How to Type in Chinese (Step-by-Step)

June 22, 2021 · 5 min readChinese Learning
How to Type in Chinese (Step-by-Step)
Looking to type in Chinese on your smartphone or computer, but have no clue how to do it?

Fortunately for you, the Chinese use the same QWERTY/AZERTY keyboard as the rest of the world. It's simply a matter of setting up your keyboard to type in Chinese, which we're going to show you step by step for each device!

In this guide you'll learn:

2 Easy methods of typing Chinese characters

Now that you know you can use a normal keyboard, you might be wondering how can you write Chinese with it?

There are two main methods that you can use: pinyin and handwriting.

NOTE There are also few other ways to type, such as the five-stroke (wǔ bǐ) input method, but we won't cover those as they are a bit difficult and not much useful.

1. Pinyin method

This is by far the easiest method to type in Chinese! All you have to know is the pinyin of each word and type them in English. You don't even need to care about the tones.

You can check every pinyin combination using this free pinyin chart.

Nowadays, every system is smart enough to automatically understand which character you are referring to. Once you start typing a pinyin, the keyboard on the screen displays an ordered list of characters to choose from like this:

Pinyin keyboard results

To select the right character you can either:

  1. Click or tap the character
  2. Type the number of the character
  3. Tap the space bar to choose the first choice
TIP You can go faster by typing the word completely instead of one character at a time.

If the character you are looking for is not on the list, you can expand it for more choices. In most cases, it won't be needed.

Most platforms present the choices based on character frequency or by guessing based on the previous words you already typed.

Pinyin keyboard expanded results

How to type ü in Chinese?

Typing using pinyin is easy until you want to write the final ü. I struggled as well at first!

Let me save you some time: use the letter "v" instead.

How to type ü in Chinese

2. Handwriting method

The second method is with the handwriting keyboard. It's really useful as long as you know how to write in Chinese. If you want to learn how to write Chinese characters, make sure to check our app.

The handwriting system is great to use with a Chinese dictionary. When you don't know the pinyin of a character, switch to this keyboard and write the word with your finger or mouse.

Chinese handwriting keyboard

The handwriting method has many advantages, use it for:

  • Practicing your writing skill
  • When you don't know the pinyin
  • Searching a word in a dictionary

Now that you know the basics, let's set up step-by-step the simplified Chinese character input keyboard on your favorite device!

How can I type Chinese on iPhone?

To set up the Chinese character keyboard on your iPhone device, follow these 6 steps:

  1. Open the "Settings" and search for "Keyboard". Tap on "Keyboard"
  2. Tap on "Keyboards"
  3. Tap on "Add New Keyboard"
  4. Tap on "Chinese, Simplified"
  5. Select "Pinyin" and "Handwriting", then tap "Done"
  6. On your virtual keyboard, tap the "Globe" to switch to the Chinese keyboard

Infographic set up the Chinese keyboard on iPhone

How can I type Chinese on Android?

To set up the Chinese character keyboard on your Android device, follow these 9 steps:

  1. Open the "Settings" and search for "Keyboard". Tap on "Keyboards".
  2. Tap on "Virtual Keyboard (Gboard)"
  3. Tap on "Multilingual typing (Gboard)"
  4. Tap on "Languages"
  5. Tap on "Add Keyboard"
  6. Select "Chinese"
  7. Select "Chinese (Simplified)"
  8. Select "Pinyin" and "Handwriting", then tap "Done"
  9. On your virtual keyboard, tap the "Globe" to switch to the Chinese keyboard
NOTE You need to install Gboard to access the Chinese keyboard on Android

Infographic set up the Chinese keyboard on Android

How can I type Chinese on Mac?

To set up the Chinese character keyboard on your Mac device, follow these 4 steps:

  1. Open the "Settings" and search for "Keyboard". Click on "Keyboard"
  2. Go to "Input Sources" and click on the "+"
  3. Select "Chinese, Simplified" and "Pinyin - Simplified". Click "Add"
  4. In the top menu, click the input icon to switch to the Chinese keyboard
NOTE You need to have a trackpad to use the handwriting input method on Mac.

Infographic set up the Chinese keyboard on Mac

How can I type Chinese on Windows?

To set up the Chinese character keyboard on your Windows machine, follow these 4 steps:

  1. Open the "Settings" and go to "Time & language" settings
  2. Click on "Add a language"
  3. Click on "Chinese (Simplified)"
  4. In the bottom menu, click the input icon to switch to the Chinese keyboard

Infographic set up the Chinese keyboard on Windows

Final thoughts

You don't need a special keyboard to type in Chinese, you can set up your device to either use the pinyin or handwriting input method. Most people believe typing in Chinese is hard, but it's easier than writing. your device is doing a fantastic job to filter only the relevant characters.

Now that your phone and computer are properly set up, you can start chatting and impress your Chinese friends and classmates!

Any questions? Let me know on Twitter.

Heinrich Tremblay

Heinrich Tremblay

Coder by day, Chinese learner by night 🌙 Heinrich studied at Tongji University where he decided to move from Canada to Shanghai to work on Hanpath. When you run into a bug on the app, he’s very sorry ehh!

Co-Founder @ Hanpath