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I know that there are numerous Chinese input methods such as Pinyin, Bopomofo, 區位碼, Wubi method, Cangjie (Tsang-chieh) input method and many other methods. But once mastered, on average which input method will be the fastest one?

I belive this question should have an objective answer independent of anyone's preference.

Edit Here I am not asking about how long it takes to learn the method; I am asking about once learnt, which method is the fastest way to type Chinese. Image that there is a Chinese typing competition that everyone is required to type ten thousand randomly chosen Chinese characters. Each competitor can choose any input method he/she likes and the winner will be awarded a million dollars. Everyone has a year or a few years to learn and practise any Chinese input method. What Chinese input method will be the most likely choice by the winner?

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    It is extremely unfortunate that, despite being quite clear about wanting an objective answer independent of anyone's preference, we still have an influx of non-objective answers having nothing to do with input speed and based entirely on preference. Can we protect this question? – dROOOze May 1 '20 at 6:02
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    @dROOOze Good point. – Mou某 May 1 '20 at 15:05
  • For such a competition you kind of have to allow for errors, or at least penalize errors fairly. When this is the case, phonetic methods have a clear advantage because it's the lease precise and most error tolerant. When you go extremely fast, key stroke is no longer the bottle neck, but the human brain's speed to recall the encoding. With phonetics you are allowed to trade accuracy for speed and use context to recover from it. – user3528438 May 3 '20 at 16:56
  • @user3528438, I am also thinking about requiring all competitors correct all their mistakes before submitting their work (otherwise they disqualify). The system will notify the competitors the mistakes they made by say, displaying them in red colour. – Zuriel May 3 '20 at 20:39
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Theoretically the fastest method seems to be 速录.

亚伟速录常用于会议的听打,最快可达500字/分。

Apparently you can type five hundred characters a min. It is basically a type of shorthand used by stenographers. The learning curve is, obviously, going to be quite high though, as you would expect of stenography.


There's a short article saved here from China Daily that talks about it a little if you're interested.

For decades, Tang Yawei's name has been synonymous with stenography in China. In the 1930s he developed a standardized Chinese shorthand method, Yawei Chinese Shorthand, which is now widely used, especially by journalists and professional stenos.

Then in 1994, at the age of 79, he invented the Yawei Chinese steno machine, allowing stenos to record up to 200 words per minute - about 75 percent faster than shorthand while eliminating the need to transcribe notes.

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  • Thank you!! I did not find this input method in my windows. Will see where to find it. – Zuriel May 1 '20 at 13:59
  • It uses a specific, custom-made device. It might be possible to emulate with a standard keyboard, but I doubt it. For example, you need four buttons for the thumbs. You could maybe use Alt Gr, Super, Alt and so on, but I wonder how well it would work. It also uses a straight alignment between the rows, which no normal keyboard has. – Olle Linge May 8 '20 at 7:09
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Unfortunately, I know of no formal studies testing all inputs to see which is the fastest.

However, I'll make my case for cangjie, below, with evidence. (skip to "The Case for Cangjie's Speed" if you like)

Complications that would hamper an objective test of which is the fastest method:

  1. Many input methods you might like to include in your competition don't have many users, let alone users who are skilled enough to compete.
  2. Naturally, the input methods with more users will be more likely to have high-speed typists than input methods with few users.
  3. So, in order to have a fair competition, ideally you should have an equal number of equally trained competitors in each method...

Why Cangjie has, perhaps, an unfair advantage in this regard:

Cangjie is free, has been around since 1976, is ubiquitous (especially in Hong Kong and Taiwan), and has been so popular as to inspire many variants and spin off input methods such as qingsong and simplified cangjie... You can even use it for free online. For example: http://chinesecj.com/ime/cj5.php (version 5)

Boshiamy, by contrast, is proprietary, newer, and has less penetration into the market...

In terms of market share of the shape based input methods, Cangjie would be bigger than android and boshiamy would be smaller than blackberry's rim. (though it seems boshiamy is becoming more popular with time)

I'm honestly not sure about total market share or speed of other shape based input methods, but I can tell you about the Chinese language typists I know.

The majority of all the Taiwanese, Hong Kongers, and Chinese I've met used Pinyin, Zhuyin, or Cangjie. Beyond that, I know maybe 4 or 5 wubihua users, 1 boshiamy user, and 1 four-corners input method user. I know thousands of Chinese language typists, so those other methods would represent less than 1 percent of the market if my experience was representative of the broader market.

The Case for Cangjie's Speed:

"Experienced Cangjie typists can reportedly attain a typing speed from 60 cpm to over 200 cpm." (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cangjie_input_method)

Here's a 186 CPM example using Simplified Cangjie 速成: https://yewtu.be/watch?v=zHf6qNs3Qqg

Here's a 230 CPM example using full Cangjie 倉頡: https://yewtu.be/watch?v=mkzOLoV6fxg

Anecdotally, I've seen Cangjie win accuracy and speed tests competing against jyutping, wubihua, etc...(on youtube) (I can't find the video I was looking for, right now, but will add it if I come across it again) (Here's an example where cangjie won out for accuracy: https://yewtu.be/watch?v=ymk17B_N8rk.)

Additional comments:

I've seen some videos claiming 400-500 CPM voice inputs for phones...

https://www.kocpc.com.tw/archives/232363 also reports Array chinese input 行列輸入法 as having typists with greater than 200 CPM.

https://ithelp.ithome.com.tw/questions/10000851 reports a cangjie record of 220 CPM, boshiamy of 209 CPM, and Array 行列 of 215 CPM.

Cangjie5 can directly (without requiring software conversion of traditional->simplified like boshiamy) input more than 70,000 characters. (including: simplified, traditional, ancient variants, Cantonese, Japanese, Chữ Nôm, etc.) To my knowledge, this is the most of any input method.

Anyway, I hope some of that information is helpful.

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Two more candidates for you:

Erbi - lit: two pen-stroke, use Pinyin for the first key, then a stroke (encoded as key) for the 2nd key, and it'll cover most Chinese words in common use. Rarely would you need a 3rd stroke to enter any Chinese letter.

https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%BA%8C%E7%AC%94%E8%BE%93%E5%85%A5%E6%B3%95

Reports claim this is almost as fast as stenography. Probably in the 200 cps range.

Then there's

Boshiamy - lit: "it's nothing" (in Taiwanese), encoded 300 radicals in 26 letters. Reports claim this can achieve over 200 cps in typing contests.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boshiamy_method

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