J-Ben: Main Page | J-Ben 2 | J-Ben 1
J-Ben 1: Home | Download | Documentation | Git Tracker | Screenshots | Illustrated Guide

Illustrated Guide to J-Ben

NOTE: This guide has not yet been updated for version 1.1.0. However, it should still suffice for teaching basic usage.

Compiling and/or running the software

Windows: Windows users have the luxury of a prepackaged binary, so compilation should not be necessary unless you're a developer. If you do want to compile the program for Windows, a Code::Blocks project file is included which you can use. (Of course, you'll probably need to modify the include/lib directories.)

After unzipping or installing the program, just run the jben.exe program file (which may just show as "jben" in Windows Explorer).

Linux: Although for 1.0.0 I included a binary, I think most current linux users are used to either installing from packages or from source, and so future versions of the software for Linux will be distributed as source.

The software was developed primarily on Linux, and a hand-written Makefile is included which will cover very basic compilation. Just decompress the tarball and run "make", and provided you have wxWidgets 2.8.4 or newer installed, it should compile. Then run "./jben" to start the program.

Back to top

Getting started

Screenshot of J-Ben 1.0.0

J-Ben consists of 3 main tabs: Kanji Info, Kanji Practice, and Kanji List. It also has a 4th tab for configuring options, which is desirable if you're using the Kanji Info tab a lot.

Back to top

"Kanji Info" - The kanji dictionary

Screenshot of J-Ben 1.0.0

Input or copy/paste a string of Japanese text, or just a character or two, into the "Enter Kanji" box. Press the Enter key. The program will look at your string and find every kanji character, and will print out dictionary information for each one.

KANJIDIC, the dictionary file powering J-Ben, contains a lot of information. Some may or may not be of interest to you, so it's advised to check out the "Configuration" tab to set up what options you want displayed.

At the bottom left of the Kanji Info tab are 3 buttons. These buttons link into the currently loaded kanji study list (see "Kanji List" tab). "Next" will walk you through the kanji in your list, "Previous" will go backwards, and "Random" will jump to a random kanji in your list.

At the bottom right is a textbox which shows the current index for the displayed kanji, based on your currently loaded kanji study list. As you hit the buttons on the left, this will also update. You can also jump to a specific kanji index by typing it in and pressing Enter; this is probably the easiest way to skip to the beginning or end of your kanji list.

Back to top

"Kanji List" - Managing your kanji list

Screenshot of J-Ben 1.0.0

Skipping ahead to the 3rd tab, we have the "Kanji List" tab. Here, you can see all the kanji currently in your study list as well as manually edit the list if you desire.

Manually editing the list is simple: just type characters into the main text box, and press the "Commit" button when done. J-Ben will then strip any characters not in its kanji dictionary, eliminate any repeats, and then redisplay the new list.

However, this is far from the best way to do things. The Kanji menu at the top of the window allows much greater power. Its layout is as follows:

Adding kanji by Jouyou grade level or newspaper frequency has obvious uses for the student. Select a range of grades or frequency numbers, and your list will automatically have those kanji appended to your list.

J-Ben currently does not automatically sort kanji, which may be okay, but if you want to study smart then you'll probably want to sort your list. You can do a simple "sort by newspaper ranking" to have the most common kanji show up first, or you can follow that with a "sort by jouyou grade level" to get a list sorted by grade level and by frequency within each grade level. This method may be preferred for students studying for the Kanji Kentei test.

After making a list, the program will maintain your list in its configuration file along with your other program settings. However, if you want to back up your list or share it with someone else, you'll probably want to save the file. J-Ben saves your list as a plain UTF-8 text file containing just your list of kanji and nothing else (save for line breaks to make it look a little prettier).

Finally, if you want to load a different list, or add in a list to your current one, there's the "add from file" option and "clear kanji list" option.

Back to top

"Kanji Practice" - Drill through kanji "flash cards"

Screenshot of J-Ben 1.0.0

Moving back to the second tab, we have the Kanji Practice tab. This tab has two faces, and the first one you'll see is the one to set your practice options.

First, you need to pick how many kanji to pick, and which kanji to practice. Two options are presented for "which". If you have a small study list, or a large list of familiar kanji, then "Random" might be preferred. If you're studying a new set of kanji for the first time, then it probably is preferrable to choose an index number from which to draw the kanji. The index numbers refer to the order the kanji are located in your kanji list, so if you have a test size of 20 and a start index of 21, then you're testing characters #21 through #40. Regardless of which option you pick, the kanji -within- your selection will be chosen at random.

The last testing option is whether you want to do reading or writing practice. This determines which fields are shown to you when you drill. Reading mode refers to reading kanji, and so the kanji will be displayed and you will have to guess the other information. Writing mode is for writing kanji, and so reading and English meanings for the kanji will be displayed, but the kanji will not and you will need to write the kanji down on a separate sheet of paper.

Screenshot of J-Ben 1.0.0

Now we have the actual practice mode. Switching to other tabs is disabled during this time. A kanji is chosen at random from your testing list, and the program looks up the readings and meaning of the kanji and fills in the window. However, the program will cover some of the fields, depending on which testing mode was selected.

The idea here is for a student to look at the hints that are given, to guess what the missing information is, and then to click each covered field to reveal what the information really is. If you feel confident that you know the character, you press "Correct", and if you think you need to review it more, you press "Wrong".

The program will keep track of the student's percentage of right and wrong answers, and will track all the missed kanji. The kanji which were missed may be reviewed at the end after running through all of the kanji one time. Once practice mode is finished (either by completing the kanji review or by pressing "Stop Test"), the student's score and a list of kanji which were missed is displayed.

Back to top

"Vocab List" - Show related words when searching for kanji

No screenshot yet available.

New in 1.0.1, the vocab list lets you define a list of vocab that you are studying. After defining this, if you search for a kanji in the kanji dictionary and it is used by one or more of your study vocab, the kanji dictionary will show you those kanji.

Back to top

Extra options

Screenshot of J-Ben 1.0.0

The Configuration tab allows you to customize different parts of the program. Most of these options have to do with how the Kanji Dictionary displays output, since KANJIDIC contains a LOT of information and not everything is relevant to all students.

Most students will probably want to leave things alone here, with one exception: you can choose to display dictionary cross-reference codes. For example, personally I have "The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary" at my desk, by Jack Halpern, so if I check the box for "'Kanji Learner's Dictionary' by Jack Halpern", then I can easily use my paper dictionary to supplement whatever information is provided by my program. Over 20 options are included for various dictionaries, books, and flash cards, so check it out.

Back to top