Pleco Review Part I

Pleco Review – The Definitive Guide

Summary: Indispensable learning tool

App content: Dictionaries – Flashcards

Quick Rating

Ease of Use             95%                            Fun Factor                N/A – (dictionary app)

Value for Money   100%                           Overall                       100%

Available on: Android, iOS, but not Mac and Windows PCs


Google Play: 4.6 stars, 22,118 reviews

Apple Store: 4.5 stars, 4,098 reviews

Cost: Varies – from free up – Basic Bundle (US $29.99) – Professional Bundle (US $79.99) with addons starting at US $4.99\

What is Pleco?

Shelley using Pleco

Shelley using Pleco

Pleco is one of the most famous names in the world of Chinese Language Learning. I am sure most students learning Chinese will have heard of Pleco. In my opinion students at every level, from absolute beginner to very advanced, should not be without it. I will try and show why by describing its functions and how I use it in my studies.

Pleco is available for Android and iOS smart phones and tablet but not for Windows or Mac computers.

Pleco can be downloaded from the Playstore or the App Store. For Android users, one added benefit is that if you have not got access to the Playstore, you can download the APK directly from the Pleco website. This is just one of the things that shows how the developers understand the needs of students studying Chinese around the world.

All of the details about the Dictionaries, add-ons and costs can be found on the Pleco website. Pleco consists of two main parts, Dictionaries make up one part and Flashcards the second. I will split my review into two parts to reflect this.

Pleco ScreenshotIn this, Part 1, I will look at the Dictionaries and the way I use them. This is not a “how to” review, Pleco has a very comprehensive manual online, it will be more about what it can do and how it is useful for study.

There are, at the time of writing, 24 Dictionaries available. Some of these are very specialized such as medical and business dictionaries and are not needed for the average student. I would suggest buying the basic bundle to start with. This gives you a dictionary suitable for beginners and intermediate levels but at any time you can add on any other dictionaries you may need. As you progress through your studies you will realise what you need.

I have the basic bundle with some addons, my Pleco setup has the CC-CEDICT Chinese – English Dictionary, NWP English – Chinese Dictionary. I have the Extended Male and Female Audio which gives enhanced audio capability, the Stroke Order addon which I find very useful, the enhanced Handwriting Recogniser, and the Document Reader which is excellent for encouraging me to read Chinese books, documents etc.

Using Pleco

To use the dictionary is very simple. In the input box in the tool bar I can type using pinyin. If I don’t know the pinyin I can use the handwriting input. There is also the choice of looking up characters using radicals. Or you can click the microphone icon and input your search by speaking into your mic.

Pleco OCRLastly there is the option of using the OCR, this is a paid add on, you do need a good camera (auto focus) until recently my tablet didn’t have this type of camera, having recently updated my tablet, I will be getting the full OCR add-on. The screen shots show the demo screen.

There are 5 tabs in my setup: Dictionary, Stroke, Character, Words, and Sentences.

The Dictionary Tab shows the meanings, with example sentences, parts of speech. Audio examples of the word and sentences are accessible by pressing the speaker symbol.

The Stroke tab shows the stroke order as a continuous animation or you can step it one stroke at a time forwards or backwards.

The Character tab shows the character’s composition, its radical, the component parts and any compounds.

The Word tab shows words beginning or ending with the character.

The Sentence tab has more examples of the character used in sentences.

Pleco Radical Input

Using Radicals as Input

I use the dictionary as you would expect, to look up words, check their usage and to find the radical. It is also the way to add characters to the flashcards.  When I start a new lesson in my textbook, I look up all the new words and by clicking on + symbol in the top tool bar it adds it to my flashcards, if I have already added it to a group it will show a box round the + and will bring up the duplicate card dialogue box. This has taken us to the flashcards section which I will go into in more detail in Part 2 of this Pleco review.

Pleco has excellent support, email queries are replied to promptly and helpfully. There is also the Pleco Forum (available on the website) this has many topics that can answer your query or you can join the forum and ask your own question.

The cost of Pleco depends on what dictionaries and addons you choose, but I think the costs are reasonable and the basic bundle is very good value for money and an excellent choice to begin with.

Want more from Pleco?

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE – Check out Part II of our Pleco Review where we focus on the flashcards element of the app, as well as our collection Chinese learning app reviews and our online Chinese programs.

Thanks very much to Shelley L. Williamson for the review on Pleco!

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