Thursday, December 9, 2010

User's Guide

Zhongwen is an extension for the Google Chrome browser that allows you to translate Chinese words by hovering over them with the mouse.


In order to use Zhongwen, you must have the Chrome browser on your computer. If you haven't installed it yet you can install Chrome from here.

Then open Chrome and click on the following installation link for the Zhongwen extension: Simply click on the "Install" button to start the installation.

How does it work?

Once Zhongwen is installed on your computer you'll see a little icon showing the Zhongwen logo near the upper right-hand corner of your Chrome browser. By clicking on this icon you can turn the extension on and off. Click on it and wait until you see the word "ON" displayed in red and white on top of the icon. This tells you that the dictionary is active. If you want to turn it off again, just click on the icon again and the red "ON" label disappears. So with a single mouse-click you can activate or deactivate the dictionary.

Once Zhongwen has been turned on, showing the red "ON" label on the icon, you can go to a web page in Chinese and point your mouse at some Chinese characters. A popup window opens up automatically showing you the translation of the word you were pointing at.

Zhongwen can translate both simplified characters as well as traditional characters.

What information does it show?

The popup window shows the following information:
  1. the Chinese charaters forming the word you're pointing at with your mouse. If the simplified and the traditional forms differ, then both forms are shown. The size of the Chinese characters is large enough so can easily make out all the strokes of a character like this "wan": 
  2. the corresponding Pinyin. The individual Pinyin syllables are shown in different colors (see below).
  3. the English translation.
Sometimes, Zhongwen finds more than one matching entry in its dictionary. In this case it shows you all of the matching entries.

Why is Pinyin shown in different colors?

If you're learning Chinese, Zhongwen helps you remember the tone of each character by displaying it in a different color. It uses the following color scheme for showing Pinying syllables:
  1. First tone syllables are shown in red.
  2. Second tone syllables are shown in orange.
  3. Third tone syllables are shown in green.
  4. Forth tone syllables are shown in blue.
I picked this color scheme because it is the one used by Skritter and in some books.

Keyboard Navigation

Some users don't use Zhongwen to look up individual words, they want to read an entire paragraph or article. In this case, rather than having to trace all the words with the mouse, you can use Zhongwen's built-in keyboard navigation support: You can move from character to character or from word to word by pressing keys on your keyboard:
  1. Pressing "n" on the keyboard takes you to the next word.
  2. Pressing "b" takes you back one character.
  3. Pressing "m" moves to the next character. (This is different from pressing "n" if you're currently over a word that consists of two or more characters.)
Sometimes the popup window is hiding the text you're looking at. You can move it out of the way using "x" and "y" on the keyboard (this moves the popup window up or down), or hit "a" once or twice to move it to an altogether different location.

Skritter Support

If you're studying Chinese characters using Skritter you can easily add Chinese words to your vocabulary queue: just hit "s" on the keyboard. This opens up a new tab that takes you to the Skritter web site. If you're not logged into Skritter you'll see the login page. After you're logged in, the word is automatically added to your study queue.

Can I copy the dictionary entries into a spreadsheet?

Yes, if you want to copy the current dictionary entry, including the Chinese characters, Pinyin, and the English translation, to the clipboard, just hit "c" on the keyboard to copy to the clipboard. (Note: This is different from using "Ctrl + C" on a PC or "Command + C" on a Mac, which only copies the Chinese characters without the translation.) When you paste the clipboard into Excel or an OpenOffice spreadsheet, the individual components of the entry are nicely put in different columns and rows.

What built-in dictionary does it use?

Zhongwen comes with a recent release of the CC-CEDICT dictionary. This dictionary is constantly updated, and each Zhongwen release will include an updated version of the dictionary.

Support for online dictionaries

Sometimes, in addition to looking at the translation in the popup window, you might want to look up a word in one of the freely available online dictionaries. Zhongwen lets you quickly do that by some simple keyboard shortcuts.

  1. Press the "Alt" key on your keyboard simultaneously with "1" to look up the selected word using nciku.
  2. Use "Alt + 2" to do a lookup using YellowBridge.
  3. Use "Alt + 3" to for a lookup.
  4. Use "Alt + 4" for iCIBA.
  5. Use "Alt + 5" for the MDBG dictionary.

Chrome will open a new tab and the word that was shown in the popup window will be looked up in the corresponding online dictionary listed above.