Can you comment on some of the Chinese programs? Which program is the "best"?



 
 

Twinbridge Dealer

The most well-known add-on Chinese system to MS Windows 3.1, and Windows 95 is Twinbridge by TwinBridge Software Corporation.  The latest version is 4.98, which is an Unicode based-system fully supporting win98 and other Unicode-based
applications. Incorporated into this system are "super Code Converter, Font Editor, Meta Utility, Word-by-Word Translator, Single-Byte Converter, Dictionary Manager, etc." 4.98 includes, 16 outline fonts and a set of unified "true type fonts" for GB and Big5.

It is popular in North America Chinese teaching community because it is the first add on Chinese system for MS Windows, which appeared during a period of time when no other windows-based Chinese systems can be found.  Besides, its large set of Big5 fonts is quite appealing to Chinese teachers.

With the help of the excellent input system like XLBR by Yan Yongxin and Zhao Sanping, this system is more than enough for daily routines of preparing teaching materials.  However, this system, from the very beginning has been with serious problems, such as crash.  I personally witnessed that a PC crashed 7-8 times in one day with twinbridge activated.  Of course, if you have a dedicated PC with twinbridge and MS word under MS Windows only, then you might eliminate this problem.

Unfortunately, most of us cannot afford that with most personal or institutional budgets. Twinbridge crashes our machines like crazy, I have to say.  The source code is not well written. Besides, despite its large number of Big5 characters, the type cases provided are really ugly compared with other commercial Chinese systems on the market. Its older versions like 4.2 only offer limited type case such as Hei, Ming and their variations. Therefore it leaves people very little choice for their editing job.

[Wenze Hu]

Chinese Star Dealer

Chinese Star by Suntendy is actually a much improved version of Twinbridge.  To say so, because Cstar is developed by the very person who originally developed Twinbridge.  It got better interface with Windows. The current version is 2.97 supporting
Unicode-based MS office 97,  Lotus 1-2-3, and other windows-based software.   It can be used under MS Windows 3.x , 95 and NT 4.0.  It basically does not have the crashing problem as Twinbridge.  That Cstar supports both GB and Big5 makes it convenient for internet use. Bundled with it, there are a character creator, a text to picture converter, art character creator, a table generator, and a gb-big5 converter. Cstar 2.97 comes with a two-way dictionary originated from Jinshan Ciba, the most powerful electronic Chinese-English dictionary I have seen so far. If one has enough disk space, one can also install its voice
dictionary.  The input system is relatively fast.  A large set of beautiful fonts is provided for both GB and Big 5.  We have been using Cstar since 96 at Harvard and encountered very few problems. Its large set of type case includes more than 60 variations, and the font art program is really good for web creation.  It can also be used with GB based OCR system by Qinghua.

Known problems: it will freeze if Cstar is activated at the same time when windows start, or with any other programs. The problem is due to the failure to lock up that area of memory many other windows programs will load into at start. Its big5 support is not very good.  The intelligent input system does not work very well with Big5.  Errors of mapping occur
with some characters.  On the other hand, since its GB based traditional character set is based on GB 2312, which only got 6000 some characters, we still don't have enough characters, though for the simplified character output this is not a problem.  When big5 mode is activated, not only some characters are incorrectly displayed but also some English letters are affected, for example, "t" is not displayed when it is surrounded by quotation marks. What is not so convenient is, its installation kit includes both a disk and a CD ROM.  The setup.exe is on the disk which is very likely to be damaged. Some improvements are still needed. But it is a quite good program on the whole. [Wenze Hu]

Richwin by Stone Dealer

Richwin is a major competitor with Cstar.  It's current version is richwin97, including: richwin for windows, for NT, for internet, supporting all 32bit environment, compatible with office 97 and NT4.0.  One can update to build 9808 to support win98. Richwin supports GB, GBK, CJKGB, Big5, HZ provides both simplified and traditional fonts, thus make it convenient for internet browsing. Richwin97 comes with 10 font types.  Its input system includes 12 input functions.  For its pinyin input, an artificial intelligent learning and frequency-based automatic adjustment mode can be activated. A two-way dictionary is incorporated, though not as convenient as Cstar's.  It's gbk library is larger than Cstar's GB2312 and therefore make it more powerful for text book compilation.  Line wrapping is reportedly better than Cstar, though problem still exists.  It is rated one of the ten most welcome programs in China.

However, like Cstar, some traditional characters still cannot be found under GB environment. Besides, character like 挂 cannot be pinted correctly for both simplified and traditional display. The mapping for traditional characters like 后面,干净,干部,头发 etc is incorrect.

Its pinyin input is slow compared with Twinbridge and Cstar due to the fact one many times needs three steps to get to the right choice.  System may crash if two many windows are opened at the same time or Njwin is activated at the same time. [Wenze Hu]

NJWIN by NJstar Dealer

This is another add-on system for windows.  Its basic function is to support internet browsing by recognizing GB, Big5, HZ, and CJK-ISO 2022 codes automatically without manual switching.  For display purposes, simplified or traditional fonts are switchable. Compatible with 16 bit, 32bit and Unicode-based environments, including, win3.x, win95, office97, win 98, NT4.0.  This is a very powerful tool for Internet browsing and communication.  It is very popular both in China and abroad.  For internet reading, it is more convenient than any other known programs.  The mapping of characters is quite accurate.

Problems.  No input system is incorporated (though a recent beta version of NJStar communicator 2.0 has been just introduced) It cannot be used together with Richwin. System may crash when printing function is activated.  Its recent version
1.60 claims this has been fixed, but my tests show otherwise.  One has to manually switch system settings under both Pwin and Cwin. Under Pwin or Cwin, characters are not displayed automatically for English based mail programs like Eudora or Outlook Express.  However, despite these, it is a very good piece of software. [Wenze Hu]
NJSTAR Communicator 2.0 Dealer

NJSTAR Communicator 2.0 is an update of NJWIN. It is available at http://www.njstar.com.au/communicator. This program is similar to NJWIN, but it added a new function: Chinese input method editor. Users can use this program to input Chinese characters in gb, big5, hz or unicode format. It supports Windows 95/98/NT.

One of the features is that it will learn from a user's typed document. That means, if a user has already created a file in Chinese, it is possible to add those phrases that the user often uses. There is a universal converter which converts between various codes.

With NJSTAR Communicator, users can surf the net to read Chinese pages, type e-mail messages in Chinese. It is also can be used with MS Word 97, Excel 97 and other English applications. [Tianwei Xie]