The discussion here is focused on Hanyu Pinyin, but much of it applies equally to other romanizations that use tone marks. For a list of correspondences between systems, see:

You need a Unicode-savvy application to use all the Pinyin characters scattered among the Latin-1, Latin Extended-A, and Latin Extended-B blocks in Unicode. More information is available from Helmer Aslaksen.

Input Modes

Wenlin is the easiest way to type more than a few words of Pinyin with tone marks. Just select the "Typing 1-4 adds tone marks" option in the Options menu. Typing "wang2" produces wáng, and so on. See Study Tools.

Pinyin Tone Widget converts Pinyin text with tone numbers to PInyin text with tone marks. For OS X 10.5 and above. From Konrad Lawson.

Biaoyin is a CIN-format Unicode plug-in input method for OS X 10.5 and above. It allows you to type the Pinyin, Yale, and MPS-2 (國語注音符號第二式) romanizations in an intuitive way, one syllable at a time. You can download it here:

In addition, OpenVanilla (OS X 10.4 and above) includes a Biaoyin module with its Extra Pack.

Keyboard Layouts

Apple's U.S. Extended keyboard layout supports all Unicode Pinyin characters in OS X 10.3 and above. It contains two distinct input modes:

  • Option+key sequence (dead keys): Type the "dead key" for the tone mark first, then the base character. Option+a for first tone, option+e for second tone, option+v for third tone, and option+` for fourth tone. For Pinyin characters with ü, type v after the dead key.
  • Shift+option+key sequence (combining diacritics): Type the base character first, then the "combining diacritic" for the tone mark. Shift+option+a for first tone, shift+option+e for second tone, shift+option+v for third tone, and shift+option+` for fourth tone. For Pinyin characters with ü, type u then shift+option+u (or option+u then u) then the tone mark.

The Asian Extended keyboard layout allows the input of all Unicode Pinyin characters in OS X 10.2 and above.

There are several ways to make your own keyboard layouts. One is to edit the XML in a copy of an existing layout. See Apple's Technical Note on this. If you are a building an entirely new layout, it may be easier to use Ukelele and/or its companion, KeyLayoutMaker.


Pinyin Dictionary transliterates traditional and/or simplified Chinese text into Zhuyin, MPS-2, Hanyu Pinyin, Tongyong Pinyin, and Wade-Giles. You can display tones by either numbers or diacritical marks. Punctuation and line breaks can be preserved. Also supports word segmentation in OS X 10.5 and above. See:

MacKEY can display Hanyu Pinyin or various Cantonese romanizations along with Chinese character texts. See Study Tools.

Pinyin Fonts


In OS X 10.1 and 10.2, the Lucida Grande font contains all Pinyin characters. All Simplified Chinese fonts and Hiragino Japanese fonts support lower-case Pinyin characters.

In OS X 10.3 and 10.4, Chalkboard, Courier, and Lucida Grande support Pinyin. All the Simplified Chinese fonts and Hiragino Japanese fonts support lower-case Pinyin characters, along with the LiHei Pro and LiSong Pro fonts.

In OS X 10.5 and above, more than a few fonts that come with the system support Pinyin, including American Typewriter, Arial, Chalkboard, Courier, Courier New, Helvetica, Lucida Grande, Times, and Times New Roman, among others. All the Simplified Chinese fonts and Hiragino Japanese fonts support lower-case Pinyin characters, along with the LiHei Pro and LiSong Pro fonts. ST Heiti Light also supports upper-case Pinyin characters.

Free Unicode fonts that support Pinyin include:

Hanzi + Pinyin

These fonts have a Pinyin transliteration included with each Chinese character (hanzi). They are usually comprised of six fonts, in order to provide up to six readings for any one hanzi. A good test case is 和 (with six readings).

Arphic's 注音小博士 package includes an array of options for both Pinyin and Zhuyin. Available for purchase on the Arphic web site.

The DynaFont 金蝶 2010 (also 2006) bundle includes two complete sets of these fonts (24 fonts each: Pinyin above, below; capitalized, not capitalized).


MacRoman is the original Latin-text encoding for the Mac OS. As a result, these modified MacRoman fonts will work with any Macintosh application in System 7 and above. Konrad Lawson has compiled an informative web page with links to many:

Zev Handel's TimesPinyin is a good choice, and it includes italics. It maps the Pinyin vowels to the most-closely corresponding MacRoman characters. If you were to remove TimesPinyin from your system, the text would not become gibberish. The second and fourth tone vowels would be unchanged, first tone would get diaeresis (two dots) over them and third tone would be converted to vowels with circumflexes:

Pinyin Font Converter is a free utility for converting text between different MacRoman Pinyin fonts (including numbers for tones after each syllable).