Additional Hints for Japanese

Additional Tools in MS Word | Windows-specific Settings | Macintosh-specific Settings

Typing Japanese can be mendokusai if you don't know all the tricks. Here are a few that should make it easier for you to work on a computer in Japanese. Some of the information is applicable to both Macintosh and Windows computers (and also Japanese word processors), and the rest of it is platform-specific. Be sure to read through everything to maximize your Japanese typing efficiency!

Additional Tools in MS Word

Vertical Text

Once you've registered Word as a Japanese application, you can also type vertically. Go to Format > Text Direction and you will see that the dialog box demonstrates a new option for vertically written Asian text.

Text Direction Dialog Box

Custom Symbols

Additional Japanese features include the ability to create custom enclosed characters (e.g. a character with a circle or triangle around it), or to combine characters into one character space (e.g. writing ミリ so that it is smaller and taking up one character space rather than two).

Phonetic Guide

This is the ability to add furigana (aka okurigana, aka ruby) to typed Japanese text, just like in textbooks and newspapers. The Windows version of the tool even auto loads the default kana text for the characters you've selected. This feature can also be used to add romaji pronunciation guides to Japanese characters. The tool allows you to add the guides to just one instance of the word, or to add it to all occurances of the character in the document.


On Windows, the Phonetic Guide automatically appears in the Word menus after you enable Japanese input.

For Macintosh, you have register Word as a Japanese application:

For Microsoft Office 2004:

  1. Open the folder Applications > Microsoft Office 2004 > Additional Tools > Microsoft Language Register (don't double-click the program!)
  2. In another window (or in column view) make sure you can see the icon for the Microsoft Word program
  3. Drag the icon for Microsoft Word on top of the icon for the Microsoft Language Register program and choose Japanese from the window that appears. Click OK.

Note: doing this in Office 2004 on the Mac produces the side-effect that some dialogue boxes (such as the Print dialogue) will be in Japanese. You can use the same procedure above to re-register the program as English to undo this change if this is annoying to you.

For Microsoft Office 2008:

  1. Open the folder Applications > Microsoft Office 2008 > Additional Tools > Microsoft Language Register
  2. Double-click the program Microsoft Language Register
  3. Set the language to Japanese and click OK.

Using Phonetic Guide

  1. Highlight the characters in your document that you want to add the phonetic guide to
  2. Select Phonetic Guide from the menu
    1. Macintosh: Format menu > Phonetic Guide
    2. Windows: Format menu > Asian Layout > Phonetic Guide
  3. Edit the phonetic guide text as you see fit and then click OK.

Windows-Specific Settings and Input

Windows uses a Language Bar that you can configure to be of the most use to you. In Windows XP or Vista, it will appear as a floating bar at the top of your screen by default, but you can also put it into your taskbar at the bottom of your screen. In either case, there are some settings that you can choose to make it useful without taking up too much of your screen.

You can add or delete icons from the language bar by clicking on Options, the small triangle icon in the lower right of the bar. I also recommend showing the language bar with icons only, not including their text labels. This will make the bar smaller and easier to manage on your screen. Do this by clicking on Options > Settings > Language Bar and then uncheck the box to Show text labels on the Language Bar.

Windows Language Bar

JP icon - indicates that Japanese is the currently selected input method
Correction - highlight a word and click this to edit a word & select different kanji
Input Style - allows for differences between Natural Input and IME Standard, Natural is recommended when it is available
Input Mode - allows for switching between hiragana input, direct input (English) and other options
Conversion Mode - there are special settings for kanji conversion when typing a lot of names, but keeping this on General will work for most of the time
IME Pad - has tools for inserting characters by looking them up by radical or drawing them with your mouse, handy when you can't remember a pronunciation of a character
Tools - a drop-down menu containing the IME Pad, Properties and other seldomly used items
Properties - for adjusting settings specific to the Japanese input
Help - will take you to the help specific to using the Language Bar

Quickly Switching Between Languages

To become an efficient typist, it is important to know the best ways to switch between different input methods. Hold down the left ALT key and hit the left Shift key to rotate among the activated input methods. On the Japanese input method, use Alt + tilde (~) to Switch between hiragana and direct input.

Macintosh-Specific Settings and Input

Macintosh uses a Keyboard Menu to switch between input methods. In OS 9.x and OS 10.3 - 10.5 this menu appears in the upper right next to the clock. In OS 10.0 - 10.2.8 it appears to the right of the Help menu at the top of the screen.

Macintosh keyboard Menu

Switching between Input Methods

On OS 10.3 or less, you can quickly switch between US and Japanese input by hitting the Apple key and space bar at the same time. This will rotate among the available input methods in the keyboard menu.

In OS 10.4 or higher, the Command + Space shortcut is preempted by the Spotlight search feature. You can, however, change your keyboard shortcuts as you like in the Keyboard & Mouse System Preference pane (under the Keyboard Shortcuts section). Those who are accustomed to using Command + Space to change inputs will likely want to set the shortcuts as see below.

Recommended Keyboard Shortcuts settings for Mac OS 10.4 +