ELIZABETH J PYATT: May 2010 Archives

Chinese Trackpad (Handwriting Recognition) on Mac Snow Leopard


Mac System 10.6 (Snow Leopard) now includes a handwriting recognition option for inputting Chinese (Simplified or Traditional), which is an adaptation from the iPhone 2.0 system. The rest of the entry will provide instructions on how to activate it, but note that it only works on a laptop with a trackpad. As far as I can tell, you cannot do this with a mouse.


  1. Go to the Apple menu and open Systems Preferences.
  2. Click Language & Text (U.N. flag icon).
    Systems Preferences screen cap
  3. Click the tab for Input Sources check either Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese. Make sure that the Trackpad Handwriting option is also checked.
    Input Sources screencap with Chinese options=Pinyin,Trackpad, Wubi Xing, Zhuyin, etc
  4. Close the System Preferences window.

Use the Trackpad

  1. Open a software application such as a word processor, spread-sheet or any other application in which you need to enter text.
  2. On the upper right portion of the screen, click on the American flag icon (U.S. Flag Icon). Use the dropdown menu to select Show Trackpad Writing.
    Menu under American flag
  3. A welcome message will be displayed. Click OK to open the track pad.
  4. A semi transparent dark gray window appears. You can draw in the trackpad and see the list of suggested characters. Note that a delete button is shown in the upper left
    Trackpad with Chinese character drawn
  5. To select a character, drag your finger on the right edge of the trackpad until the correct character is highlighted, then tap once.
  6. To clear the trackpad, tap once on the upper left corner.
  7. To exit the track pad, press Shift+Control+SpaceBar
  8. To disable the track pad, open the Language and Text options in System Preferences and uncheck the trackpad options.

Note to fellow ETS Employees: Trackpad interferes with SnapzPro, so be warned if you are testing or planning to use this.


I don't know the Chinese script, so can't judge the accuracy or ease of the input. However, I would warn that the trackpad disables normal keyboard and mouse operations. For instance, if you need to switch applications, you need to close the track pad (Shift+Control+Spacebar, do the switch, then reopen the trackpad from the flag/keyboard menu). Not very convenient.

It's important to remember that this was built for the iPhone, so probably works best there.

Video Demo (from shoki6229)

Postscript: Japanese

One may wonder how the trackpad handles Japanese, and the answer seems to be that while you can input Chinese characters (kanji), or at least the ones still used in Traditional Chinese, you really can't input Hiragana or Katakana. That means you would need to toggle between the Trackpad and alternate methods of Japanes input. In fact the Trackpad is NOT listed in the menu of Japanese input methods in Snow Leopard.


Typing Pinyin on Windows How To Videos


I'm updating resources on the Penn State Computing with Accents Chinese page, and was looking for new resources. One was a YouTube video from "geekannex" shown below.

It goes through the installation and activation of the Chinese input utitlies, then explains to use the pinyin option to type in Roman letters and then have it be converted to Simplified Chinese (a phonetic option is also available for Traditional Chinese and Japanese). It's for Windows XP, but truthfully the process has not changed much since then.

And yes there is one for the Mac from "rohanr2".

FYI - Mac SnowLeopard now has a "Trackpad" option which uses handwriting recognitiion, but since I haven't done any research (yet), I can't tell you if it's worthwhile or not. You can always look at YouTube for video demonstrations.


Pinyin Joe: Chinese Updated for Windows 7


I'm hoping to have Windows 7 here installed here in a few weeks, but there are some resources out there. One I would recommend for Chinese is Pinyin Joe. He's been around for a long time, but his Windows 7 page is quite up to date with information about fonts (including those with the Hong Kong characters (HKCS)), input options, Bopomof and non-hanzi scripts such as Yi, and Tibetan.

As a bonus, the site also maintains information for Windows Vista and XP as well as Ubunto Linux. Very helpful.

FYI - If you're a Mac person, you may want to check Yale's Chinese Mac. They're not quite up to 10.6 yet, but information from previous versions should get you caught up in no time.


Book Review: Phonetic Symbol Guide


Since the issue of diacritic design came up, I thought I would recommend a book I've had on my bookshelf for a long time, the Phonetic Symbol Guide by Geoffrey Pullum and William Ladusaw.

For Typographers

The feature I like is that the book shows the individual symbols at a reasonably large size (ca 60 pts) with guidelines marking the baseline and the top of the x-height. This can be handy because phonetic transcription includes symbols that are actually small caps, particularly the uvular sounds /ɢ,ʀ,ʁ,ɴ,ʟ/ which are properly only as tall as the x-height. On the other hand the book acknowledges that phoneticians may cheat by using full cap /G,R,N,L/, especially in e-mail. Fortunately, this book doesn't judge.

A critique is that not every possible transcription symbol is included including those from the traditions such as the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet. Fortunately, there is more information online.

For Phoneticians

The other nice feature of this handbook is that it covers both IPA (as of 1996) and common non-IPA usage. If you are reading older articles, this is VERY handy as IPA was not really standardized everywhere in phonology until relatively recently. If you read articles from the 1970s (before we all had access to cool fonts), you will see all sorts of interesting non-IPA substitutions. I myself still prefer the Spanish to type /ñ/ for the palatal nasal /ɲ/, but my kind will eventually die out.

Even though IPA is being adopted by venues such as Wikipedia, I suspect there are some hold-outs from related fields such as historical linguistics, Celtic philology, Germanic philology and so forth. It's critical to know the IPA, but just as important to know the important variations.

On the other hand, if you are interested in learning proper IPA transcription, you should also own the Handbook of the International Phonetic Association. However, it only covers the IPA and does not show large scale representations of the individual symbols (most are shown only at 12 point). It does, however, include Unicode points ("UCS") for the characters included in the IPA.


Diacritcs Website on...Diacritic Typography Design


The Diacritics site (http://diacritics.typo.cz/) has been around for a while, but hadn't hit my radar until recently. What it does is describe the typographic design of individual diacritics (accent marks).

There's especially good coverage of the Central European accented letters (e.g. z̧,ł,ǫ) with ogoneks, hacheks and others. Site owner Filip Blažek is Czech, so he definitely knows his Central European typography. The site includes links to some excellent articles on proper diacritic design.

Coverage also includes Turkish (Ỉ,ş), Vietnamese tone marks, Greek diacritics as well as the familiar Western European accents (ñ, é, ü) and some Sanskrit. Finally the site includes articles about diacritic use and design in individual languages. There may be gaps, but readers are invited to supply more information.

On a personal note, I would add that most English-based typographers probably underestimate the importance of making diacritics legible - hence they often look like afterthoughts. As a result, I am forever adding bold formatting to accented letters on Web pages, just to enhance legibility.

Postscript - May 17, 2010

Another recommended site is http://www.eki.ee/letter/ out of the Eesti Keele Instituut in Estonia. It's a more technical database interface, but has lots of useful information, particularly in terms of specific languages and encoding tables.


About The Blog

I am a Penn State technology specialist with a degree in linguistics and have maintained the Penn State Computing with Accents page since 2000.

See Elizabeth Pyatt's Homepage (ejp10@psu.edu) for a profile.


The standard commenting utility has been disabled due to hungry spam. If you have a comment, please feel free to drop me a line at (ejp10@psu.edu).

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