Word Tracer Apps for Sinosplice Readers

iPad Apps for Writing

A while back when I wrote my Learning to Write Chinese Characters on the iPad post, I reviewed an iPad app called Word Tracer. Word Tracer is going strong, and now comes in both iPad and iPhone flavors. In addition, the developer has added some additional functionality to the app in a recent update, allowing for Chinese writing practice that isn’t strictly “tracing.”

Anyway, to thank me for the review, the developer has offered me a number of free copies of the app (iPad or iPhone) to distribute to Sinosplice readers. If you’re interested in getting a free copy of this app, simply leave a comment here (with your real email) or send me an email explaining why you think that the iPad (or iPhone) makes the most sense to you as a way to practice writing Chinese. I’ll award the best ones in the first 48 hours with a free copy of Word Tracer. (Be serious in your replies; I’m very interested in learning something from this!)

Update: Thanks to all of you who commented and emailed me! The response was really pretty good, and I regret that there are too many of you for everyone to get a free copy of the app. I do appreciate the responses, though, and those selected will receive an email shortly. I’m closing comments on this blog post now.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Hi John! Remember me? I worked with you at CPod for 8 months!

    I would love a copy of this app to practice writing. I’ve tried a few apps already (Pleco, etc.) but haven’t really gotten into them. I love the idea of practicing characters on my iphone during those little bits of downtime during the day that we all have (the bus, waiting in line, etc.) and it would be so much better than the paper flashcards that I currently use. The fact that paper is only double sided and not tri-sided has always been a thorn in my side with characters – there are three things I want to learn (meaning, pronunciation and characters!).

    Anyways, hope you are well. I started listening to CPod again so I feel like I’ve spoken with you lately – but that was just a one way thing. ha. I also met up with ChinesePod listener Troy Carter last week. Nice guy.


  2. I would like a copy of Word Tracer. I think the iPhone and iPad are great ways to practice because i always have them with me. i can take a few minutes here and there to practice in a line or a bus or a waiting room without having to remember to bring books and other materials.

  3. Hey there!
    In my eyes the iphone makes the most sense to practice chinese, because as using it as my mobile phone as well, i always have it with me. No matter where i am, i always have my good selection of apps for learning chinese in my pocket and any of those has its own way to help me getting better, like useful dictionaries, flash cards, learning games, audiobooks or literature, which makes it really efficient. Without my iphone i just have to carry everything separately, like tons of books, flashcards, cd’s or a mp3 player which just don’t give me the convenience to take it every time with me. In addition, with the excellent touchscreen i can still keep in practice my skills in writing characters without wasting any paper for all my exercise^^
    So, with my iphone i don’t have an excuse not to study a bit chinese regardless where i am

  4. I’d love to try a copy. We (my American family) could give you feedback in two ways. One is my experience as an older, part-time learner. One is my daughter’s experience as a younger, enrolled in Chinese school learner. Thanks.

  5. I’d love to get a free copy, why? Because I use my iPhone to study every day using Pleco already and although it does have a way of studying characters I’m looking for something more like skritter to use on the iPhone. That and I need more reasons to study characters.

  6. It’s simple; The iPhone is the best way to study chinese characters (or anything else for that matter) because it’s always with me and I can put any spare moment to good use.

  7. Erik Desrosiers Says: August 19, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    I already do everything with my iPad.

    In fact, I’m writing this with my iPad right now.

    Left the computer at the office, why bother.

    Adding Chinese to the mix is in order.

    Go Gators.

  8. I don’t know if you know this problem, but I’m a lazy learner – means: if it’s no fun, I’ve no chance to get into learning. When it comes to learning characters this is my biggest problem, I need a fun way to get started. I think learning with my iphone while driving the subway will definitely be a fun way. I need it. I want to start writing letters to some chinese friends, instead of just using the pinyin method with my computer. This is definitely not very personal.

    So please give me the chance to get started with learning characters:-)

  9. Hi there

    As many people have said already, the iPhone app is convenient (you always have it in your pocket)
    It’s environmentally friendly – no paper books
    It’s fun (it looks like a game, makes learning enjoyable)
    It doesn’t replace the teacher, but helps practising
    Last but not least, it really makes you learn, and gives you no excuse to be lazy!

    Hope I can improve my Chinese writing chops with it!

  10. Hi John,

    I use Skritter to learn / practice writing when I’m at home, but as it is a flash based site, it can’t be used when I’m on the go with the phone. The obvious reason for wanting an app on the phone, as has already been said, is that I always have the phone with me and it can be used when I’ve just got 5 minutes spare or I’m out and about and not near my laptop!

    To me, an app on the phone would be a good secondary learning tool after tutors and so on, but it would really help improve my reading and writing by never wasting those dead 5 minutes! 🙂

  11. Hi John,

    Please consider me for a chance to get the free app. My wife is Chinese and my kids (4 and 2) are fast catching up with / overtaking my lower intermediate level. In my opinion, the key to progress is now to extend my vocabulary and get to a level where I’ll be able to get enough context in the conversation to overcome confusions coming from my poor tone memory and abilities… I feel that only by learning the written characters am I able to memorize additional vocabulary items that otherwise get mixed up because of all the homonymes.

    I therefore believe that the app would be a big help and of course the Ipad offers both the convenience (it’s never far from hand) and the adequate size (in my opinion, with a stylus, it is much better than the phone to practice and “automatize” the tracing movements, although I do appreciate that it then needs to be practiced also at a much smaller size to translate it to real pen and paper writing – even though as stated above in my case the aim is really more to find a way to force memorization and association of the three key elements (meaning, character and sound incl. tone).

    It may be interesting to see whether the app includes tracing practice at different size, starting from the XL shown in the screenshots you included in your post to normal writing size of phone-input area size. If not maybe a potential improvement?

  12. I remember your post about the character writing apps and was pretty disappointed that it seemed like the better ones were mostly geared towards the iPad. It’s nice to see this one has added an iPhone version. I would really like for this app to support traditional characters as well (at least some of the most common characters in both simplified and traditional).

    I just purchased this app after finding out there was now an iPhone version because of this post. Thanks.

  13. I think the iPad will be the best way to study characters, but it is not today. None of the existing apps are very good for teaching characters. Word Tracer has a very nice interface, but really falls down is some other ways (see the English meanings they give). In my mind a great application should have:

    1. Teach characters through words, not characters in isolation.
    2. Provide a breakdown of the characters / basic etymology.
    3. Assess the input.
    4. Spaced repetition system.

    Skritter gets everything right, but I find drawing with a mouse to be painful. A skritter clone for the ipad would be a real game changer. I hope they are working on one now.

  14. I don’t need a free copy, but I am curious about how many characters this app contains…

  15. There is no better way than studying on your iPhone/iPod, if you’re like me, and constantly curious about the world around you then it’s an invaluable learning tool. Over the last few months I’ve been working full time and then some and have had no time for formal study, and in that time my Chinese has improved dramatically by just looking up any characters I don’t know on my iPod and asking people around me how to use it….. only thing is most of my character apps are dictionaries or reading focused, so my writing is awful.

  16. Is there an Android equivalent? I currently use Skritter, but it requires being online.

  17. I’m actually interested in the software for my son, who is asleep right now on a Saturday morning. We lived in China for 9 years and he’s been learning Mandarin ever since second grade. We’ve recently moved to Dhaka, where there is no Mandarin taught at his high school. His teacher from Guangzhou, bless her soul, offered to distance teach him. So now he’s doing a self-study Mandarin IB course. I have to admire him for his dedication and self-discipline.

    Having Word Tracer would provide him an way to practice his characters while sitting in Dhaka traffic jams that can sometimes take a couple hours just to go one mile.

  18. John, Learning this language has been a real humbling experience to say the least. It’s nearly brought me to my knees. It was only after I discovered that I had to learn how to learn Chinese – that I started to make progress. Here’s what’s been working for me so far: #1 Make your daily Chinese fun (If it’s not fun, then you’re doing something wrong.) #2 In order to retain the vocab you learn, you need to learn to write 汉字。#3 PLECO has been the best tool for me to build my vocabulary and retain it, and #4 weekly Chinese Pod (website & Podcast) combined with practicing with a speaking partner/tutor has rapidly increased my fluency. Although, I’ve found PLECO to be very useful, I’m always looking for ways to continue making this endeavor fun. Thank you for your continued dedication to pushing the envelope on the different approaches to learning this language.

  19. Elizabeth Downing Says: August 20, 2011 at 10:34 pm


    I am really in need of ways to practice Chinese writing. I am teaching 3 sections of high school level Mandarin on-line. I have a hard time reinforcing things like stroke order and the directions that strokes should be written with my students. I meet with them in places like Elluminate, but it is difficult in that medium to be as specific as I would like…
    Thanks for all your help .. any tips are appreciated.

  20. 黄建才 Says: August 21, 2011 at 9:25 am

    anything for android John? both the mobiles and honeycomb???

Comments are closed.