It helps to learn to write hanzi with proper stroke order. Firstly, because your characters will look better. Secondly, many electronic handwriting inputs may not recognize characters that are written improperly. Also, when speaking Chinese people sometimes clarify words that are ambiguous by writing the character in the air, which is nearly impossible to follow if you don’t know the rules for stroke order. The same technique is used to clarify things between speakers of different dialects, since the written language is essentially the same for all dialects. This can be extremely useful if you travel around China.
Even when you know the rules, sometimes it’s helpful to see how a particular character is drawn. Here are some resources:
- The chinesetools.eu website lets you get the animated stroke order for individual characters and vary the speed of the playback.
- The archchinese.com website has a dictionary with stroke order diagrams and an explanation of the rules of stroke order.
- The mdbg.net dictionary includes animated stroke order diagrams (b/w brush icon for iOS-compatible version of animation; seems to use the ones from Ocrat, below).
- Ocrat’s old-school animated gifs of stroke order are on this mirror (viewable on iOS devices).
- Tim Xie’s old animated gifs can also be downloaded for offline use.
- The yellowbridge.com website has a dictionary and “Etymology Explorer” with stroke order diagrams (needs Java; buggy on my computer).
- The website cchar.com exists mostly to sell a software product, but they have a box where you can enter a character and see either an animation or diagram of the stroke order (sort of a sample of what you can produce with their software). There are radio buttons to choose GB or Big 5 encoding, but leaving both these unselected and entering a Unicode character works sometimes.