Teaching and Learning with Technology

Computing With Accents and Foreign Scripts

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This Page

  1. Script Basics: Mixed Characters
  2. Activate Utilities for Typing
  3. Browser Recommendations
    1. Language Code: ja (not "jp " for Japan)
  4. Long Vowels (Macrons) for Rōmaji
    1. Windows Word Alt Codes
    2. Macintosh OS X Extended Keyboard Accent Codes
  5. Typing the Yen Sign
  6. Web Development
  7. Links
  8. Ainu Language and Katakana Extensions New Page
  9. Katakana Unicode Chart New Page
  10. Hiragana Unicode Chart New Page

Script Basics: Mixed Scripts

Modern Japanese writing mixes four different scripts, including the Latin alphabet, depending on the word and context of the material. The four major scripts used in Japanese are:

  1. katakana - One of the native phonetic syllabaries (each character is a syllable). katakana is used for foreign words, some company names, new Japanese words and other words in which a pronunciation needs to be specified.
  2. Hiragana - The other native phonetic syllabary (each character is a syllable) which is used for specifying certain grammatical endings. Hiragana (literally "women's writing") is circular with larger loops. katakana is more angular and resembles a streamlined Chinese character. Case endings or grammatical endings written in Hiragana are called Okurigana.
  3. Kanji - The Japanese name for Chinese characters used in writing many Japanese words.
  4. Romaji (Rōmaji) - The Japanese name for the Roman (English) alphabet which has been adopted as part of the writing system. Note that the Romaji includes long marks (macrons) on vowels.

In addition to the scripts listed above, Japanese writing can also include these scripts.

  1. Furigana/RUBY - A style of Japanese writing in which phonetic Katakana and Hiragana are placed above Kanji (Chinese) characters in order to provide a pronunciation hint. The RUBY specification for vertical writing systems is designed primarily for Furigana writing.
    Note: "Hurigana" is an alternate spelling of Furigana.
  2. Hentaigana - An older, more ornate form of Hiragana used in formal Japanese documents such as diplomas and shop names.
  3. Emoji - Picture icons used in Japanese text messages similar to emoticons, but also including weather symbols, holiday symbols, food and drink symbols and more. The use of symbols is so popular in Japan, that many are scheduled to be included in future versions of Unicode.

Some References

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Activate Utilities for Typing

In order to integrate foreign scripts into your computer, you must set up "keyboard" or input utilities in your operating system. These utilities will allow you to switch between typing English and other languages in word processors and Web tools. This process will also make sure the correct fonts are installed and available on your operating system.

See instructions for Setting up Keyboards for details.


Microsoft Keyboard Utilities

Microsoft provides a variety of free keyboard utlities, but they must be installed from the disk, then activated from the Regional Control Panel.

Step 1 - Install Utilities

Student Computing Labs - The utilities are installed in the University Park Student Computing Labs, but students must install the utlities by going to the Start menu then International Language Support » Microsoft » Office Microsoft Office Asian Character Input Support.

Home Computers - Several Asian and Middle Eastern keyboards are available in Windows, but you may have to install it from the Windows System disk because it is a complex script. After that you can activate the keyboards from the Regional Control Panel.

See Windows East Asian Keyboards for detailed instructions with screen captures.

Step 2 - Activate from Control Panel

Once the keyboards have been installed, they must be activated in the Regional Control Panel. Read the summary instructions below or go to Windows East Asian Keyboards for detailed instructions with screen captures.

  1. Go to Start then Control Panels then Regional and Language Options. Follow the instructions for Activating the Language Bar
  2. While in the Regional and Language Options control panel, click on the Languages tab, then the Details button.
  3. Click the Add button and select Japanese from the Input Language pull down menu.
  4. There are several options available for configuring input keyboards depending on the script needed. Place a check in the Keyboard layout/IME box and select an appropriate option from the dropdown menu. See the following external links for further details on which settings you can configure.

  5. Click the OK buttons until you have exited the control panels - this will save the changes in your Profile.
  6. To use the Japanese input editor, open any Windows application then make sure the Language Bar menu on top is set to JP

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Student Computing Labs - Many language keyboards have been activated in the labs and are available through the flag menu on the upper right. Skip to Step #4 in the instructions below.

Home Computers - A variety of keyboards are available from Apple, but you may have to install it from the Macintosh System disk then they can be activated through the International System Preferences. See details below.

To Use Keyboards

  1. Go to the Apple menu and open Systems Preferences.
  2. Click the U.N. flag icon on the first row of the Systems Preferences panel which is either the Language & Text settings (System 10.6/Snow Leopard) or the International settings (System 10.2-10.5).
  3. Click the tab for Input Sources (System 10.6/Snow Leopard), Input Menu (OS X 10.5-3) or the Keyboard Menu (OS X 10.2) tab and check the keyboards you wish to be activated.
  4. Close the System Preferences window.
  5. Open a software application such as a word processor, spread-sheet or any other application in which you need to enter text.
  6. On the upper right portion of the screen, click on the American flag icon (U.S. Flag Icon). Use the dropdown menu to select a script or language.
  7. The keyboard will be switched and an appropriate font will be selected within the application. A flag icon corresponding to the keyboard will be displayed on the upper right.
  8. To switch back to the U.S. keyboard or to some other keyboard, click on the flag icon on the upper right and select a keyboard from the dropdown menu.

See the Macintosh Keyboard Activation for complete instructions with screen captures.

Kotoeri Keyboard Options

Several Japanese keyboards are available for the Mac, but you may have to install it from the Macintosh System disk. See the following links for details. Note that Macintosh OS X 10.3/10.4 includes separate palettes and keyboards for Kanji, katakana, Hiragana and Rōmaji.

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Browser and Font Recommendations

Test Sites

If you have your browser configured correctly, the Web site below should display the correct characters. If you have difficulties, see list below for font and browser configuration instructions.


Browser and Font Setup

Please note which fonts are needed for each platform before viewing instructions to configure your browsers in the Preferences or Tools menu. Most browsers are recommended, but older browsers like Netscape 4.7 may need more adjustments.

Fonts by Platform

Third Party Fonts

Recommended Browsers

All modern browsers support this script. Click link in list to view configuration instructions. In some cases, you will be asked to match a script with a font.

Manually Switch Encoding

If you see Roman character gibberish instead of Japanese (such as www.e-kids.or.jp) you will need to manually switch from Western encoding view to the Japanese encoding under the View menu of your browser.

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Long Vowels (Macrons) for Rōmaji

When Japanese is transliterated into English in the Romaji systems, long marks are used to indicate long vowels. These can be written in one of several ways depending on the operating system.

Microsoft Word ALT Codes

If you are using a recent version of Microsoft Word (2003+), you can use the  following ALT key plus a numeric code can be used to type a Latin character (accented letter or punctuation symbol) in any Windows application.

Notes on the Codes

Word ALT Codes for long vowels

Capital Vowels
Vwl ALT Code
Ā ALT+0256
Cap long A
Ē ALT+0274
Cap long E
Ī ALT+0298
Cap long I
Ō ALT+0332
Cap long O
Ū ALT+0362
Cap long U
Lower Vowels
Vwl ALT Code
ā ALT+0257
Lower long A
ē ALT+0275
Lower long E
ī ALT+0299
Lower long I
ō ALT+0333
Lower long O
ū ALT+0363
Lower long U

Macintosh OS X Extended Keyboard

For Unicode Compliant Applications, you can activate the Extended Roman keyboard (10.2) or the U.S. Extended keyboard (10.3+) to type the long marks.

Macron Code on Mac
Macron ā, Ā Option+A, V

For example, to insert lower long O ō, you would type Option+A, then O.

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Typing the Yen Sign

Below are the codes for typing a Yen sign in different platforms.

Yen Sign Codes
Platform Description
Windows Type Alt+0165. You must use the numeric keypad. See details on the Alt Key page.
Macintosh Type Option+Y
HTML Use the code ¥ to specify a Yen symbol. See details on the HTML code page.

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Web Development

Japanese Encoding and Language Tags

These are the codes which allow browsers and screen readers to process data as the appropriate language. All letters in codes are lower case.

Using Encoding and Language Codes

Computers process text by assuming a certain encoding or a system of matching electronic data with visual text characters. Whenever you develop a Web site you need to make sure the proper encoding is specified in the header tags; otherwise the browser may default to U.S. settings and not display the text properly.

To declare an encoding, insert or inspect the following meta-tag at the top of your HTML file, then replace "???" with one of the encoding codes listed above. If you are not sure, use utf-8 as the encoding.

Generic Encoding Template

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=??? ">

Declare Unicode

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8 ">


The final close slash must be included after the final quote mark in the encoding header tag if you are using XHTML

Declare Unicode in XHTML

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />

No Encoding Declared

If no encoding is declared, then the browser uses the default setting, which in the U.S. is typically Latin-1. Some display errors may occur.

Language Tags

Language tags are also suggested so that search engines and screen readers parse the language of a page. These are metadata tags which indicate the language of a page, not devices to trigger translation. Visit the Language Tag page to view information on where to insert it.

Inputting and Editing Text in an HTML Editor

One option is to use Dreamweaver, Microsoft Expression or other Web editor and change the keyboard to the correct script. This will allow you to type content in directly with the appropriate script. However, it is important to verify that the correct encoding is specified in the Web page header.

Another option is to compose the basic text in an international or foreign language text editor or word processor and export the content as an HTML or text file with the appropriate encoding. This file could be opened in another HTML editor such as Dreamweaver or Microsoft Expression, and edited for formatting.

Other Web Tools

For Web tools such as Blogs at Penn State, Facebook, Twitter, del.icio.us, Flicker, and others, users can typically change the keyboard and input text. In most cases, this content will be encoded as Unicode.

Vertical Text

For best cross-browser support, horizontal text is recommended. There is a way to specify vertical text in CSS, but it's only supported in Internet Explorer for Windows.

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Japanese Computing




Other Platforms (Including DOS/Unix)

Japanese Writing System

Script Basics

Additional Fonts

Web Development Tips


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Last Modified: Tuesday, 04-Jun-2013 12:39:58 EDT