Unraveling SCIM and UIM

I’m running standard Ubuntu on my AMD64 right now (and by that, I mean regular Gnome Ubuntu and not the 64-bit version either) just as a troubleshooting measure. I want to untangle the SCIM/UIM stuff so the newfound Ubuntu users I helped last week don’t lose interest over keyboard difficulties.

Since I don’t usually work with the Japanese keysets (or when I do, it’s only for short, random words), it’s never been much of an issue for me. I have a machine with the full jp106 keyboard, but I never bothered installing either SCIM or UIM (by the way, it’s running Arch right now), since just having the right keymap was adequate. The extended character sets never come into play for me.

But I’m taking the time to figure it out, because a newcomer to Ubuntu shouldn’t feel disowned over a keyboard … and I am tech support for the transition.

Thus far it seems fairly straightforward. SCIM is available by default in Gutsy, I believe, and configuring it is self-explanatory. UIM has only come into play through this excellent howto, which suggests it over SCIM, or perhaps running concurrently.

With a non-Japanese keyboard there are options for triggering the shift between keysets. I’m using Control-plus-space, I believe, and the mora conversion (the two-letter switch between romaji phonetics and the proper hiragana/katakana character) is working fine. Kanji selection pops up when triggered too.

Which means the only remaining step is to put it into action, live, on a proper machine rather than a surrogate. I should get that chance some time in the next few days.

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8 Responses to “Unraveling SCIM and UIM”


  1. 1 johnraff 2008/02/20 at 12:47 PM

    Built-in SCIM is one of the improvements that arrived in Xubuntu around Edgy or so, (as a compensation for the extra heavyness :) ) and to get Japanese input working I just had to go to [system > language support] and add it. I’m sure it would be no harder in a full Gnome/Gutsy system. If you’ve got Japanese keyboards it should be a breeze, and it sounds as if you’ve already got it working on a non-japanese one too.

    I haven’t tried UIM yet, but it’s true that in a few situations I’ve found it impossible to get SCIM input going. (Some older apps don’t even seem to be able to display Japanese, though, which can’t be a question of using the right input method.)

    Also I found when using Kazehakase odd SCIM panels would pop up for no reason (korean, unicode, moreobscure…) – I thought it was kazehakase buggyness but maybe it was SCIM?

  2. 2 johnraff 2008/02/20 at 1:14 PM

    btw you might want to check out kasumi, a plug-in personal dictionary for Anthy, so you can add your own special words and have them come up eg in katakana, not some obscure kanji combination.

  3. 3 K.Mandla 2008/02/20 at 3:08 PM

    Ah, excellent suggestions. Thanks very, very much. I’ll play-test these over the next day or so, and configure them on the real machine when the time comes.

    If you have any other suggestions specific to Japanese Ubuntu users, I’d would be very interested in hearing them. It’s an area I only touch obliquely because I don’t use the tools a native speaker would want, so everything is pretty much brand new again. :|

  4. 4 johnraff 2008/02/21 at 12:17 AM

    I have to input Japanese quite often, but to be honest with scim/anthy I’ve had no problems to speak of. Just an occasional bit of buggyness usually fixed by turning it off and on again. You can set the on/off switch to any key you want (I use the zenkaku/hankaku key) so you can make it the same as whatever the people you’re helping were using before.

    My only real gripe with scim is that I haven’t found out how to make it forget about Chinese, Korean etc. Whatever boxes I uncheck, those unwanted options keep coming up.

  5. 5 Zero 2009/03/05 at 12:08 PM

    As a native Japanese user I personally find it odd people would prefer SCIM over UIM. In general if you are comparing SCIM to UIM for say Chinese SCIM is apparently the clear winner, but for Japanese it just doesn’t fit. To put it simply, there are many options that as a Japanese user I use often that just don’t appear or are not present in SCIM. SCIM can’t adequately deal with the settings I want for certain keys as there seems to be no way at all to configure those keys in SCIM to begin with. SCIM also has a much higher annoyance factor, as that pop-up toolbar it has can’t be easily hidden and for some reason will often appear in totally random areas of the screen. SCIM also has poor or no integration with certain external programs, no dictionary management to speak of, a generally hard to view suggestion menu that seems to be the worst ripoff possible of the old canna system, and its worst offense is there is no way to just stop it and get rid of it once it is started. No matter how much you kill it it comes back, and there is no simple “close SCIM” anywhere to be found. UIM does not get in the way, has all the configuration options to keep real Japanese users happy, is easy to use and view, and if for some reason I just need it gone for the remainder of the session or untill I start it back up myself it will let me close it.

  6. 6 K.Mandla 2009/03/05 at 9:15 PM

    Interesting perspective. I haven’t used UIM (or SCIM, really) in almost as long as it has been since I wrote this post, but I’ll give UIM a try at the next opportunity. Thanks for the tip. …

  7. 7 johnraff 2010/06/06 at 2:07 AM

    There’s also something called IBUS now.


  1. 1 A quick swing past autofs « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2010/06/05 at 7:57 AM

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