Japanese Dictionaries for Windows Mobile PDAs

What to buyHow to set it upDictionaries for the Zaurus?How to make your own EPWING dictionaries

What to buy

      I want to stress again the importance of buying the Japanese language version of whichever device you fall in love with. There isn't an easy way to add Japanese capability to an English version of WM (it is possible, but any attempt will void your warranty and could turn your device into an expensive paperweight). Also, while the usual QVGA 240x320 display will suffice, I think most users will be happier with a model with a full VGA (480x640) display, especially for working with Japanese. Finally, users on forums all over the internet are reporting that WM5.0 is unstable--you should stick to the slightly older models running WM2003 or 2003SE or get a new one running WM6 or later. The Dell Axim X50V is a well-liked model at a sweet spot of price and features, and it's easy (but not risk free) to convert it to the Japanese version of WM (I love mine, it's been rock solid stable for me, and in its sleek Innopocket Magnum case, it's a well-protected work of art). The newer X51V is externally identical and quite similar in spec, but is crippled by its horrendous WM5 operating system--if you're good with OS hacking you can put WM6 and excellent Japanese support on it, but it's not easy (and, yes, you can turn it into a paperweight in the process if you do it wrong).

How to set up a dictionary on your Windows Mobile PDA or smartphone

Dictionary ReaderDictionariesMake Your Own Dictionary

     Install EBPocket. Download the program, unzip it, delete all the files from the "cabs" folder except EBPocket.PPC2003En_ARM.CAB (that's the best one for all versions of WM, from WM2003 to WM6 and later) and use a card reader or the "Explore" function of ActiveSync to copy the resulting EBPPC folder to the memory card on your PDA (click here if you have trouble downloading). To install the program, from the PDA itself, in the EBPPC folder, open the subfolder "cabs," then tap EBPocket.PPC2003En_ARM.CAB to install the program. This will create a new EBPocket folder in the Program Files folder on your PDA and install the program there. Don't start EBPocket for the first time until you've installed your dictionaries. The Pro version adds a few features, like the Wordbook and Magnifier, that are worth the extremely reasonable 735 yen it costs to register it.

     SD card file handling can be buggy as hell. It seems that most cards come from the factory slightly misformatted--most of the time they work, but sometimes folders created on or copied from a PC will show up in the PDA but anything inside them won't. The files just disappear. The solution is to format them with your Windows Mobile device and a good memory card formatting program like CNetX FlashFormat. Formatting a card from your Windows or Mac computer will just make the problem worse. If you'd like to avoid the problem without buying software, you can buy a properly formatted memory card with the dictionaries of your choice already installed. I don't know if the same problems apply to SDHC--I reformat every card with FlashFormat just in case, and I've never had a problem with card formatting.

     My versions of the Edict project dictionaries. See the screenshots & details for each for more information (choose only one version of Kanjidic--do you want the very helpful stroke order diagrams or do you need to save space?).

Note on downloading: So far, thousands of people have downloaded the Palm versions of these files, and exactly three of them have written to me because they didn't understand how to download (update: add two Windows Mobile users to the list). Just in case, be sure to save files to your computer (save files, save to disk, save to desktop, etc)--do not open them with Notepad or WordPad or any other program on your computer. If you do, you'll just see a bunch of gibberish and you'll corrupt the files. I don't mean to be offensive, but if you don't know how to download a file, you should really think carefully about whether or not you'll be able to follow the rest of these instructions BEFORE spending your money on a PDA.

Installing the dictionaries: After downloading an EPWING dictionary, unzip the downloaded file. This will yield a folder--this entire folder is the dictionary. Do not do anything to this folder or its contents (if you didn't download it from me, you can use EBShrink, as discussed below, but that's all--my dictionaries have already been shrunk, so you shouldn't do it again). Do not click on anything in the folders to try to open it or further decompress it; do not rename or move anything within the folders. Instead, move the entire folder to a memory card (or a location on your hard drive if you're going to use it on your computer). When you start EB Pocket for the first time, it'll find all EPWING dictionaries on the device and attached memory cards and set itself up to use them. If you wish to add another dictionary after running EB Pocket for the first time, you can use Add Dict or, for more control, Edit Group from the Tool menu. Edit Group also lets you change the order of the dictionaries in the Dict menu and pop-ups.

     More dictionaries.

     You can buy and download dictionaries from Logovista. Navigating Logovista's site requires a bit of Japanese, so here's some help. Do not click the tempting looking "PDA用辞典ソフト"--these offerings are all years out of date and WILL NOT run in any current or recent PDA OS. In the lower maroon block on the left side, click " 【ダウンロード版】電子辞典 for Win" (or Mac). This will expand to show further options; English<>Japanese dictionaries will be under "英語・外国語" (if you want one of the other kinds, you can already read well enough to figure out what to click on your own--Koujien Kokugo Jiten is tempting to the higher level student). The best buy for an English<>Japanese dictionary is Kenkyusha, 研究社新英和(第7版)・和英(第5版)中辞典, for 4570 yen as of Jan. 2007 (though I don't think it's all that useful if you've already got Eijiro). Kenkyusha and others are also available on EPWING CDs, if you can find them. However, if you download from Logovista, you actually get a dictionary in Logovista format, not EPWING, and you'll have to convert it to EPWING before putting it on your PDA. To do that, download a free program called dessed (get the .exe if you're running Windows), install it, and take a look at this illustration to see how to use it to convert your dictionary to EPWING.

     Shrinking the files. So now you've got one or more EPWING dictionaries ready to install. Your first thought is likely to be, "Holy cow, these things are huge--they'll fill up my memory card and I won't be able to use my PDA for anything else." And it's true. For example, take a look at my Readings dictionary. The version for WDIC on my Palm takes up 24 MB. The version for EPWING takes up 140 MB. Kenkyusha is 284 MB. Koujien is about the same. If I can convert Eijiro, it'll take up almost 1 GB! However, there is an answer. The same folks who put out EBPocket also put out a desktop package called EBWin.(about halfway down the very long page). Download the Share 2.xx version; although this version EBWin itself is shareware that turns into a pumpkin after its trial period, when you install the program it also installs a free helper program called EBShrink, and that's the part we actually want. Using it is very simple.

At the top, click "Add" and browse to the CATALOGS file of the dictionary you want to shrink, and at Output Path enter the location where you want the new, shrunken dictionary to be created. Below that is a slider for how much you want to shrink the dictionary (zip level 0 is the least and 5 is the most), but there isn't much difference between 0 and 5, so 2 or 3 is fine. I also recommend checking all three boxes to the right of the zip level slider. Then click "shrink." Note that if your input file doesn't have Gaiji (the GAIJI folder is empty), the shrunken file will not have a GAIJI folder. However, EPWING requires a GAIJI folder so you will have to create one in the appropriate place--it doesn't matter that it's empty. The file names will now end in the .ebz extension, but you can install and use a shrunken dictionary the same way you would a full-sized one.

        Here's how to make your own EPWING dictionaries.

For the truly adventurous

     It is possible to convert some models of Dell Axim from English to Japanese at your own risk (X30, X50V)--it's worked for me, but you have to decide for yourself if the risk is worth it (don't blame me if it turns your Axim into a paperweight). There are also some tricks out there for hacking an English WM6 operating system to install Japanese capability without converting the entire OS to Japanese, but it doesn't work with all devices, some people can't even get it to work on the devices they do work on, and of course hacking your operating system voids your warranty, if you have a device new enough to be under warranty; it's not something I can help you with. If you are considering going either of these routes, please look carefully at the procedures described and be sure that you feel comfortable both with your ability to perform them and with the risk you'll be taking. I can't promise that ANY of the methods for putting Japanese on an English WM device will work, or even that your device will survive the attempt. If you haven't bought a PDA yet, you really should get a Japanese one--don't spend money on an English one and count on any of these methods working. Someone with a good working knowledge of computers and operating systems might have the skill and confidence to make such a project a safe bet, but anyone else, well, consider it carefully before jumping in. I can't help with any of these schemes, nor can I be responsible if you destroy your PDA trying them.

A few notes on WM software and dictionaries.

January, 2007. This is a quickie until I have time to really update this page. This info is just for anyone who really wants to know more, but it won't be helpful in any practical way and is hastily and poorly written to boot, so most readers would be happier simply skipping this section.

     Software programs to enable Japanese on English-OS devices. I've heard of two: Pocketkeys, and CE Star. PocketKeys has been out for a while, but it doesn't seem like anyone's using it--no mention on any of the forums that are so rich in various schemes to hack the OS to make it Japanese-capable. In any case, with PocketKeys there's no way to enter a kanji unless you know how it's pronounced--so if you see a kanji you don't already know, there's no way to look it up, or to look up a word containing it. Also, from the maker's site, it's not even clear what the product does. Is it strictly an IME, and thus it still requires system hacks to make the device capable of displaying and recognizing the Japanese that PocketKeys inputs? Is it a complete system? Is it just a different entry system that only works on devices that are already Japanese-capable? With so many people trying so hard to find ways to put Japanese on their WM devices, a cheap and super easy way to do it would be a lot of people's dreams come true--the fact that the internet isn't full of users trumpeting its glories (I can't find even one) tells me that this isn't likely to be the answer to our dreams. Reports on the internet and my own experience are that CE Star is terrible for Japanese. I haven't tried the new (2009) version, but the approach it takes isn't compatible with EB Pocket, so even if it finally works, it won't work with my dictionaries.

     Your best bet as a Windows Mobile replacement for PAdict is probably nothing. JPWce claims to do the same things but it doesn't do them very well, and it was a pain to set up. And you can get PAdict itself running if you buy the Palm emulation program StyleTap, but its usefulness is limited for advanced users. So there really isn't a good program for looking up and inputting kanji, but the Japanese version of the WM OS has excellent handwritten kanji recognition built in to the OS itself, as well as an IME that works pretty much the same way as the one in the desktop Windows. It's so good and easy to use that I don't see a need for any other system to input kanji (plus you can also look kanji up in the kanji dictionary in my system by SKIP code). So basically I'd just forget about finding a WM equivalent of PAdict. As for actual dictionary software, again, only EBPocket has been as good as WDIC for the Palm (much better, in fact)--most of it has been bad enough to be close to unusable. None of the stuff that can use the PDIC format files that Eijiro comes in has even been close to usable. However, I've started checking out Babbletower, and it looks great, but it's more limited than EBPocket, so it's not worth it for me to reformat my dictionaries for it. Doing so takes a bit of knowledge--"expertise" might be an exaggeration, but you need to be able to write commands like

([\u4E00-\u9FBF々あ-んア-ン・a-Za-Z0-9ー]+)(([\u4E00-\u9FBF々あ-んア-ン・a-Za-Z0-9ー]+)){([あ-ん ]+)(([あ-ん ]+))}

(that's not even one of the more complicated ones).

     I've tried and rejected Haali, mDICT, PPDIC, ZPDview, JWPce, PDICce, RoadLingua, Quick Lookup, and Mobipocket. I've heard from some fans of these programs, but none of them could address my concerns--none of them had ever tried to get anything as large as Eijiro running on them (particular objections below).

     JWPce does almost everything PAdict does but just not quite as elegantly or smoothly--perhaps as I get used to it it'll grow on me, but even after the trouble of getting it running, I eventually stopped using it out of frustration--maybe someone who'd never used PAdict on the Palm would think that JWPce is a godsend, but for me, it never rose above being a pain. As for running the big dictionaries in PDIC and other formats, as some fans of particular programs occasionally ask me, I've tried everything I could find and none of it even comes close to what I can do with EPWING and EBPocket. EPWING and EBPocket seem to be the only accessible formats designed for really huge dictionaries. I've found that PPDIC and ZPDview won't even run on WM2003 or 5.0--they're that old. PDICce works, but it's a terrible program with no flexibility. Running out of PDIC-compatible programs, I jumped formats and tried mDict. OK program--but major design oversights that limit usability, especially compared to WDIC on the Palm. mDict uses dictionary files in the .mdx format. I can easily convert my custom files (as described on my WDIC page). But... I know mDict has vocal fans, so if you're one of them, then maybe you can help with these issues: 1. Damn this thing is slow on the big Eijiro files. 2. Changing to a big dictionary takes a lot of time. 3. Can search only one dictionary at a time, and when you change dictionaries, say to look up a Japanese word in the result of an English search, the history is erased--so you can't go back to where you were in the previous dictionary--this is a MAJOR usability problem. 4. When I enter a search term, it seems to look up only the first 3 or 4 characters. mDict fans, if I'm wrong, help me out, but don't tell me these aren't big issues. WDIC works beautifully and MUCH faster with all the same files (and on a machine less than a third the speed of what I'm running mDict on), so I know what a good dictionary can be like. Haali claims to work with PDIC files but wouldn't work with Eijiro, and generally seems to share the flaws of mDict--designed for smaller files, it can't handle the big ones well. Road Lingua and Quick Lookup don't offer realistic ways to convert my files and Eijiro to compatible formats; their conversion programs simply don't work for large files--it seems they don't want anyone competing with the overpriced, underpowered premade dictionaries they offer. If anyone wants to recommend any other programs, I'm all ears.

     What about dictionaries that don't need Japanese characters because they use Japanese written in roman letters? These simply are not serious language tools. They're useful for a tourist planning a week's stay, but they're not appropriate for someone actually learning or using the language.

Japanese Dictionaries for the Sharp Zaurus

     And the Sharp Zaurus? I don't know much about it, but I do know the Japanese versions have kanji handwriting recognition built in, and that it's supposed to work very well. There are some resources listed on Jim Breen's Japanese page. In addition, the PDIC .dic format files for Eijiro and the files I made for WDIC might run on ZPDview for the Zaurus (again, whether or not ZPDview works with recent Zaurii is unknown). There may be other programs that can run PDIC files as well--it's worth looking into. It's also likely that there might be a program that'll run EPWING files, like those I converted for PPC. Armin Rump's excellent site (which provided the key information I needed to make my Edict files work with WDIC) has clear and useful information for using Japanese dictionaries on the Zaurus.