Have you ever been web browsing and wished you could just click on Chinese characters and get pop-up translations? If so, then this post is for you. Adsotrans is the same technology used to create the News in Chinese site. It analyzes Chinese text, guesses which characters should be grouped together as words, and then displays pinyin and translation pop-ups for each word. Before going much further, I should say that Adsotrans is still fairly weak when dealing with traditional characters[1], but if you follow the steps I lay out below, it will be so convenient to use that you’ll find it a great help even when dealing with traditional characters[2]. For simplified characters, Adsotrans is excellent.

1. First, you need Firefox version 1.5 or newer. Opera and Safari users, just trust me on this. If you want to read Chinese online, it’s worth it to use Firefox just for this plug-in. IE users, it’s time to switch. IE is buggy, has poor support for web standards, is integrated with Windows and thus allows minor security problems to threaten your entire system, and lacks many, many features found in modern browsers.

2. Next, you need to install a Firefox plug-in called Greasemonkey. Click on the link I provided, and you’ll see a window at the top of your Firefox window saying that my site was prevented from installing software on your computer. This is for security reasons. If you want to install from my site, click on the edit options button on the left and add me to your list of trusted sites. Or, if you prefer, go to http://mozilla.org and download it from them. After you install greasemonkey, quit and restart Firefox. Now, you shoud see a smiling monkey at the right side of the status bar at the bottom of the browser window.

3. The final stop is to get the Adsotrans user script. Click on the link I provided, and then you’ll see a message at the top of your screen and an install button at the top left. Click the install button and you’re done!

Usage

The adsotrans plug-in is very easy to use. Go to any page with Chinese text, such as my Chinese blog, press “A” on your keyboard, and then click on some Chinese text. A window pop-up and it will have the text you just clicked on. Run your mouse cursor over the words in the pop-up window, and translations and pinyin will appear.

[1]Every time I’ve tried using Adsotrans to adsostate a paragraph of traditional Chinese, it has missed several characters. Before it had problems with chopping 買得到 down to 買, and just today, it didn’t return anything at all for the word 捲. It is getting better though. It’s free, and the author, who lives in mainland China, has chosen to focus on simplified characters.

[2]Though I’ve given up on using Adsotrans for adsostating stuff to put on my blog, with the FF plug-in it’s so convenient that it’s still a very useful tool for reading Chinese online, despite it’s weaker support of traditional characters. I use adsotrans all the time now. I think you will, too, if you install the plug-in. 😉