What options are available for input of simplified Chinese on Windows computers?
Is it possible to draw characters using a mouse or stylus, or perhaps input using speech recognition?
You can use the Tablet PC Input Panel (whether you are on a tablet pc or not) by right clicking the taskbar, hovering over the toolbars submenu and checking tablet pc input panel
If that option isnt available, you may need to install it by going to Control Panel -> Programs and Features -> Turn windows features on or off and checking tablet pc components
The tablet pc input panel allows you to draw characters (english or chinese depending on what the current input language is set as) using the mouse or, if you have one, a touch screen or drawing tablet
If you want to type your characters using Pinyin, then you can use the microsoft pinyin IME installable through Control panel -> region and language -> keyboard and languages
It depends on the OS you're in. On answers.microsoft.com I searched chinese and you can see the solutions for each OS from Microsoft.
Just for completeness, let me add also a quick guide for the Mac OS X. You do the following:
Now open a document. If you selected the "pinyin input" type, which is the most used (sometimes the only one available) and the easiest one, then you can type the "alphabetical" version of the characters, which is called pinyin, indeed.
For example, if you wanna write "你好", type "nihao". A menu will "open". To select one of the choices, click on the number that corresponds to the expression you wish to write and voilà. Below you'll see the menu I was talking about:
By clicking one, I choose to write the two characters that correspond to "nihao" which mean "hello".
On the Mac it is also possible to draw using the trackpad or an external graphic tablet:
This was done like the video showed in the Apple support page.
So I've got an answer that works on both Windows and Mac (quite recently), which is Sogou Pinyin Input. The default Mac input system has terrible sentence generation, and the default Windows system is even worse, IMHO. Sogou is really fantastic, and quite a step up from either the Google Pinyin IME for Windows, or the recently-turned-freeware QIM for Mac (which isn't too bad, I just didn't think it was worth paying for)
For character recognition, there are all sorts of tablets available (it would be very time consuming with a mouse), but there is also an app called Finger which works on your iOS device, and links up with your computer for doing handwriting.
Lastly, and this is Mac only - you can use the trackpad/magic touchpad to do Chinese handwriting. It's pretty neat.
I'd better say that we all use SouGou PinYin input method http://pinyin.sogou.com/ in Windows. It is the best pinyin input method and support all the functions you wanted. BTW, in linux (for example, ubuntu), we use Sunpinyin or Googlepinyin with ibus or fcitx.
Try the Chrome Extension Google Input Tools.