How to: Use Japanese characters on Windows 7

A while ago I wrote a post about how to configure Asian languages on Windows XP. Since that day, my interest has increased to the point that I’m currently taking Japanese lessons – which means I often have to use those tricky characters on the computer.

Using hiragana, katakana and kanji on a Mac is no big deal. You only need to add the new language as a new keyboard input source in System Preferences, and switch from one to another from the top toolbar.

Things are a bit more complicated on Windows, but if you follow these steps, you’ll be able to set up Japanese as a new language on Windows 7, and use Japanese characters in Windows application.

1. Go to Control Panel and click the Change keyboards or other input methods option.

2. Click the Keyboards and Languages tab and hit the Change keyboards button. You can reach this window more easily from the Language bar, if you have it enabled on the Windows taskbar.

3. In the new window, click the Add button and browse the list for Japanese. Here’s the trick: you have to select the Microsoft IME option – and not the Japanese one, though it looks like the more obvious choice.

4. Click the OK button in all the windows you’ve opened so far, and you’re ready to start using Japanese characters on Windows 7. You’ll see a new toolbar on the Windows taskbar, beside the clock. Click the language acronym to switch from one input language to another – or use the Shift+Alt shortcut.

5. When you select JP for Japanese, you’ll get extra options to choose between hiragana and katakana, as well as alphanumeric combinations. Simply pick the one you’d like to use and start typing in Japanese on your favorite app.

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