3/20/09

Vietnamese Input - A Few Methods of Typing Vietnamese

Here are three ways of using Vietnamese characters in your workflow:


  • Vietnamese input method software that you install on your machine

  • Online service that acts as input method software

  • Online Vietnamese manual keyboard

Input Method Software


I'm partial towards one piece of Vietnamese input software, and it is called Unikey. Great open-source software (that means it's free!) that is incredibly small, efficient and mobile. Other software includes VNI, VPSKeys, etc, which includes dictionaries, spell checkers and a lunar calendar for goodness sake, but if you only need the ability to type in Vietnamese, I would recommend Unikey above the rest. I've used it for 5 years now and love it.


  • First, download Unikey (zip) here

  • Unzip the file and save the contents in some folder you'll remember

  • Open the file named unikey.exe, make sure the little icon at the bottom is a "V" instead of "E", and start typing

That's it! You're done! No installation, no registry changes, no library files to clutter your system32, nothing! Because it is so small and lightweight and doesn't require an installation to run, you can actually copy the contents of your folder to a USB drive and then plug it in to any other computer to start typing Vietnamese. If you want to make sure that the your Vietnamese characters are readable to the vast majority of viewers (ie webpage, email, Word document) then make sure that the Character Set in the Control Panel is set to Unicode and that you use one of the following fonts:

  • Arial

  • Courier New

  • Myriad Pro (Adobe)

  • Palatino Linotype

  • Tahoma

  • Verdana

There are a few others, but these are the main Unicode fonts that contain all the characters in the Vietnamese alphabet. A standard installation of Windows will include all of these fonts (minus Myriad Pro, which comes bundled with Adobe CS products).


Online service


Although there is no service that I can find that is specifically intended for this purpose (I have one on the back burner but it's really beyond me right now), if I'm stuck at a computer with no Vietnamese input software and I left my USB drive at home, this is my next best option. We will basically be using a Vietnamese dictionary site that facilitates Vietnamese input then copying the text and pasting it where we need it.
  • Navigate to a dictionary site that provides online Vietnamese input (my personal favorite of all time: http://dict.vietfun.com/)

  • Make sure Output Format is UTF-8 and Input Mode is VNI or VIQR

  • Start typing your content in the search box

  • Copy the text and paste it where you need it

This method works well for single words or short phrases. It also can be used for mobile devices, except the iPhone which can't copy and paste (yet. OS 3.0 should).


Online Vietnamese Keyboard


My last option, if all else fails, is to use a manual keyboard (one that gives you all the Vietnamese characters and you click on the one you want). I found a nice one today for this article, here at Incks.com You can type the standard English letters, then click on the Vietnamese-specific letters as you come to them. Huge impediment in the typing process, but better than nothing. Also has the option to zoom in/out, save as a text file or view and print.

Hope this has been helpful. Let me know your thoughts, and if you use other methods of typing Vietnamese please add it to this post in the comments! It would be cool to see how everyone else does it.

One last thing: A huge player in the open-source world of Vietnamese input is Hồ Ngọc Đức. This man is the master-mind behind both Unikey and the dictionary I mentioned above. He is a professor at Universität zu Lübeck in Germany and has made substantial contributions to the Vietnamese input method community. Visit his homepage here. And, if you really need a lunar calender but don't want to pay for VNI, he has one of those, too.


Update: Just remembered, my friend developed a tool to convert between different Vietnamese character formats (Unicode, VNI, VPS, VIQR). This could also be used to type Vietnamese characters, if you're familiar with VIQR, which can be typed with any keyboard. Read up on VIQR and then type your content into the tool and hit Convert. Here is Nguyễn Trí Minh's Vietnamese Conversion tool.

8 comments:

Keng Meng said...

Hi i am a malaysian chinese wishing to pick up Vietnamese!
Your guide to Vietnamese input is indeed v very helpful and i will try my very best to acquire it.
There are very few Vietnamese here and those i approached do not know how.
cam on rat nhieu (have not learned it yet),va chuc nam moi!

xanghe said...

Glad to see that it's helpful! A very active forum centered on the Vietnamese language can be found at http://community.vdict.com/. It's a good place to practice and get help.

Chúc một năm mới vui vẻ, an khang thịnh vượng!!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm switching from Photoshop to using Gimp now, and trying to type vietnamese. For some reasons, it worked the first time I used it, but the second time it doesn't. It just deleted the character instead of showing the accent mark. I tried using it on a different application on windows, i.e. opensource office spreadsheet,and it works. Please help! it's driving me crazy.

xanghe said...

What input software are you using? It sounds like either the software is configured wrong (no tones?) or the font being used in GIMP doesn't support all Unicode characters.

If it works in notepad or Word, I would type your text there and copy and paste it to the textbox in GIMP. If the tones still disappear, then it's the font in GIMP. Change the font to Arial or Times New Roman (or another Unicode font) and re-paste if necessary. That would work for you.

BTW, the characters look like their being deleted and re-typed because most input software actually "cuts" the characters you're applying tones to, replaces them with the correct Vietnamese character in the clipboard, and pastes them back in place.

Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks for your help. I use Unikey. Do you think maybe there're things on the Gimp clipboard that's affecting it pasting the correct accent mark? Not sure. The weird thing is it worked when I first used it about a month ago. Actually, I need to do a lot paragraph,font,color editing on the text, so it's quite hard to copy and paste from another application.

xanghe said...

It might be the font you're using in GIMP. Make sure that it's compatible with the character encoding in Unikey (ie Arial for Unicode, VNI-Times for VNI, etc). That's the only thing I can think of, if it was working before and now isn't. Strange...

Anonymous said...

Thank you again! I've followed your advice and type the text in another application and paste it over. Works fine so far. Will do that until I have times to figure typing in Gimp. =)..Much thanks! Happy Holidays to you!

Anonymous said...

Did anybody figured out how to type Vietnamese character directly into Gimp. Copy and paste works but there has to be a better method.

travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
  • 03.02.08 - finalized javascript to change background without muffing up my other scripts
  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
  • 03.07.08 - some decisions are harder than others, but some are downright excruciating
  • 03.08.08 - there is life after work... i almost forgot
  • 03.11.08 - the distance between good and bad is much shorter than between better and best
  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
  • 03.15.08 - last night after blog reading, I missed OnlyBlue, today I find she's back
  • 03.16.08 - best day of my life!
  • 03.19.08 - "Pray for the answer that they've been looking for"
release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
  • 12.07 - first thought of starting a new blog
  • 01.08 - busy with election stuff but blog design still on back burner
  • 01.13.08 - first idea to imitate jk rowling with the "desk" theme
  • 01.28.08 - start sketching current design, breaking down development into phases
  • 02.02.08 - election only days away but still drafting final plans
  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH
    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented
    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished
  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH
    • image style to imitate polariod
    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop
    • release notes styled and written
  • 02.16.08 - travel log (beta) added in hopes of catching the mundane
  • 02.22.08 - lightbox 2.03 reinstalled and working fine (hopefully - let me know otherwise)
  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH
    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper
    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)
    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing
  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)