Pidgin meets Microsoft IME Japanese: a few tips

I’ll be doing some posts for those of you who haven’t moved over completely to Linux or BSD. Or for those who are used to the free software applications available on the typical Linux box, but find themselves stuck with Windows for some reason.

Just a quick walk-through setting up the Japanese environment on WinXP and friends, for a starting point. I’m using the standard install of WinXP Home that came with my laptop, which I’ve been playing with lately, having just restored the original o.s to a new drive. Nothing special, just a few clicks:

Control Panel >> Regional and Language Options >> Languages

And click the box for “Install files for Asian language support”.

Simple! I leave the various logout/login/reboot cycles up to the reader. To get Japanese input, go back to Languages and click the “details” button under “Text services and input languages”, to add the input methods you want for the various CJK languages. Then some more logout/login/reboot as necessary. It really does use the two-hundred-thirty megabytes of disk space, as promised.

Now I have the MS IME with “EN” (for English) showing in my taskbar. I click it to see my input options. When I need Japanese, I choose “show language bar”. I have my input mode set to hiragana, and I can flip between romaji and kana input with left-alt-shift on my US keyboard.

This setup can be used with firefox 3 and pidgin im, among others.

Now on to some Free and Open Source Software.

Pidgin im works fine with this system, with a few config setting changes. For input, right-click in the message area and select Windows IME under the ‘input methods’ menu. That allows you to write and see kanji. I don’t know if you need to change your default font to a Japanese one like MS Mincho or MS Gothic. It works for me with or without changing the font in Pidgin preferences.

There’s a slight glitch in displaying Japanese from others using legacy operating systems (like Windows 98 Japanese edition) and im clients. The easy way to deal with that is to go to:

Tools >> Preferences >> Conversations

and uncheck ‘show formatting on incoming messages’ to fix displaying kanji on incoming messages. You might need to also change your font for conversations in pidgin preferences. It depends how broken your buddy’s software is (does it use Unicode fonts and proper encoding?), and probably also on the chat protocol. I’ve been chatting on msn this way with friends on Win98 Japanese Edition and an ancient msn client.

This is just a rough run through, of course. Feel free to leave comments here relating your own experience with pidgin. I should mention I found  the ‘disable formating’ tip here and on another guy’s blog post about using Chinese with pidgin and MS IME, which I can’t seem to find at the moment.

Next Time:  Firefox with MS IME (Hint: it will be short, unless, perhaps we get into some mojibake issues with Web 2.0 type annoyances).


Author: iamacat

Professional writer and multimedia artist. Having studied Japanese and other non-roman alphabet using languages, I appreciate the particular frustrations of language learners in the computer world. I enjoy helping people get their multilingualization going, no matter what operating system or desktop environment they happen to be in. Being an open source enthusiast, I push uim and anthy without reservation in *nix environments. Although lately, ibus has made things easy in modern Linux distributions, to the point of making much of these old posts moot.

3 thoughts on “Pidgin meets Microsoft IME Japanese: a few tips”

  1. Thank you very much! This post helped me figure out how to make my inputted text not show up as boxes (I didn’t know you had to right-click inside the input box and change it to IME.)

  2. Glad to help. I haven’t booted XP for a while, but thinking about your comment, I’m pretty sure you can specify IME to be the default input method so it’s ready to use without setting it manually. In Gnome under Linux, the GTK_IM_MODULE= environment variable controls this. I’ll play with it next time I use pidgin on XP, and do an updated post. Maybe the variable is in a gtk config file somewhere in Documents And Settings?

  3. Thanks for that, I couldn’t read people’s messages when they typed in Japanese, but it’s fixed thanks to your suggestion to untick ’show formatting on incoming messages’

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