Writing Chinese characters on your PC
Chinese characters are quite fashionable at the moment. You see them tattooed on to the bodies of the rich and famous, you can buy beautiful Chinese calligraphy to hang on your wall, and there are plenty of street vendors offering to write your name in Chinese on a grain of rice. It is true that the Chinese symbols are more visually appealing than our Western alphabets, featuring precise, feathery strokes and perhaps conveying a sense of the unknown, exotic Orient.
In everyday life, there are plenty of people who like the idea of being able to type Chinese characters on their own PC. Perhaps you simply want to include a Chinese word or two in a document, add your name written in Chinese characters to your email signature, or perhaps print out a word or two to create your own piece of art. Whatever your reason, it's worth knowing that writing Chinese characters on your computer is actually quite complicated.
Most Chinese computer users type using a standard Roman letter keyboard, and write all the words the way that they sound - "rén" for a person, "quánguó" for the nation, "mù" for eye, and so on, all according to a Romanization system known as Pinyin. Once they've typed the word, the computer automatically converts it into the correct Chinese character, which appears on the screen. However, since there are plenty of words that sound the same but have different meanings, this doesn't always work.
Another Chinese character input method is known as Wubi, and is often used by speed typists. This is even more complicated, as it means you have to create a character by typing out the pen-strokes you'd use to write it, in the correct order.
Some people simply use an electronic writing tablet instead, as this lets you write the characters in the way that you're used to - but this isn't always particularly time efficient.
For Westerners who simply want to write a few words in Chinese or insert Chinese characters into a document, there is a far easier solution: PopChar.
This easy, user-friendly character map lets you insert Chinese symbols with a quick mouse click - and it works with all your applications. Whenever you need a Chinese character, PopChar is there to help. Click the little "P" box in the system tray to display a table of characters. Select the desired Chinese symbol and it instantly appears in your document.
PopChar is useful for other things too! You can insert characters for many other foreign languages, Unicode, HTML and more, and it is easy and intuitive to use.