Electronic dictionaries

Does anyone know where I can find electronic chinese-English/ English-Chinese dictionaries that allow you to type using pinyin?

I’ve checked out a couple of electronic dictionaries but was told by the salespeople that you can only type in english or chinese.

Or perhaps, someone can recommend an electronic dictionary that includes excellent handwriting recognition software…the elec. dictionary that I tried out couldn’t read a darn thing.

NJStar Chinese Word processor has a two way dictionary that can use pinyin. For character recognition (chinese) I use Quick Stroke - it is great but designed to work with my laptop. I think there is a version you can use on a serial port.


Don’t forget www.mandarintools.com, among other online dictionaries that can use pinyin

thanks for the help. I assume NJ Star is software that you use on your laptop with English OS?

Do you know if there are any electronic dictionaries, the palm-sized type that you see most Taiwanese students using to translate words or phrases, that offer pinyin?

by the way, I tried to get on mandarintools.com but no such luck.


oops - I left a comma at the end

NJStar works fine with english or chinese win98 - you may need to load chinese characters from - microsoft.com - windows update - for english os

The palm things - I think they rely on you having a very good grasp of chinese - not sure if any use pinyin - i have not seen one

You can get them in the mainland … unfortunately, I didn’t think to get one when I was studying there … I just used a good old-fashioned dictionary. I’d love to have one now though. The one’s here just use “bo po mo fo” as far as I know.

Chinese has many four-character expressions called “cheng yu”. As a foreigner, I have trouble remembering these. In fact, what often happens is that I remember two or three characters out of the four.

Is there any sort of electronic dictionary or computer program out there whereby I can input one, two, or three characters, and get a listing of all “cheng yu” that contain those characters?

As an example, suppose that it is the year of the tiger and I am researching “cheng yu” containing the Chinese word “hu” (which means tiger). If I pick up my normal Chinese dictionary, even though it contains a lot of “cheng yu”, I can only effectively check for those with “hu” in the initial position. What I want to be able to do is to check for “cheng yu” with the “hu” character in any position. (I believe that this example should enable anyone to see the full scope of the problem.)

Any suggestions?

Hi Richard,
Funnily enough, I’ve got a Palm program about half-done right now. It’s called “Chengyu Helper” and will hopefully present Chengyu from a more “Western” point of view (for example, whether they can be used as verbs, stative verbs, adjectives, adverbs, or just as stand-alone phrases), whether they are generally positive, negative or neutral in connotation, etc. The programming part is done, but I’m progressing more slowly on filling in all the chengyu as I need to confirm a lot of stuff with native speakers.

When it’s eventually out, it will be posted on my Web site:


and on Palmgear.com

I’m basically starting out on a smallish scale with the more common chengyu (I’ve always had great difficult remembering them myself, even the basic ones – don’t know why!) and then later adding free updates as the file grows.


From what I’ve seen, most electronic dictionaries (and Dr.Eye) have another function which is like ‘search’ (I forget the name of it; my e-dictionary busted on me a while ago…). Anyways, it’s very purpose is what you were talking about; you type in ‘tiger’ (hu), and it searches ALL words and phrases that contain it. Unfortunately, you can’t specify you only want chengyu, so you’d get a lot of ‘hu’ words…! (also, I don’t think e-dictionaries have all that many chengyu if I’m not mistaken…)

Ironlady, keep up the great work! I’d almost be willing to buy a Palmpilot just for that program. Are there more specialized dictionaries on Palms than, say, Dr.Eye or a regular printed dictionary? That would be very useful; the amount of words in printed dictionaries is often very limited; Dr.Eye seems only marginally better.

PS I assume you guys have found the ‘Chinese Idioms and the English Equivalents’ chengyu dictionary by ShuLin (書&#26519 …? I’ve found it pretty helpful sometimes.

Ironlady: I have a couple of Palm related questions for you.

  1. What CJK software do you use?

  2. What are you using to develop your Chengyu helper?

  3. What flash card program (if any) do you use on your Palm? Flash?

  4. What’s the current situation with Internet connectivity and the Palm in Taiwan?

  1. What CJK software do you use?
    I currently use CJKOS. Never had any problems with it. If you want to run only the Oxford C<>E dictionary, you don’t evne need it, as the dictionary comes with its own fonts.

  2. What are you using to develop your Chengyu helper?
    A simple-minded program called PDAToolbox (the program is good, it’s users like me who are simple-minded because I haven’t gone out and learned to code in C or anything.)

  3. What flash card program (if any) do you use on your Palm? Flash?
    I use MapleTop Software’s “SuperMemo” and recommend it HIGHLY for any kind of application. I’ve got my Mandarin and Taiwanese vocab on there just now, and it makes up daily quizzes for me based on my mistakes on old drills and quizzes.

  4. What’s the current situation with Internet connectivity and the Palm in Taiwan?
    Don’t know quite what you mean on this one…


  1. When I was last in the states about 18 months ago, people were starting to use services like OmniSky to connect to the Internet with their Palms. I think the Palm also had a modem kit that you could use with your mobile phone to get a wireless connection. I seem to remember that your mobile phones carrier had to provide data services for all this to work and that at that time none of the mobile phone operators in Taiwan provided this reliably.

I’m wondering about this because your Chengyu Helper would be more useful if it was located centrally on a server.

Originally posted by Feiren: I seem to remember that your mobile phones carrier had to provide data services for all this to work and that at that time none of the mobile phone operators in Taiwan provided this reliably.

I did this through my local operator (FarEasTone) already a year - a year and a half ago, sending and recieving e-mail on my Palm via my mobile, without any problems at all.

I think y’all are way over my head. I’m just a mild-mannered translator who can put some words into a database. I don’t know much about this wireless stuff. In fact, I can’t even call out on my cell phone anymore (since I’ve spent all the money on the pre-paid card, haven’t gotten a “real” contract yet, and can’t be bothered to charge it up with more cash!)

Besides, don’t get all inspired thinking this is a great program. It’s an OK program, I think, but nothing to revolutionize the world of chengyu or anything…


  1. Has anyone used Palmdragon at www.pd.com.tw? Comments please.

    I really love their imput method where you can just write the character on the screen instead of Zhuyin or Pinyin etc. However, I have to get a new Palm just to use that (not enough memory on Palm V) so I would really like some imput. The other negative thing about this software is all their menus is in Chinese. Cost = NT950.


  1. Would you by any chance mind sharing your Mandarin and Taiwanese vocabulary for SuperMemo?

Thanks for the info p.

Shrek, does Palmdragon allow you to draw pictures of the characters, or is it true handwriting recognition software? In other words, does it convert the pictures you draw of the characters to text?

Sure. (on sharing SuperMemo vocab, that is). Why don’t I .zip it and stick it up on my Web page? (It may take a couple of days…I’m in the throes of chasing papers around for various permits and visas at the moment.)


On handwriting input for Palm, I’ve used DragonPen in the past and liked it very well.

The Oxford C<>E also has a VERY good pen input system (and you don’t even need a Chinese system on your Palm if you don’t want it for anything else). I suppose it only works for the dictionary – I guess you could conceivably cut and paste characters into other apps but…not sure if the characters would display or not outside the dictionary if you didn’t have a Chinese OS, and if you did, you wouldn’t need to do it that way, would you??

(My software logic is kinda slow)



I think PalmDragon is a true handwriting software as it converts the drawing to text (as opposed to CJKOS which just shows what you actually drew, when using the drawing method). It lets you select the word which comes closest to what you drew.

Thanks for sharing the vocab. Looking forward to it. As for the Oxford E/C dictionary, it looks really good. I’ll really have to start shopping for a new Palm then as the memory on my Palm is seriously lacking. That dictionary is huge. I also noticed that there is a US$10 difference when buying from Yahoo and buying from PalmGear!

Many developers mark up their software on Palmgear.com as Palmgear is not known for speedy payments, and they charge a healthy commission. You can’t beat the exposure, though (if you happen to make the server take your screenshot so that everything is complete for that hour or so your software is on the homepage!)

I always try to buy direct from the developer’s web page when possible. I like to know where my money is going as much as I can.