MacOS X 10.5 Leopard すごい！
Since MacOS X was first released the built-in support for Japanese has been excellent. Everything you need for Japanese is in the standard installation. It’s there when you want it. It just works; no searching around for install disks. I recently installed Windows XP using Parallels on my Mac. Boy it’s clunky. Mac is the way to go for Japanese. Doubly so because, if you want, with an Intel Mac you can get Windows too.
Japanese support was a big reason for me to go OS X several years ago. It was a deciding factor on Leopard as well.
I’m a bit wary of upgrading my system when everything is working because invariably something I like stops working and all the furniture is moved yet again. So while I have had Leopard since it was released I have only recently installed it, the new Japanese features were part of the decision.
First and foremost for Japanese support is the Kotoeri input system (known on other systems as the IME). On the Mac this is activated in the International System Preference. I choose romaji, hiragana and katakana; and I turn off the national keyboard to tidy up the input menu. I don’t like those flags really.
By choosing hiragana input when you type in Latin characters hiragana will appear. ha, hi, fu, he, ho becomes は、ひ、ふ、へ、ほ. nihonngo becomes にほんご, and when you press the space bar this converts to kanji, 日本語. Simple. Just be careful the kanji you choose are the right ones. You may also be presented with a choice by the system in the form of a pop-up menu.
This is all as before. The huge, fantastic, change is that now Kotoeri is in English! Both the help files and the preferences. You are no longer guessing or laboriously translating in order to get the best from the input system. Finally I can understand how to add custom readings of words I use a lot like friends names so the system doesn’t mangle them.
Another way to input kanji is by using the character palette. This is organised like a traditional dictionary. If you don’t know a character’s reading and you can recognise its radical you can look it up by radical and stroke count using the character palette. It’s a bit laborious but might be useful if you need to look up a printed kanji. Once it’s a digital character it is then easy to do a dictionary search or reverse convert it to hiragana.
Lastly you could use a Japanese keyboard. Although it may be difficult to source one outside Japan. I bought a nice little Apple wireless keyboard the last time I was in Japan. However it’s not as easy as I thought. It’s very slow to relearn a keyboard layout, even when I just do two finger hunt and peck typing. The pluses are having hard wired keys to jump between romaji and kana input. I’ve also found it useful when using Maniackers kana fonts.
The next big item in Leopard is the inclusion of Japanese dictionaries. This is big. As far as I am aware there are no other foreign dictionaries included with OS X. Although “translate” is a very misleading term for Apple to use in relation to using a dictionary.
There are 3 dictionaries from Shogakukan. A Japanese dictionary, a Japanese to English dictionary and a Japanese synonyms dictionary. These are primarily for Japanese speakers but they are very useful for learners as well.
Once you are at the Intermediate stage it is a good idea to try to use an all Japanese dictionary if you can. It is better to understand a word in reference to its own language rather than to rely on English headwords.
However a word will be searched across all the dictionaries so you can quickly jump over to the Japanese – English dictionary to get an English meaning. To go from English to Japanese is a little harder. You can search an English word in this dictionary but the results will be all kanji. To get a reading you may need to click on a kanji word which will give you a reading for it in its own separate entry. The synonym dictionary has a similar function to a thesaurus.
Indexing means lookups are superfast. All dictionaries can be searched at once and everything is cross linked so it’s also fast to browse topics in the dictionaries.
I still need JEDict. JEDict’s searches are slow by comparison but the dictionary files in JEDict are much simpler. Maybe someday someone will compile Edict and the ALC dictionaries for Mac’s dictionaries. Even enabling Dictionary to send a search to Denshi Jisho and ALC‘s websites in the same way wikipedia can be searched from the Dictionary would be very useful. (as yet I can’t find a way to implement this functionality)
Lastly there is expanded character support for JIS2004 and Hyogaiji.
This all beyond me but must be a good thing. Hyogaiji are characters beyond the official sets taught in schools that are often used in newspapers. JIS2004 appears to be the standard for the glyph shapes of printed kanji. From what I can see 168 characters from the previous standard have been slightly changed. It’s interesting to see this evolution but they don’t seem to be common characters.
Handwriting recognition. I’d really like to be able to use a tablet to input kanji. Windows can do it to a limited extent in the IME why not Mac? In fact Nintendo DS can do it. They licensed a really good handwriting recognition software from Decuma. (It also used to be included with Sony Clies) I wish Apple or a third party would license it for the Mac.
Voices. Again Windows wins out here. There are some supurb and inexpensive 16bit voices available for Windows. If only Mac could implement the SAPI5 standard, which seems to be where voice technology has gone leaving MacInTalk behind.
But regardless of these missing features, I find Leopard a really good place to work in Japanese.