Hover Mouse over Hanzi, Get Pinyin and English

[Update: Thanks to all those who left comments and recommendations. I’ve added them to the post]

Since the last time I talked (asked) about this was in 2007, I thought an update was in order.

If you want to put your mouse over hanzi (like this: 汉字) and get pinyin and English, I only know of a few options (please feel free to add to this list).

Browser Plugins

These are little programs that run only inside your Internet browsers. They’re all free, but only work for web pages (i.e. not MS Word, etc.).

  • Chrome: Zhongwen – I’m trying this right now and I think it’s mostly good.
  • FireFox and Chrome: Perapera-kun – I haven’t tried the newest version yet but others have recommended it to me.


These are programs that run in your computer’s “system tray” (down near the clock in the lower right) and can be used for any Chinese text on your whole computer including web pages, MS Word, Excel, Notepad, etc.. I only know of one right now.

For Windows

  • MDBG Chinese Reader – I use this all the time and really like it. I haven’t tried the newest version, but there is now a free version (which I’ve also not tried), which is cool. It takes a really long time to start the program. But once you’ve got it loaded, you can turn it on and off without closing it.
  • Lingoes – Recommended by Zhangyanglu and Simake

For Mac

For Phones and Mobile Devices

Please feel free to leave comments and recommendations and I’ll add them into the main body of the article as they come in.

22 Replies to “Hover Mouse over Hanzi, Get Pinyin and English”

  1. Hi,

    I use Chrome on MAc and Zhongwen works perfectly well . Perapera chinese pop up dictionay for Chrome is another option, very similar to Zhongwen and it works in Mac as long as i use Chrome.

    Regards ,

  2. As PJ has mentioned, Perapera has recently been ported to Google Chrome, where it works as well as ever.

    Mandarinspot (http://mandarinspot.com/annotate) will add such hovering annotations to web pages and will work on any platform, including Android and, presumably, the iPhone.

    I just installed Pleco on my Android phone yesterday. It has a module named Reader. You can send text to this from external programs. This text will be stripped of formatting but it will have these style of annotation bubbles added. See here for screenshots – http://www.pleco.com/anmanual/reader.html

  3. As mentioned by Zhangyanglu, Lingoes performs this function, but by “highlighting” rather than “mousing over”. In addition, one is not limited to only CEDIT but can download/use a wide variety of (free) dictionaries including Chinese->Chinese when you’re ready. There is also an example sentences “dictionary” (Jukuu) as well as topical specialty dictionaries. (Works well with 64-bit Windows 7.)

  4. @Albert “So…is http://mandarinspot.com/annotate for pasting webpages into or how does it work?” You can paste text into a form or you can give it a URL. When you use a URL, not only does the original page get annotated, but also any link you follow from there. That works well on my phone, where the browsers do not have a Perapera plugin.

    “And as for http://www.pleco.com/anmanual/reader.html is it an Android thing for phones or is there a Windows versions too?” Android, iOS, Windows Mobile and Palm OS. No desktop operating systems and no Windows 7. http://www.pleco.com/products.html

  5. Another “mouse-over” product, also free is 金山词霸2011 from Kingsoft. I have been using it and predecessors for a few years and really like it. I tried MDBG but the “free” version is constantly bugging about the “Trial” ending. It’s output also takes up more screen space. I heard that Google helped Kingsoft on this, but don’t know if it is true.

  6. I have Pleco for the smartphone, but I still got Nciku for the smartphone to complement Pleco. It has more sample sentences and built in stroke order and the layout is cleaner. Plus there are HSK and CLEP vocabulary lists.

  7. Any recommendations for a truly system-wide program for Macs? I used to use Kingsoft Powerword (金山词霸) on my old PC and haven’t found anything similar yet for Macs. I’m very close to getting Bootcamp+Windows for my Macbook in order to use Powerword again.

    I’ve tried Xiaocidian for Mac, but it’s not really system wide. (It wont work in Office programs, at least.) It’s also not really a popup dictionary, as you have to first highlight the word, and then click an excessive keyboard combination (Ctrl+Cmd+D). The beauty of Powerword is that it shows you the words automatically, so you don’t have to recognize where it starts and ends.

  8. I have been a long-time user of MDBG Chinese Reader (1 yr). Rich in functionality, it is a great tool for those wanting more than a simple definition popup (supports copy/paste, character break-down, etc.). The only caveat, is that it has been proven to be very buggy for me. I used versions 3.x & 4.x and both gave me innumerable troubles from day one. Reader 4.x is not supported on Firefox 10 (in my case, takes up to 10 seconds for popup to appear) so be aware of this. To his credit, the developer is very supportive and responsive, so if you’re willing to work through the quirks, you may find the product useful. If you’re lucky, the product just works, and will be worth your investment (I paid $59 for 3.x, then additional $10 for upgrade to 4.x). Due to the issues with Firefox 10, I just installed the Perapera plug-in and am very pleased with the performance. Will use this inside Firefox and limit my usage of MDBG Reader to other apps (text editors, OpenOffice, etc.). Good luck!

  9. +1 for Perapera-kun. Nice and simple with easy and free installation.

    For my own study I built a little web app. It’s at http://trevorschinesereader.com/Default.aspx?c=custom.

    The reason I like it is:
    –Keeps track of the characters I’ve clicked on so I can review easily.
    –Gives you lists of similar-looking characters as you click and read.
    –Shows you other words with that character in it.
    –You can click a button in the menu and it will color-code the characters based on frequency.

    This last one is really helpful for me b/c as a beginner in Chinese, it’s nice to know what characters to focus on learning and which to maybe save for later.

  10. Pingback: Hover mouth over characters to get pinyin and tone and english | A tool-box for teaching Chinese

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.