Windows IME – The advanced Japanese writing mode

Windows IME is a really great way to write Japanese on your PC. In addition to the basic form of Japanese writing, we can use many resources involving shortcut keys and even create our own shortcuts to facilitate writing Japanese texts on the computer.

Windows IME – The advanced Japanese writing mode

It is not my intention to describe all the features of the Windows IME, since there are many ways to achieve the same goal with it, and it would be a great wear and tear to want to cover everything.

Therefore, my suggestion is that you use this series of articles with Windows IME Tips as a starting point, and start exploring the Japanese language support features of Windows in order to learn more and be more productive when writing Japanese on your PC.

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:

Don't miss the articles with Windows IME Tips

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Windows IME - Advanced Japanese Writing Mode

How to Write in Japanese on PC – Advanced Mode

In today's article, we are going to talk about how to use Windows IME hotkeys to make our daily task of writing Japanese on PC easier.

Navigating the Languages in the Language Bar

The first hotkey that we are going to learn in this article is alt+shift. This hotkey changes the language of the language bar. This can be an interesting way to keep switching languages in the language bar.

To test this, enter your favorite text editor, then press the key alt and then press the key shift. Note that the capital letters in the language bar change each time you do this.

An important observation is that the key alt which should be used to change the language of the language bar, is the key alt on the left side of the keyboard. If you use the key alt on the right side, Windows IME will not change the language of the language bar.

Setting a Hotkey for the Desired Language

Many Japanese learners prefer to use a hotkey to jump right into the language they want. To do this, you will need to customize your Windows IME and determine a key, or set of keys, to perform this operation.

To configure a hotkey, right-click on the language bar and select the option settings. At this point, the window will open Text services and input languages of Windows IMME.

windows ime text and language services

Note that at the bottom of the window there is an item called preferences. If you click the button language bar, another window called Language Bar Settings, where you can customize your language bar in a very interesting way.

In this window there are options to display the language bar on the desktop, add transparency, show additional icons (as we did in the previous article) and show the captions of the buttons in the language bar.

windows ime settings language bar

However, what we are going to do is click on the key settings, where we will be able to determine a shortcut for each language in the language bar. This will open the window Advanced key settings, as shown in the figure below.

windows ime key settings

Notice that in the item Access keys for input languages there are only key sequences for the option Switch between input languages. these are the keys alt+shift that we learned in the previous topic.

What we are going to do now is add a shortcut so that we can change the language of the language bar directly to Japanese, without having to go through other languages.

To do this, select the option Switch to Japanese – Japan – input system…, and then click the button Change key sequence. With this, a window will open where we can indicate our shortcut keys for the Japanese language of our language bar.

In my case, I usually leave the Japanese language with the keys Ctrl+shift+1. For that, just leave the window Change key sequence as shown in the image below. And click the OK button.

windows ime change key sequence

If you don't want to use any shortcut keys for a specific language in the language bar, just uncheck the option Activate key sequence in the window above and click the OK button. This will disable any previously configured shortcuts.

In addition to using the keys ctrl+shift+1 as a shortcut for the japanese language, i also usually leave the telcas ctrl+shift+0 as a shortcut for the Portuguese language.

To do this, simply select the item switch to portuguese… from the window Advanced key settings, click the button Change key sequence and mark the options as shown in the figure below.

windows ime keys language portuguese

After that, just exit by clicking the Ok button from all windows.

Now let's test the settings we've made. Open your favorite text editor, and press the keys ctrl+shift+1. Note that the language bar has directly changed to the Japanese language. If we press the keys ctrl+shift+0 now the language of the language bar should go directly back to portuguese.

Writing in Japanese on PC productively

From now on, the hotkeys that we are going to mention in this article will only work with the Japanese language selected in the language bar. So, make sure you have your text editor open and the Japanese language selected.

Switching between hiragana, katakana and romaji

To switch between these three character input modes, you can simply use the shortcut keys below, following the guidelines shown in the table.

Ctrl + CapsLockChanges the current character input mode to hiragana.
Alt + CapsLockChanges the current character input mode to katakana.
Alt + (key before number 1, usually “ or ')Switches between current and Alphanumeric (romaji) character input mode.

Converting letters between hiragana, katakana and romaji

Another way to accomplish this swapping of characters between hiragana, katakana and romaji is to use Japanese letter conversion.

In Japanese letter conversion, you just need to type the words you want. These words can be in hiragana, katakana or romaji. Then just use the hotkeys ctrl+u or F6 (Convert letters to hiragana), ctrl+i or F7 (converts lyrics to katakana) and ctrl+p or F9 (convert letters to romaji or alphanumeric).

To test these hotkeys, let's type the word hiragana, using the Japanese language hiragana character input mode without pressing the key enter. With that, you should be seeing the word ひらがな with a special underline.

Now try pressing the keys ctrl+i and then ctrl+u and ctrl+p without pressing the key enter. Note that Windows IME has replaced the typed letters with the same letters in katakana, hiragana and romaji.

Now press the keys F6, later F9 and then F7. Windows IME changed the letters to hiragana, romaji and katakana. It was not?

That way, you can type a word in any character input mode, and as long as it's underlined, you can convert to hiragana, katakana, or romaji without having to switch between character input modes. To confirm the conversion, just press the key enter.

I believe character conversion is an interesting alternative to writing Japanese on PC using Japanese alphabets and romaji quickly.

Explore right mouse button

The nice thing about Windows IME is that as long as you have the Japanese language active in the language bar, many things can change in the programs you are using, especially if that program is MS Word.

Suppose you typed a word in hiragana, used the spacebar and turned the syllables into kanji. Then pressed the key enter and only later did he realize that he had chosen the wrong Japanese symbols. What do you do now?

Before I erased the word typed, wrote it all over again in hiragana and then used the spacebar to turn everything into kanji. A lot of work isn't it?

In MS Word you can use the right mouse button to solve this problem. When you right-click on a word (be it in romaji, hiragana, katakana or kanji), a menu with character conversion options appears at the top of it.

windows ime right click

You can select one of the displayed options or click on the Most…. clicking the button Most…, the selected word goes back to edit mode (with that special underline) and a kanji selection box, making it possible to make any changes to the word, including using the shortcut keys we learned in this article.

Making changes this way is much simpler than erasing and rewriting everything again. Do not you think?


Although there are many other Windows IME hotkeys and settings, I believe this article should help many students to write Japanese on PC with much more comfort and productivity.

In the next articles, we will find out how to use other Windows IME features, new hotkeys and new ways of writing Japanese on PC.