did. Hope this comes in handy!

I began by opening “System Preferences”, because basically everything is there. Having found nothing too helpful online, I just decided to scan the options for something likely.


And I found “Language and Text” in the first row. Jolly good.


On a roll, right? My double-click sent me straight to the page pictured below, with a column on the left-hand side with all of these different languages. I scrolled down to find “简体中文“, and dragged it up after “English”. Problem solved!


Nope. I opened Word and attempted to type “你好“, but remained stuck with my boring English letters. Bah. Back to “Language and Text”.


After randomly clicking for a bit, I saw the fourth tab on the “Language and Text” page, marked “Input Sources”. Yes.


In the left column, there’s an option marked “Chinese-Simplified”. I ticked the box (which also ticked all the sub-options) and congratulated myself.


Yeah, not quite.


Luckily, I’ve seen a friend toggle between keyboards, so I had the idea to look for a little flag. And there it was, in the upper right hand corner. I scrolled down to “Pinyin-Simplified” (the one most English speakers want). I clicked on it, and my mini-American flag turned into “拼”.


I opened my Word doc with bated breath. Yes! Success! I typed my first Chinese characters. Woohoo!


You can switch back to English using the same flag/character (it changes) icon. There’s probably some kind of shortcut that would allow you to toggle between keyboards – will definitely follow-up on that. Press the number to select the character you want, and it appears magically on the screen.

(Update for shortcut: Go to “Language and Text” -> “Input Sources” tab again, then click the button “Keyboard Shortcuts” in the upper right box. The third option is “Keyboard and Text” in the left column. Click on that, scroll to the bottom, and check the box for “Select previous input source”. You may have to uncheck another shortcut if you’re already using the Command-Space one.)

And there you have it! Hopefully this helped someone out. I’m no computer expert, but feel free to post a question if you’re still having problems.

Next task is to figure out how to text in Chinese, which I think will prove handy for practice. Entry coming soon! And on the topic of iPhones, here’s another thing I didn’t know. Pressing the minus button on a iPhone (you know, for volume) takes a picture if you have Camera open. Seriously, does anyone know that?


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