Friday, July 26, 2013

It's about time for a status update. Chinese Toolbox 13.1 is done and free.

It's probably irresponsible of me not to announce what's been accomplished in the last few months. I am pleased to announce that the totally free version of Chinese Toolbox is out and stable. Since the initial release of Chinese Toolbox 13.1, three updates have been released to fix minor issues. It appears that CT 13.1 has stabilized now at version 13.1.0.3.

This is a great time for the Chinese Toolbox project. The stable release of 13.1 marks the end of one and the beginning of a new phase. For those who have followed this project, you probably know that I haven't done a very good job of promoting this project. Well, that is about to change. I can't mention the strategy here, but suffice it to say that many more will be learning about this project in the coming months.

What I'm excited about the most, however, are the new CT subprojects that are now beginning. Major new development now is in process including (1) a smart testing and review system that is integrated with the CT reading system, and (2) Chinese Toolbox for mobile and tablet devices.

Many of you have given me great ideas and have discovered problems that I missed in testing, and I know that some would like to test Chinese Toolbox features as they're being developed so as to help shape future versions of Chinese Toolbox. For you I'm considering to do ER releases in shorter cycles, the first being Chinese Toolbox 13.2 ER-1.

If you download and try out Chinese Toolbox, please do let me know what you think. I take the good with the bad; all your comments eventually make Chinese Toolbox a better program for learning Chinese.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Chinese Toolbox 2013 (13.0.0.0) is ready!

As always, I'm pleased to announce a new release. Chinese Toolbox 2013 is undoubtedly the most stable, reliable, and useful version of Chinese Toolbox ever. Every problem has been worked out, and the program performs as designed.

If you're studying Chinese and you're not yet using Chinese Toolbox, you really are missing out. This is a program designed by a learner of Chinese. As a learner of Chinese, I understand the problems one faces when trying to learn Chinese. I created this program firstly for my own study of Chinese, and it really is very useful, especially if you need to read online Chinese documents.

Years ago I used flashcards to review Chinese characters, but eventually I realized that if I did more reading, my reading would function as my review of characters. Reading refreshes the memory of what you've already learned, and continued reading keeps your memory of Chinese characters and words fresh.

The purpose and focus of Chinese Toolbox is to promote reading of Chinese. It's important when learning to read Chinese that dictionaries and other resources be instantly available so that you have information right when you need it. But keep in mind the goal--to truly read Chinese. When you don't need dictionary lookup, extraneous information does not appear to clutter your view. And when you're reading without assistance, Chinese Toolbox is keeping track of what you're learning. Review functionality (being developed now) will present characters and words for review only when you need the review. Reading without assistance indicates to the program that you know what you're reading.

Chinese Toolbox 2013 is an incremental upgrade. Mostly, what 's been added simply fills out what was already there in Chinese Toolbox 2012. Possibly the most important aspect of this release is its stablity and reliability. MUCH effort went into testing. Every little problem that crept up was corrected. At this point, I know of no problems with this release. But if something does come up, it will be fixed right away.

Chinese Toolbox is a living project. I have so many ideas of how to streamline the learning of Chinese. Technology is great, but so far most of what I've seen in software for learning Chinese tends to rehash old ideas and old ways of learning, like computerizing of flashcards. I believe it is possible to develop a more effective way of learning Chinese, and you will see more of these ideas take shape in future versions of Chinese Toolbox. So stick around. If you're looking for software tools to make Chinese easier to learn, follow this project. More is on the way!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tutorial Videos Now Available on YouTube

No doubt, many have had difficulty understanding the Chinese Toolbox interface and way of doing things. Anyone expecting to see mouse-over functionality may have been disappointed after only one launch. The lack of mouse-over functionality is not an oversight. I considered a touch, or keyboard, interface far superior to having to keep your hand on the mouse while reading a Chinese document.

Lots of documentation on how to use Chinese Toolbox has not been the solution. Who has the time to read so much!? Well, hopefully, a few videos will do the job. I've released two videos on YouTube that should begin to set the path straight, and several more are coming. If you just don't get the Chinese Toolbox way, then you really need to check out these videos. After only a few minutes, you'll understand how to use Chinese Toolbox to read Chinese documents.

The Getting Started video is available at http://youtu.be/gB2ZFbmOpqo.
The Document Navigation video is available at http://youtu.be/yqZtcYxsP6c.

There's a new Video page at the Chinese Toolbox website; it will list all the tutorial videos as they become available. Check it out at http://www.chinesetoolbox.com/Video/video.htm.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chinese Toolbox 2012 (12.1) is now released!

I'm happy to report on the release of Chinese Toolbox 2012, version 12.1.0.0. This has been six months in the making, and is the best Chinese Toolbox ever, both in features and stability. The nagging problem of word dictionary editing is finally solved, and I think you will like the solution--complete control over the content of your word dictionary in an easy-to-understand interface. Improved Reader navigation controls and document state retention (page and character selection) make it easy to move around a document or switch between up to 1000 different documents. See What's New for a good description of all the new features and changes in Chinese Toolbox 12.1, or check out the Summary of Changes for a concise list of all the new changes.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Chinese Toolbox 2012 (12.0.2.0)

It's been a couple weeks now since the last program update, and it looks like the initial 2012 release has stablized at version 12.0.2.0. No problems have been reported, and I have not found any new problems myself. Recently, most of my effort has gone into the Chinese Toolbox website. I've been doing a LOT of writing, and I'm pleased with how the website is taking shape. I'd love to give it a more professional look, and over time, this will come. I'm satisfied now that most of the needed documentation is there.

I am now beginning to turn my attention to the next release, version 12.1.0.0. Recently, I've become more aware of the fairly urgent need to allow multiple installations of Chinese Toolbox for each purchased READER license. So in addition to improving search functionality and enabling editing of the word dictionary (especially adding new entries), I will make changes to the licensing design to allow for, probably, three Chinese Toolbox installations per READER license. When Chinese Toolbox 12.1 is finally released, all who own a READER license will immediately have access to the additional installations.

Regarding the new Perpetual Trial: Since the release of Chinese Toolbox 2011, it has always been possible to extend trial usage by simply launching the program under a different logon account. Recently, I decided to make this more public, even teaching people how to go about doing it. I understand that not everyone is able to financially support the Chinese Toolbox project, but I do hope that everyone who wants to learn to read Chinese will choose to use Chinese Toolbox. Licensing options for Chinese Toolbox will improve over time, and features in Chinese Toolbox READER will gradually become available in Chinese Toolbox FREE. The Perpetual Trial is one step in this direction, allowing more people to use Chinese Toolbox who would otherwise be unable to do so.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chinese Toolbox 2012 (12.0.1.0)

And I thought I was going to be able to relax! As it turns out, the last 16 days have been as intense as ever. For example, after working all night on the website update, I began uploading the new installers just after 5:00 am (Taiwan time) today, and around 8:00 am the update was complete.

After releasing 12.0.0.1 I began to spend more time just to use Chinese Toolbox and work on my own reading. After a couple days and clicking in all the wrong places, I discovered a couple crashers which obviously had to be fixed ASAP. So I began poking a little more intensely and found a few other things that could be improved. If you like, view the CT 12.0.1.0 Release Notes to see what's been keeping me busy for the last two weeks.

So here you have my first shot at "trying something different" (previous post). I wasn't expecting to do an update for at least a month or so. Anyways, I hope you like this release. It looks better than ever, and it does everything as designed--at least until the next bug is found (knock on wood). Seriously though, all the years of effort are showing through in this newest edition, and it's something I'm very proud of. Check it out and let me know what you think. I appreciate constructive comments, both positive and negative. They help me do a better job the next time around.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chinese Toolbox 2012 is released!

I'm very pleased to announce the availability of Chinese Toolbox 2012. It is always so satifying to be able to do a software release. So much effort has gone into this project, and it's with a smile on my face that I complete this phase.

Of course, there's more to come--this project will never end. I already have my list of things to do for the next update.

Regarding updates, I am going to be trying something different. Testing has become a huge part of the effort I put into this project. After completing development of a major release, testing seems to take forever. Actually, it usually takes one to three months, but these few months seem like an eternity. During the testing phase I don't develop new features, and it's development that I love. So, moving forward I plan to do releases in smaller increments, at least for new features that don't require huge architectural changes to the code. Fewer code changes in a release should translate into a shorter period of testing.

I hope you enjoy using this new version. Of course, it does not solve all the problems related to learning Chinese, but I promise to continue my effort. If you have suggestions for new features, I'm all ears; I'd love to hear from you.

Also, I am looking forward to spending more time designing a companion program for Android, mainly for review and testing. Others have developed very useful programs for mobile devices, and I'm looking forward to giving them a little competition. So, if have a wish list for an Android app for reviewing Chinese flashcards, shoot it off to me.

Finally, I just want to express my appreciation to those who support me in this project. The financial support and the positive emails are all very, very encouraging to me.

Followers