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Because there are many kinds of input method and many implementations of each kind of input method, it's not really practical to learn many.

PRC, mainland China uses simplified Chinese characters, as does Singapore. I assume most people in these places would use a Pinyin IME. But it would be good to know which Pinyin IME is most used currently. If I choose to learn the most popular one I will have the best chance of finding somebody who can help me when I have questions about it.

Hong Kong and Taiwan both use traditional Chinese characters.

Here in Taiwan most people do not use a Pinyin based IME, there are several IMEs based on bopomofo and others based on character shapes. Do we know which type is most used? And do we know which specific ones of the main types are used?

I don't think Hong Kong uses bopomofo and with their changing demographics from Cantonese where pinyin wouldn't work to Mandarin, I'd be very interested to know which kind of IME is most used there, and which actual implementation.

Best answers will be able to refer to some official website or statistics. For people who haven't travelled to these countries and who are just trying to learn Chinese, the IMEs from Chinese and Taiwanese companies and ones that can be downloaded from websites that don't have any English are probably not well known. People learning Chinese with a western language background are probably most likely to use IMEs that come with their computer or OS.

But it would be very good for us to know which ones actual Chinese speakers really use.

One issue though might be lack of English menus, dialogs, settings, and help for the IMEs that don't come with your OS. Learners are not proficient enough to use those in Chinese.

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I don't think it's been studied or much research would be needed as it's all personal preference software implementations can be found here en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinyin_input_method#Implementations (For pinyin) different methods are documented here en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_input_methods_for_computers –  50-3 Jan 27 '14 at 3:21
    
I'd be very surprised if nobody has studied this. We study people's personal preferences all the time. I'm familiar with the Wikipedia articles. One metric for IMEs which do not come with computers is of course just comparative download numbers. Just because you and I don't know doesn't mean there are no people out there who know. This is precisely what Stack Exchange is for. –  hippietrail Jan 27 '14 at 3:36
    
Hippietrail: Different kinds of lands may use different kinds of IME, so just choose where it suits the local place. And also you can use an IME that supports 繁体(traditional Chinese) or 简体(Simplified Chinese). However you should notice NOT ONLY the character, but cultures or speaking as well:e.g: 程序(in mainland) but 程式(in Taiwan) –  CA55CE37 Jan 28 '14 at 9:24

5 Answers 5

Many people in Hong Kong use Quick aka 速成 or Simplified Cangjie. There is a wiki link for this input method:Simplified Cangjie

There is a build-in Quick IME in Windows and Mac. Most of the Quick users use it.

Quick users type Chinese using Quick on smartphone too, as the build-in IME of smartphone that selling in Hong Kong usually support Quick.

However, some people prefer to type using 5-stroke input method(5筆畫輸入法) on phone. There is a wiki link for this input method:Wubihua method. This is a very simple input method. It is based on the stroke order of a Chinese character so as long as you write Chinese, you will know how to type.

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I try to answer for the mainland China part. And I only mention Pinyin IME here because that's what I and the majority use.

Windows: IMHO, the best Pinyin IME on Windows is Sogou Pinyin regarding match rate. As you might already know, Pinyin are not 1-to-1. Sogou Pinyin has the highest match rate of all IMEs I've used. I recommend you to try it if you're still using the IME shipping with Windows. Sogou is also a search engine company. They improve their the word databases by analysing the search keywords submitted by users. Sougou Pinyin is proprietary software. Unfortunately, most Chinese companies don't respect users' privacy. Maybe I'm paranoid, I'm reluctant to use it, although Sogou Pinyin is the most widely used.

Google Pinyin. The second best regarding match rate imho. Google Pinyin is made by Google China. They were once accused by Sogou for stealing Sogou Pinyin's word databases. Google actually did and admitted. They apologized for that and deleted the words.

Rime IME It's not as good as the developers and the community claim to be but it's open source. Best choice if you're willing to trade performance for privacy. It supports many platforms besides Windows. I'm not certain but it might have English UI.

Microsoft Pinyin IME I haven't used recent version but it wasn't as good as Google or Sogou Pinyin regarding match rate. I mention it because it ships with Windows and might also have English UI.

Android: Sogou is again the most popular. I use Google Pinyin and it has English UI.

Linux: I use ibus-pinyin. I'd say it's the wrost IME I've used regarding match rate. Sun Pinyin is a better alternative. I don't use it because it doesn't support traditional Chinese.

Sorry I'm not familiar with Mac OS.

I didn't mention Baidu Pinyin because I didn't use it. Baidu Pinyin is a late comer. I definitely miss many other IMEs too. Note that when I say Sogou Pinyin is the most widely used, I don't have any statistics to support it, it's just that every one around me is using it.

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I just installed Sogou and am now uninstalling it again! Unlike the OS IMEs it assumes only fluent native Chinese speakers will ever have cause to use a Chinese IME. So the installer which has options and popup windows are only in Chinese and once it's installed any menus, options, popups, etc are only in Chinese. It's quite bewildering for a learner who doesn't have a native speaker at their beck and call. I'm sure it's great but with the Microsoft ones I can type my beginner vocabulary in Chinese but still see the menus and settings in English, which involve more advanced vocabulary. )-: –  hippietrail Jan 27 '14 at 9:21
    
I'm probably about to buy my first Android device so it's interesting to learn that Sogou has an English UI for Android where you see my reason for uninstalling it on Windows is that it lacks an English UI. Very thorough answer by the way! –  hippietrail Jan 27 '14 at 9:24
    
I mean Google Pinyin on Android has English UI. Sogou Pinyin probably doesn't. –  hrzhu Jan 27 '14 at 9:33
    
Well this question is really just about which IME is most used, so whether it's suitable for a learner is really not the focus anyway. Maybe that might be a good separate question later on ... –  hippietrail Jan 27 '14 at 15:24
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btw, sogou has some issues when you try to type Chinese in some games (for example, DOTA2). –  ashbringer Jan 27 '14 at 22:02

I'll just dump words, and put all data at the end to support my claims as much as I can.

Mainland

The most common input editor by far on the mainland is pinyin input. Sougou, Windows or Mac's native IME, google's IME (which had an incident of plagiarizing sougou's database), QQ Pinyin, Baidu pinyin etc. For people not satisfied by regular Quanyin (whole) pinyin, there's Shuangpin (double pin), in which you only type 2 keys for any character, the initial consonant and final section (e.g. Lai = L + L, as L maps "L" in the initial position, and "ai" in the final position). This is the one I use, as I like speed and efficiency in typing, and I'm willing to remember the positions of the finals on the keyboard (which most people find slightly harder). With a good IME, like sougou, there's no doubt that this is the fastest input method, with only 2 strokes for any character, or 4 for 2-character compounds.

This is by far the most common. After this, some specialist typists like to input by stroke, for which the most common on the mainland is Wubixing. This inputs by shape of characters. For instance, 胡 is D(古) + E(月). The steep learning curve deters most people, though, and truthfully it's not faster than Shuangpin. However, it's possibly the only input method on the mainland that maps every character uniquely, so as long as you don't make typos, you'll never need to choose characters from a dropdown list. Also, most 2字 compounds are mapped to 4 keystrokes (first 2 of each 字).

Finally, on phones, quite a few people like to use Wubihua (not our previous wubixing). Users type the strokes of the character in question from 横,竖,撇,捺,and 折. Some people take this out and just draw characters on their touchscreen, and others just stick to pinyin all the time. Truthfully, I dislike pinyin input on phones, because either the keys are too small on the keyboard (and I miss, then have to backspace and retype, or deal with a list of fuzzy characters to choose from), or are 3x4, which just makes the list of characters to choose from way too big for me. On smartphones, somehow just writing the characters (or using stroke input) seems to be the fastest (unfortunately, considering the effort needed to use either of these)

Taiwan

The most common IME for computers here is Zhuyin fuhao(注音符號), also known as bopomofo. This uses the taiwanese phonetic alphabet for chinese to input characters, tones included. It doesn't map 1:1 with pinyin, and tones remove ambiguity (and need to type space), so it's probably slightly faster than Quanpin. On phones, people sometimes use a traditional variant of wubixing.

As for shape input, Cangjie (倉頡)is common, and to a lesser extent Dayi (大易). Cangjie is much more common, and Dayi has the inconvenience of using up number keys to type, so that the numbers aren't easily accessible. I've only ever used Cangjie, so can't talk about dayi. Cangjie is generally pretty slow. It's got as steep a learning curve as wubihua, but characters take up to 5 keys to type, whereas wubi manages most in 3, at most 4. Also, it's not that tolerant of typos. Shape inputs are becoming less common in daily life. For those not happy with Cangjie's steep learning curve, there's sucheng(速成), which only takes 2 stroke inputs from cangjie and tries to figure out the character. But, this involves a really long dropdown list, and while a few people use it, it's really not worth your time if you're trying to type anything quickly (or at all, really). Wubihua only types simplified chinese (usually, though there are ways to), so isn't used at all.

Hong Kong

Hong kong use Cangjie like Taiwan for stroke inputs, with dayi being uncommon, but again not totally unused. Cangjie is probably the most common IME overall in HK. Other common ones are phonetic, though these are far less widespread. The old romanization system of cantonese is used, but also Jyutping, which takes a more modern approach, and is developed by the linguistics society of HK. It excellently matches the sounds of cantonese with the latin alphabet, and the IPA (International phonetic alphabet). Its use isn't widespread, but there are some IMEs which intake phonetics in HK, though these are far less common.

There are more for all, but generally these are the most common.


For linux, compatibility really limits usefulness. Few of the major IMEs are designed for linux, though Google and Sougou have come out with adaptations. If using linux, these are your best bets (though I take it that not many people use Linux -- less than 1% of all computer users, and probably at most 2% of people on Stack Exchange actually use it)


Sources and Statistics:

Dashan on IMEs: http://www.quora.com/What-is-your-preferred-method-to-input-Chinese-on-a-computer-Why

Baike on IMEs (ZH): http://www.baike.com/wiki/%E4%B8%AD%E6%96%87%E8%BE%93%E5%85%A5%E6%B3%95

Sina tech report, probably the most valid to back up my claims (ZH): http://tech.sina.com.cn/mobile/n/2014-05-09/09199368867.shtml

Unable to find any raw data regarding percentages of use in each, though by looking through forums these are generally the most commonly mentioned (with the exception of Dayi, and phone input methods which people generally don't talk about as much).

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Let me try to answer the Cantonese IME's available. I don't have official answer of which is the most popular ones because we use Changjie as well as Cantonese. I am listing the best ones, hopefully these are what people use most.

Some of the best third party IMEs are:

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If you use the Changjie IME to enter either or both of Cantonese and Mandarin in Hong Kong, then that's exactly the kind of information I was looking for so please include it in your answer. –  hippietrail Jun 20 at 3:29

Use http://translate.google.com. You can output it to Traditional Chinese. The Pinyin method is very fast, sometimes you only need to type the first letter only. For example 拼音输入法 I only need type "pysrf" and it also includes the Pinyin with intonation marks Pīnyīn shūrù fǎ.

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I'm not asking for a recommendation for which IME I should use. I'm asking which IME is most used in each major different Chinese language region. –  hippietrail Jan 28 '14 at 19:56
    
OK. China uses 五笔 and 汉语拼音. Taiwan uses 注音, 自然通用拼音, 仓颉 and 嘸蝦米. Hong Kong and Macau uses 仓颉, 粵拼, 劉錫祥, 教院式 and 耶魯 method. Anywhere else and it's 汉语拼音 such as in ASEAN and overseas. –  amateur Jan 28 '14 at 21:25
    
Is each of those pretty much in order of popularity? I don't need a full list of all the IMEs each location uses, just the most used in each place. –  hippietrail Jan 29 '14 at 13:53
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Not in any order but if in terms of popularity I'd guess 拼音 for China and 仓颉 for Taiwan and Hong Kong. Forgot to mention 注音 earlier which is the bopomofo input. In my opinion, phonetic method is becoming more popular these days. –  amateur Jan 29 '14 at 16:53

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