Pleco Instruction Manual

Version 3 Transition Guide

Table of Contents

  1. Navigation
  2. Dictionary Switching
  3. Simplified / Traditional Character Switching
  4. Audio
    1. System Text-to-Speech
    2. Pleco Text-to-Speech
    3. Mandarin Audio Recordings
    4. Cantonese Audio Recordings
    5. Summary
  5. Scrolling
  6. Character Info
  7. Radical Information
  8. Zoom button
  9. Clipboard
  10. Fonts
  11. Add to Flash
  12. Browsing Dictionaries
  13. Compound Words
  14. Zhuyin Input
  15. Toneless Single-syllable Search Results

Pleco Instruction Manual

Rather than a generalized walkthrough, we’re simply going through the specific points that users have been confused about below; the two biggest changes are covered in Navigation and Dictionary Switching with other smaller points / workarounds for missing functionality / etc covered farther down.

We’ve switched from our awkward slide-up bottom bar to a nice modern sidebar, so just tap on the button at the top left corner of the screen to access all of Pleco’s functions. In Settings / Miscellaneous there’s a “sidebar button everywhere” option which tucks this button in next to the back button on lower-level screens, and there’s also an option there to reorder the sidebar sections (we put Add-ons high up because it’s how we stay in business, but once you’re aware of its existence you can feel free to move it to the bottom of the list).

Another useful navigational tip (particularly if you do enable that “sidebar button everywhere” option); tap-and-hold on the sidebar button from anywhere in Pleco to instantly jump back to the dictionary search screen, with the keyboard open and ready for input.

Finally, in version 3.1 we’ve added a “Favorites Bar” (iOS 7 only) which you can enable in Settings / Miscellaneous; this will let you arrange links to exactly the screens you want in exactly the order you want them, and will group them in a fixed location at the bottom of the screen, so it should bring back some of the speed and muscle memory benefits of the old bottom bar. It also affords convenient access to a few commonly-used settings like Night Mode and traditional/simplified characters.

Dictionary Switching

This is no longer something you need to worry about, in most cases. On the search screen, we’ve now moved to something called “dictionary groups”; by default, there are three of these active, one which automatically searches all of your Chinese-English dictionaries, one which automatically searches all of your English-Chinese ones and one which does a full-text English search in all of your Chinese-English ones. (this last one is differentiated from a regular English search by its inverted icon)

The priority order of dictionaries has gotten a lot more important, so you’ll probably want to customize that in Settings / Manage Dictionaries to make sure your preferred ones are on top (and hence come up first in searches). If there’s any particular dictionary that you’d still like to be able to access individually, you can enable that in its individual Manage Dictionaries screen (turn off the “skip on button tap” option). If you’d like to create your own dictionary group with a subset of your available dictionaries, you can do that in the new Manage Dictionary Groups screen.

Within the definition screen, dictionary entries appear in a single merged block. We’ve kept the code for the old style dictionary switching around, so if there are a lot of people who miss that we could theoretically revive it, but in general we think this is way better. You can hide / show specific dictionaries by tapping on their header icons - there’s a “dict hiding” option in Settings / Definition screen to determine how Pleco maintains or resets that state when you change entries. You can also selectively hide a particular dictionary’s example sentences by tap-holding on its icon; another “Definition Screen” option lets you add a convenient button next to the icon for that. A further option that screen “Show dict slider” lets you put a convenient little slider bar at the bottom of the definition screen to quickly jump to a particular dictionary’s definitions.

Simplified / Traditional Character Switching

The option for that is in Settings / Languages + Text - wasn’t really popular enough to require a dedicated toolbar button anymore. If you want a faster way to access that simplified/traditional toggle, enable the Favorites Bar in Settings / Miscellaneous and add “Switch Character Set” as one of the items there.

If you simply want to view a headword in both character sets we’d suggest going to Settings / Languages + Text and setting “Headword Mode” to “Both Sets” - that will get rid of the - characters and show the headword in full in both character sets at the top of each entry. If you want to switch to the opposite character set to view a character’s stroke order, the best way to do that is simply to tap on the opposite-set version of the character in the CHARS tab.


We now offer 5 different audio add-ons along with the 3 different Chinese text-to-speech systems built into iOS 7; this is kind of a confusing mix, so here’s what each one does and how they differ.

System Text-to-Speech

Add-on Module: None
Usable In: Entry headwords (Cantonese + Mandarin), example sentences (Cantonese + Mandarin)

iOS 7 includes three different Chinese text-to-speech engines built-in, one for Cantonese, one for mainland Mandarin and one for Taiwan Mandarin. As far as we can tell, the latter two use the exact same voice; however, the specific pronunciations that they offer for words may differ a bit based on regional variations. (Mandarin will likely match the pronunciations listed in our dictionaries more closely)

You can use these everywhere that Pleco supports audio - single headwords and example sentences; however, they have three big disadvantages versus our paid add-ons:

All of the other modules can essentially be thought of as upgrades over this in various ways.

Pleco Text-to-Speech

Add-on Modules: “Mandarin Text-to-Speech (Male) and (Female)”
Usable In: Entry headwords (Mandarin), example sentences (Mandarin)

These are our separate paid text-to-speech add-ons. They work in the exact same places as the system text-to-speech, but correct all three of its disadvantages - much higher quality audio (there’s an option to listen to a sample recording if you go to its page in Add-ons), accurate headword syllables, and compatible with iOS 6.1 as well as iOS 7 - and we offer a male voice along with the built-in female one.

However, it’s still a speech synthesizer, so while it’s fantastic for sentences, for single words it’s basically just stitching a bunch of recordings together and so can’t quite match the quality of our standalone audio modules:

Mandarin Audio Recordings

Add-on Modules: “Mandarin Audio (Male) and (Female)”
Usable In: Entry headwords (Mandarin)

This audio module only works for headwords (doesn’t read entire sentences out loud) but includes an extended database of recordings for 34,000 words, so you can hear the entire word read precisely as a native speaker would instead of stitched together out of separate syllables. As with our text-to-speech module, this will match the syllables exactly and works on iOS 6 as well as iOS 7.

Cantonese Audio Recordings

Add-on Modules: “Cantonese Audio (Female)”
Usable In: Entry headwords (Cantonese)

As with the Mandarin recordings module, this only works for headwords, but unlike with that module there isn’t a high-quality Pleco text-to-speech option for Cantonese (we haven’t found one to license yet), so the upgrade over the alternative is more dramatic. Also matches syllables exactly and works on iOS 6 as well as iOS 7. (a male version of this is in the works, but we had to throw away our first attempt because the quality was too low so we’re re-recording it now)


If you only buy one audio add-on, it should probably be one of our Mandarin text-to-speech upgrades - that will make audio sound better everywhere in Pleco, both headwords and example sentences.

The Mandarin recording modules are great if you’re more interested in headwords than in example sentences, or if you want a male voice (currently not supported by any TTS option). The Cantonese recording module is likewise limited to headwords, but it’s a huge upgrade over the system TTS and well worth getting if you’re interested in Cantonese.


One very useful but easy-to-miss new feature: most scrollable parts of Pleco now include an Android-style draggable scrollbar; just tap on the visible scroll handle and you’ll see that you can rapidly scroll through the list by dragging it.

Character Info

This screen no longer exists; its former functions have been absorbed by the definition screen. Information from the “字info” tab is now appended to the bottom of DICT (and is customizable just as before - tap on the edit button next to UNI), STROKE will now appear in its own tab for single-character entries (and you can get to those from multi-character ones via the CHARS tab), and CHARS and WORDS in single-character entries retain their old functions too.

If you need a full-screen version of stroke order diagrams on an iPad (for class teaching purposes, say), go to Settings / Search Screen and turn off the “Embed definition” option - that will put the definition and search functions on separate screens (as on an iPhone) so that stroke order can then take up the entire screen.

Radical Information

This is now listed under “Radical” in the CHARS tab.

Zoom button

The “magnify the selected characters to fullscreen” button is still available, but off by default now - you can turn it back on in Settings / Popup Definition.


We’ve combined the separate tap-hold and tap selection modes in this release, so now to copy text you tap on the “clipboard” icon at the top right corner of the screen; a toolbar with that button will pop up whenever you select text, regardless of how you do it or whether it’s English or Chinese text.

If you select a range of text without an exact dictionary match, we also bring up a system “Copy” menu bubble right over that text to spare you the trouble of going to the toolbar.

You can copy an entire dictionary entry to the clipboard by tap-holding on its icon (ABC, PLC, CC, etc) and choosing the Copy command.


Another new paid add-on - we’ve got three, Kai/Song/Xing (handwritten) style, and they can be applied dictionary-wide or to a specific document. (a multi-font character comparison screen is something we’re working on but haven’t quite finished yet)

Add to Flash

The add-to-flash button now has two additional states; a regular + means that this word has not been added to flashcards yet, a + with a dotted-line box around it means that it’s been added to flashcards but is not in your current default category (whichever one you’ve selected by tap-holding on the + button), and a + with a solid box around it means that this word is in flashcards and is in your default category.

The + button at the top of the definition screen will create a flashcard from the first entry listed; to create one from a later entry, tap-hold on that dictionary’s abbreviation icon, or go to Settings / Definition Screen and turn on the option to show a + button for every entry.

Browsing Dictionaries

We’ve moved the dictionary-browsing function of the old 果/典 button to a separate screen; now, to view a list of all of the entries in a particular dictionary in order, tap-hold on either a search results list item or on the dictionary’s icon in the definition screen and select “Browse.” You can also access this screen through Settings / Manage Dictionaries.

Compound Words

These are now merged together in the Words tab instead of being separated into Beginning / Containing; tap on the header for Beginning to collapse it and quickly get to Containing. Also, Containing will now include all words containing instead of just words that contain and don’t start with the character.

Zhuyin Input

We took away the not-very-good Zhuyin input method via our radical input screen in 3.0, since we didn’t think anybody was using it, but since this generated a few complaints, in 3.1 we added a “System Keyboard Zhuyin Input” option in its place; with this option enabled, you can use the regular iOS Zhuyin input keyboard and Pleco will detect / prevent it from actually entering Chinese characters and have it simply enter straight Zhuyin instead.

Toneless Single-syllable Search Results

These are now sorted by frequency instead of by tone, which oddly enough seems to be causing problems for some people; you can get back the old Pinyin ordering in Settings / Search Engine / Input Processing / Sort Chinese by Pinyin. However, in general if you’re looking for characters with a particular tone we would suggest that you consider simply entering that tone number instead, using the tone number buttons above the keyboard.
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