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QIM 1.4.2 makes Chinese input on Mac usable

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.

18 Comments

  1. Jeremy wrote:

    Brendan,

    How would you say the new software compares to the standard Windows IME? I’ve found it to be pretty taxing to use when trying to write anything long than a paragraph.

    Thanks,

    Jeremy

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 7:58 am | Permalink
  2. Min Guo wrote:

    how come
    “colorless green ideas,” become ” 无色的绿色思想狂怒的睡觉”? Where is the “睡觉“ from?

    I have to say “我服了你”. ;)
    ————-
    Brendan,

    I want to email you but can’t find your contact here. We are a travel start-up seeking bloggers. Are you interested?

    I can give you more details. drop me an email if you have a minute.

    Thanks.

    Min

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 7:26 pm | Permalink
  3. Imron wrote:

    Wubi on the Mac sucks even more than their pinyin IME. There’s no automatic preview of characters as you type, and no tolerance for mistaken input on the last key, so the whole 4 letters are cleared rather than allowing you to just backspace the last one. Ugh. I’ll stick with FIT for wubi, and QIM for pinyin.

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 11:16 pm | Permalink
  4. @Jeremy: The systems are pretty much comparable. The new version of QIM can handle longer input strings than the default Windows IME, so it’s closer to the Sogou/Google Pinyin IMEs, which had been my gold standard.

    @Min Guo: The original sentence in English is “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.” It was Noam Chomsky’s famous example of a sentence that is grammatical without being meaningful.

    As for the travel startup — I’d be interested in hearing more, at least. My e-mail address is just bokane@bokane.org .

    @Imron: I think the designers’ thinking there must have been that Wubi input is supposed to be painful.

    Sunday, November 18, 2007 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  5. bocaj wrote:

    agree with imron. FIT is the only decent wubi input. it’s not painful; it’s fast as all get out

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 4:38 pm | Permalink
  6. Elyse wrote:

    now if only they could come up with any sort of chinese input for the ipod touch :p

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007 at 1:29 pm | Permalink
  7. Brendan wrote:

    I don’t know if there’s anything for the iPod Touch, but the iPhone has at least one and possibly two Pinyin-based IMEs out for it, and I think the two have binary compatibility. (Wait — has the iPod Touch been hacked yet? Haven’t been following.) At any rate, there are websites optimized for the iPhone (and thus also the iPod) that will let you type Chinese.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007 at 4:35 am | Permalink
  8. kinkiliu wrote:

    hi! i am chinese girl.do you know chinese?

    Saturday, December 8, 2007 at 12:27 pm | Permalink
  9. Elyse wrote:

    yup, iPod Touch has been hacked (hence the reason I bought one!) I will look into the Chinese input. I checked out the dictionary available but it was lame (as in, didn’t have country/state names in it, nor some complicated phrases I looked up).

    and yes, Brendan. many Chinese girls are wondering… do you know Chinese? (Does she mean in the biblical sense, do you supposes?)

    Tuesday, December 11, 2007 at 9:29 am | Permalink
  10. Qingdao wrote:

    A while ago China Mobile was in talks with Apple in regards to bringing the iphone to China. I wondered what ever happened.

    It would be cool if I could get the phone here for cheap on a China Mobile promo.

    Monday, December 17, 2007 at 9:05 pm | Permalink
  11. janie wrote:

    Hi,

    I saw one of your post on tianya, about Sichuan food in philodophia, actually there is a very good Sichuan restrant close to philly, its chinese name is 川福居, located in Exton close to philly. we are in New jersey, we went there once, their food is amazing.

    Wednesday, December 19, 2007 at 4:29 am | Permalink
  12. Hi, janie — thanks for the tip! I just got back to Philadelphia for the holidays, and I’m sure that sooner or later I’ll find myself craving some Sichuan food.

    Qingdao — iPhones are available on Taobao and other places for relatively decent prices; they’ve been jailbroken so that they work with Chinese input and Chinese-localized system software, but they don’t support all of the cool telecom integration features (like voicemail and that sort of thing) that the US subscription plans have. The main sticking point in the negotiations, as I understand it, has been revenue-sharing: Apple wants it, China Mobile isn’t willing to give it.

    Wednesday, December 19, 2007 at 2:14 pm | Permalink
  13. Peter N-H wrote:

    Many thanks for the tip. I was far too used to the existing input method to realise just how much better it could be. I’m in the middle of work on a book involving the input of a lot of Chinese at the moment and it’s saving me a lot of time. Well worth the shareware fee which has been duly paid. Thanks again.

    Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at 5:37 am | Permalink
  14. Rebekah wrote:

    Hi Brendan, I am the Editor for ChinaTravel.net. I like your writing style and would like to repost some of your blog posts to the Forum of our travel website from time to time (work attributed to you and linked to your blog). If you are interested in further details, drop me an email and I will outline exactly what I am talking about.

    Rebekah
    Web Editor
    ChinaTravel.net

    Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 2:05 pm | Permalink
  15. law wrote:

    致://bbs.华@尔@街.com主管部门及人大代表和执政者的一封信

    我在贵站不同栏目版块、同样内容、标题不同的帖子全部被偷偷删除,不留一丝痕迹,而唯独显示标题为“布衣之怒-经历的鬼事”的封 杀了的帖子!其它帖子的题目是:“讨工资和社会保险目前所经历的诡异” 请转呈人大代表反馈函四!

    现今是以改版的形式全面删除,[内容有从2003年2月19日我一个劳动者依法理性维权走+访、上+访、和信+访200多封信(包括可查的北京邮政特快专递号码)]
    全面封+杀了我的帖子扯皮就=解决了?一个劳动者黄金年龄有几个5年!?

    请答复我的信访
    请解释潜规则与国家法律的区别
    请解释我以卵击石、胳膊拧不过大腿、钻牛角尖是什么意思
    请解释我又改变了这个国家什么?社会主义国家土地是全民所有的,可我老百姓为什么买租住不起房子、结不起婚、生养不起孩子……而贪官们生养私生子并且情妇成群?!

    –我只是希望能够安居乐业,依法的工龄老有所养的社会保障,如果都突然撕毁劳动合同把劳动者都踢到社会上;还敢变本加厉造出自相矛盾的伪证据……这能和谐吗?

    郑重声明: 请找我本人!

    Friday, January 25, 2008 at 11:41 am | Permalink
  16. Jason Steigerwalt wrote:

    Brendan O’Kane,

    I located this page in search for information reguarding Beijing and the small shanty towns that are being “removed” by the olympics. Please email me back so I can explain further. also, I noticed that you are originally from Philadelphia. I am a student at Temple University. Please email me at templearch2009@gmail.com

    Thursday, February 7, 2008 at 11:07 am | Permalink
  17. Ben Ross wrote:

    I’m using QIM now, and so far like it, but am having one big problem I was wondering if anybody else has noticed. QIM seems to randomly toggle on and off my caps lock button. This seems like small potatoes, but when you figure it happens 75% of the time I open a new firefox tab, it is starting to get very annoying. Especially when you are trying to enter a masked password and you have no idea whether caps lock is on or off. Anybody else have this problem and know how to fix it?

    Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 12:47 am | Permalink
  18. Ben Ross wrote:

    Oh, and another problem is that QIM has rendered my F9,F10,F11, and F12 buttons completely useless. As soon as I disable QIM, they work again. Anybody else have this problem?

    Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 12:51 am | Permalink

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