If you're anything like me, you're a 21-year-old Computer Science major and Japanese minor who has become addicted to Everything2. When you can drag yourself away from this database, you probably have some Japanese homework to do. To make it look really slick, you might want to include furigana (Japanese pronunciation guides, also known as ruby text) to go along with words that your readers might not understand. It's not that hard to do, once you get everything set up right.

Note: These installation instructions apply to the US English versions of Windows and Office, except where otherwise indicated.

What you will need:

  1. One (1) computer meeting the minimum system requirements for Windows 95 and Office 2000. Note that Asian text requires substantially more memory than Western text, so plan accordingly.
  2. One (1) installation CD for Windows 2000 or Windows XP, if you will be using either of these two operating systems. A copy of the i386 directory on the CD on your hard drive will also work.
  3. One (1) installation CD for Office 2000 or Office XP.
  4. About fifteen (15) minutes.

Step 1: Prepare the Environment

First, you will need to install Japanese-language support for your operating system. If you have already done this, skip to Step 2.

Windows 95 and Windows 98

Go to Windows Update (http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com), and download the "Japanese Global Input Method Editor" and "Japanese Language Support" options. This will take some time, as Japanese fonts are large. Reboot when done.

Windows 2000 and Windows XP

In the Control Panel, go to Regional and Language Options. In the Language tab, select the option to install East Asian language support. You will need your installation CD, or a copy of the i386 directory located on it. Once installed, enable the Japanese IME on the Advanced tab.

Step 2: Get Office to Sprechen Die Japonese

Now, install Microsoft Office if it is not installed already. I can confirm that these steps work on Office 2000 and Office XP, but not on any earlier versions. After installation, you should see a program group entitled Microsoft Office Tools. Select the Microsoft Office Language Settings (or Microsoft Office XP Language Settings) option in this group. Add Japanese to the list of supported languages, to join English and any other languages that you use. Do not add frivolous languages to this list just because you can; it will bog down your system's performance immensely in certain dialogs.

Close any Office applications and reopen them, if necessary.

Step 3: Let's Go!

Now, you're ready to start playing with the big boys. Open Microsoft Word, switch to Japanese text entry mode using the system tray icon (Windows 95, 98, 2000) or the language bar (Windows XP), and enter some confusing Kanji. (For example, try fukuzatsu, which means "complicated.") Now, highlight these characters. Go to Format > Asian Layout > Pronunciation Guide. Alternatively, if the Extended Formatting Toolbar (View > Toolbars > Extended Formatting) is visible, click the "Pronunciation Guide" button on it. Enter the pronunciation guide either for the entire selection at once ("Group" mode) or for each character individually ("Mono" mode). Conveniently, Word 2002 suggests pronunciation automatically (and correctly) for most words. The window shows a preview of how your text will look, so I will not bother to describe them here. Once you are satisfied with your text, press OK.

Yatta! You're done!


Japanese is usually written on a grid, but the inclusion of furigana will disrupt that. Do not be alarmed if you see lines with inconsistent numbers of characters.

The furigana are entered using complicated Microsoft Word formatting codes, making them difficult to type over or near. When in doubt, you can highlight the blocks (which appear grey, indicating the presence of formatting majik) and delete them as with any other piece of text.

I have seen inconsistent results when opening documents with furigana on Microsoft Word for Macintosh. Despite claims of "100% compatibility," lines with these special formatting blocks are terminated immediately after the furigana end, leading to a weird appearance. This has been confirmed on Microsoft Word 98 and Microsoft Word 2001 for Mac OS 9, and Microsoft Word v.X for Mac OS X. The native Japanese version of Microsoft Word 2001 for Mac OS does support furigana, and the "Pronunciation Guide" (rubi) button on the Extended Formatting Toolbar can be used to create and edit Furigana. Everything in the Japanese version of Word 2001 for Mac works exactly as in Word 2000 and 2002 for Windows.

In Microsoft Word 2004 for Mac, you'll need to drag Word onto the Microsoft Language Register tool to enable Japanese support, which adds all the capabilities mentioned above. The only catch is that Word 2004 becomes a primarily Japanese-oriented program after that; to type English text without messing with settings, drag Word onto the Language Register again and switch it back to English.

Enjoy, and have fun!

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