Desktop Chinese-English lookup dictionary

I wrote this Java-based Chinese-English lookup dictionary (CED) over the weekend. It started off as a project to learn and improve my poor Chinese language skills but the more I got into it, the more I realised that I needed a tool to help me along while I try to improve my vocabulary.

So I started googling around and found this amazing dictionary file called CEDict which gave me a list of all traditional (Big5) and simplified (GB) Chinese characters, their Hanyu Pinyin pronounciation as well as a simple description of the word or phrase. This was heaven-sent of course. This cool site, Mandarin Tools, also provided a great online dictonary tool as well as an offline Java desktop application (DimSum) which I used briefly in learning more Chinese words. However after a while the app got a bit draggy as it was pretty bulky. Don’t get me wrong — DimSum is an incredibly cool tool with tons of features but the only two things I really needed was a dictionary translation of the word or phrase as well as a hint of the pronounciation. The other stuff was just dead weight to me as I needed something fast and to the point.

So I wrote my own tool. I downloaded CEDict from Mandarin Tools, the Mandarin sounds from Chinese Lessons and wrote a simple Java desktop application that uses these data. The result is CED (Chinese-English Dictionary — not too creative I admit) .

The premise is simple. You run CED. While you are reading a Chinese document or website you find these words that you don’t recognize. You’ll likely not want to drag your thousand-paged Chinese-English dictionary and start comparing brushstrokes or go rushing to Mandarin Tools, cut and paste and wait for the answer. You just want to know what those words means so that you can get on with your reading.

So you select the words and copy it (or press Ctrl-C). You switch over to CED and you will have the word you have just copied described to you, with a brief explanation of what it means. You will also find a list of words that are related to the one you have selected.

There is even a ‘say‘ button at the bottom of the list, which you can click and hear the Mandarin Hanyu Pinyin pronounciation of the word or phrase you have selected. Simple!

I’m releasing this under GPL and have registered a site at In the meantime you can also find the installer binaries for Windows here. It should work with OSX or Linux or any platform that runs Java but I don’t have any of those so I can’t say for sure. Once the site is up I’ll upload the source files and jar files so that you can try it out yourself.

Have fun!


The site is up at You can download the Windows installer as well as a zipped file of the jars from this site. Drop me a note to tell me how you like it!

10 thoughts on “Desktop Chinese-English lookup dictionary

  1. Great idea. I tried the Windows exe installer but ced.exe throws an error window:
    “Could not find the main class. Program will exit.”

  2. Hiya, I have been using it. It’s great!
    I’ve also a java leaner. I have requested pending at Could you take a look?


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  4. Hi, the program looks great and it loads up well on OSX.

    However, I can’t paste anything into the window. Could it be a java issue? I am pasting from a native OSX application and copy and paste are apple-c, apple-v not ctl-c, ctl-v. Maybe a right click paste menu would fix this? I also tried dragging over the characters, but that didn’t work either. Any suggestions?

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    this post used to be great. I don’t know who you are however certainly you’re
    going to a well-known blogger should you aren’t already. Cheers!

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