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How to Type Pinyin in Windows 10 and 11

As I have been learning Mandarin over the last several years, I’ve been looking for a good method to type Pinyin, which is how Anglos “spell” Chinese words using the English (well, Latin) alphabet and tonal marks. To my utter surprise, there is not a single stock keyboard in the Language Options settings of Windows 10 that is good for that purpose. So I created my own, which I dubbed the United States-International+Pinyin keyboard.

This keyboard is very similar to Microsoft’s United States-International keyboard which uses dead keys to create accent marks over vowels for languages such as Spanish and French. The main difference in my keyboard is that it adds a couple more dead keys so that you can type vowels with a high tonal mark over them (e.g., ā,ē,ī,ō,ū,ǖ), and a falling-rising tonal mark (e.g., ǎ,ě,ǐ,ǒ,ǔ,ǚ).

As I frequently type in English, French, Spanish, and Pinyin, this above keyboard is very useful and is the only one I’ve been using on Windows 10 and Windows 11 since early 2019. To use it as your primary keyboard, there is a slight learning curve because if you need to type one of the characters that is a dead key (i.e., ‘, `, -, =,~), you need to remember to press [space] after pressing the key. Eventually it becomes second-nature.

Instructions on how to install the keyboard is as follows.

Installing the United States-International+Pinyin keyboard

  1. Download the United States-International+Pinyin keyboard from my website: US_International+Pinyin_keyboard_v2.zip
    You can usually do this by either clicking on the link above, or by right-clicking the link and then selecting Save as.
  2. Unzip the file (right-click on it and click extract all).
  3. In the extracted folder, open setup.exe. Windows Defender Smartscreen may give you a warning saying that it “prevented an unrecognized app from starting. Running this app might put your PC at risk.” If that’s the case, click on More info, and then Run anyway.
  4. If successful, you should get a message window saying Installation Complete.
    The message window you will get after successful installation of the United States-International+Pinyin keyboard for Windows 10.

I recommend rebooting Windows afterwards.

To select (activate) the keyboard, click on the language icon (circled in yellow below) in the Windows system tray, and then select the United States-International+Pinyin keyboard.

The United States-International+Pinyin keyboard in the Windows 10 system tray.

How to Type Pinyin and Accented Characters

Below are the keystrokes needed to type Pinyin, and also accented characters for French and Spanish.

Pinyin Characters

ā,ē,ī,ō,ū,ǖ = [-] [vowel] (i.e., press the minus button and then the vowel)
á,é,í,ó,ú.ǘ = [‘] [vowel]
ǎ,ě,ǐ,ǒ,ǔ,ǚ = [=] [vowel]
à,è,ì,ò,ù,ǜ = [`] [vowel]
ü = [ctrl] + [alt] + [u]. So ǖ = [-] {[ctrl] + [alt] + [u]}

Special Characters for French, Spanish, and Other Languages

To type accented characters for French, Spanish, and other languages, the keystrokes are the same as for Microsoft’s standard United States-International keyboard.

á,é,í,ó,ú = [‘] [vowel]
à,è,ì,ò,ù = [`] [vowel]
ñ = [~] [n]
ç = [‘] [c]
¿ = [ctrl] + [alt] + [/] (Press [ctrl], [alt], and [/] simultaneously. Note that [/] is the same key as [?] except you don’t need to press shift, making it easy to remember.)
¡ = [ctrl] + [alt] + [1] (Press [ctrl], [alt], and [/] simultaneously. Note that [1] is the same key as [!] except you don’t need to press shift, making it easy to remember.)

Typing ‘, `, ~, -, =

‘ = [‘] + [space]
‘ = [‘] + [space]
~ = [~] + [space]
– = [-] + [space]
= = [=] + [space]

Uninstalling the United States-International+Pinyin keyboard

If you try the keyboard and decide you don’t like it or need it, you can uninstall it as follows.

Using the same installation Zip archive you previously downloaded from this page, open setup.exe. You will get the following dialog box:

Removing the United States-International+Pinyin keyboard.

Select Remove the keyboard layout, and then Finish. Reboot the computer.

How to Type Chinese Characters instead of Pinyin

The above instructions are for typing Pinyin and accents for Latin-based languages only.

If you want to type Chinese characters instead of Pinyin in Windows 10 or 11, follow the instructions in the video below.


Release Notes

Version 1 (released November 30, 2019): US_International+Pinyin_keyboard.zip

  • If you had installed this keyboard prior to the release of Version 2, you can download the above Zip file to uninstall the keyboard. (Procedure: uncompress the Zip file, open the extracted folder, run setup.exe, select Remove the keyboard layout, then Finish, and reboot the computer).
  • Install Version 2 instead below.

Version 2 (released November 16, 2021): US_International+Pinyin_keyboard_v2.zip

  • Version 1 was incorrectly displaying the second tone for the letters a and o as ă and ŏ instead of ǎ and ǒ. Version 2 corrects this; i.e., it uses a caron instead of a rounded breve for those letters. Thanks to reader Pong for discovering this error!
2018 HP Spectre x360 computer with Pinyin in Microsoft OneNote.
2018 HP Spectre x360 computer with Pinyin in Microsoft OneNote.