© 1997 – 2003 Patrick Hassel Zein
This page was last updated 30.12.2003
When you surf the net you will find that a lot of the interesting information from China is coded in GB or BIG5 (a kind of 2-byte coding) since it would be too slow and unpractical to send all characters as bitmaps – especially all the way from China to Europe.
General information about GB/BIG5
Usually European computers aren't equipped with programs to interpret BIG5 as the corresponding Chinese characters. Maybe the problem would be less troublesome if something like unicode became the international standard for all computers... But here's a short instruction as to how the problem may be solved *today* on a regular PC:
1) If you are running a recent edition of Windows and Microsoft Internet Explorer, your system should automatically offer you to update Windows so that you can read (but not write) Chinese characters. The only thing you need to do in order to get your computer to do this, is to surf to a Chinese homepage - e.g. my own presentation of myself in Chinese, right-click on the background and select Encoding = Chinese. After installing necessary software, you can continue reading paragraph 5 below. 2) Get a Chinese adaptation program for your computer or simply download a Chinese unicode-font from e.g. Twin Bridge or Bitstream. If you want more options, but don't have money to spend on expensive software, then I can give you some direct suggestions of free software that can be downloaded from the Web below on this very page! 3) Install Chinese programs or fonts. Start all the necessary programs and your favourite web-browser. 4) If you have installed the Nanji Star Internet Viewer, then select GB- or BIG5-code in the toolbox and just start surfing. 5) Sometimes you need to tell your web-browser what font you want the Chinese characters to be displayed in. See Options/General preferences/Fonts or Edit/Preferences, or right-click on the background. Select Document encoding = Traditional Chinese for texts coded with BIG5 or Simplified Chinese for text coded with GB. If you do not know how a text is coded, then test both alternatives. The routine above will make it possible to read Chinese texts and web pages, but if you want to write Chinese, then you will need a Chinese system running on top of Windows 3.1, Windows 95 or Windows NT together with your Internet explorer or other programs. And of course there are similar programs for Macintosh as well, but personally I haven't tested any of them.
Chinese System Download
Here are four suggestions of Chinese Internet Viewers that can be downloaded from the Web for free. All are trial versions and/or sharewares.
TwinBridge and Chinese Star are probably the most well known names on the market. I prefer to work with TwinBridge. Both these systems are very complete with many different ways of input, different fonts, wordbooks and so on. The size of the systems will of course demand a lot of disk space. If you only need a small and simple system to be able to surf on the Web then I can recommend alternative number three instead, Nánjí Star, a small, swift and fully functional system. The problem with Nánjí Star is that you can't write your own texts and there are only bitmap-fonts available. I haven't had time to personally test RichWin, but you can find several of their products to download from the Net, and I've heard they're really quite good.