How to Read and Type Chinese Characters on the Internet with Input Methods


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As a mysterious product of China's ancient culture, Chinese characters has attracted numerous foreigners' interest. Besides for the difficulty in learning it, it is also a hard thing for inputting Chinese characters online.
As a mysterious product of China's ancient culture, Chinese characters has attracted numerous foreigners'  interest. Besides for the difficulty in learning it, it is also a hard thing for inputting Chinese characters online.
To allow the input of Chinese using standard keyboards, a variety of keyboard input methods for Chinese characters have been designed, which can be classified in 3 main types: encoding, pronunciation, and structure of the characters.
Different people are most comfortably with different methods and each standard has its strengths and weaknesses. For example, for someone who is already familiar with pinyin, the pinyin method can be learned most quickly. However, the maximum typing rate is limited, and learning the system is difficult for some who doesn't know pinyin. Wubi takes much effort to learn, but expert typists can enter text much faster than the phonetic methods.
Four corner method (四角码)
The Four corner method is a method of encoding Chinese characters by using four numerical digits per character (in some situations, an additional digit is used). It began as a method of indexing Chinese characters in dictionaries, and was popular before the wide spread use of pinyin. It was then developed as an input method for computer.
The four digits used to encode each character are chosen according to the "shape" of the four corners of each character, i.e. the upper left, upper right, lower left and lower right corners.
In short, the number 1 represents a horizontal stroke, 2 represents a vertical or diagonal stroke, 3 a dot stroke, 4 two strokes in a cross shape, 5 three or more strokes in which one stroke intersects all others, 6 a box-shape, 7 where a stroke turns a corner, 8 the shape of the Chinese character 八 and its inverted form, and 9 is used for the shape of the Chinese character 小 and its inverted form. Zero is used where there is either nothing in a corner, the part in a corner is already represented by a previous corner, or where a corner has a dot stroke followed by a horizontal stroke.
Zhuyin (注音)
Zhùyīn Fúhào (注音符號), or "The Notation of Annotated Sounds", often abbreviated as Zhuyin, is the national phonetic system of the Republic of China (based on Taiwan) for teaching the Chinese languages.The system uses 37 special symbols to represent the mandarin sounds: 21 consonants and 16 vowels. 

Pinyin (拼音)
Pinyin (拼音 pīnyīn) literally means "join together sounds" in Chinese and usually refers to Hanyu pinyin, is a system of romanization for mandarin Chinese used in the People's Republic of China.
Cantonese Pinyin (粤语拼音)
It is a romanization system for transliterating Cantonese Chinese. A series of romanization efforts of Cantonese seek to standardize the language spoken by large number of residents in Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, Auckland, Vancouver and San Francisco, from the status of a vernacular to that of a literary language.
Character Structure
Wubi method (五笔字型)
It is an input method for writing Chinese text on a computer which is based on the structure of characters rather than their pronunciation, making it possible to input unfamiliar characters, as well as not being too closely linked to any particular Chinese dialect.
Cangjie method (仓颉)
It is a system by which Chinese characters may be entered into the computer. Unlike pinyin, Cangjie is based on the morphological aspect of the characters wherein each basic, graphical unit is represented by a letter from the Roman alphabet.
In order to input using Cangjie, one must be learned in the construction of each character and its basic mnemonics. A lead character serves as an anchor by which other mnemonics will attach themselves to (in most instances these are radicals). For example, in order to enter the character "车" (Che1), meaning "vehicle", one would input 十 田 十 (the second, "Tian2", is based off the Traditional method of writing this character.
Five Stroke method (五笔划)
It is based on the stroke order of a word, and can be input using only a numerical keypad. Although it is possible to input Traditional Chinese characters with this method, this method is often associated with Simplified Chinese characters.
However, how to use the above input methods to read and type Chinese characters on the Internet? Some ways here will help them to do such thing easily.
Reading Chinese Characters
If you use Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator, you don't have to worry about reading Chinese characters because the latest version of both of these browsers can support Chinese without any other programs. All you need is to visit the Chinese pages you want, and the text will be displayed automatically into Chinese. 
If you are using previous versions of Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator, you might need a Chinese font, and there are many good free fonts you can download. The best method is to download Microsoft's free language packs and input methods for Simplified and Traditional Chinese.

Installing these language packs will automatically set up Internet Explorer for Chinese, but Netscape still needs one more step. You can act according to such process: From Netscape's main menu, select "Edit", then "Preferences". In the window that appears, select "Appearance" and "Fonts". First select "Simplified Chinese" for the encoding, and choose "MS Song" or "MS Hei" for the proportional and fixed length fonts.

Now as you surf around different Chinese websites, two situations may occur. Some web pages "know" that they are in Chinese, and the browser automatically knows to use the Chinese fonts to display them. For web pages that do not have this information, you need to change the language of this page into Chinese manually. On Netscape, this is done from "View" and then "Character Set" on the main menu. On Internet Explorer, this can be done from "View" and then "Fonts".

These fonts will also allow you to read (in Netscape Messenger and Outlook) and write (in Outlook) Chinese in e-mails.
Displaying and Typing Chinese Characters
There are several approaches to working with Chinese on computers. The most convenient way is that you can have the entire operating system support Chinese. This is the most popular option where the user only deals with Chinese and not other languages. Microsoft sells both traditional and simplified Chinese versions of its Windows operating system.
If you already have an English operating system, then you can use a program that adds Chinese capabilities to your existing programs. Program like this include Twin Bridge Chinese Partner and Union Way for Windows.  A highly recommended program is called NJStar Software.  Its trial version of the software can be downloaded for free and it allows you to read and type Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

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