How to write Japanese on PC with Windows IME

See tips for how to write Japanese on PC with Windows IME!

Most Japanese learners only know the basic way of writing Japanese on PC using the Windows IME. As such, they tend to use only the fewest features available in Windows Japanese support.

Some may feel they don't need that many features, but at times they may be needed. If you're just using your computer to learn Japanese, you might not get to use all the features in this article series, but if you do have some Japanese language website, oriental culture, would like to write in Japanese on MSN, Orkut or any other internet communication medium, you will find this series of articles very useful.

How to write Japanese on PC with Windows IME

In today's article, we'll learn a little more about Windows IME, going through the most basic mechanisms for writing Japanese on PC. Hope you like this second article in the series. Windows IME Tips.

Windows IME tips already published

Below is a list of the articles in the series. Windows IME Tips that have already been published in the Japanese Language:

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windows ime tips - How to write Japanese on PC with Windows IME

Windows IME and Japanese writing on PC

The basic way of writing using Windows IME can be summarized as using keyboard commands for the purpose of typing syllables of the Japanese alphabet. In addition, we can also use the spacebar to transform what was typed into kanji.

But before we talk about the basic way of writing with Windows IME, you'll need to understand a simple concept called a character input.

Knowing Character Inputs

In the computer world, character input refers to how the computer understands the keys we press on the keyboard. This means that when you press the “A” key, the computer understands that you should put the letter “A” in your text editor, or anywhere that supports typing text.

By selecting a different character input mode, we're modifying the way the computer interprets the keys we type on the keyboard, making it possible to make different changes to the text we're typing, such as replacing hiragana syllables with Japanese ideograms.

Windows IME has six character input modes: Hiragana, Katakana, Full-Width Hiragana, Full-Width Katakana, Half-Width Hiragana, Half-Width Katakana, Full-Width Alphanumeric, Half-Width Alphanumeric and Direct Input. Although there are many, they are easy to understand and use.

direct input

When using Direct Input mode, your computer's keyboard will function naturally. When you press a key, it will be added naturally to your text editor.

The only problem I found in this character input mode is that it seems to use an international keyboard setup, where there are no “ç” or other characters present on the Brazilian keyboard. So when you choose Direct Input, the keyboard may have some strange keys, even looking like it's misconfigured.

This character input mode is often used to write texts in romaji without having to change the language in the language bar.


In this character input option, the letters we type on the keyboard are displayed with a special underline. This means that the computer will piece together the typed syllables to form the Japanese hiragana alphabet.


Katakana input mode works the same as Hiragana. The only difference is that the computer will join the syllables to form each symbol of the Japanese alphabet in katakana.


Alphanumeric ( alphanumeric ) is the character input mode that uses letters and numbers. Despite being very similar to the Direct Input, The Alphanumeric has that special underline, allowing changes to the typed text. I didn't particularly find many advantages in using this character input mode.

Full-width and Half-width

These two Windows IME character input modes are related to the dimensions of the symbols used to write Japanese on the PC.

Full-width uses large dimensions, meaning it should make all Japanese symbols the same size and wider width. While the Half-width (Partial Width) does not fix the size of Japanese symbols, leaving them with a smaller width and according to the Japanese font used.

To select any of these character input modes, simply change the language of your language bar to Japanese ( JP ) and click the button next to a brush ball design. Then a menu with the options described above will open.

windows ime character input modes

Just click on the desired option to start using the selected input mode. Note that the design on the button changes according to the input mode selected in Windows IME.

Writing Japanese on PC using Windows IME

One thing we need to keep in mind when writing Japanese on PC is that Windows IME is designed to work according to the pronunciation of Japanese symbols.

This means that it will not be possible to write in Japanese using kanji directly, but we will have to write the pronunciation of Japanese symbols in hiragana, and only then transform them into kanji.

How to write hiragana on Windows IME

The first thing we need to do to write hiragana on the computer is to open our favorite text editor and then change the default language of the language bar to Japanese (JP).

After that, check if the character input pattern is Direct Input or Alphanumeric. Once we've changed the language bar to Japanese, the default is for it to display a button with the letter “A”, notifying you that the selected character input mode is Direct Input or Alphanumeric.

windows ime direct input

The second step is to switch the character input mode to Hiragana by clicking the button with an "A", and then clicking the option hiragana.

Windows IME uses a different setting for each program open on your computer. This means that if you are typing in hiragana in an MS Word document and you open a notepad, the Windows IME should probably restart and appear with default settings in notepad or any new program that opens next.

On the other hand, when you switch back to MS Word, Windows IME should restore your previous settings, reverting back to the input mode you were using before you switched to Notepad or any other program.

After switching the input mode to Hiragana, you can start typing in your text editor. How about slowly start typing the letters of the word nihongo.

Note that when you start typing, the computer starts to show the letters of our alphabet, but as we keep typing, the computer adds the syllables and replaces them with the syllables of the hiragana japanese alphabet.

typing in hiragana on the computer

Note that the letters have a special undertone. This underlining shows that we can still make changes to the syllables we just typed. When you hit the enter key, the underline disappears, letting you know that the letters have been added in the text editor. press the key enter and then make a line break, pressing enter again to continue.

Switching from hiragana to kanji in Windows IME

Now slowly type the word gakka and watch when Windows IME replaces our alphabet syllables with hiragana. Then press the space-bar once and see what happens. (but don't press enter. OK?)

Windows IME changed the word がっこう by Japanese symbols 学校. It was not? If you press the space-bar again, Windows IME will notice that these are not the Japanese symbols you wanted to write on the PC. It will then open a box with other options for Japanese symbols, including katakana.

windows ime change hiragana kanji

From now on, you can continue pressing the spacebar to move through the options provided by the Windows IME, use the keyboard arrow keys, or simply use the mouse to select the desired kanji. When you reach the symbol you really want to use, just press the key enter to confirm character input and add symbols in text editor.

Don't trust Windows IME!

At this point, you might be imagining that when you type a kanji pronunciation and press the space bar, Windows IME will replace the Japanese alphabet symbols in hiragana with the appropriate kanji. Is not it?

Pure mistake… Since a Japanese symbol can have many different pronunciations, Windows IME will never know which symbol you want to use. What Windows IME does is simply display the symbol you use the most with that pronunciation, no matter what the Japanese symbols mean or what you really want to write.

If, for example, you type the word ki and hit the spacebar twice, Windows IME will show you a big list of symbols that have this pronunciation. Your job will always be to know the Japanese symbols and choose the appropriate kanji for what you are writing Japanese on the PC.

Writing in katakana with Windows IME

To write katakana words using Windows IME, you can use hiragana character input and use the space bar to change the syllables of the Japanese hiragana alphabet to katakana.

However, the most common way to write katakana on the computer is to simply change the character input to katakana. After that, everything you type is transformed from romaji to katakana.

For example, open your favorite text editor, change the language bar language to JP (Japanese) and select the character input mode full-with katakana. After that type the word booru.

Note that Windows IME does not add the slash symbolizing vowel extension in katakana. In fact, it will be necessary to type a slash ( – ) every time there is a vowel extension in the typed word. Therefore, for us to write booru correctly, you will need to type bo-ru.

An interesting tip from Windows IME

Many Japanese students have difficulty writing the symbols. and  on the PC. This is because we generally type syllables in Windows IME according to their standard romaji pronunciation, but Windows IME does not recognize Japanese symbols in this way.

If you still can't write Japanese on PC with these Japanese letters, I suggest trying it using the table below:

Ways to type zu and ji in Japanese
Japanese symbolRomaji recognized by Windows IME

I don't know why Windows IME does this, but the fact is that it confuses Japanese students a bit. The good news about this is that other text editors like Wakan it's the JWPCe also use the romaji pattern above as a basis for writing Japanese on PC.


This was the basic way of writing Japanese on the computer using Windows IME. With the knowledge shared in this article, we will be able to write any word in Japanese, whether in MS Word, MSN, Orkut or any other place that accepts texts.

In the next article, we'll talk a little more about writing Japanese on PC. Only this time, let's talk about more advanced features and hotkeys that can make our lives easier.

I hope you're enjoying it.