IME - Input Method Editor
The week before last I wrote on another thread in answer to evelyne's question on how to even input Chinese characters about MS-Pinyin IME, more specifically "How do I pick a character if the one chosen is incorrect?"
I've been familiar with setting up IME's since Windows 98, as that was actually my first interest in Chinese. Now with Windows XP/Vista one doesn't have to download anything to get it to work, but you do have to turn Asian languages and the IME on. I thought I would make this a new thread as I am sure there is something I could also learn from you on this IME or others for typing Chinese (I have tried many others, but as a foreigner, I didn't see them as convenient as Chinese people do). Below is what I wrote on IME, and hope to get your feedback, questions or tips on your IME experirence.
I highly recommend you use MS-Pinyin IME, which comes with Windows XP and I assume you are using. I have tried all the input locals and while some Chinese people prefer others, even learning the radicals represented by each key of the keyboard for WuBiZiXing(五笔字型), still the best for those of us who used pinyin to learn to type .
With MS-Pinyin IME, the one thing to note is that you can specify the tone mark as well as the pinyin letters when you type. This I recommend doing because for one, it greatly reduces the number of characters you have to chose from (or possibilities of mistakes), as well as helps you a) verify that you know the tone of the character because if it doesn't have that tone it won't display and b) allows you to see all the characters of that tone (which I believes helps in character learning, to match same sound/tone characters... I tell you how to view them below). So, for the word you said, to get the character 谢 I can get it without having to pick the character...all I type is xie4. You can type 1-5, 5 being neutral. (I get 斜 when I type xie5, the only neutral xie)
However, whether or not specifying tones, I greatly encourage you to not pick character to character, or even word for word, as MS-Pinyin IME can pick the most likely character from the other characters you type. So in your case, if you are using MS-Pinyin, if you simply type "xiexie" it should know you want 谢谢 as 写写 is not a word (but I do get that automatically if I type xie3xie3)
Now, to answer your question on how to pick a character, which you will still have to do now and then even if you use tones and type out complete words. After typing "xie" or "xie4", you can press the LEFT arrow key (not the mouse button) to see all the characters of that pronunciation. If you do not see the character you want in that list of 9 characters, press the PAGE-DOWN or PAGE-UP key to see others if available. When you see the character you want you can either press it's corresponding number (1-9) or press the DOWN arrow key to change the highlighted character to the right (use UP to move it to the left) and hit ENTER when you have found the character (I usually use this method, as usually the character I want is right there, and I already have my hand over the arrow keys).
So, here are some outlined tips on using MS-Pinyin IME:
1) Make sure you type the tone of a character, such as xie2zi5 鞋子 or xie3zi4 写字. Less chance of it being the wrong character, or MS-Pinyin deciding to change your character to its best guess (sometimes it even changes characters that haven't been specifically chosen when you hit the punctuation mark... don't ask me why)
2) Type the WHOLE word of phrase, as MS-Pinyin is most likely to guess it right then.
3) MS-Pinyin LEARNS what you type, so even for your Chinese name you should only have to type it once. The first time I type my name, Meng YiMing, it usually choses 梦已名 (dream already named??? no, that's not it). So once I type meng4yi3ming2 I click the LEFT arrow 3 times, and select 孟, it automatically moves to the next character and I select 以, then I select 明. Now, if I type that again, even if without tones, "mengyiming", I get 孟以明.
4) Did you know you can change between simplified and traditional characters, as well as Chinese punctuation and English punctuation? ：‘’“”etc.? Just click the CH (or EN) of the Language bar, select "Show the Language bar" (should then float up at the top in your window's title bar), and you should either see a punctuation and simplified/traditional button there, or you can click the little down arrow at the bottom right of that floating toolbar and select Charset for trad/simp, Punctuation, or whatever.
Again, I'm not an expert, so please let me know what you've picked up on typing characters. Thanks!
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