This is a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) about Wenlin Software for Learning Chinese, with answers. It was revised most recently on November 24, 2012.
NOTE: Some of the answers may be valid only for the most recently published version of Wenlin at the time of this writing.
The source for this FAQ is a page named "faq" on the Wenlin web site. Its URL is http://www.wenlin.com/faq. It is maintained by Wenlin Institute's technical support staff (mainly Tom Bishop). If you download a copy of this FAQ for reading while not connected to the web, keep in mind that sooner or later your copy will be out of date. See the top of the file for the date when it was last revised.
Regarding sales: www.wenlin.com/order.
Regarding technical issues: www.wenlin.com/support.
Or you are always welcome to send us e-mail: email@example.com.
Or, in the USA, call our toll-free telephone number: 1-877-4-WENLIN (1-877-493-6546), preferably after 9 o'clock in the morning Pacific time. If you leave a message, we will get back to you.
The newest version is 4.1.
The newest demo version (free) is 3.4.1. We haven't made a demo for version 4.x yet.
Wenlin 4.1 is new in November, 2012 with quite a few improvements and corrections. Please see guide.wenlininstitute.org/wenlin4.1. Wenlin 4.0 was new in January 2011, with major improvements to the dictionaries and user interface.
Registered users of versions 1, 2 and 3 can upgrade to 4 for a fraction of the full price. For details, please see:
For users of 3.0 or later, a free update to 3.x (where x is greater than or equal to 4) is available for downloading. Also, for users of 2.0 or later, a free update to version 2.x (where x is greater than or equal to 6) is available for downloading. Details are here:
(Please notice the distinction between free "updates" and inexpensive "upgrades".)
Wenlin 4.1 provides its User's Guide in two forms: as a website (guide.wenlininstitute.org/wenlin4.1), and as HTML files you can view on your computer without being connected to the internet. There is not yet a printed version of the 4 User's Guide, but the electronic versions include all the material, with updates, from Wenlin 3.0 User's Guide, which was 248 pages long. The Guide includes an introduction, a tutorial, and detailed reference documentation. The website version is searchable.
Wenlin's technical support staff will do its best to answer questions and solve problems. Please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or, in the USA, call 1-877-4-WENLIN for technical support. Please specify what operating system you are using.
Technical support service is free and doesn't expire.
For Wenlin 4, it's very simple: choose Abbreviations from the Help menu.
For Wenlin 3, it's slightly more obscure. In the main on-line help file (accessible by the Help menu), please click on the triangle button for About the ABC Dictionary. There is a Reader's Guide including these sections:
That fourth section has the abbreviations. A lot of additional information about dictionary notations is available in the on-line help files.
Wenlin is designed to help students and scholars of the Chinese language, especially written Chinese, at all levels from beginning to very advanced. It is CD-ROM software for both Macintosh and MS-Windows. It combines a large, high-speed expandable Chinese dictionary, a full-featured text editor, and a unique "flashcard" system.
For details, please see our home page.
It is much more than just a dictionary, but less than a complete course. We wouldn't recommend trying to learn Chinese with Wenlin all by itself. Ideally one should take a class with a good teacher. If that's not possible, one should at least have a good textbook with audio tapes.
It is NOT an automatic translation device that would make it unnecessary for you to learn Chinese.
The current version gives Mandarin pronuncation only, not Cantonese or other dialects.
It is not designed for learning English; it assumes you know English and want to learn Chinese.
In the current version, the English-Chinese dictionary isn't nearly as good as the Chinese-English dictionary.
Flashcards are currently limited to single characters, as opposed to words and phrases of more than one syllable. The same limitation applies to the sound recordings.
Wenlin can't read Chinese characters in a scanned image. First you would need to use an OCR program to convert the image into electronic text (Unicode, GB, Big5, etc.) See the question about Chinese OCR.
Dictionary entries for Chinese headwords (both single characters and compound words and phrases) show both simple and full forms (if there is a difference), and you can look up an entry starting from either the complex or simple forms. The English-Chinese dictionary has pinyin and simple forms characters; you can point to any Chinese word in simple form characters to see the corresponding full form characters. Stroke-by-stroke animation is given for both simple and full forms, and handwriting recognition works with both forms. When converting pinyin into characters, you can choose whether the characters will be simple or full form. There are functions for converting back and forth between the two forms. Since Wenlin supports the Unicode standard for encoding characters (as well as the more limited but still popular GB and Big5 standards), it even allows mixing simple and full form characters without having to change fonts.
Otherwise, Wenlin still only describes Mandarin pronunciation. Mandarin (also known as Putonghua or Guoyu) is the most widely spoken dialect of Chinese. We eventually plan to provide more support for Cantonese and other pronunciations in addition to Mandarin.
As is well known, written Chinese is essentially the same throughout China, in spite of huge differences in the spoken dialects (some of which are really mutually unintelligible languages). Modern writing generally uses Mandarin vocabulary and grammar. Wenlin is especially useful for learning to read and write Chinese characters, so it is worth considering even if you are interested in a dialect other than Mandarin.
Wenlin 4.1 is available for downloading in both MS-Windows (7/Vista/XP) and Macintosh (Intel, OS X 10.4 through 10.8) versions. A CD-ROM for Wenlin 4.1 will be available starting December, 2012.
For Wenlin 3.x, the same CD-ROM can be run on Macintosh (OS X through 10.7, or System 9) or MS-Windows (7, Vista, XP, Me, 2000, NT4, 98, or 95).
Wenlin has almost exactly the same functionality regardless of the type of computer. There are some minor differences, having to do with differences between operating systems. (For example, the dialog box for opening a file looks different.)
The same Users's Guide describes Wenlin for MS-Windows and Macintosh. There are relatively few pages in the guide that need to make any distinction between the operating systems.
See also the system requirements page on our website.
Any pen input device that can function as a mouse should work with Wenlin. From Wenlin's point of view, it makes no difference whether you use a mouse or a pen. However, a good pen is easier to use than a mouse for writing characters.
The good pens, such as those from Wacom (www.wacom.com), come with special tablets that you write on. (A good pen does not have a little ball at the end like a mouse; beware of cheap devices.) We've found the Wacom pens to work well on both Macintosh and MS-Windows; however, we can't guarantee compatibility since there are so many different pens and system configurations.
Note that there is some risk of incompatibility between your system and the "driver" software that has to be installed with the pen and tablet; make sure your computer and operating system (Macintosh or MS-Windows) are supported. Also, if you want to use both a mouse and a pen, it's best if they are both made by the same manufacturer. (We had a report that the combination of a certain Wacom pen and a certain Logitech mouse led to strange errors.)
Yes. Wenlin's C-E dictionary is larger, with over 200,000 entries, compared to its E-C dictionary, with about 60,000 entries. Starting with version 4.0, Wenlin has a new E-C dictionary developed by John DeFrancis, Zhang Yanyin, and the ABC Dictionary team.
Yes. This has been done in language labs with both PC's and Macintoshes. As specified in the license, you must ensure that only the authorized number of simultaneous users have access.
You should make the file permissions read-only, since two people making changes to the same dictionary file simultaneously could in principle cause errors. (We haven't actually heard of this happening.)
For ancient texts there are the I Ching and works by Confucius, Mencius, Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Xunzi. In the "beginner" folder are five short lessons in very elementary Mandarin. There are also Journey to the West; the Dream of the Red Chamber in 120 chapters; 300 Tang dynasty poems; a large selection of fiction and non-fiction by the famous 20th century auther Lu Xun; 40 poems and a couple of essays by Mao Zedong; thousands of news articles (in Chinese) from Voice of America; the complete old and new testaments in Chinese and English; a handful of children's stories and songs; a short story by Hu Shi; and other odds and ends.
Far more Chinese literature can be found on the internet and read with Wenlin. Copyright and other issues make it difficult to include more of it on the CD-ROM.
We started working on a Linux version of Wenlin in late 2002, and we're still working on it when we have time to spare (2011). It's still too soon to predict when Wenlinux will be ready for field testing or publication. In the meantime Linux users can run Wenlin under WINE. See the Wenlinux page for details.
Wenlin does run on Mac OS X, which is a form of Unix.
We started working on a handheld version of Wenlin in early 2003. As of January 2011 we have a prototype of Wenlin running on Windows Mobile; licensed users of Wenlin 4.0 or later are welcome to inquire about field testing it. Nevertheless, it's still too soon to predict when a handheld Wenlin will be ready for publication. We recommend checking what another company, Pleco (pleco.com) has to offer for handheld devices.
Yes. Wenlin 4.0 has a new "Flexible Flashcard" format that supports polysyllabic words as well as single characters. (For example, 你好 nǐhǎo 'hello' as well as 你 nǐ 'you' and 好 hǎo 'good').
Yes, for Wenlin version 4.0 or later.
Yes, for Wenlin version 4.0.2 or later.
Wenlin 4.1 is available both as a download and on a CD-ROM. If you download it, you may understandably be concerned about losing your copy of Wenlin if your computer is lost or damaged. It is a good idea to make a backup copy, and you can very easily do so. The easiest way is to copy the Wenlin installation file that you have downloaded to an external disk or drive. This can be a CD, if your computer has a CD-burner (as most modern computers do), or it can be a thumb drive that plugs into a USB port (available at many computer stores for a few dollars). We would also be happy to replace your copy as long as you have your serial number or proof of purchase, as long as we're still in business.
You can use a regular web browser, such as Netscape or Internet Explorer, to access the web. Then, when you find a Chinese text that you would like to read using Wenlin, you can copy the text (or a portion of it), using the Copy command in the browser, and then go to Wenlin and use the commands New (to open a blank, untitled window) and Paste.
IMPORTANT: If you use a recent (at least 21st century) version of one of the major browsers (such as Netscape or Safari), on a recent Unicode-based operating system (such as Mac OS X or Windows 7/Vista/XP), then copying and pasting Chinese generally works just fine, and you probably won't need to be concerned with the following technicalities. Older browsers and operating systems are more problematic, and with them you may need to choose the appropriate Clipboard Format from Wenlin's Edit menu, before choosing Paste. There are various ways of encoding Chinese text; fortunately Wenlin is compatible with all the most popular ones, including GB, Big5, UTF-8, and UTF-16. If at first you don't succeed, try a different Clipboard Format.
For this to work, it isn't actually necessary for your browser itself to be able to display Chinese text. If it can, of course it will then be easier to have some idea what you're copying, before you paste it into Wenlin. At least some versions of both Netscape and Internet Explorer can be set up to display Chinese; the methods have nothing to do with Wenlin, but you can probably find up-to-date instructions either from the documentation for your browser, or from one of the sites we have links to at www.wenlin.com/links -- Marjorie Chan's site is particularly good for this kind of information.
Unicode text on the clipboard is recognized automatically by Wenlin. Recent versions of some browsers will put Unicode on the clipboard, even if the original text is in another encoding. Unfortunately, sometimes the browser doesn't recognize the original encoding, and then it may only put question marks on the clipboard. In such cases it may be necessary to set up your browser so that it knows how the text is encoded. Of course, this is closely related to the issue of making the browser itself display Chinese.
If you have trouble getting your browser to copy Chinese texts correctly, you can try using the browser's "View Source" command before copying and pasting. Another method is to use the browser's "Save As" command to save the text in a file on disk. Then you can open that file using Wenlin's Open command.
If you have trouble moving Chinese text from your web browser to Wenlin, TRY A DIFFERENT BROWSER! If you're using Internet Explorer, try Netscape or some other browser, or vice-versa. Also try newer (or older) versions of your browsers. There are huge differences in how browsers manage, or damage, Chinese text, and when they damage it, wow, they really put it through the blender! (Here's an example of what can happen: using Internet Explorer 5.2 for Mac OS X, a particular Chinese website, using GB encoding, was displayed correctly, but the Copy command in Internet Explorer seemed to put only nonsense on the clipboard, anyway not GB or Unicode. For the same website, Netscape 6.2 for Mac OS X worked perfectly, displaying the Chinese text with a better font, and copying it to the clipboard correctly and with automatic conversion to Unicode, and when pasted into Wenlin it was perfect. But, with other versions, operating systems, websites, encodings, etc., the situtation may be reversed: Internet Explorer may work when Netscape doesn't.)
If nothing seems to work, please contact Wenlin Institute, and let us know the details such as your operating system (Windows or Macintosh), what browser(s) you're using (including the version numbers), the URL (web address) of the Chinese texts you want to view, and what other software you are using (if any) to make Chinese characters visible in the web browser.
You can use Wenlin to read and write Chinese messages, including e-mail. You'll still need your regular e-mail program for actually sending and receiving the messages. There are two methods: (1) Copy/Paste; (2) Attachments. The Copy/Paste method can be more convenient when it works, but attachments are more reliable.
In the Copy/Paste method, you run Wenlin and your e-mail program at the same time. Copy from Wenlin the text you want to send, and Paste it into your e-mail program in the body of a message. Note that the Chinese characters may look like nonsense within your e-mail program, but the recipient of the message should be able to use their own Chinese software to read the text; if they use Wenlin they can simply Copy the text from their e-mail program and Paste it into Wenlin. There are a couple of complications with the Copy/Paste method. You need to set Wenlin's Clipboard Format (in the Edit menu) to an encoding that the recipient's software will be able to display (which is no problem if the recipient has Wenlin or the free Wenlin demo version, or any program that can display Chinese in the GB, Big5, or UTF-8 formats). (The Wenlin User's Guide section 8.5.5 gives details.) More troublesome is the fact that some e-mail systems cause non-English characters in the body of a message to be corrupted! (This is for obscure reasons such as automatic conversion between different Macintosh and Windows encodings for accented letters in European languages -- some piece of software somewhere is trying to be helpful, but it just ruins Chinese text.) If you have such a system, you might be able to reconfigure it, but you might find it easier just to use attachments, as described below. Or, if you know the recipient has Wenlin, use the ASCII clipboard format, and the mysterious [U+] codes will be magically converted back to Unicode when pasted back into Wenlin.
In the Attachments method, first you create a Chinese text file using Wenlin. Save it in a format that the recipient will be able to read -- if the person you're sending e-mail to also has Wenlin, then we recommend UTF-8 or Unicode. Otherwise, it depends on what kind of software they have; GB (simple form, Mainland) and Big5 (full form, Taiwan) are most likely. After you create your Chinese message with Wenlin and save it as a file called, for example, "message.gb" (pay attention to the location -- disk and folder/directory -- where you save it), then you can attach the file to an e-mail message, using your e-mail program's "Attachment" command and specifying the same file (for example, "message.gb"). Any good e-mail program should allow you to "attach" any file to an e-mail message. In Eudora (TM), for example, you would choose "Attach File" from the "Message" menu. When your friend receives the e-mail, the "attachment" file will be saved on their disk, and they can read it using Wenlin or whatever Chinese software they have available.
If someone sends you a Chinese e-mail message, no matter what method they use, you should be able to read their message using Wenlin (unless, of course, the message was garbled by the e-mail system). Just save the message as a file; pay attention to the location. (Using Eudora you'd choose "Save As..." from the "File" menu; your e-mail program should have a similar command.) Then open the file using Wenlin.
Copying and pasting of Chinese text between Wenlin and various other programs, such as word processors, is possible. The other programs do need to have their own capability of displaying Chinese. Copying and pasting works best if the other programs support Unicode, as appears to be the case with at least some recent versions of Microsoft Word. We can't guarantee it will work on your system, though we think Wenlin is doing its part correctly. For non-Unicode, the Clipboard Format in Wenlin's Edit menu may need to be set appropriately, usually for GB or Big5, and after pasting into the word processor you may need to select a suitable Chinese font. Please see the answers to the previous two questions for more about copying and pasting with other programs.
Some users of Wenlin have made extensive additions and changes to their dictionaries. We're committed to supporting such personalized vocabularies. Wenlin versions 3.0 and later enable switching back and forth between different dictionary versions. Therefore you will still be able to use your customized copy of older dictionaries (from Wenlin 2.0 or later). There are also features for extracting the modified entries from an old dictionary and importing them into a new dictionary. These features are described in Chapter 15 of the User's Guide.
A scanned text is a picture -- a graphics file. To convert it into electronic text, you need Chinese OCR (optical character recognition) software. That's not included with Wenlin. There are links to some websites that advertise OCR software here.
However, be aware that even the best OCR software won't recognize all the Chinese text you scan. If it's 95% accurate, that means one out of twenty characters might be missing or wrong. You have to decide whether it's worth the trouble.
In addition to the texts on the Wenlin CD-ROM, there are thousands of Chinese texts already in electronic form that you can find on the internet and read using Wenlin. For most students, it probably makes more sense to use those existing texts rather than try to use OCR.
Probably you just need to select the "Hand" tool from the Toolbar. (The Wenlin User's Guide Chapter 5 gives details.) If the "I-beam" tool is selected instead, that enables you to move the Insertion Point for editing (User's Guide Chapter 1).
Many of the missing characters are rarely used; the main problem is that Big5 doesn't include simplified characters. Therefore, use Unicode (or UTF-8) whenever possible. When you must use Big5, use only full forms. You can convert between simple and full forms using the "Make Transformed Copy" command in the Edit menu.
Starting with version 2.1, the newer file format Big5+ (Big Five Plus), is supported: Big5+ is an extension of Big5. While still compatible with existing Big5 files, Big5+ includes all the Chinese characters (both simple and full form) that are in Unicode 2.0, but is still missing thousands of characters from later versions of Unicode. For compatibility with other software programs that may not support the extensions yet, you may still need to use only simple form characters when saving in GB format, and only full form characters when saving in Big5+ format. We recommend using Unicode whenever possible: it's the international code for modern applications; GB and Big5 (and their extensions) are likely to be used less and less in the future.
Wenlin 3.0 and later supports GB18030, which has a one-to-one correspondence to the entire Unicode character set.
This is a known error in Wenlin 2.0 running on some MS-Windows systems. It was fixed starting with Wenlin 2.1. If you are still using 2.0, you can download the latest update 2.x free of charge from www.wenlin.com/update.
This problem occurred with Wenlin 2.0 on some versions of Mac OS (due to undocumented changes made by Apple). It was fixed starting with Wenlin 2.1. If you are still using 2.0, you can download the latest update 2.x free of charge from www.wenlin.com/update.
The most frequent cause is a dirty CD-ROM. A bit of dust or a fingerprint can make a file on the CD-ROM unreadable. You can clean the disc by wiping it gently with a soft dry cloth.
There are other possible causes of such errors; if you encounter any difficulty, please contact us and describe the exact error message and the circumstances under which it occurred.
(Note: Wenlin 4.1 on MS-Windows does normally prompt you whether you want to install Wenlin; but if it doesn't, please read on. For installation of version 4.1, see installation.) This is normal: nothing is supposed to happen automatically as a result of inserting the disc. (Except, of course, that the CD-ROM icon should be displayed in the place that is normal for your operating system.) To run or install Wenlin, you just need to use the appropriate icons, as described in detail in the printed user's guide: the Wenlin Tutorial (starting on page 24; page 25 has Step 1: Starting Wenlin), and Appendix C (Installation, starting on page 221). (Briefly, for MS-Windows, double-click on the Setup icon; for Macintosh, drag the Wenlin3 and W3Sound folder icons into your Applications folder.)
Some CD-ROM's are designed to run a program (such as an installer) automatically when you insert them, but Wenlin doesn't do this, since some people use Wenlin in libraries, language labs, etc., where it might be preferable to run directly from the CD-ROM rather than installing on a hard drive. Unlike many programs, Wenlin doesn't require installation: you can run it directly from the CD-ROM. (You can also install Wenlin on your hard drive, in which case you only need the CD-ROM during installation, not afterwards.)
It could be a bug (programming mistake) in Wenlin, or a bug in the operating system, or a conflict between Wenlin and another piece of software. Please see the list of known defects and incompatibilities (defects).
The sound files are a separate download, due to their large size. The link was included in the same email message as the application download link. Use that link to download wenlinsounds.zip, unzip it and install the W3Sound folder according to the installation instructions, and all should be well.
Another sound problem on Mac OS X is: what if "sound play error -2004" is reported? This isn't really a frequent problem, but it has been reported twice (long ago). This mysterious solution was reported (by both people) to succeed: go to the Applications folder, and then the Utilities folder, and run the Audio MIDI Setup application. Under "Audio Devices", "Properties For: Built-in Audio", "Audio Output", in the lower right, reduce the "Format" setting to 48000 or less. The default value is 44100.0 Hz on at least one computer; click here for a picture of its settings.
This problem occurs with Wenlin versions 3.4.1 and earlier on start up if your hard drive is formatted as "case-sensitive", meaning that "CIDIAN.DB" isn't recognized as the same file as "cidian.db". You can check this in the Finder by selecting the hard drive icon and choosing Get Info from the File menu. Formatting a hard drive with a case-sensitive file system is problematic for many applications.
The problem is fixed in Wenlin 4.0, which supports both case-sensitive and case-insensitive file systems; the dictionary files are all lowercase (like "cidian.db").
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