Chinese text computing
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Working with Chinese on the Macintosh Operating System

(Last updated: 2003-01-13)

Before you begin

I no longer have access to a Mac. Both information and instructions provided here were last tested on or before 2001-02-19.


The document is intended for those who are new to using Chinese on the Macintosh Operating System. The following information applies to MacOS 7.5 or better. I will cover those topics which I come across most often. This document is more of a brown bag of tips for using Chinese on the MacOS rather than a serious tutorial.

Before you read on, you are reminded that the information provided in this document is for your reference only. The author is not responsible for any problems you may come across on your computer after you follow the instructions provided in this document. For comments and suggestions, you can either use the online form or send email to

Chinese system support

To the best of my knowledge, there are three options for displaying/editing Chinese on the Macintosh Operating System. The following information applies to MacOS 7.5 or better (but not MacOS X)..

  • If you want full Chinese support (i.e., viewing and editing) on the Macintosh platform, you will need to use Chinese Language Kit (henceforth CLK) from Apple. MacOS 9 system CD contains CLK. It is strongly suggested that your upgrade the OS to Version 9 if you haven't done so. (It is said that OS 8.5 CD also contains the package. I couldn't verify this because I don't have an OS 8.5 CD.)
    MacOS 9 users: CLK is not installed by default. You need to do a custom installation from the system CD.
  • To view Chinese in web browsers, you can download and install Elixir-20 (1.2M, shareware). (Note: this is a local copy of the program. The original software used to be available at However, the webpage seems to have been taken down permanently.) Detailed instructions about configuration and use of Elxir can be found in the included README file.
  • For telnet access to your Unix account with full Chinese support, try the excellent MacBlue. It is a telnet client application with full Chinese support (including GB, Big5 and HZ encoding).


The following notes apply to MacOS with Chinese Language Kit installed. Again it is based on my personal experiences.

  • Two-byte encoding support: The majority of applications running on MacOS support two-byte encoded texts such as Chinese. This is made possible because of the WorldScript technology embedded in the MacOS itself.
  • Chinese input
    • To enter Chinese characters into any applications, you will need to use something called input method. Input methods are functions (in the form of either standalone applications or add-ons to an application) which convert (unique) sequences of keystrokes you enter on the standard English keyboard into Chinese characters. CLK provides, among others, the pinyin input method.
    • To input Chinese using CLK, you have to switch to a Chinese font first within the application you are using and then select an input method (if it is not switched on automatically). Unfortunately, the pinyin input method provided in CLK is inconvenient (Notes: This is based on personal experience as compared to, for example, NJStar's input method) and I am not aware of other better alternatives.
  • Word Processing:
    • WordPerfect (Mac Version 3.5): It is perhaps the No. 1 choice for Chinese word processor on the MacOS with its comparable functions as Microsoft Word. Unfortunately, it looks that the Mac version is not updated any longer.
    • Word98: You can type in and edit Chinese texts using Apple's CLK pinyin input method but it crashes too often (my personal experiences on MacOS 8.1).
    • SimpleText: You can edit Chinese text and save it as plain GB or Big5 file.
  • Email: I am only familiar with the following three options.
    • Eudora 3 (or better) (Recommended): You can use the standard Eudora (English version) to send/read Chinese messages. Before you'll be able to do that, make sure to choose a Chinese font for both screen and print. Also uncheck 'curly quotes' if it is checked. All the settings can be set under the Special -> Settings or Tools -> Options menu, depending on the particular version of Eudora you use.
    • Netscape Messenger: It is part of the Netscape Communicator 4.5 package. If you do not have the current version installed on your Mac, you are suggested to do so first, since this version is the most stable release of the Netscape product.
    • MacBlue: You can telnet to your unix machine for reading/editing messages in Chinese.
    • Outlook (Express) for Macs: It also handles Chinese properly. (Thanks for Mark Shostrom for the information.)
  • Web surfing:
    • Netscape Navigator 3 (or better) works fine with Chinese pages. If you use Elixir, remember to set the fonts for Western (ISO-8599-1) to Beijing or other Chinese fonts. Otherwise some Chinese pages won't be displayed properly.
    • Microsoft Internet Explorer: It is capable of displaying Chinese.
  • Webpage authoring:
    • Dreamweaver: A powerful webpage editor with built-in support for creating basic dynamic html pages. A free trial version can be downloaded from To enable Chinese support, you need to change the Document Encoding properties first (from the Modify -> Page Properties menu. You will then need to add a Chinese font from the Text -> Font menu).
    • Netscape Composer: Version 4.6 seems working fine with respect to Chinese encoded text.
  • Telnet
    • The best Telnet client with full Chinese support is MacBlue! Give it a try and you will love it. So far I haven't found a comparable telnet client on the PC platform.

Tips for file transfer

  • Choose raw data type when using Fetch to transfer plain Chinese files.
  • It's better to use encoded data type (.hqx or .bin) when transferring documents created by Nisus.

Home-made Chinese system

If you are computer-savvy and want to 're-invent' the wheel ^_^, you can build a Chinese system using resources from the Internet. There are two tutorials on the Internet:


Q1. Are there other FAQs on Chinese computing on the MacOS?
A1. Yes. There is a Chinese Mac e-mail discussion list at . Members of the list maintain a FAQ at (Thanks for Eric Rasmussen for the information as well as pointing out several errors in this document).

For comments and suggestions, please use the online form to contact me or send email to

Copyright. 1998-2024. Jun Da. Page last updated: 2010-09-16