Emacs Japanese Input

If you ever find yourself stuck relying on the IME built-into Emacs (rather than the IME native to your OS), here are the essential key strokes you’ll need to know.

  • C-\:  toggle input mode (ime on or off)
  • C-h:  shows conversion options if used when in conversion mode
  • SPC: transform input to kanji, or show the next conversion candidate
  • DEL:  abort conversion
  • C-n: show the next conversion candidate
  • C-p: show the previous conversion candidate
  • C-o: lengthen conversion bunsetsu
  • C-i, TAB: shorten conversion bunsetsu
  • Shift-k:  toggle between hiragana and katakana
  • qq:  toggle between alphabet and kanji modes
  • qz:  turn on zenkaku alphabet mode
  • qh:  turn off zenkaku alphabet mode

Also useful:

  • C-x RET l:  set the buffer language environment
  • C-x RET f: select the encoding
  • C-x RET C-\:  select the input method

Nihongo of the Day

My wife and I have been playing a word-of-the-day game on and off for a year or so. Though the pace is slow, it’s probably been one of the most effective ways of picking and retaining new vocabulary I’ve used; especially now that we’ve moved back to the US.

Yesterday’s word came up while watching Karei Naru Ichizoku, a Kimutaku drama about Japanese business and power in post-WWII Japan.

徹底的(tetteiteiki) — exhaustive

Lots of tetteiteki this and that in Karei Naru Ichizoku. Business, politics, power. Lawyers. Lawyers and exhaustive research into the nether regions of business.  徹底的な研究 of some such product, 徹底的な検査 to prepare for the upcoming trial.. yada, yada. As for me, the drama kind of induced me to 徹底的に寝る。

The Mystery of Shift Caps Lock

Sheesh. For the last, say, eight years I’ve wondered why Japanese keyboards required one to punch both Shift and Caps Lock to turn caps lock on. And now that I’m on mostly English OS’s these days, I think I know: Caps Lock is (was?) an alternative to the henkan key. Probably before there were Japanese keyboards, there was Caps Lock Henkan. And I guess Alt-` emerged for people who had become accustomed to the having a real henkan key.

Anyway, for anyone else out there suffering through Japanese emails on English windows, here are some useful key combinations:

Alt-Shift: Toggle Input Language
Caps Lock: Henkan (while in Japanese input mode)

And beware of installing both English and Japanese keyboards under the installed default keyboard settings. The keyboard layout will change randomly and drive you bonkers.

Rules of thumb for creating HTML emails (in Japanese)

This always turns out to be much more difficult than it should be. Part of the problem is that there are many, many more email clients out there in common use than there are web browsers. And all of these email clients either use their own subset of HTML or, in the case of webmail, special filters that attempt to convert HTML-ized messages into a “sanitized” format.

Here’s some basic rules of thumb to follow:

  • Drop the doctype and head section.
  • Keep it simple. No fancy table nesting.
  • However, do use tables for positioning, rather than CSS.
  • If using CSS, keep it inline, or better yet avoid CSS altogether and use tags to apply style. (Pretend that it’s 1998 and stylesheets don’t exist.)
  • Avoid background images.
  • Call images from the server; don’t attach.
  • Don’t link to documents secured by SSL.
  • Use images as links if you want them to stand out in a color other than blue.
  • Encode Japanese in JIS (iso-2022) for widest email client support.
  • Before you hit that send button, test, check, test and check again, and.. Pray.

Unlike a correction to a web page, you can’t do a quick edit and “take back” what you just put out there. And because you’re pushing information at people rather than allowing them to pull it on their own terms, if the information is not relevant and easy to see, some folks could even become a bit angry. Or potentially very.. very… angry. Expect a call or two. Hoo boy.

For more information, Xavier Frennette has a terrific blog post outlining the types of CSS support in various webmail clients. The folks at Campaign Monitor have followed up with an increadibly thorough chart of all the popular clients. Definitely worth a look.

Finally, consider marketing webmail service. I am. More and more of these are popping up; for a small fee you can offload much of this heavy design lifting to them.


Speech impediment as the perfect FTP client.

I’ve been on the lookout for a good Windows FTP app ever since LeechFTP made its last public appearance in 1999. Rejoicing time is upon us for today one of the designers at GMAP put me on to FFFTP.


FTP-wise I’ve tried a handful of apps over the last three or four years. I’d settled on SmartFTP for most of the heavy lifting, though it does have a lot of cruft I don’t need and I really loathe its weirdo “address – username” pulldown with accompanying incomprehensible dialog boxes.

FileZilla is promising, but kept startling me with random stability quirks. Likewise checked out CoreFTP “Lite”, which has a really great view-toggle feature going on, as well as an incessant per-directory-click-activated beep which, I suppose, is designed to encourage full version purchasing or else irritating beep-induced madness.

WebDrive was a favorite for quite awhile, though has also proven to be unstable when asked to cooperate with Vista. Plus, WebDrive can be overkill when you just want to quickly pop a file through the ether and be done with it.

FFFTP is cruftless and light and includes the better features of more “advanced” FTP clients; specifically firewall jockeying and even auto Japanese encoding conversion. Nice.