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skishore

Inkstone: my free, open-source Chinese writing app

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skishore

@furiop: Thanks for the suggestions! For your first one, do you think an option to blacklist a word when it comes up would suffice? I guess the question is, is it usually the case that you want all but a handful of words from a list, or is picking words a-la-carte more common?

 

For the second suggestion, I think a natural place to put that control would be in the "manual grading menu" that you can open up if you swipe up when a character is complete. Have you been using that menu? I find that I have to correct the automatic grading about once every 10-20 characters, so it's pretty important from me, but I realize it's hard to find. Would a "retry character" option that shows up along those manual grading options work?

 

@Nate_He: I'm considering it, yes. Would packaging the mobile app for Windows be useful already? The other option is to do a bigger UI overhaul, which would take some time.

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furiop

For your first one, do you think an option to blacklist a word when it comes up would suffice?


 


In some app (not Anki) it is possible to see the whole list of characters and mark with a star a subset of words I wish to learn in a flashcard session (for example in https://quizlet.com/154130799/radicali-cinesi-flash-cards/ ).


In general a student know that some character is more difficult to learn and for some hour it is important to repeat only a little number of characters.


 


For the second suggestion, I think a natural place to put that control would be in the "manual grading menu" that you can open up if you swipe up when a character is complete. Have you been using that menu? (...) Would a "retry character" option that shows up along those manual grading options work?


 


I used the "manual grading menu" (well described in your instructions, but... sometime I forget to use it, because it is only "on request" ;-> ) . Perhaps the menu is the natural place for the option (a button with a loop arrow perhaps...), but also a little icon near the "hat" in the upper right corner can be possible...


 


I'm sorry to bother you with my enthusiasm regarding you app!


Thank you for your work,


 


Furio


 


 


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Nate_He

Skishore, yes, I think it will be useful, I'm sure there are quite a lot of people using win10 smartphones and tablets.

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HerrPetersen

skishore - First of all big respect and thanks for what you are doing for the community.

 

The one suggestion I still have is probably too hard to do. I am talking about anki-integration. Is it even theoreticly possible via anki-plugin?

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skishore

Interesting, @HerrPetersen. I haven't used Anki, but I spent a while looking through its documentation today. There are basically two ways an Anki integration could work: as a plugin that adds a new menu option, or as a new card template. Both seem difficult, but the former is probably harder than the latter.

 

As a plugin, the integration would add a new menu item that would allow you to add handwriting to an existing card. There would have to be a bunch of new menus to allow you to add handwriting to a whole batch of cards, deck-by-deck, etc. The amount of new UI and the fact that it's in Python (my work so far is in Javascript) would make it time-consuming to get this approach to work.

 

As a template, the integration would go something like this: as a user, you would change a template

front_template.html:
{{Definition}} - {{Pinyin}}

back_template.html:
{{Word}}

to this

front_template.html:
{{Definition}}
{{Pinyin}}
{{Word}}


back_template.html:
{{Word}}

and then that script would transform the front of the card into a handwriting tool. You'd have to use this template for all decks for which you want the handwriting option. Have you edited templates before? Do you think that's a good way - that is, supposing that I could provide that script, would it be easy for people to use it? I'm curious what other people think as well.

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skishore

Gotta be honest: I have no idea if this is going to work, but here's a macOS build of Inkstone! It runs on my computer, at least...

https://www.dropbox.com/s/gi9tutin9qbe8hg/Inkstone.dmg?dl=0

 

If this process for building Inkstone for a desktop works for a few Mac users, then I'll try a Windows build with the same approach.

 

EDIT: Scratch that, the touch events aren't quite working yet. This feature needs a bit more work.

EDIT2: Touch events now work - at least, I was able to write a few words.

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HerrPetersen

The integration looks easy enough. I have experience in editing templates and basic understanding of html/css/javascript. I believe there is a large number of people who would profit from such a solution.

 

I think the biggest problem is, that inkstone is flying under the radar of a lot of potential users. Have you "advertised" it on other places?

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skishore

Happy (western) new year, everyone! I took my first foray into Windows development yesterday, and was able to compile an .exe version of Inkstone.

 

Again, this is pretty experimental for me but I ran it, downloaded the character data, and wrote a few words to test it out. It should work on computers and tablets, but the Windows phone OS is more strict and I don't have much hope for something there. To run the Windows version, extract the zip somewhere and run Inkstone.exe within the folder inside it. Since it's an Electron app, you also basically have access to the source code if you care to inspect it - Electron loads the webpage that's contained in the directory in resources/app/app/programs/web.browser (not my directory structure).

 

Have you "advertised" it on other places?

 

No, not really...I have no idea how or where to do that! Many Chinese learning forums seem to be defunct. Maybe I should reach out to some of the various blogs...

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furiop

You're a wizard and Inkstone for Windows (10) is magic!

All is working wery well!

I'm using a touch screen, so Inkstone is wey useful.

Thank you very much!

Furio

 

---

P.S. deleting Inkstone directory and unzipping in a new directory: the 99 file are not re-downloaded and the writing paper appear blank in Windows 10

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skishore

You're right, [email protected] - that's because of how Electron keeps state around. A proper fix that I'll make for that is to add "Refresh assets" and "Reset everything" buttons to the settings (?) page, but for now, you can delete the metadata store manually. It's located in C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Roaming\Inkstone. Deleting that folder will delete your progress on flashcards as well, but hopefully that's not too bad since it's only been a day!

 

Note that the AppData folder is probably hidden so you might have to enter that path manually, and if your home directory isn't under C:\Users, change that beginning of the path to whatever is appropriate for you.

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HerrPetersen

@skishore, In case you have not seen it: There is a new post where Matthias did pretty much exactly what I asked for. 

http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/53000-writing-chinese-characters-in-anki-stroke-by-stroke-with-instant-feedback-using-javascript/

Even though it is not yet fully working for me :-(

 

As for advertising: there is http://forum.koohii.com/ . This forum is very "techy" with a number of developers on it. For instance subs2srs was created by one of its members. It is mostly for Japanese learners though (There are Chinese learners too). If you don't mind I will make a post of it over there.

 

As for blogs; I think it is a good way but some blogs might have reservations because of their relationship to skritter. It is worth a try I guess.

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yuyan

Hi, I just made an account to say thank you so much for creating this app, it's such a wonderful thing to do for the community! I've been looking for a decent skritter alternative for a while as I can't justify the subscription price, Inkstone is just what I needed for character memorisation, thank you!

One extra feature I would love to see is tone testing i.e. be shown characters and then draw the correct tone.

Regarding advertising I think wechat is your best bet there, as you could set up an official account that would be shared naturally by people who find Inkstone useful. I've lived in China 3 years now and know a lot of Chinese language learners, I'm happy to post details across my various social media inc. wechat groups, also happy to help spread the word at my university - please feel free to pm me. Thanks again for the amazing work!

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DanielG

Chiming in to praise this app.  It has a clean and intuitive interface, looks great, works great and has useful information about each character to help you remember it.  It is the best tool I've seen so far for practicing writing. 

 

Here are two minor suggestions for a future version:

 

1.  I'd like a way to go back to the previous word or character.  Sometimes after being tested, I tap the screen and the next card appears, and I realize that I would like to look at the info of the previous character, but there is no way to go back.

 

2, I'd like to be able to see the stroke order animation more than once.  Sometimes when I write a character incorrectly, the correct stroke order is not apparent to me, so I go to the character detail page and look at the animation, but sometimes I want to see it again, for example if lag prevents me from seeing the start of the animation.  It would be great if clicking on the animation would cause it to play again.

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Shelley

I see it is now not free if you want to download it from the Play store. Its not a huge amount of money but that not the point as the title of the this topic says its free. Its a shame because it was good for poor students, I understand we all have to eat but you need to change the title or explain its changed.

My mistake it was mentioned in an earlier post.

Edited by Shelley
Correcting my mistake

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DanielG
14 hours ago, Shelley said:

I see it is now not free if you want to download it from the Play store. Its not a huge amount of money but that not the point as the title of the this topic says its free. Its a shame because it was good for poor students, I understand we all have to eat but you need to change the title or explain its changed.

 

Seems the OP did explain the change in the post from Dec. 14 - to which you even replied on the same day :) He said that he feels the app has gotten good enough to offer for a small fee on google play, which I completely agree with.  This is not a price that poor students can no longer afford, and if they really don't want to pay, then they can still download it for free on the website, so it doesn't at all seem to me that this is a shame.  On the contrary, if you compare it to companies that charge a monthly fee for their service, a one time optional payment comparable the price of a large cup of coffee is hardly something to criticize. 

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Shelley
10 minutes ago, DanielG said:

Seems the OP did explain the change in the post from Dec. 14 - to which you even replied on the same day

Ooops my bad, must have must missed that.

 

Thanks furiop for that link. very helpful.

 

 

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skishore

Hey everyone! Sorry it's been a while since I last posted.

 

@DanielG For your suggestion #2, take a look at version 0.1.1 which I just uploaded. You can tap on the stroke order animation to restart it. Other than that the update mainly fixes stroke order for a few dozen characters. As for suggestion #1, I like it, but where in the UI do you think a back button would fit best? Top-left is currently the "Home" button.

 

Regarding pricing, please feel free to use the precompiled binaries on the home page! My ideal pricing model is itch.io's "Suggested price / pay what you want", but that's not possible through Google Play. On the other hand, I think it's important to have that Google Play store entry both for convenience and for those security-conscious users (downloading and running a program directly requires a level of trust).

 

As for my absence, well, I've had an busy few months personally (I'm engaged!) but I've also been working on a more complex and ambitious language-learning project. This one will be quite targeted to beginners (think on the level of ChineseSkill / HelloChinese) but I think it'll be a novel approach for those students. At the moment it's still quite experimental but I hope to share more in a few months. In the meantime, keep the feature requests coming! I think the next big one is still tone flashcards.

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