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How to type Chinese on a Mac (with Cantonese Pinyin)

Updated: November 9, 2015 (tested on OSX Yosemite 10.10.5)

Having lived in North America for more than 16 years, it becomes harder and harder for me to recall and write Chinese characters. Some input methods become quite unusable for me, such as Changjie (倉頡), Array (行列), and all those that require you to recall how the character looks like, and dissect it according to their radicals (部首). Similarly, hand writing pads (手寫版) do not work either, since I don’t even remember how the characters looks like. Hence the most direct way is to go by Cantonese Pinyin (廣東話拼音), since the phonetic sound the only thing I can retain.

So for you Cantonese-speaking Mac users out there, this is how you do it:

Download and Install:

  1. Download Yahoo! Key Key 奇摩輸入法 (1.1.2535 for OSX Leopard or later) by clicking here.
    (Note: Yahoo has already discontinued the development and support of this software since Jan 15th 2013. So do not remove this dmg file after installation. Keep it around in case you need to install it on another machine later.)
  2. Install the program first. (You’ll need to log out and log back in after installation.)

Prepare the Cantonese Data File Folder:

  1. Create a new folder called “DataTables” on your desktop.
  2. Within the “DataTables” folder, create another folder called “Generic”.
  3. Download this canton.cin data file (right-click and save link as).
  4. Copy canton.cin to the “Generic” folder.

Install the Cantonese Data File into Yahoo! KeyKey:

  1. Now locate “Yahoo!” in /Library/Input Methods. (Open Finder, under the Go menu, choose “Go to Folder…” or simply press Shift-Apple-G, then type “/Library/Input Methods”.)
  2. Right-click on “Yahoo!” and choose “Show Package Contents”.
  3. Go inside Contents, then Resources.
  4. Drag the entire “DataTables” folder from your desktop into the “Resources” folder.
  5. It might ask you to type your admin password to authenticate the copying process. (Note: If there are multiple users on your computer wanting to use this input method, make sure you add read and write access rights to the “DataTables” folder for everyone by right-clicking on the folder, choose “Get Info”, then do it under “Sharing & Permissions”.)
  6. Now log out and log back in.

Final Setup:

  1. Active the Yahoo! KeyKey input method by going to System Preferences / Keyboard / Input Sources, then click the + sign to add it. It should go under the language “Chinese, Traditional”.
  2. Now switch to the Yahoo! KeyKey input method and click on the input method icon on the menu bar.
  3. You should see “Canton” as one of the choices. Check it.
  4. Also remember to turn on “Associated Phrases” (this is very useful).
  5. Congratulations! You can start typing away!

Advanced Tweaking:

  1. You can turn off all the other input methods by going to Yahoo! KeyKey’s preferences under the General tab.
  2. In preferences, under the Generic tab, check “Put recently chosen candidates in front” to make frequently typed characters appear further in the front of the character selection pages.
  3. If you want to add new characters, modify pinyins, or adjust the character position in the selection bar, you can just open up canton.cin in a Unicode text editor like TextWrangler (my favorite!) and edit it yourself. It should be pretty self explanatory, but do it at your own risk! If you want the data file’s formatting documentation, read this.

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6 Responses

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  1. Andrew Kwan says

    Truly appreciate this page 🙂 THANK YOU!

  2. ELAINE says


  3. clarence says

    my machine is macbook pro 10.10.5. i stopped at step “Now locate “Yahoo!” in/Library/Input Methods” coz i cant find Library at all, can someone tell me what it is in macbook pro?

    • Anson says

      I updated the instructions in my post to help you navigate to the /Library/Input Methods folder. Try again.

  4. DY says

    Hi, I’m a mac newbie. It’s so great and thank you so much that i found this page and teach me how to install cantonese input on my macbook air . This is the only one input method i know how to input chinese. I’ve followed all the steps and successfully installed it. But I got a problem, when I switch the input to 廣東拼音and type something such as “ngoh”, there is nothing popping up and no chinese words for my selection! But when I switch it to 倉頡 or 簡易, it becomes normal again. It must be something missing with my 廣東拼音.

    May I ask how to solve it? Thanks in advance !

    • DY says

      I solved the problem after I rebooted my macbook. Thank you again! Cheers

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