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CategoryLocalization CategorySoftware

How to input Chinese characters in gnome

Writing in Pinyin

Pinyin is the transcription of the spoken Chinese language in Latin characters. Each character has a tone which can be entered via the keyboard's various layers. E.g. on a German keyboard, buttons for ' and ` are available which allows to write the second (e.g. má) and fourth tone (e.g. mà). The first tone can be composed by holding <alt gr> + <shift> + <+> then the character (e.g. mā), the third by <alt gr> + <shift> + <ä> then the character (e.g. mǎ).


Install the fonts

optionally also

using ibus

ibus is a DBus-based daemon which supports different input method modules (IMmodules) and integrates well with e.g. KDE 4, GNOME. The documentation can be found at I18n/ibus

using UIM


Start uim-pref-gtk (type this in a terminal window)

change the setting for selection of chinese input from <Shift>-Space to <Ctrl>-Shift (<Alt>-Shift did not work)


Change over to chinese input with <ctrl>-Shift Select an alternate chinese character with <Ctrl>-N

To edit and enter Pinyin, add all vowels into the character palette: áéíóúàèìòùāēĩōūăĕĭŏŭǚ

using SCIM


Install the package scim

The file README.Debian in /usr/share/doc/scim contains the necessary documentation.

To convert pinyin into Chinese, also add scim-pinyin. Gnome-Users should also add scim-gtk2-immodule to make use of the the GTK IM (GTK input method).

If you are not using an US-English keyboard, your keyboard has to be defined in file ~/.scim/global. If that file does not exist, start scim in a terminal and terminate with Ctrl-C. Check you locale LANG with the terminal command locale, for German it is e.g. de_DE.utf8. Add the line /SupportedUnicodeLocales = <your_locale> to that file.

If there are many users on a system and use the same locale, you may want to consider changing the system configuration file /etc/scim/global to set the supported locale.


Just start a GTK+/GNOME program, right-click somewhere on an input field and choose "Input Methods -> SCIM Input Method" in the pop-up menu, and SCIM should automatically start if it's not started yet. Now pressing Ctrl-space should also activate SCIM and show a toolbar. You can start typing and suggestions are being made. There are alternative ways described in the documentation mentioned above.

using Fcitx

  • Install Chinese locale

You can do this with dpkg-reconfigure:

# dpkg-reconfigure locales

Now choose the locale that you want to use, e.g ZN - CN - UTF8 locale.

  • Install Fcitx and pinyin input

# apt-get install fcitx fcitx-sunpinyin fcitx-libpinyin
  • Configure fcitx


From the menu choose fcitx.

  • Reboot or log out the user. When done you will be able to use the input.

Use in GNOME

To make fcitx work inside GNOME environment you will need to remove all the input sources from gnome-control-center, clear all the hotkeys for input methods and issue the following command to disable iBus integration:

gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.keyboard active false

CategoryLocalization CategorySoftware