Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Quick Review of the Simple Kanji Index - QuickKanji

What is QuickKanji?

QuickKanji is a simple, usable kanji index for learners of Japanese. I was immediately impressed by its speed and ease of use, especially when it comes to looking up kanji. On the downside there doesn't seem to be much community, yet it has the potential for expansion through community tools like chat, and user generated content.

A simple, usable, community based kanji dictionary

I would never have know about QuickKanji were it not for this tweet by Andrew (@l_andrew_l on Twitter), the site's creator.

There are detailed instructions about using QuickKanji on the site itself, so I won't attempt to replicate them here. Instead, let's have a look at some pros and cons.


  1. Minimalistic interface. On the home page you have all the interface elements you need to start drilling down to the kanji you want and nothing more. There is a Kanji of the Day in the info panel to get you started. There is also no need to login, no partial results, no blinding ads.

  2. Very fast for look-ups. On the top of the screen are six ways to list kanji; All, Radical, Strokes, Level, On, Kun plus Search and a cookie based Vocab List. Use any of these methods to narrow your search and select the kanji you want to bring up in the info panel.

  3. Native indexing. You won't find any old JLPT lists here to distract you from the task of discovering more kanji. Search for kanji based on radical, stroke number, educational level as defined by the Japanese Ministry of Education, on and kun readings - simple.

  4. Simple discovery of new kanji and compounds. Wherever you are, scanning the lists or drilling down into to the info area, you find opportunties to step off and investigate new kanji and related compounds.

  5. Collaborative tools. Anyone can contribute new kanji and compounds directly from the info panel. Examples sentences can be added to compounds in the list area. Any time you see a kanji compound or example sentence you can vote on that entry's usefullness. Voting affects the order of the lists in which they appear. Useless entries are eventually deleted. There is also a chat feature which allows you to chat with anyone using the site.


  1. Not very well known. I'm not sure how comfortable Andrew is with shameless self promotion but it seems his creation is lacking a little link love. I asked him how long QuickKanji had been live and was surprised to hear over a year.

  2. Very light on compounds and translations. It seems that the handful of translations that have been added have been added by Andrew himself for the purpose of demonstration. Some kanji have plenty of compounds and others none. I wonder if there is some incentive for users to create compounds and translations?

  3. Crowd sourced translation may lead to a reliability problems. Especially when the number of crowd contributions is so small, there aren't enough people to guarantee the quality of entries.

  4. QuickKanji uses only one reference coding system. And it's not even a dictionary reference! Shift_JIS is a ASCII character encoding for Japanese, handy for programmers working with Japanese but not learners. I would have liked to have seen at least one or two dictionary indices so you could at least grab a dictionary when there were no compounds or translations available. It might even encourage people to add entries and compounds.
I'll be looking more closely at how you might be able to use when learning to read Japanese through manga. How would you use it?
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