Skip to content

Japanese writing in iOS and Mac OS X

I have written Japanese (not as well as I would like though) for some time and  doing so with the computer is always a pleasure. I’m used to almost always use the same dictionary, the same method of writing, the same shortcuts, etc. Here are some of the things I use.

In iOS:
– I have always used the “qwerty” keyboard for both Japanese and the rest (UK English, Spanish), and I have occasionally used the 10-key swiping method with the Kana keyboard (see picture below). In order to use the kana keyboard you really need to know your syllabary (hiragana) as the keys are arranged by sound, and all you have to do is select the correct consonant sound and swipe in the direction of the vowel sound:

  • A – in the middle,
  • I – swipe to the left,
  • U – swipe upwards,
  • E – swipe to the right,
  • O – swipe downwards.



It may take a while to get used to it, but I just love the simplicity of it all and it even has a key for emoticons!

The Japanese auto-completion seems much more advanced in mobiles than in computers, and I think better than editors in either English, Spanish or other languages because it automatically chooses for you. As for a dictionary I use Kotoba.It is free and works without a network connection.

For Mac:
I use “kotoeri” by default. I have also enabled the option to write kanji by hand with the trackpad to search the dictionary for kanji. Instruction on how to activate it and use it can be found here. In a nutshell:

  1. Choose System Preferences from the Apple () menu.
  2. Choose Language & Text from the View menu.
  3. Select the Input Sources tab.
  4. Enable the checkboxes for Pinyin, Wubi Xing, or Wubi Hua under Chinese – Simplified, or Cangjie, Dayi Pro, Jianyi, Pinyin, or Zhuyin under Chinese – Traditional.

In OS X you can type accents and other characters with “option key” combinations without changing the keyboard layout. Also, you can press each letter for a few seconds and this will open up a menu box similar to the iOS version. Try it up!

As a native dictionary I use JEDict (free), plus a few that I consult on web such as Denshi Jisho.

To use Katakana you can hit Ctr+K, which converts things directly to the script. Finally, I recommend writing Japanese text in a Japanese font, because most Western sources do not have the characters ans this can always be an issue.