As a followup to my previous post, here is how I type pinyin characters in Windows. Again, this is for Windows XP but it will most likely work with Vista as well.
First, you have to install an additional keyboard. It doesn’t come built in like normal characters. I didn’t make this keyboard mapping but I found it on some forum somewhere and I really like it.
Just unzip and run the installer. The keyboard will show up in the Chinese (PRC) language; it will be a new option in the keyboard layout menu. The quick (and default way) to switch between keyboard layouts for a language is to use CTRL+SHIFT.
When you’re typing, it will show a preview of what the output will be. Start typing the word you want to type, and then when all the letters are there, type in 1, 2, 3, or 4 to signify the tone, or don’t press any of those numbers to leave the tone neutral. Hit enter when you’re done and it will print the characters shown in the preview.
That’s it, quick and easy.