Typing in pinyin with tones

If you need to type using Chinese characters, you can install a Chinese keyboard. But what if you need to type in pinyin, the writing system for Mandarin Chinese that uses the same alphabet as English? Oh, and you want to include the tone marks?

For example, what if instead of


you want to type



Happily, there is a solution for every operating system.

If you use a Mac laptop or desktop, follow the instructions from Pin Pin Chinese to install the U.S. Extended keyboard. (It’s call “ABC Extended” on my operating system.) You have to use some keyboard shortcuts to type the letters with the tone marks, but they are fairly easy to learn if you use them regularly.

If you use a PC, download and install Pinyinput. You can pay as much or as little as you like, and if you just want to try it out, you can pay nothing and come back later to pay what you think it’s worth. (There is also a Mac version, but you are compelled to pay AUS$5 to download it. It may be worth it if you can’t get comfortable with the keyboard shortcuts mentioned above.)

Here’s how you type using Pinyinput. Just type normally, then add the number for the tone before you press enter.

  • e.g., to type
    type “ni3hao3” and press enter.
  • to type
    type “lv4cha2” and press enter.

Betsy Lavolette

Betsy Lavolette is the director of the Gettysburg College Language Resource Center.

More Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *