This is a guide to writing and reading Chinese and/or Japanese messages for users of English versions of Windows whose correspondence is primarily in English but who sometimes need to send or receive Chinese and/or Japanese e-mail.
Once Microsoft’s East Asian language support and Input Method Editors (IME) have been installed for Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP, or Windows Vista , the user can compose and read e-mail in Chinese and Japanese. Once you have opened the message composition window of your email client, simply click on the floating language bar or language button on the task bar. Then select the appropriate language: CN (PRC) for simplified Chinese, CN (Taiwan) for traditional Chinese, and JP for Japanese.
It used to be the case that not all English-language e-mail programs for Windows can read and write messages in Chinese and Japanese. In extensive testings I conducted for 10 e-mail clients for Windows back in 2002, 3 cannot write Chinese or Japanese e-mail at all. All 10 programs can read Chinese or Japanese messages, but to varying degrees, correctly interpreting the messages from some e-mail programs but not others. Even Outlook 2002, the only program able to read messages from all 7 East Asian e-mail capable clients, sometimes require manual selection of the correct encoding scheme to work.
Compatibility of English-language e-mail programs with East Asian languages has been vastly improved since. In my testings of 12 e-mail clients conducted in September of 2007, only 1 is incapable of writing messages in Chinese or Japanese. Each of the other 11 can write Chinese and Japanese messages, and can also automatically decode messages composed by itself and by the other 10 programs.
The programs tested are:
Of these programs, the only one not acceptable for Chinese and Japanese e-mail is Eudora Mail. You cannot enter Chinese or Japanese text in Eudora's message composition window: all you get is a string of ????. Moreover, Eudora can only correctly decode Chinese and Japanese messages composed in 4 of the other 11 e-mail clients tested (Outlook 2003, Outlook Express 6.0, Pegasus Mail 4.41, and Outlook Web Access for Exchange Server 2003). If it receives a message composed in Chinese or Japanese by the remaining 7 clients, all one sees is a bunch of undecipherable code.1
As mentioned before, the other programs can write and send messages in Chinese and Japanese, and each can also automatically decode Chinese and Japanese message sent by itself and by the other 10 programs. If you compose and send a Chinese or Japanese message in either Outlook Express and Thunderbird with the original settings [Western European (ISO-8859-1) as the default character set for outgoing messages], you will get a prompt asking whether you want to send the message in Unicode. Answer yes to send the message properly encoded. Users of Pegasus Mail needs to check the box for Rich Text in the message composition window.
You should encounter few difficulties sending and receiving Chinese and Japanese e-mail if you use any of the e-mail clients tested here other than Eudora Mail. Nonetheless, occasionally someone may inform you that she cannot read your message, or you may receive an indecipherable message. This can be due to a number of potential sources of problems, such as the message header indicating the wrong encoding scheme for the message text, messages sent from older versions of Windows or e-mail programs, mixing traditional Chinese (Big5) and simplified Chinese (Guobiao) encodings in forwarded messages or replies, etc.
To minimize the possibility that someone cannot read your messages, you can change the default character set for English-language POP3 e-mail programs, which is usually Latin Alphabet (ISO-8859-1), to Unicode (UTF-8). Unicode accommodates most if not all of the world's languages. This step is not needed by Webmail programs.
If you get a message that contains a lot of ????, it is corrupted beyond repair. If instead the message displays a bunch of code that looks like gibberish, then it may still be possible to read it. Please see this detailed explanation of actions you can take to read the garbled message.
1Note however that Qualcomm is no longer selling or developing the commercial version of Eudora Mail as of May 1, 2007. Instead, an open source version of Eudora Mail based on the technology of Mozilla Foundation's Thunderbird is being developed. Future versions of Eudora Mail is likely to be much more hospitable to East Asian languages. Eudora Mail features will also be available through the Penelope extension for Mozilla Thunderbird users.
Please e-mail me your comments, suggestions, and corrections.
Univ. of Redlands Asian Studies Program Asian Studies Resources
All contents copyright 2002-2007 Robert Y. Eng
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