Old computer
  • ATOK - for typing in English and Japanese
  • The Gimp - for editing pictures
  • Google Desktop - to find your predecessors work
  • Picasa - for organising and viewing photos
  • Firefox - for browsing the web (esp. if you are still on IE6)
  • Acrobat - for PDFs
  • VLC - for watching movies
  • Anki - for studying Japanese
  • Word Web - offline dictionary
Unless otherwise noted, all the software in this article is free of charge (or has a version that is free of charge).

If you are at a Japanese school, you will probably be using Windows. It is going to be in Japanese and it will not have much useful software on it. It will probably have Microsoft Office but that is about it.

Working with your Japanese computerEdit

Have a look at the ATOK article which will help you with typing in Japanese and English on the Japanese PC. If you use Firefox as your web browser, you can get instance translation of words on a web page by using the Rikaichan plugin.


You should have Acrobat Reader already installed on your PC, but if you don't go and do it now. Possibly do it now even if you have it installed, as it is likely an older version.

Your various predecessors probably created a whole mountain of material which is now sitting on your PC. What ever system they may or may not have used to organise their material, it is going to be hard for you to find what you are looking for by just browsing the folders. So something like Google Desktop is a must (for XP or earlier). Google Desktop just indexes your computer so you can search it like you might search the web.

Picasa is a tool for organising photos. It is fast and easy to use. It also provides a way to easily preview photos when you are just looking at photos in your folders (Explorer). If you want to use a large amount of photos in your material, a tool like Picasa is life saver.

If you are running an old computer then you are probably running an old version of Internet Explorer. Installing Firefox instead allows you to use a large swath of plug-ins. Some of the most notable are:

  • Rikaichan - see above.
  • download helper - which allows you to download ESL videos from YouTube and take them to classrooms without internet connections.

An electronic dictionary is great to check spelling and pronunciation (especially if you don't use American English). Showing the students the IPA spelling can really help them with pronunciation. There are a number of websites which are useful. is one of the best, but not perfect. For quick definitions, you can use a magic word in google; define:<word>. An offline dictionary called Word Web is an excellent application, available for Windows and the iPhone. It does have an interesting license agreement that you should check out before downloading.

Pretty thingsEdit

If you want to do more than Microsoft Paint will let you do the have a look at the poor man's Photoshop (called The Gimp). It might be a bit daunting at first, but you can do some really cool things in it.

For the times when Media Player does not cut it, use VLC for viewing videos.

Learning JapaneseEdit

If you want a flash card program, then Anki is a good option. With Anki you can study at home and at work and keep them both up-to-date thanks to the web service that comes with Anki.


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