Getting Started

These help pages have been updated for version 7.1 of the program.

The program is essentially free in terms of all its core features, but users can buy a licence and obtain an unlock code which unlocks a couple of additional features, mostly to do with the Match Panel.

At start-up the program displays the following screen:

If you have an unlock code you can press Log in to use the program with its complete feature set. Otherwise you can press Skip to use the program in free or "unregistered" mode.

Tip: There is no time limit on using the program. You are welcome to use the program indefinitely without buying a licence.

Tip: Pressing F1 on any screen in the program will take you directly to the relevant section of this Help manual.

The program comes with a database for storing your personal test data, i.e. all the words and expressions you want to learn. To begin with, this database is empty. The Vocabulary Test, Review Test and Character Tests all target what’s in your personal data store, therefore to begin with none of these tests are available and the buttons are greyed out. So, the first thing you have to do is add vocabulary to your personal data store.

Vocabulary Data Vocabulary Tests
Revision Tests
Character Tests
Tone Data Tone Tests

The exception to this rule is the tone test questions. These are installed in their own database along with the program, so that button is enabled as long as you have a Chinese speech engine correctly configured.

Adding Vocabulary

You can add items manually, by typing in the English, the Pinyin and the Chinese character by using the Add/Edit form.

You can add any item that you find through a Dictionary search by right-clicking and choosing Add from the pop-up menu.

You can import items in bulk from a variety of sources using the Import Wizard.

Daily Targets

The program encourages you to complete each of the four principal tests every day. Each of the tests is represented by a ring in the test target which turns a darker shade of green as you progress through the relevant test.

Default targets, which can be modified in the Options form are as follows (from the center of the target outwards):

Vocab Test 80 Questions Answered
Vocab Review 30 Questions Answered
Character Test 60 Questions Answered
Tone Test 20 Questions Correct

Vocabulary Test

The vocabulary test has two modes: typing and reading. The program initially shows you the Test Calendar corresponding to the selected mode. Use the drop down box to select the mode you want to be tested in and press the Load Test button. On opening the form, the program defaults to selecting the alternative mode from your most recently loaded test.

In typing mode you are shown the expression in your own language and you have to input the Chinese. When you hit the return key the program reveals the answer. You then decide how long to leave until you are tested on the item again, based on your degree of confidence. On the other hand in reading mode you are shown the Chinese, and then when you have read the expression and mentally translated it you press a button to reveal the answer.

This leads to some subtle differences between the two modes. In typing mode the program can compare your answer to the correct answer, and it knows how long since you were last tested on that item, so it can “suggest” how long you might want to leave it by focussing one of the buttons. In reading mode the program does not know whether you got the answer right, however its choice of which button to focus will be based on the assumption that you did.

Tip: In Typing mode, if you type in a wrong answer, and it is something that exists in your datastore, the program alerts you to this. You can do this as many times as you want, no points are deducted.

By default the program loads 40 questions in a vocabulary test. You can change this setting in the Options form.

In the reading test the program shows you a masked version of the answer indicating how many characters it has. It also shows you if there are any repeating characters by using a variety of different symbols. Any other punctuation such as commas or questions marks are shown in the masked expression too. If you prefer for the program not to help you in this way you can turn off this option in the Options form.

During the typing test, if the question contains punctuation or other items that aren't Chinese characters you don’t have to type them. You only need to type the Chinese characters.

Test progress panel:

This shows your progress through the test. The current item is shown with a hatched pattern. To the right are questions you have not yet been asked. The colour of each question reflects the status of the question in the database. Normally these will only be either current test questions or questions in review, but when you are doing a category test questions are taken from anywhere in the database and so could have any status.

To the left of the current item are the items you have already been tested on, marked in green. Sometimes the program will make you go back over a question at the end of the test, for example if you got it wrong, or if it is a review question during a reading test. In these cases the question is marked light green.

Non-standard buttons on vocabulary test form:

Underneath the test progress panel are a row of buttons. Most of these are covered in the section Standard Buttons and Menu Items. The ones that are particular to the vocabulary test are:

Test fonts: Pressing this button during a reading test gives you the option to use a specific font for showing the questions or a random font from those you have preconfigured. To configure of shortlist of fonts to use in the reading questions use the Font Tab on the Options Form
Skip question: This skips a question, letting you come back to it at the end of the test.
Undo: undoes the grading for the last question you answered.
Cut short the test: This removes from the test any question which has not yet been asked. It leaves the current question and any others that you have skipped or need to go back to.
Key: Shows a key to remind you of the colour coding of the test questions. When the Test Calendar is showing it shows a key appropriate to that.

The Extra Attention check can be used to show a warning similar to the following just before the correct answer is revealed:

You might do this for example because there are two words you are currently being tested on that express similar ideas and are easily confused. When an item is taken out of your current cycle of testing, through being retired or archived etc., then this field is automatically cleared.

Points System

The program keeps two point scores for each test item, one for reading mode and one for typing mode. When you have a score of 40 or above the question ceases to appear in its associated mode, and when you have 40 or above in both modes the question is retired and its status changes to “Dormant”. The point score can be seen immediately above the question/answer panel when the answer is showing.

Points are initially calculated based on how long it has been since you were previously tested:

<= 1 Day 1 Point
<= 3 Days 3 Points
<= 5 Days 5 Points
<= 10 Days 10 Points
> 10 Days 15 Points
Wrong -8 Points

This is just the initial setting. There are two ways you can override this according to whether you feel more or less confident of your progress on a particular question. First you can uncheck the option Award Points which is conveniently located next to the Ask Again buttons. It is especially useful to do this when you “almost” got a question right, for example you remembered all the characters in the answer except one etc. In this case you can uncheck “Award Points” just before you press the “Wrong” button. This mean you won’t get any points for that question, but you won’t lose any either.

Sometimes you might want to completely override the points offered by the program. For example, you got a question right but only because you happened to see the answer in some other context a short time previously, or you got a question wrong because of a typing error when in fact you had the answer right in mind. In these cases you can just check the Award points manually box and click on the points progress panel wherever you think most appropriate.

Vocabulary Test Status

Each test item goes through the following life cycle in terms of the Vocabulary Test:

The first stage represents queued items that have been imported from a vocabulary list, say. If you add an item manually it will go directly into the second category of "Test Item”.
The “Test Item” stage is where you initially memorise the expression with alternate reading and typing tests, until you have accumulated 40 points in both modes.
After you reach 40 points in both reading and typing the item is retired and its state is set to “Dormant”.
It stays dormant for three months and then it has a “Review” status in the Vocabulary Test. Review questions are dealt with below.
The outcome of reviewing is either that the item is added back into the test list with a status of “Test Item” or it is allowed to pass into the “Archive”.

Once an item is in the archive it will not show up again in the Vocabulary Test. It may however show up in the other tests, and it will always show up in the Match Panel when you are viewing an expression which shares a character with the one featured. In this way the program is constantly reminding you of the archived items you have already learned, and you always have the option to add items back either with full Test Item status or probably more commonly with Review status.

Test Calendar Display

The test calendar shows the distribution of when items are due to be tested in the coming days.

There are two vertical bars, labelled "Untested" and "Today". "Today" shows all the items that are technically due to be tested today, although that doesn't necessarily mean they will load in the next test. All the bars to the right of "Today" represent subsequent days. "Untested" shows the items that have not yet entered this cycle of testing. They could be new items just added manually or from the dictionary (shown in green), items imported from the Import Wizard (cream), items that have been "retired" for three months and so are now due for retesting (brown), or items that have been tested once in the other mode (reading as opposed to writing or vice versa) too recently to allow them to be tested in this mode yet (purple).

The key to understanding the orange and purple cells is to consider that the program will try to avoid presenting you with the same question in both typing and reading mode on the same day. In fact it imposes a delay of two days as a minimum delay between tests in respective modes, even if they would otherwise be due for testing. Furthermore, the program will try to avoid testing you twice in one day on any item in the same mode. It will only load questions in these two categories if there is nothing else left to test you on.

This is the significance of each color in the chart:

An item queued for testing having been imported via the Import Wizard.
An item newly added either manually or from the dictionary.
A "retired" item due for retesting.
A question that has been asked in the last two days in the alternative mode to the one we are viewing, i.e. one that will only load if there is nothing else to test you on.
A question that has been asked today in the mode we are viewing, i.e. one that will only load if there is nothing else to test you on.

Tip: The default delay of two days between testing in respective modes is configurable in the Options form.

Review Questions

Note that there is another kind of test, the Vocabulary Review, also knows at the “Flash Test”. That is a different style of test that is described in the appropriate section below. This is the review stage of an item's life cycle in respect of the Vocabulary Test.

Review questions are repeated every two weeks until you have answered them correctly both for reading and typing. There is no points system involved, you just have to answer them correctly once for each mode of testing. Also, the button choices are different:

The order of review testing is always reading test first, then typing test.

These are the button controls you see on a reading test:

You always have the option to archive the item directly if you are confident you know it, or to restore it to test Item status if you are sure you don’t. However the default selection is to ask again in 14 Days. By default this will be to ask again in typing mode (as shown by the “Next Test” option buttons – it is “Writing” which is selected). This is because in reading mode the program has no way of knowing if you got the answer right or wrong, so it will assume you got it right. If in fact you got the answer wrong you can ensure that the next test will also be in reading mode by selecting the “Reading” option before you press “14 Days”. The tick icon will change to a cross because by telling the program that you want to repeat the Reading test you are letting it know that you got the answer wrong.

With a typing test the difference is that the program knows whether you got the answer right or wrong. In case you got the answer right, this is what you will see:

Neither the Reading or the Typing option is selected and the default button choice is Archive. If you press the enter key the item will pass to “Archived” status. If you really want to override this and be tested again in either mode in another two weeks just select the option you want.

If you got it wrong you will see something like this:

The program will test you again in typing mode in another two weeks. Just press return to accept this outcome.

Vocabulary Review Test

The “Review Test” or “Flash Test” tests you on any character in your personal database that occurs in six or more expressions. For this reason, when you first start using the program, the test is not available and the button is greyed out. As the vocabulary in your database grows the program starts adding characters to the list of frequently occurring ones that form the basis for this test. When you have been tested on all the characters in the list you are tested on them again from the start of the list, but new characters are added all the time as your database grows so going through the list takes longer each time.

This is a test of your reading speed and your short term memory as well a being a very effective way of reviewing the items you have learned. It is also quite good fun!

The test consists of seeing all the words and expressions (i.e. the Chinese characters) that contain this expression, up to a maximum of thirty, in quick succession and in a random order. At the same time you are shown the translation of one of the expressions in your own language. You get the answer right by typing in the Chinese characters that match the definition. Having got the answer right the Chinese expression is removed from the list of flashing characters and you are shown another definition. This goes on until you have typed in all the expressions and there are no more flashing characters left.

Tip: If one of the definitions is proving difficult you can press return to skip it and come back to it later when there are fewer flashing characters remaining to be tested on.

Tip: You can adjust the speed of the flashing characters by using the slider. The test is meant to be difficult to train you to recognize characters quickly so it is best to set the speed to the fastest setting that lets you complete the exercise. The program automatically adjusts the exposure time so you are given more time to read longer expressions.

Tip: Each time you press return the text entry box automatically clears. It does this whether you get the answer right or wrong. However, it may be that you got the answer wrong having typed in a fairly long expression, only to realize just one character was wrong! In that case you can bring your answer back by typing Control+Z. This lets you modify your previous answer which might be quicker than typing it in all over again.

If the flashing character contains punctuation or non-Chinese characters there is no need to include those things in your answer. Similarly, the number in brackets, which indicates the number of characters in the question, only counts Chinese characters and not other punctuation, words or initials in English etc.

Tip: If you are completely stuck on any of the characters at the end you can right-click and select “Give Up” to view the answer. You might want to consider adding it back to your test or review list which you can do easily with the right-click menu.

Character Test

The Character Test offers you a blank canvas on which to draw the character. If you are completely new to Chinese characters you should know that there is a certain order in which the strokes should be drawn on the page. This might seem like a pointless convention but following the stroke order in a fixed sequence helps to fix the characters in your memory. If you are not familiar with the general rules for stroke order you can find some resources for this on the Internet. You can also use the "Stroke Order" button and the program will show you the order of strokes for the current character.

Draw the strokes in order and when you add the last stroke the form switches to answer mode and the grading buttons become enabled.

These buttons allow you to indicate when you want to be tested again on that character. First of all the program assesses your probable level of confidence based on how often you have been tested on the character in question. Your level of confidence determines the time periods that appear on the other buttons. If you want to be tested sooner than the program is offering you then press the less confident button to change the options.

As a general rule the program does not make any conspicuous effort to assess whether you got the character right or wrong. It does count the times you have to repeat a stroke, and it uses this to help decide how confident you are, but as we have seen this can be overridden.

Tip: The button text is approximated up to show whole weeks or months but you can move your mouse over the buttons to get the exact number of days.

Although we have said that by convention there is a correct order for drawing the strokes in a Chinese character, the program allows you a certain degree of laxity. If it detects you have skipped a stroke and are drawing the next one it will allow you to do that, but it will not do the same if it thinks you have missed two strokes. On the other hand, if the program detects you have drawn two strokes together, in the correct order but without stopping, it will put both in.

Tip: Generally speaking the program is set to be fairly generous in its interpretation of whether your answers match the stroke it is expecting. It is more geared to helping you memorize the characters and the order of strokes than honing the accuracy of your penmanship.

The program also offers the following buttons:

Cut short the test. This removes all the questions that have not yet been asked. It only leaves the current question and any questions where you have asked to be retested in zero days.
Palette: Change the colour of your writing brush by choosing from any of the standard HTML colours.
Stroke Order: When you use this button the program shows you one by one where each stroke goes. Use this button as much as you like when you are confronted with an unfamiliar character.
Give Up: Give up trying to guess the current character. The program shows you the correct answer.
Clear the screen: Use this to clear the screen and have another go when you get a character wrong.

Adding Characters

The program adds new items to the test if you finish all the questions that are due before you reach your daily target.

Tip: The program adds new characters in order of frequency, so characters that occur six times in your personal data store will be added before those that occur five times, and so on.

Tip: If you are feeling overwhelmed and don't want the program to add any new questions you can uncheck this option, which is on the right of the status bar at the bottom of the Character test form:

Tone Test

The tone tests offer you Minimal Pair type questions to help you distinguish between Chinese tones. For more information about the philosophy behind these questions please visit the Mǎ or Mà? website on which it is based.

The program offers two kinds of tests: multiple choice questions with two to five alternatives, and "name that tone" type tests where you have to select each of the tones you think you heard individually. In each case you hear a two character word in Chinese first, and then you have to identify the tones.

The program keeps track of the total number of questions right, and also your current run of consecutive right answers. Internally it also tracks which particular questions you get wrong in order to identify then in the Stats Module.

Tip: You can replay the sound as many times as you like, both before and after you answer the question. It will not affect your score.

Review Buttons

The review buttons appear when you get an answer wrong. They let you directly the compare the tones you thought you heard with the tones you really heard. This helps you identify and remember the difference between the different sounds.

"Let's Cheat!" Section

The test features a "Cheat" section which is available before the question is answered and hidden when it is being reviewed. It lets you load up a tone pair and hear five random examples of those tones from different words.

You are positively encouraged to use this tool when you cannot decide between two possible answers. In fact the first challenge is to recognize the tones you frequently get wrong and therefore to remember to take advantage of this - it is easy to be so confident about a wrong answer that you forget to use this tool.

Tip: If you use this tool and you get the answer right the program will not increment the number of correct scores or the number of questions asked, i.e. your overall percentage right will not change. It would however save you from losing your current run of right answers.

Types of Question

Normal Questions These questions will lead to your score being incremented or your current run being lost. They are tracked by the Stats Module.
Retest Questions The program retests on you on questions you got wrong previously. These questions do not affect your score and are not tracked by the Stats Module.
Reinforcement Questions Immediately after getting a question wrong you are given a series of five reinforcement questions that feature both the correct tones and the tones you thought you heard. These questions do not affect your score and are not tracked by the Stats Module.

Completing the Test

By default the test is over when you have answered 20 questions correctly. This number is configurable in the Options form. On completion of the test the program shows a summary of your session with the best run achieved, total time spent etc. At this point you can either close the form or, if you prefer, load more questions and carry on testing.

Additional Buttons

The test also features the following buttons:

Cut short the test: Use this button to remove any unasked questions. This button only appears after the initial goal of 20 questions correct has been achieved.
View Audio: This button opens a secondary window that shows a graphic output of the sounds being played.
Save Tones: Save any or all of the tones in the current question as .wav format files.

Categories and Category Tests

The program lets you invent any number of categories to assign vocabulary items to. For example, you might create a category “Food” or “Airports and aviation” or “Measure words”. The main reason for creating categories is that you can load up a Vocabulary test of all the items belonging to that category. So if you were planning to take an internal flight in China you might want to load up your “Airports and aviation” list to review words like “terminal”, “check-in” etc.

To create categories, you can launch the Categories window from the Tools menu (Tools >> Edit Categories).

This opens the Categories form on the General tab, which gives you options to add, edit or delete categories, or launch a test for the selected category. On the right is a Match Panel, however it is unlike the rest of the match panels you find in the program, and it is not limited to three matches in unregistered mode. In this case it shows all the items belonging to the selected category. You can use it to browse all the items assocated with any given category, and right-clicking displays the usual pop-up menu with the full range of standard options. The menu also contains the additional option to disassociate the item from the selected category.

To add items to an existing category you can choose “Categories” from the pop-up menu for any test item (for example in the main form or during a test, etc.). This lets you either add that test item to an existing category directly on the menu, or to open the Categories form again, but this time with the second tab selected, which shows the edit options for a specific category. With the Specific tab selected we can manage all the categories associated with any particular vocabulary item, either associating or disassociating items and categories.

Tip: If you want to add lots of existing items to a category you can do so by dragging and dropping them from the dictionary onto the Match Panel on the General tab of the Categories form (see above).

Category Tests

You can launch a category test by selecting it from the Tests menu on the main form:

...or from the General Tab of the Categories form.

The Categories test behaves in a very similar way to a normal vocabulary test. You can choose to launch it in either Typing or Reading mode. The only difference is that it has a reduced set of grading buttons. If you select the Fourteen Days button it will set the item's status to Retesting in the regular vocabulary test.

Category tests also load up the usual number of test items (by default 40) if there are that many items in the category. The items are selected according to when they were last tested, with more recently tested items sent to the back of the queue, so if there are more than 40 items belonging to one category then they will all be tested on subsequent loads.

Standard Buttons and Menu Items

These are the items on the standard menu:

Restore: Gives you the option of either restoring an item directly to the test list so it has a status of Test Item in the Vocabulary Test. It will then behave just like an item that you have newly added to the database. To begin with it will have zero points in both Reading and Typing mode.
Search: You can use this submenu to look a word up in the dictionary, look it up online, or launch an online image search for the word in question. By default the program uses Google but you can configure it to use Baidu in the Options Form.
Vocabulary Review: You can use this option to send any of the characters in the word or expression you have clicked on to the Vocabulary Review Test. That character will form the basis of the first review question the next time you start a Review Test (unless you subsequently send another character to the front of the list ahead of it). Note that you can only add characters to the Review Test that have at least five instances in your test database. If this is not the case the program will advise you that the item cannot be added.
Character Test: Lets you add any character characters in the word or expression you have clicked on to the next Character Test. If there is already a character test in progress it will be the next test loaded after that.
Match Panel: Depending on where the menu is opened from, this command either shows you the matches for the item in question in the match panel of the form you have open, or, if you are opening the context menu from the match panel itself, it opens a fresh window with its own match panel and shows you the corresponding matches there. This panel also has a full range of menu options, so it is possible to carry on recursively opening match panel window for as long as you like while you explore connections between different items in your data store.
Copy: The copy menu lets you copy either the whole item to the clipboard, in the format “Chinese characters (pinyin) = English”, or just the English, or just the Chinese characters.
Edit: Opens the edit window for the item in question.
Highlight: This lets you toggle the highlighting of an item in the main window of the program. Highlighted items show up in yellow so they stand out. You can also order the columns so that all the highlighted items come to the top of the list by clicking on the very first column header square. This is useful for example if you have a question about some item and you want to remember to ask your teacher about it. You can highlight such items when you are in your free time and then find them easily to ask about them in class. Highlighting can also be toggled by checking the highlight checkbox on the edit window.
Play Sound: Speaks any characters in the selected item using the configured speech engine.
Delete: Eliminates the item in question from your data store. Deletion is permanent, the only way to get a deleted item back is by adding it again.
Categories: Opens the categories window to let you edit categories.
Zoom: Opens a magnification window to let you see the characters on a much larger scale.

Adding/Editing Items

This window lets you add new items or edit existing ones in your personal datastore. When you double-click on a dictionary item this windows opens up with the fields already filled in and ready to save to your database.

Press the “…” button to bring up an extended view of the window. This includes the alternative version of the character (Traditional if you are studying Simplified or vice versa), what categories the item is associated with, and the date it was added and last tested.


The examples panel at the bottom of this form lets you easily relate examples to the current item. You can do this by dragging and dropping from any match panel, from the dictionary, from a vocabulary test when it is showing the answer, or from another instance of the add/edit form. Changes to the examples are saved independently of changes to the item, but the item has to exist in the database in order to have examples, so adding an example to a newly opened item from the dictionary will automatically save it to the database.

You can also add and edit examples by typing using the following buttons:

Use this button to add a new example directly by typing.
Use this to begin editing an existing example.
Delete an example (prompts beforehand).
Save changes to the example you are editing.
Cancel changes to the example you are editing.

The Examples panel is also available in the Vocabulary Test where it works in exactly the same way.


The dictionary supplied with the program is the community-maintained CC-CEDICT dictionary copyright Paul Andrew Denisowski. It is installed in an appropriate subfolder, according to the language version, in the same location as the program’s executable.

The dictionary allows you to search for words by typing in the Chinese character, part of the definition in your own language, or the pinyin.

Tip: Use the “Add” button if you have typed a phrase into the search box and found it is not in the dictionary, but you still want to add it to your database. This opens the Add/Edit Items window with the characters already filled in, to save you the trouble of typing them again.

The following color coding will help you to interpret the different results of the dictionary search:

Exact Match If there is an exact match for your search it is shown in green.
One-by-one Each exact match for each word in your search is shown in pink. Bear in mind that there may be more than one results for some characters.
Occurs in... Any multiple-character expression that contains the character or characters that you typed is shown in black.
Personal Data Matches from your own data store are shown at the end of the search in yellow. If you have not registered and unlocked the program this list is restricted three items, the same as happens with the match panels

Tip: In the original version of the program the results only included the items shown in black. The black colour was to suggest coal being dug from a coal face, in keeping with the name of the program.

You can drag and drop any result from the dictionary into the examples part of the add/edit window to add it as an example. You can also drag and drop to the list of examples that appears during the vocabulary test.

If you have an idea how to draw a character but forget its Pinyin, you can still search by pressing the “Draw” button which opens the following screen:

Draw the character as best as you can in the white drawing space and press “Show Results”. You should be able to find the character in the list on the right. If you don’t see it, press Clear and try again. When you find the character, you can double-click on it to close the form and insert the newly found character in the text search field of the dictionary.

Statistics Module

The statistics module has four tabs. The first tab shows your daily achievement for the current month. To completely fill in each circle you have to devote an appropriate amount of time to each of the four principle tests: Vocabulary Test, Vocabulary Review, Character Test and Tone Test.

Statistics Module - Vocabulary Test

(1) Review outcomes (pie chart)

We know that there are only two eventual outcomes for a test item which has a test status of Retesting, either it will be added back into the main test list, or it will be archived more permanently. So this chart shows the percentage of these retests that result in the item finally being marked as archived compared to the percentage that are added back into the normal test sequence. It only counts the final outcome, for example you might press the “two week” postponement button five times, but it will only record whether at the end of those ten weeks the outcome is to add the item back or mark it as archived.

(2) Items added (bar chart)

This graphic shows the total number of items added into the Vocabulary Test in the period shown, differentiating between completely new items and pre-existing items that were added back.

(3) Items tested (bar chart)

This graphic shows the total number of items tested in the period shown, in reading mode and in typing mode.

Tip: For either of these two graphs you can choose a time frame of twenty-eight days, six months or five years.

Statistics Module - Character Test

(1) Time till next test (pie chart)

This chart shows how the distribution of individual characters is in terms of when they are next due for testing. This ranges from those characters which have never been tested at all, to those which you have either marked as learned, or for which you have specified a retest date more than a year in the future.

(2) Questions Answered (bar chart)

This graphic shows the total number of character questions answered in the period shown. It differentiates between characters that are being tested for the first time and those which have already been asked and are now in a state of revision.

Tip: In terms of the Character test, the blue "Not Studied" segment corresponds to the characters in your database that you have not yet been tested on. When deciding what new characters to add to the test, the program selects them on the basis of frequency, so a character that occurs three times in your database will be added to the test before one that only occurs once. It follows from this that at some point your "unasked" characters will all be characters with a frequency of just one.

Tip: For this graph you can choose a time frame of twenty-eight days, six months or five years.

(3) Relative Character Frequency (pie chart)

This shows the number of characters in your database classified by their relative frequency, i.e. how many "rare" characters do you have and how many relatively common ones.

Tip: Note that 6 is the number of instances you have to have of any character before that character is included in Review testing. This means that the characters in the red, purple and brown bands correspond to the characters you are eligible to be tested on in that test mode.

Statistics Module - Tone Test

(1) Difficulty by Tone Combination

This shows the number of times you have got the answer right or wrong for each tone combination. It can give you an idea of which combinations tend to be more problematic.

(2) Percentage correct in the period covered.

(3) Best run period covered.


General Tab:

The following options relate to the Vocabulary Test. The program offers three numbers to allow you to set your preferences for these variables.

Total Questions: This is the maximum number of questions that loads, either in reading mode or in typing mode. The program will always load this number of questions if you have a sufficient number of vocabulary items in your database. This could mean loading questions that have already been asked earlier in the day, but it will prioritize items that are due for testing. This is shown graphically on the Test Calendar Display.

Review Questions ("Of which retests"): This is the desired number of the questions, of the total which has already been established above, which are retest questions, i.e. they have previously been retired and are now due for retesting. Retest questions are only loaded when they are due, never beforehand.

Tip: The number of review questions automatically adjusts to help even out the number due on any particular day. If on any given day you do not manage to test yourself on all the retest questions due, the number per test increments by two. For example, if one day you have ten retest questions, the next day you might have twelve and the next fourteen. But if on any day you manage to do all the retest questions due the number goes back down to ten.

Queued Items ("Of which new"): This is the number of questions drawn from the pool of questions which have been added via a vocabulary import and still haven't been tested. When you import vocabulary items the program doesn’t try and test you on all the new words at once, it feeds them into your daily tests at the rate you establish here. This only applies to new vocabulary added in bulk via the import functions. Manually added items and items added from the dictionary always appear in the following test.

Reading/Writing question delay: The program avoids testing you on the same question more than once a day, as explained in the Test Calendar section. It also tries to avoid testing you on an item that you have been tested in the other mode. For example, if you have been tested on an item in reading mode the program will wait a determined number of days (by default three) before testing you on that item in typing mode. This control lets you adjust that number of days.

Daily targets for each of the principal tests.

Show masked characters: In the vocabulary test, while in typing mode, the program gives you a hint about the format of the Chinese expression you need to type by showing dashes to represent the number of characters, other punctuation as it appears, and special symbols to represent repeated characters. Uncheck this option if you don’t want to be helped in this way.

Suggest test button by moving mouse: In the vocabulary test, after answering a question, the program evaluates when it thinks you should next be tested based on the time since you were last asked and whether you got the question right. It indicates this button by focussing on it (so pressing the return key will press the appropriate button) and by moving the mouse pointer to hover over the centre of the button. Uncheck this option if you don’t want the program to interfere with the mouse position.

Show stats at start-up. Show the stats form when opening the program, or not.

Play sounds when showing answer: This relates to tone testing. Check this option to enable or suppress the “You got it!” sound when you get the answer right.

Show date and time last used at start-up: By default, the program stores its data in My Documents. For you, this might be a shared folder that you have access to on different machines. Or you may have optionally reset the data folder to such a directory (see below). In this case there is a possibility that you try to use the program before the folder has synchronized, which could potentially lead to you overwriting the more recent data when it eventually loads. To avoid this scenario the program will alert you if the data it finds was last updated on a different machine or on a previous day. You might want to uncheck this option as unnecessary if you only use the program on one machine.

Tip: Suppose you find yourself in a situation where you have inadvertently loaded up and old file that has not been updated in time, having clicked through or not seen the warning message. In this case, if you have not done any testing, you can close the program using the special option on the tools menu to close without saving pending changes. If it is already too late for this, because you have started testing, you can close the program and restore your data from one of the zip backups the program automatically makes when shutting down.

Prompt before closing program. Or not, according to your preference.

Browser: You can choose between Google or Baidu as search engines for image and text searches launched from within the program.

Character Preference: Are you studying Simplified or Traditional characters? The assumption is that you will be studying one or the other and the program requires you to choose. Changing this option requires a restart.

Reset all defaults: Resets all program options to their default settings. Some of these settings are stored in the Windows registry, so for these settings you would have to establish them separately on different devices. This includes things like the size and position of the different test windows. Other settings, where it makes more sense to share them between different machines, are stored in the registry.xml file in your data path. Pressing the reset button resets both groups of settings. It does not however affect any saved settings to do with your registration such as your user name and password.

Datapath: Requires a restart. The Datapath contains the following files:

Choose shared folder such as one in OneDrive if you want to use the program on different computers.

Test Fonts Tab:

This list of fonts represents a subset of the installed fonts on your computer. It can be used in the Vocabulary Test in reading mode, where you can have the questions appear in a random selection of different fonts, or in one preferred one. You can also switch easily between these modes while testing. This preference for how one is tested (default font, random font etc.) can be found in the Vocabulary Test itself, so you don't have to come back to this form each time.

Windows comes with a lot of installed fonts, but many or most of them don't work well or at all with Chinese characters. Unfortunately there is now way for the program, when it examines the list of fonts installed on your computer, to know which ones are going to work well and which ones are not. For this reason it is necessary to build up this list manually. To add a font, simply select it in the drop down box on the left and press Add Font. You will see a preview of the fonts as you browse them. Don't worry about adding too many fonts because it is also very easy to remove them from the list with the Remove Font button.

This list of fonts is stored in the file TestFonts.xml in your data folder. That also means it can potentially be shared between machines, so there might be some fonts which are available on one machine but not on another. Any fonts which are not present on the current machine are shown in red in the list.

The default font is the one used for showing Chinese characters in the program’s interface, for example in the dictionary search results and other tables.

Dictionary Tab:

The dictionary tab contains information about the installed version of the CC-Edict dictionary installed with the program. It also has a button for generating an updated version of the dictionary after downloading the relevant text file from the CC-Edict website. Please note that this is button is only available when English is set as the current dictionary version, as it can only be used to generate an English language version of the dictionary.

Interface and Dictionary Language Tab:

The interface language is the language the program is displayed in, as opposed to the lanugage of the dictionary used. The dictionary language also determines your language preference if you use Import Wizard to download vocabulary lists shared by other users. The program will search for resources in the language that matches your dictionary selection.

Input Methods Tab:

In order for Windows to display Chinese characters you need to install support for South East Asian languages. You can do this Windows Settings (details).

You can find instructions for how to proceed here.

Voices Tab:

In order to use the Tone Test module, it is necessary to install and configure a speech engine. This can be done in Windows Settings.

You can find detailed instructions here.

Audio Output Devices Tab:

This determines the audio output device to use during the Tone Test. You can also set the voice speed to either normal or fast.

The Match Panel

The match panel allows you browse each of the characters in any expression (either in the dictionary or in your personal data store), and for each character review all the instances of that character in your own data. This makes it a great way to see how each new character that you add to your database fits into your growing knowledge matrix. It is also a great way of browsing for items that might require some mental refreshing and to add them back into your main vocabulary test list, or to the next character test or vocabulary review as seems appropriate.

Tip: Right-click on any item in the match panel to see the full range of context menu options.

Tip: Double-click on any item to quickly open it for editing.

In unregistered mode you can only access the first three items in the match panel, so it serves to give you an idea of how it works. Unlock the program by buying a licence key on the website in order to browse the full list of items for each character.

Importing Vocab

When you open the Import Vocab window you see something like the following:

The list is color-coded into four groups:

Purple Items are lists of vocabulary that have been created and shared by other users (see below). This list will vary as items can be removed as well as added.

Items in black are lists that are always available for download. At the time of writing this consists of basic vocabulary for HSK levels 1 to 6. These lists are accumulative so list three also includes all the vocabulary from lists one and two etcetera. You should not be worried about ending up with duplicate items in your data store because the program prevents this from happening, as we will see further down when we look at the details of importing vocabulary.
Vocab lists shared by other users of the program.
Unicode comma-separated text file. The program lets you import data from any .csv formatted spreadsheet you have prepared yourself. If you select this item in the list you will see list and description of the required columns underneath. When you press the “Preview Import” button the program lets you browse for the file you want to import.
Other programs installed on your computer. The program lets you import data from compatible program you might have installed previously on your computer. At the time of writing this only includes Anki, so any Anki databases you have created will show up in green. If you want to install data from any other program please let me know so we can explore the best mapping of the different data fields in the two programs.

Having chosen the source from which you want to import data, select the item in the list and press “Preview Import”. This will show you all the items available in the list and let you indicate what you want to do with them. These items are colour-coded into three “result types”:

(1) By default, words that already exist in your own data store, shown in light brown in the list, will not be imported. However, the program will associate them with a new or existing category based on the name of the download source. Categories can be useful because the program lets you load up a test of all the items linked by that common theme. You can override this behaviour for existing words, for example by changing or editing the category with which to associate them, or by not associating them with any category.

(2) New items are shown in white and the default behaviour for these items is to both add them directly to your data store and associate them with a category.

(3) Finally, some items may be shown in dark brown. These are items that only have a “fuzzy” match to existing items in your datastore, e.g. they are words that are contained in some other expression you have already learned. The default behaviour for these items is to neither import them nor to associate them with any category.

When you are happy with your choices for the three result types press “Import” to start the importation process.

New items that are imported have a special status in your data store. They are not all added automatically to the next vocabulary test, but they are queued for testing and added at a determined rate of so many items per test. This is configurable on the options form.

Tip: If you decide not to import the data after all just close the imported form in the normal way with the Windows close button and the list will be discarded without importing anything.

Creating (and managing) Vocab lists to Share

You can create a vocab list by going to File >> Create Vocab Lists

Vocab lists are stored in .xml file format. You don’t have to create and upload your list in all in one go, you can continue editing and adding to your list until you decide you want to share it. Use the “Open” command to open a list you created earlier and continue editing it. You can use “New” to create a new list from scratch, or you can use “Load from CSV” to load a vocab list from an existing .csv file. This utility is provided to make the program compatible with other online resources that you let download vocab lists in this format.

If you choose the “Load from CSV” button, first you are invited to browse for the .csv file you want to import (which can also have a .txt extension). After selecting the file you see this form:

First you need to indicate whether the file you are importing from has column headers. If you check this, the first row of data will be treated as the column headers and will not be imported. Then you need to select “tab” or “comma” from the drop down to match the delimiter used in the file. You can see the effect of both of these options in the way the program interprets the file contents in the window’s main grid.

Next you have to map the columns in the file with the columns we are interested in for our data file: Definition, Pinyin, Simplified, Traditional. As you set each column using the drop down box, that option is removed from the remaining drop downs (because only one column can contain the Definition, only one the Pinyin etc.) If you go wrong just press the reset button to start again.

Tip: You may see an error message if there is something not quite right in the formatting of the file you are trying to read from, perhaps one row appears to have more or fewer columns than the other rows. If you see this, it is not necessarily a serious problem. You will get a chance to edit and correct your vocab list later.

Finally confirm the “Column headers are OK?” option to enable the OK button. When you press OK the program reads the data from the csv file and transfers it to the xml-based vocab file we are creating.

Editing the vocab list:

We will now consider the rest of the controls in the Edit Vocab List window. Their function and operation is the same whether we have imported data from a csv file or opened a file we created earlier and added rows to manually.

To edit an item in the list, just click on the cell you want to change, and it should let you begin editing. To add new rows to the list just go to the very last item in the table and you should find it is a blank row. This will let you click on each cell and type in the appropriate values as required.

The program has two buttons which can be used to process multiple rows at the same time: the “Delete” button and the “Translate” button. These two buttons will delete or translate all the rows that are checked. You can check rows manually, but this is time consuming. It is easier to use the option “Check All”, or “Check Selected”. To select a block of rows, click on the first row you are interested in and then shift click (click while holding the shift key down) on the last row. The two rows and all the rows in between them will be selected. You can further edit the selection by using control click (click while holding the control key down) to add individual rows.

Translate function

This button looks up the Chinese characters for the checked items and fills in the definition column based on what it finds in the dictionary. This is a pointless exercise if the definition is already in English, but it can be useful if your current dictionary language is not English. For example, if you are teaching Chinese to Spanish students and you have found a vocab list on the internet in English, you can use this option to translate the definitions into Spanish.