Freelance gigs are keeping me busy at the moment, but I just wanted to let everybody know that even if Google and Sogou aren’t porting their Chinese input methods to the Mac, and even though Apple seems to be satisfied with a default IME that might as well be wearing bell-bottoms and muttonchop whiskers and, I dunno, whatever else people were wearing in 2002, there are still people out there fighting the good fight. I speak of Fun Input Toy and QIM.
Fun Input Toy, a free IME, was my input method of choice of a while, since it had marginally smarter sentence parsing than QIM. This has all changed now that QIM has made two major additions: first, they’ve licensed a new sentence-parsing method that they’re calling the QIT (QIM Intelligent Transformer); second, they’ve licensed Sogou’s dictionary file, meaning that QIM now knows all of the phrases that Sogou’s IME knows — which is pretty not bad, considering that Sogou is pretty much the best IME out there (with the possible exception of Google’s IME, which allegedly plagiarized Sogou’s).
After John B. alerted me to the new hotness, I downloaded 1.4.0 to test it out — and promptly crashed every program I tried to use it with. D’oh. The issue has since been fixed, and version 1.4.2 works like a charm. After years of painfully slow and inaccurate Chinese input on the Mac, QIM finally makes it possible to type long and complex strings with minimal-to-no need for correction.
Consider the following sentence, “Celebrate the victorious opening of the Chinese Communist Party’s 17th Party Congress,” which QIM 1.4.2 nails on the first try: 热烈庆祝中国共产党第十七次全国代表大会的胜利召开.
Here’s how FIT handles it, for purposes of comparison: 热烈庆祝中国共产主义青年团地时期此全国代表大会得胜利爪开. The IME tries to be helpful by auto-expanding the input string “Zhongguo Gongchan Dang” to “Zhongguo Gongchanzhuyi Qingniantuan,” picking up on the start of the phrase (“Chinese Communist”) and assuming it to be “Chinese Communist Youth League” rather than “Chinese Communist Party.” D’oh.
And here’s how Apple’s woeful default Pinyin input method handles the string:热烈庆祝中国共产党第时期次全国代表大会得胜利爪开. It makes some of the same mistakes as FIT, but to be fair, it also makes them much more slowly, since it can only handle relatively short strings. Boo, Apple. Boo. (I’ve heard good things about the Wubi and Cangjie input methods that OS X ships with, but I don’t use shape-based input methods for the same reason that I don’t speak Lojban, have genital piercings or watch Adam Sandler movies: we avoid those things which cause us pain.)
The sentence above, of course, is using a lot of familiar words that will be in any IME’s default dictionary — even Apple’s pathetically anemic one — so it’s not all that great a test. QIM fares well with ordinary sentences — and even weird ones: it handles the Chinese translation of Chomsky’s “colorless green ideas,” 无色的绿色思想狂怒的睡觉, almost flawlessly, with the sole exception of the adverbial 地 getting confused for the more common 的, a substitution that plenty of native speakers regularly make.
Quickie tests with more difficult sentences from the preface to Yang Jiang’s “Washing” (杨绛，<洗澡>) revealed some shortcomings in the dictionary (particularly with literary terms like 掇拾, of which QIM appears to be ignorant), and a couple of strange parsing errors, but on the whole, performance was about what I would expect from one of the Windows-based IMEs.
I’m new to this version of QIM, and who knows — it may yet do something to piss me off. For now, though, it looks to me like an absolute godsend — the first Chinese input method for Mac not to suck. You can get it at http://glider.ismac.cn/RegQIME.html. It costs $20 to register and would be a bargain at twice that.