I am looking for tools to help in my study of Chinese. My wife and I want to work on this together, but that adds a little problem: I use a PC and she uses a Mac. Are there any programs we can buy or download that would run on both machines? If not, what about Web-based software? Ideally, we would like to do the following: convert the various Romanisation schemes, mainly Wade-Giles and Pinyin, write the Pinyin with tone marks instead of numbers, and convert Chinese characters into Pinyin with tones. Is this even possible? Name and address supplied This question is actually quite important to me because I had wanted to do some of those things 25 years ago. That goal got me into computing to begin with, but this column is about technology, not history. Let us look at Romanisation first. You can download special fonts for Pinyin with tone marks, or you can try and do it with Unicode fonts. The easiest thing about downloading fonts is that some of them make it quite easy to enter the tones. Otherwise, it can be a bit messy. The difficulty with downloading fonts, even if they are free, is that you may have problems sharing your files with others who may not have the same fonts. On the other hand, if you do not mind doing this on a regular basis, you can enter the Pinyin with numbers for the tones - zhong1 guo2, etc - and then have them converted online. The converted characters are Unicode. The same site that will convert Pinyin will also convert characters into Pinyin. This is a very convenient service and will help enormously if you are having difficulty looking up a character in a dictionary. [This presupposes you have the character in digital form, of course. Also, I would strongly suggest that you go through the painful process of looking up characters the 'normal' way. That is, radical plus strokes, because it is a handy thing to know and it helps in trying to remember them.] The Web can be used for translation as well, but one must be careful here. If you rely completely on automatic translations, you may find your progress slowing down. It is a personal decision and one I am rather pleased I did not have to make when I studied Chinese 33 years ago. The tools today that are available are wonderful if used properly. Pinyin at www.foolsworkshop.com/pfc/pinyinfonts.html . Pinyin fonts can be found here. There are lots of them and you will have to choose what fits best. You will need to remember a series of key strokes to enter the tone marks. This can get a little complicated because some of them do it elegantly and some do not. Chinese tools at www.mandarintools.com . This site has extremely useful information and links. You can convert between all sorts of things such as simplified and traditional characters, Pinyin with numbers and Pinyin with tones, Wade-Giles, BoPoMoFo, and many more. You can even download software to run on your own machine. One of the really great things about it is the site's author has written his software in Java and Perl, so it runs on any platform you may have. Of particular interest is something called 'Dim Sum Chinese Tools', a Java application that does it all and you can download it to run on your machine.