Home Macs & macOS How to type Chinese characters on a Mac

How to type Chinese characters on a Mac

by tmnsoon

macOS makes it nice and easy to input many languages on your Mac, and the Chinese language is no exception. To get started open System Preferences and navigate to the Keyboard section:

When choosing to add a new input source you’ll notice the many different options macOS gives you to input Chinese characters. Simply choose the one you would like and then select it from the language section in the top menu bar to use it. Read on for explanations on how the main Chinese input methods work.

Pinyin (phonetic input method)

The Pinyin input method is commonly used in mainland China, and allows you to type the Chinese language by spelling out the pronunciation of Chinese characters with the roman alphabet. With this method selected your Mac will suggest Chinese matches as you type the roman letters, like so:

Select a suggested character using the numbers and you’ll get that character:

Non-phonetic input methods

There are a few different options when it comes to non-phonetic input methods. All these methods work by assigning a specific Chinese character element to each key on a regular QWERTY keyboard. When multiple of these elements are put together your Mac suggests some different complete Chinese characters.


The Cangjie input method was the first to use the QWERTY keyboard, and is mostly used in mainland China. Typing with it looks like this:


Sucheng is a simplified version of Cangjie, and is commonly used in Hong Kong.


Zhuyin works the same as Canjie/Sucheng, however it is for Taiwanese Mandarin rather than Chinese.

Trackpad Handwriting

The most interesting and unique method to input Chinese characters on a Mac is the Trackpad Handwriting method. When selected a “writing pad” will appear on the screen like so:

Now you can swipe on the trackpad to draw a Chinese character and select the best interpretation by tapping the area at the top of the trackpad that corresponds to the one you want:

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