This tutorial will take you through some additional Pleco features not covered in the Basic tutorial, including some that require paid add-ons.
Open up the Input Field and tap on the “handwriting” button just above the keyboard bring up the Pleco handwriting recognizer:
You can use the handwriting recognizer to enter / look up characters simply by drawing them on the screen with your finger. We’ll start with an easy one: draw the character 三 “three” by drawing three horizontal lines, each left-to-right, beginning with the top line, then the middle line, then the bottom line.
You’ll notice that the list of potential matches at the bottom of the screen updates after each stroke. Tap on 三 (should be the first character listed) to clear what you’ve drawn and enter 三 in the Input Field:
Tap on the backspace button to delete the character you just entered.
Now draw 十 “ten” - draw the horizontal line from left-to-right, then the vertical line from top-to-bottom:
十 should again be the first character listed. This time, instead of tapping on it, simply tap anywhere in the drawing area with two fingers - it doesn’t matter where, just make sure both fingers are touching the screen somewhere within the drawing area. This will clear what you’ve drawn, leaving 十 in the Input Field, and allow you to immediately begin entering another character.
Tap on the screen with two fingers again and that 十 should now be deleted from the Input Field; when the drawing area is empty, tapping on it with two fingers causes the software to backspace and erase the previous character entered.
So basically, if you:
Note that if you tap the list of candidate characters at the bottom of the screen and drag your finger to the left / right, you can scroll it to see additional characters, so it may be worth checking those before you clear your input / try again.
One unique Pleco feature is the ability to combine Chinese characters and Pinyin syllables in a single search query; this works just as quickly as a character-only or Pinyin-only search, and is extremely useful if you recognize one character in a word but don’t recognize the other (since you can use handwriting/radical input for the character you don’t know but switch to the faster keyboard input for the character you do know).
Clear the Input Field, switch to the “Rad” tab, tap on the 亻 radical (midway through the radicals that come after ②), then tap on 什 (first character after ②). Switch to the “Key” tab and enter “me,” so that you end up with the search query “什me”. You should now see 什么, “what,” listed as the first search result:
This also works with the Pinyin syllable first and the character second. However, in order to keep our database indexes from getting too big, this feature currently only works in the first three characters/syllables of a word; everything from the third character/syllable onwards has to be the same thing (character or Pinyin).
The number buttons we insert above the iOS keyboard in the search screen are fully functional; tap on one of them to enter a Pinyin tone number. (1 = flat tone, 2 = rising tone, 3 = falling-rising tone, 4 = falling tone, 5 = neutral tone)
To insert a wildcard into a search term, simply type a question mark ?. This acts as a substitute for a single character or Pinyin syllable; “?hao” would look for words where the second syllable is “hao,” but exclude those where the third or fourth syllable is “hao.”
Open up the Input Field, clear it, type “bu,” then type a question mark, then type “bu” again, so you’ll be left with “bu?bu” in the Input field. Tap “Done” to view a full page of search results:
This is a list of every word in which the first and third syllables are pronounced “bu.” (this works perfectly well for characters too, it’s not just for Pinyin)
Pleco also supports multi-character wildcards (wildcards that can replace anywhere from 0–3 characters), but due to space constraints we weren’t able to put dedicated buttons for both wildcard types on the main screen. The multi-character wildcard is represented by “*”; try it now by typing “bu*si”:
This is a list of every word in which “bu” is the first syllable and “si” is one of the subsequent syllables. (you could enter a * at the beginning to not require that “bu” be the first syllable)
“lve,” incidentally, is an easier way of typing the Pinyin syllable “lüe” - since there’s no “v” in Pinyin, Pleco automatically replaces “v”s with “ü”s in searches.
You can assign “$” to the Wild button instead of “@” through the Search Types screen in Settings.
By default, Pleco combines Pinyin searches for regular ’u’s with searches for umlaut ’ü’s (used in certain Pinyin syllables like lü and nü); type in “luse” and you’ll see results both for “luse” and for “lüse”:
If you prefer to explicitly search for umlauts, type a ‘v’ instead of a ‘u’, or hold down the ‘u’ button on your iPhone’s keyboard and select the ‘ü’ from the menu that pops up. Turn off “search for umlauts on ’u’s” in Settings / Search Engine to prevent ‘ü’ results from coming up on regular ‘u’ searches.
You can also look up an entire sentence via Pleco’s search box, though for longer passages of text you might prefer to use the (free) Clipboard Reader function. Tap-and-hold in the search box to bring up a “Paste” bubble:
Paste in a string of Chinese characters, or enter one, and you should see a segmented list of results like this:
This gives you an easy way to look up a string of words without having to enter them in the search box word by word. (pedagogically, though, we recommend against doing this too often since it’s better to force yourself to try to remember each word, which is why we push people towards the Clipboard Reader)
We’ve already seen a little bit of full-text searching with English-to-Chinese, but full-text searches can actually be used for Chinese too, and can be used for English even if you do have a dedicated English-to-Chinese dictionary installed.
Type a “#” - whenever a # appears at the start of a search term, Pleco treats it as a full-text search query - and then enter the Chinese characters 美丽 “beautiful.” (full-text searches only support English and characters, they don’t currently support Pinyin)
You’ll see all of the entries containing “美丽” listed, with the 美丽 highlighted in each definition.
This search type brings with it a couple of extra icons at the top right corner of the screen: [C] is a full-text search of all English dictionaries for a Chinese word, while [CC] is a search of all Chinese dictionaries for a Chinese word; if you enter English instead of Chinese, in addition to the [E] group that you also get with normal English searches (English words in Chinese dictionaries) you’ll see an [EE] which is English searches of English dictionaries.
Basically, if the icon is hollow rather than filled-in, it’s a full-text search; C or E tells you what language it’s in, and a repeated C or E means that it’s a full-text search in dictionaries of that same language.
While we’re on the subject, another handy prefix: type a ! at the start of a search and Pleco will put all of your flashcard vocabulary words on top of the search results.
All of the searches we’ve talked about so far have taken place in Chinese-to-English dictionaries - even the English ones were full-text searches in those - but Pleco supports English-to-Chinese dictionaries as well; we offer quite a lot of them as add-ons.
If you’ve installed one of those, along with the icon at the top right corner of the screen for English searches, you’ll also have a filled-in one that you can switch to by tapping:
These results are in straight alphabetical order - no frequency sorting - but like Chinese results they’re merged from all of your installed dictionaries. Tap on one of them to bring up something similar to the Chinese-English definition screen:
There’s no CHARS tab here for obvious reasons, but WORDS essentially functions the same as an icon full-text search:
And SENTS works pretty much exactly the same as its Chinese counterpart:
If you’ve bought our optional Stroke Order Diagrams add-on, you’ll see an additional STROKE tab in the definition screen; tap on that to pull up a stroke order diagram for the character / word:
Tap on the play button at the bottom of the screen to animate the strokes in the character one-by-one. While the strokes are animating, this changes to a pause button - tap on that to pause playback. The left and right arrow buttons go back / forward by one stroke at a time, the rewind button takes you back to before the first stroke and the fast forward button takes you forward to after the last stroke.
For multi-character words, and characters with a traditional variant, you can switch between characters in this screen by swiping right-to-left; the dots at the bottom will show you how many characters are available:
The “lock” icon temporarily disables swiping, which is useful if (like many of our users) you occasionally like to practice character writing by tracing the character with your finger as it animates.
If you find the animation too slow / fast, there’s an option to change its speed in Settings / Stroke Order; there’s also an option there to add a 2x2 or 3x3 box background if you’re used to learning character writing that way.
Tap on any Chinese character word in an example sentence or a Chinese-Chinese definition to instantly bring up a popup window with its definition:
This actually works throughout Pleco - it’s part of our document reader function - so it’s covered much more extensively in the reader tutorial. Briefly, though, you can use the arrows at the bottom of the screen to move around the highlight (left/right move it forward/backward and the other two expand / shrink the selection) and the buttons at the top of the screen to do stuff with the highlighted text (> brings up a full-screen definition), and can tap on the dictionary abbreviation at the top right corner of the popup box to change the dictionary you’re viewing a definition from.
Go to a single-character entry like 明 and scroll all the way to the bottom and you should see a “UNI” dictionary listed there with a gear icon next to the “UNI” abbreviation:
This will pull up various bits of information about the character from the Unihan database, stuff like Japanese / Korean / Vietnamese pronunciations, grade levels, indexes in well-known dictionaries, code points in various popular Chinese text encoding systems, etc.
To change the information shown in UNI, tap on the gear icon:
You can rearrange items by dragging them, tap on the minus icon to delete an item, or tap “Add New” to add a new item:
Once it’s added, it should show up in the definition screen as soon as you exit:
Tap-hold on the abbreviation for a dictionary (PLC, CC, etc) to bring up this menu:
This has a couple of useful functions; it’ll let you copy a single dictionary’s entry directly to the clipboard (Copy to Clipboard), hide / show example sentences in a particular dictionary for ease of navigation, add a particular dictionary’s entry to flashcards (covered more extensively in the flashcard tutorial - the default + button just adds whichever dictionary is listed first), or send feedback to Pleco to report errors in a specific entry.
The definition screen is highly customizable; go into Settings / Definition Screen:
and you’ll see a bunch of useful options:
“Show dict slider” and “Show example toggles” are two particularly useful options if you’re juggling a lot of dictionaries; “dict slider” gives you a handy bar at the bottom of the screen which you can tap / drag on to quickly jump to a specific dictionary:
While “Show example toggles” gives you a button next to the icon for each dictionary to quickly hide / show its example sentences, so that you can scroll through just the definitions more efficiently:
Even more aggressive, if you set “dict hiding” to “hide all”:
The definition screen will start off with every dictionary hidden, so that you can see which dictionaries have definitions for this word and pick-and-choose the specific one you want to look in:
Tap on the menu button at the top left corner of the screen and tap “History”:
This will bring up Pleco’s entry / search history screen:
The “Dict”, “Reader,” and “OCR” tabs display recently viewed entries in the dictionary, popup / document reader, and OCR modules respectively; these are entries, not searches, so in the “Dict” case it means any entry that you tapped on to view its definition in more detail.
“Search” shows you recently entered search queries:
This screen fully supports iCloud sync, so if you tap on the cloud icon at the bottom left corner of the screen you can view history from any synced device, or view an aggregated history from all of them:
Tilt your iPhone / iPod sideways and the dictionary screen should rotate to look like this; it’s also the default layout on iPad:
This offers an alternate interface for searching for / displaying dictionary entries, one that takes advantage of the extra screen width to put definitions and result lists on the same screen. The currently-selected dictionary entry is highlighted in the list of entries, and its definition is shown next to the list.
To view another entry, simply tap on its entry in the list, or tap on the up / down arrow buttons at the top right corner of the screen to scroll through entries one-by-one. The rest of the definition screen functions identically to how it works as a standalone.
If you don’t like this interface and want to keep things working the same way regardless of how the screen is oriented, disable the “Embed definition” option in Settings / Search Interface / Landscape Screen Layout.
Go into the Settings screen / Languages + Text to view options relating to character sets, topolects, and pronunciation systems:
Turn on “Traditional Characters” here to switch Pleco’s primary character set to traditional; it will display everything traditional-first or traditional-only, but will still support searches in both character sets regardless. However, in the case of one-to-many mappings like 几 it’s smart enough to only show example sentences in SENTS that actually contain 几 in their traditional version (rather than 幾), and it will likewise factor those cases in when frequency-sorting search results (as 几 is much less common in traditional than in simplified).
You may also want to update the “Chinese font” selection here to “STHeiti TC” or (an optional free download from “Add-ons”) “XinGothic TC”; this will give you optimized traditional-friendly versions of characters like 骨 that vary slightly between regions. (the embedded box in the top part of 骨 is located on the bottom right in the mainland and the bottom left in Taiwan)
Scroll down and you’ll also see options to enable Zhuyin display and Cantonese search + display:
Zhuyin is also an option under ‘Phonetic system’ if you prefer to see Zhuyin as the primary pronunciation system in search results / example sentences / etc. Zhuyin search is supported too, but we handle that through iOS’ built-in Zhuyin keyboard:
Follow the steps for adding a keyboard in the basic tutorial to enable that and you can switch to it with the globe icon next to the space bar. If you prefer to enter Zhuyin natively in Pleco (rather than having iOS convert it into characters for you), turn on “System keyboard Zhuyin input” in Settings / Search Engine.
For Cantonese, we support Yale Romanization as well as Jyutping. With Cantonese search enabled, you’ll see an additional CAN icon at the top right corner of the search screen that you can flip to, and also have a 6th tone button added to the top of the keyboard:
You’ll see Cantonese at the top of dictionary entries along with search results:
iOS includes built-in text-to-speech engines for mainland and Taiwanese Mandarin along with Cantonese, and we also offer two higher-quality text-to-speech engines as paid add-ons; you can switch between all of these by tapping-and-holding on the speaker icon next to an example sentence:
We offer an optional “favorites bar” for faster access to frequently-used features like toggling between simplified and traditional character mode. Go into Settings / Miscellaneous to activate that:
(the “rearrange sidebar sections” option is also useful - lets you reorder the items in the left-hand menu - as is “sidebar button everywhere” if you’d like to be able to bring up that menu from deeper-level screens)
In “Configure Favorites,” tap on “Add New” to select an item to add to the favorites bar:
You can rearrange items just as in the Unihan database configuration screen:
Once you’ve finished setting up the favorites bar, to access it within Pleco simply swipe your finger in from the right edge of the screen:
A particularly useful option - also available in Settings / Colors if you don’t want to bother with the favorites bar - is Night Mode: turn that on and Pleco’s color scheme will be inverted, like this:
Tap on the menu button at the top left corner of the screen and tap “Settings,” then scroll down to “Manage Dictionaries”:
Tap on it to bring up this screen:
This lets you control the priority order of dictionaries - i.e., which dictionary’s definition will be displayed in search results if a particular word is included in more than one, and what order dictionary definitions will display in the definition screen. Tap on the Reorder button and drag dictionaries around to reorder them:
You can also configure lots of individual dictionaries’ search options through this screen - see the regular dictionary manual for information on those. Tap on “English” in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen to review the list of English-to-Chinese (rather than Chinese-to-English) dictionaries.
The C, E, [C], [E], etc icons that you’ve seen in the search bar actually represent something more specific than just a language + whether or not it’s a full-text search; they’re icons for dictionary groups. A dictionary group is a set of dictionaries that are aggregated together in a single search; C is simply a built-in group that automatically covers all of your installed Chinese-English dictionaries, but if you have a lot of dictionaries to manage you can create other groups that cover just a subset of them.
To create a dictionary group; go into Settings / Manage Dictionary Groups:
The resulting screen looks a lot like Manage Dictionaries:
You can reorder / enable / disable these just as with single dictionaries, but you can also create a brand new group with a subset of your dictionaries by selecting English or Chinese from the bottom bar (unlike in Manage Dictionaries, this is specifying the search language, not the language of the dictionaries), and tapping on “New Group”:
Select a group type - “Regular Search (Mandarin)” under Chinese is what you get from the C icon - a search of headwords in Chinese-English dictionaries - or under English, “Regular Search” the E icon (headwords in English-Chinese dictionaries) and “Full-text Search (Chinese Dicts)” the [E] icon (full-text search in Chinese-English dictionaries).
Give your group a name:
And move a subset of your current dictionaries into the “Active Dictionaries” section:
After configuring the dictionaries it includes, you can also adjust the group’s abbreviation icon:
Finally, go back to the search screen, type in a search:
And tap on the icon at the top right corner of the screen to switch into your new group:
You’ll see that the results now are only entries from the dictionaries in your group, and likewise in the definition screen you’ll only see entries from that group’s dictionaries:
(paid add-on, part of Flashcard System)
Pleco includes support for making your own custom user-created dictionaries and using them alongside ours. This is covered more extensively in the dictionary manual - see that for information on how to import entries from a text file, for example - but we’ll go through the process of adding single entries for new words you encounter here.
To create a user dictionary, go into Settings / Manage Dictionaries:
Tap on “Add User” and “Create New”:
Give your new dictionary a name:
And it should now show up in Manage Dicts:
(you can reorder it / add it to groups just as with any other dictionary)
Tap on its name in Manage Dicts and you’ll see an option to customize its abbreviation:
There are a lot of ways to add entries to a user dictionary, but we’ll cover the simplest two here. If you simply enter a string of characters that isn’t included in any of our dictionaries, in addition to the search breakdown we discussed above you’ll see an “Add to user dictionary” button:
Tap on that and you’ll get a “New Entry” screen with the characters / Pinyin pre-filled for you:
Fill in your definition:
And tap “Save” to save it to the user dictionary; it should come up immediately in the search results:
You can also add a user dictionary entry for an existing word if you’d like to add another meaning or some extra usage notes. Search for a word that’s already in one of our dictionaries:
Tap on it to view its definition:
You should see an extra ‘edit’ icon in the top toolbar, to the left of the + icon. Tap on that to bring up another pre-filled “New Entry” screen:
Again, fill in your definition:
And tap “Save” and it should immediately show up in the list of definitions for this word:
That’s the end of this tutorial. You can continue on to the Document Reader tutorial, which goes into more details about using Pleco’s built-in document reader, the Flashcards tutorial, which explains how to create and test yourself on vocabulary lists, the OCR tutorial, or dive right into the Dictionary, Reader, Flashcards, OCR, or Settings reference manuals.
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