Using Apple OSX’s “Character Palette” to Input Chinese
Apple’s Character Palette is great for finding problematic characters that aren’t located easily by pinyin, and if you’re on a Mac, you don’t even have to download anything!
There are so many useful Chinese characters that most typing programs just don’t have, like the name 玥. While pinyin input is appropriate for day-to-day typing in Chinese, there are many characters that were never programmed into it. Occasionally you’ll find yourself stuck scrolling up and down for a rare character, straining your eyes and patience. Eventually you have to give up and settle for a similar-looking or sounding character.
Rare characters are already in your computer
Just place your text cursor wherever you want to insert a special character. On the top menu bar click Edit (编辑), and at the bottom of that menu, select Special Character (特殊字符) which opens the Character Palette (字符调板). Where the View (显示) dropdown will read Roman (罗马), select Simplified Chinese (简体中文) from the list and three page-dividers emerge: Category (按类别), Radical (按字根) Favorites (个人收藏). Click by Radical (按字根) and on the left panel below you’re presented with a radical index: a vertical list of every Chinese radical organized by stroke count. Select one and the panel to the right displays all characters including the radical you specified. Double click on the character you want inserted into your document, web browser or any other text space, and the character appears there. Simple as that.
If the character you’re looking for is doesn’t appear in the Character Palette’s right panel then check for another radical within the character for which you’re searching. For example, sometimes a character with a simple radical, like 艹 at the top of the traditional 舊, needs to be searched for through the radical at its bottom, 臼.
In Apple’s Character Palette system, the grass radical (艹 or “草字头”) is listed on the left panel as 艸. Other difficult listings** include body-part-related characters (like 肘) listed under 肉, “王字旁” characters listed under 玉，”反犬旁” (犭) characters under 犬, 西/覀 under 襾, and 每 under 毋. You’ll have fun exploring the possibilities on your own.
Character Info (字符简介) is found by single-clicking the triangle found just below the radical index panel. You can single-click the Font Variation (字符变化) triangle to close it if you want to free up more screen real estate. For more common characters, Pinyin (拼音) with tone number is listed along with other info, like Wubi (五笔型) input encoding. Chaibai (拆白) reveals the pinyin spelling for each of the radicals within that character. You can also drag the character from the large box on the left to a text space in another program or document. If you’ll be using this character again, click on the gear icon on the Character Palette, select Add to Favorites (从个人收藏中移去) and it will be added to your Favorites page. Once you add characters to your favorites, you can access then easily by singe-clicking the Favorites page divider button near the top of the Character Palette.
To search the meanings of rare radicals and characters online, baike.baidu.com and hudong.com/wiki provide extensive listings that are virtually guaranteed to include what you’re looking for. However, you’ll have to be literate enough to read the definitions in Chinese or else run them through Google Translate or Wenlin.
Look for a future post about inputting Chinese with your fingertip using the Multi-Touch input built into Macbook Pros running Snow Leopard.