Nov 252012
iOS app: MyScript Memo

MyScript Memo seems at first like a simple app for taking handwritten notes, but the amazing thing is that it links into a handwriting-recognition service that works for Chinese (traditional or simplified)! Seriously, it recognized even my terrible hanzi! This is not like using the built-in handwriting input method. You write your whole note by hand and then convert the handwritten text to typed text afterward. And this is a free app (at this time anyway)! If you jot short notes in Chinese, you may find it convenient to do so in MyScript Memo, rather than other apps. You don’t need to change your input and you can write continuously, rather than writing single characters and then picking off the palette repeatedly, as with the built-in handwriting input. Of course, the handwriting recognition may not be perfect, but in my testing it was surprisingly good. Here’s an image of some text that … [read more]

Oct 282012
Capturing notes on the go with ABBYY FineScanner for iOS

The good folks at ABBYY let me have a copy of their FineScanner app for iOS to review. I was hesitant since it seemed to have nothing to do with Chinese, but there’s at least one way that it might fit into your Chinese learning workflow. FineScanner, as you might guess, turns your iOS device into a “scanner.” The app lets you take a picture with your device’s camera and then print it via AirPrint or export it (as either a jpg or PDF) to a number of different services, such as e-mail (FineScanner can even remember your own e-mail address for 1-click sending to yourself), Facebook, Evernote, and Box. You can also open the file in other apps that you have accessible through the “Open with …” command. For example, you can create a pdf with FineScanner and open it with an app like GoodReader for annotation. FineScanner has … [read more]

Sep 302012
New iOS 6 features for users of Chinese

iOS 6 adds a number of features for Chinese users that are equivalent to features introduced to the Mac with OS 10.7 or 10.8. Siri Siri can now communicate in Chinese. You need to specify the language that you want to use with Siri in Settings > General >Siri. You can choose between Mandarin (mainland or Taiwan) or Cantonese. If you want to go back to English (or another language), you need to change the Settings again. The TUAW website has a list of commands for working with Siri in various languages; Chinese is way at the bottom. Here are some screenshots of me asking Siri about tomorrow’s weather and when my own birthday is. Text-to-speech iOS 6 can now read Chinese to you. Simply select the text that you want read and choose “Speak” from the menu. If you don’t see “Speak” in your menu, you may need to enable … [read more]

Sep 092012
Back to school: iOS dictionaries

Last September, I posted about two free dictionaries that had flashcard functionality (at extra cost): Pleco Chinese Dictionary and trainchinese: Dictionary & Flash cards. In reviewing the state of the iOS Chinese dictionary market, I find that those are still the two that I would recommend to students, so let’s take a closer look at their respective advantages. Both have useful features for learners, such as color-coding by tones and example sentences, but for beginning students, I’d recommend trainchinese over Pleco for a number of reasons: Features that are especially useful to beginners, such as audio and stroke order diagrams, are included at no extra charge. Audio does require an internet connection. English to Chinese search is better. A nifty feature draws your attention to characters with similar shapes to the ones you search for (see image below). App badges remind you to study. It seems easier to use, partly … [read more]