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ATOK is an IME program for the Japanese language that allows users to type in Japanese characters using keyboards that are not made for Japanese characters. When coming to Japan as someone who is not used to such programs it makes using the Japanese computer wonderfully difficult.

Note that this article is quite old. Most, if not all, modern operating systems have IME and language options built in that are easier to use, no longer requiring complex interfaces or third party applications. This is still a good breakdown on how to deal with IME, for those new to it.

How do I use it?Edit

(As in, how do I use it?)

The ATOK menu bar. Once I got used to it, I pressed the button to hide it and I am happy if I go a day without having to see it.

There is a toolbar and some shortcut keys that you can use. I prefer to use the shorcut keys, but your preference may be different. Either way, the, this is what the toolbar looks like when things are working as I expect them (see right).


The way the menu bar should look like.

When typing in Japanese I believe the prefered method (and the method that I prefer) is to spell out the Japanese characters using roman characters that you probably have on your keyboard. So for example, to enter あ (A), you type 'a'. To enter か (ka), you type in 'ka'. This is my recommendation to you because you probably already know the layout of the QWERTY keyboard and can type OK using it. The other method (not recommended) is to use the Japanese keyboard layout. I believe this method is not used by most Japanese even. Where the QWERTY keys are, you will also see (probably in smaller font) たていすかん.

There are three input methods (see image):

  • Small; 英小(S),
  • Large; 英大(L),
  • and Katakana; カタ(K).

I try to always stick with small. It allows me to just use the toggle button to switch between English and Katakana/Hiragana input. Sometimes, for reasons yet unknown, the input method is to Katakana. Which means that instead of getting roman characters, you get a Japanese character.

Input method

The three options for input

There is an feature that toggles this by pressing SHIFT and CAPS Lock (see below for more info). To toggle between these two modes, press Ctrl+CAPS LOCK. See the menus screen shots to the right to see how it changes.


The way the menu bar should 'not look like. Pay attention to the very bottom left. in parenthasis it says "カナロック". That is not what we want. Try pressing Ctrl and CAPS LOCK to change it.

Toggle between English and Japanese InputEdit


The key at the top left under the esc key (black and red) is the one used to toggle the input method.

There is a button on the top left hand corner of my keyboard (just below the ESC button - see picture right). It has three rows of Japanese characters. If you press that button it will toggle between the two input modes you have selected. Think of it like another caps lock key (a Japanese CAPS LOCK). To select the input you want, you have to press on the little menu that pops up when you press the button. So to set my selections up, I press that top left button (the Japanese CAPS LOCK) and then press the very left button that pops up in the menu near the cursor. I select 日本語入カオフ (nihongohairukaofu?) (the one at the top). Which allows me to write in English. Then I press the top left button again and the select ひらがな入るカします (hiraganahairukashimasu?). This allows me to write in hiragana and kanji (also it will do katakana with a bit of effort).

I can't type in English! Why?Edit

Sometimes my configuration gets changed some how. It seems like it just happens randomly, but there must be some 'feature' that I am using to change it without knowing. Most of the time, it is because the character size (?) has changed. All I do to fix it is make the toolbar look like this again:

Input method

The three options for input

Note, to bring up the tool bar, I press the input change key (top left) and have my curser in a text field (any place I can enter text).

WHAT just happened to my keys?Edit

Sometimes you press some keys and then something happens and you have no idea how to get it back to how it was. That just happened to me. MAN, is that annoying. So for future posterity;

If the caps lock is on and pressing the CAPS LOCK key does not work, try pressing SHIFT + CAPS LOCK (ie, hold down SHIFT and press CAPS LOCK). This worked for me.

If the input does not give you roman characters like it did before and it is giving you Japanese characters with just one key stroke (as opposed to the two key strokes technique described above), then you might try holding down Ctrl + CPAS LOCK.


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