I use wechat to talk with Chinese friends, and try to type Chinese to help me learn. I would like Chinese characters to appear colour coded according to tone.

How could I go about this? Assuming it's not possible with any current product, how could one build an app or similar to achieve this? My phone is an iPhone 7 but also interested in Android.

1 Answer 1


This is not possible with existing products. You'd need a special input method, like the Multiling Keyboard, that would specifically format the input. There are a few difficulties with this:

  • Many hanzi have multiple tones. Which one to pick? To be (possibly, but never 100%) accurate, you'd need a dictionary. Which means the input method would have to backtrack when the tone of the first character changes tone.
  • WeChat doesn't allow colour formatting. So your new input method won't be able to colour the text anyway.

In WeChat's web interface, one might be able to develop a Chrome extension that reads all messages, and colours them. That wouldn't be that hard, but I expect it would be time consuming, and resource hungry.


After giving it some thought, here is what I think would required:

  • The CEDICT dictionary. Probably edited to fit a database.
  • Alternatively, if you only care about character tones, a database based on Unihan.
  • Some Javascript and jQuery to lookup the messages and color them.

Something like this [I am using Cantonese tones as I am much more comfortable with them]:

enter image description here


var db={};

var myColors= new Array("nil", "#FF0000", "#00FF00", "#0000FF", "#FFFF00", "#00FFFF", "#FF00FF");

for (n in x) {
  if(x.hasOwnProperty(n)) {
    if(x[n].innerText!=undefined) {
      console.log(n, s);
      for(i=0; i<j; i++) {
        console.log(" .",z, t);
        if(t!=undefined) {
          myString+="<span style='color: "+t+"'>"+z+"</span>";
        } else {
  • Wow, thanks for the detailed answer. I wonder if it's possible to do anything similar on a phone at all (via some kind of dirty hack at some level), or perhaps if colours are impossible would there be a way to add tone markers in black and white?
    – Flash
    Jan 25, 2017 at 11:02
  • A custom-made input method could definitely input tone marks (digits or others) when YOU type. However, doing what I did above, replacing previous messages, and messages by other people, with something else would be impossible. The other option would be to write from scratch a WeChat clone, compatible with WeChat. Good luck with that :-)
    – dda
    Jan 25, 2017 at 14:01

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