Tutorial: How to Use Your Denshi Jisho!

27 Jan

EDIT: Wow, cool! It looks like a lot of people are using this tutorial. I’m so excited that this is helpful. If you have any questions for me or would like to request other topics to post about, please feel free to comment and let me know! 🙂


Hi, everyone!

I’ve gotten quite a few comments on a post I made a while ago with a detailed explanation of the contents of my denshi jisho (electronic dictionary). Because the interface is all in Japanese, it’s difficult for a student to learn to use it, and there aren’t many (any?) guides in English online. So here is a simple guide for getting started with your brand new Denshi Jisho!

This tutorial was written with the specific model in mind (Casio EX-Word Dataplus 5 XD-A9800); however, I think this should be helpful to people with other dictionaries in the EX-Word series. Also, take a look at my list of contents. Even if it’s not the same model, you probably have some dictionaries in common with me, so it should be helpful.


Let’s begin with your keyboard! (These explanations go from left to right)

Top Row: First is the power button, which I’m sure you all found. The rest of the keys on this row are shortcuts, mainly to specific dictionaries. Note that each key has two things listed: when you press it once, you get the first dictionary. When you press it twice, you get the second.

*Note: If you are searching a term in one dictionary and hit the shortcut button leading to another, it will try to search that term in that dictionary (this only works if the dictionaries go in the same direction: JP>ENG, for example)

The first key is your all-access pass to the language dictionaries. (First press is to input English, second press is for Japanese). This allows you to search for a term in all the relevant dictionaries: I will cover this special function later. The second is JP>JP dictionaries. The third is Encyclopedia Britannica (all in Japanese, probably useless to you) and the main Kanji Dictionary. The fourth is ENG>JP dictionaries. The fifth is ENG>ENG. The sixth is the one you’ll use the most, JP>ENG and a collocations dictionary. I’ll leave you to puzzle what collocations means, because I still haven’t quite worked that out. Just use the JP>ENG dictionary and you’ll be fine.

The seventh key lets you toggle between the main menu (the list of dictionaries you see on startup) and review tools (to be covered later). The last button leads to “favorites” and your SD card data. I will not cover these in this tutorial–mostly because I barely understand how to use them–so consider it a challenge as your Japanese improves!

Letters: These are mostly self-explanatory. I haven’t figured out when you can use the keys with the little hiragana, but the numbers and math stuff is for the calculator function (電卓).

Bottom row of letters: Not much to cover here, except the key with the blue シフト(shift) and the one to the far right. Shift obviously lets you us the secondary functions of keys (written in blue if there are any), and the key to the far right is your backspace button.

Left bottom keys: In order, these read (blue in parentheses): History (Quick Search), Character size (Layout), Jump (Guide). The arrow keys are meant to scroll down when you are viewing a page. Now, if you are in a dictionary and you hit History, it will bring you to a list of entries you have looked at before. This only applies to entries that you have chosen and viewed full-screen (that is, if you stay to the half-screen view where you can see a list of words in order on the left, it won’t register in the history). Quick search is a shortcut to a mini all-dictionary search (First input box is English input, second is Japanese). Character size and layout just modify how things look on the screen: experiment with this yourself. Jump is an amazing function that you will love, and I will cover it later. Finally, Guide brings you to a guide in Japanese, and so is totally worthless to you.

Right bottom keys: The up/down/left/right/center arrows do exactly as you think they would. Though if you use shift, the up/down buttons can raise and lower the volume. If you press the button with the speaker icon, it will let you highlight a word (english only) and have it read to you out loud. This isn’t very helpful for us, but it’s super amusing. The other button, to the bottom left of the directional pad, lets you go back a screen.

There are also some buttons on the right-hand side of the screen. These are, from top to bottom, menu, jump, read aloud, go back a screen, enter, and page up/down. The buttons to the left of the screen (if any) depend on the dictionary, so I won’t get into them quite yet. They have pictures, so they aren’t too hard to figure out.

The input screen below the keyboard is awesome, and you should use it for looking up kanji. When it’s not set to input, it has some buttons on it–some which only appear in certain dictionaries. They are mostly shortcuts and can be safely avoided–so if you can’t read them, don’t fret.

*A small note: there is a tiny switch on the left side of your dictionary. If you switch it towards the headphone jack it sends the sound through the jack. If you switch it away, sound will come through the speakers.


So, now that you know everything about your hardware, let’s get into the software. I won’t cover everything in your dictionary, but I will highlight the things you need to make your word-looking-up experience as awesome as possible.

To begin with, let’s head to the all-dictionary searches. As I explained, there is one for searching English terms and one for searching Japanese terms. The first input box in each is for an easy search, but I’m going to teach you something really handy. See, this dictionary is made for Japanese students learning English, and so it’s kind of hard to read the entries for ENG>JP because they have no explanations: this is especially bad for words that are the same in English but totally different in Japanese. If you go to the English input screen and go down to the second input box (starts with 例文) you can search your term in example sentences! This gives you context, which is awesome. What I also find helpful is using multiple words in searches like these. If you type in “buy&love,” you get an example with the phrase “money can’t buy love” (there is an ampersand key next to the backspace button, only functional in searches like these). Also, if you happen to be looking for English idioms or pronunciations, the third input box seems to be the thing to use.

Next are the review tools (the second option for the seventh in the top row of shortcut buttons). When you hit this button you get a list of four functions: Marker, notebook, sticky notes, and sound-flashcards. I haven’t done much with these, but I’ll tell you what I can. These functions appear as options in most dictionaries, and can be found on the left-hand buttons on the screen. So if you are in a dictionary and you pick “marker,” you can highlight something in an entry in your choice of 3 colors. When you do that, it asks you which “marker folder” to save it in (just pick the first) and saves it there. Later on you can find it easily by going to review tools>marker>look at markers>marker folder 1. This is wonderfully helpful for keeping track of words you want to remember. A similar thing applies to sticky notes. Play around with these and see if they’ll work for you!

The notebook can also be accessed from a dictionary, but it’s not tied to the entries and is just there for making notes (I think it’s completely unhelpful but that’s just me) Finally, there are the flashcards. I’m going to let you figure these out for yourself, because 1) I don’t understand them very well and 2) I hate the interface and would recommend Anki if you’re looking for a good way to review your vocabulary.

And here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for (you have been waiting for it, you just don’t know it yet): the jump function! Let me begin by saying, again, that this dictionary was not made for us English-speakers. To get any kind of good information out of this dictionary, you are gonna have to cross-reference like crazy. Seriously, if you don’t do this you’re going to end up writing some really wonky sentences by accident.

To get started, search for “lunch” under all dictionaries. The first thing you see might look like 昼食. Say you’ve never seen the kanji before and you have no clue what it means. Never fear! Hit the “enter” button to make the selected entry full-screen, and now hit “jump.” Suddenly there’s a green highlight thing that you can move around the entry with the directional keys (you can also tap a word with your stylus). Let’s scoot over to those funny kanji. When in jump mode there are three buttons that appear both on the left side of your screen and on the input pad below the keyboard. The first option (top or leftmost option, depending on which set of buttons you’re looking at) lets you jump to the last dictionary you jumped to, which you can define by going to the second option, which allows you to choose what dictionary to jump to. The “last dictionary” function’s memory is different for JP>ENG and ENG>JP, so you’ll always get sent to a relevant dictionary. I won’t discuss the list of dictionaries that pops up because mine is probably different from yours. But read on to the next section for some hints on reading stuff!

So, say you know what your kanji means but don’t know how to pronounce it. You can use the third button (bottom or rightmost) to call up a tiny JP>JP dictionary, which–lucky us!–Includes the kanji reading as the first part of the entry. This will make your life a gazillion times easier.


Obviously this tutorial is very limited in scope. I do this partially because this device is way too complex to summarize in a blog, and partially because exploring is good for you and you will learn awesome things and be proud of yourself!!

But especially if you’re new to Japanese, it’s pretty darn scary to mess around with this thing. Here are a few characters to memorize that will make those big blocks of Japanese easier to compute:

和: “wa” refers to Japanese (as well as Japanese stuff and all things harmonious).

英: “ei” refers to English.

So, if you see a dictionary with a title 和英 it is JP>ENG. If you see this in the title: 英和 it means ENG>JP (和和 is JP>JP, and 英英 ENG>ENG).

国語: “kokugo” refers to Japanese as a first language (this tends to denote JP>JP dictionaries).

漢: this is the first character in “kanji,” and may indicate a kanji dictionary (like 新語林).

語: refers to words or languages.

見: refers to looking at things.

消: refers to deleting or erasing things! If you’re looking to erase things, look for this character. If you aren’t, look for this character and avoid it! (That right-hand side part of the character is what indicates erasure, so if you see it in another character, be wary).

Final comments

Yep, that’s it! I hope this tutorial has been useful to you! I definitely enjoyed writing it.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment. If there are any parts I can clarify or edit, any places that need pictures, or any functions you’re dying to know about, please, let me know! I’d like for this to be a dynamic tutorial that gets better as more people read it and comment on it.

And if you have any questions totally unrelated to this dictionary (about Japanese, studying abroad, life in Japan) I would be happy to answer you!


30 Responses to “Tutorial: How to Use Your Denshi Jisho!”

  1. Ana February 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    Hi, Diane!

    Thank you for your brief instructions on how to use the denshi jisho. Mine is the same as yours and you have really helped a lot with the basics and how to get started.

    Google brought me to this tutorial, but will for sure look at the rest of the blog, it seems really interesting!

    P.S. If you come across some other denshi jisho features, please do share 🙂

    Greetings from Europe

    • Diane February 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

      Hi there! I’m glad I could be of help! 🙂 I hope you enjoy the rest of the blog!

  2. John May 21, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    Thanks for the write up…Looking foward to getting my Casio Denshi Jisho soon!

  3. sedo July 28, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    Nice tutorial ! You can get your japanese electronic dictionary here: denshi-jisho.com

  4. peter September 13, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Very nice guide ,thank you very much!

  5. Arnout September 26, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    Lots of thanks! I have the same denshi jisho as you, and this tutorial has been a lot of help for finding out how it works. So, I really appreciate it! 🙂

  6. yvonne February 4, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Hello, what a great help your blog was!!
    is there a way to see the stroke order of a kanji?
    Thanks Yvonne

    • Diane February 4, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

      Hi, Yvonne! In the kanji dictionary (新漢語林, or dictionary C in the 国語系 section) when you’re in the dictionary entry for a character, on the first line there should be 解説 written and outlined in red. Press that and it will give you the stroke order.


      • yvonne February 5, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

        wooohooo! Thanks a heap, I’m having a ball.
        Any thing else I should know ?
        Cheers Yvonne

    • Diane February 5, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

      Ack, for some reason it won’t let me reply to your second comment. Nothing else I can think of that you should know, but feel free to comment again if you have a question 😀

  7. icarusbride October 10, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    Thanks so much for your explanation of the JUMP function! I was beginning to worry I wasted my money on the Ex-Word since the English>Japanese function was completely useless to me.

    • Diane October 13, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

      Yay! Glad it helped 🙂

  8. Elena October 29, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    There’s an Itariajin in Kyoto who wants to thank you for this super-useful tutorial! 🙂
    And also for the explanation of how to see stroke order of kanjis… you really helped me!

    • Diane October 30, 2012 at 12:30 am #

      Yay! I’m so glad I could help 🙂

  9. David Dunn November 21, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

    Thanks for this. I bought this in Japan and had some initial problems using the device. So far it’s been very helpful. The ability to input Kanji with handwriting is very helpful, as traditional dictionaries are pretty difficult to use. Character recognition seems to be good but not terrific. Still it’s a big help. Also I travel a lot and it’s going to be great to carry just the Casio rather than the 3 dictionaries I used to carry. (Japanese-English dictionary, Kanji-Chinese pronunciation dictionary, which allow you to look up Kanji in Pinyin and find out the Japanese pronunciation – a must for Chinese speakers. The last book is an Accent dictionary.) Now I just have the CASIO.

  10. Anonymous April 20, 2013 at 5:31 am #

    Thank you so much. Very helpful.

  11. yunishbaconKai August 2, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    I just purchased an updated version of the EX-Word series (Dataplus 7) from Japan. This is my first time using an denshi jishou and it is VERY daunting. But this is only day one. I am still fairly new to Kanji so this gadget’s multiple dictionaries and features are a lot to digest all at once. However, thanks to your guide I feel as if I will be able to conquer this after all. Regardless of the model, the tutorial is pretty much the same.

    Thank you so much! :3

  12. jordan February 3, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    Hello, thanks for your tutorial but I did’nt find what I searched T_T
    I have the data plus 5 xd-7200 and sometimes I can not find some word like koedame 肥溜め so I would like update my dictionary but I really don’t know how to do…I checked to the casio website in japanese and downloaded ex-word library but don’t know how to use…could you please help me? thanks a lot for your futur help ^-^

    • Anonymous February 3, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

      I’m not sure how much I can help–I’ve never done an update before. If you’d like me to take a look at the search problems, though, I’m just sick in bed right now and wouldn’t mind. Just comment back with photos of how you’re searching for that term and I’ll see if I can figure it out.

      • Diane February 3, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

        Whoops, forgot to log in when I wrote that reply. Anyway, my offer above still stands 🙂

  13. Victoria Leroy February 4, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    Hi ! I’m so much thankful for your post, this just saved me a whole lot of trouble. I’ve recently purchased an Ex-Word dictionary (Dataplus 8 Series) as I’ll be spending one year in Tokyo from September. I’ll be keeping a blog about it, and I wondered if I could write an article in French (now you know why my English is that bad) quoting some things you wrote in this article ? Of course I would give you credit for the work and link to your website.

    • Diane February 4, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

      So glad I could help! Yes, you’re absolutely welcome to adapt this post. Will you comment with a link when it’s done so I can read it? 🙂

      And actually, I didn’t notice that you weren’t a native English speaker until you mentioned it 😉

  14. Sean Philip Hearnden July 18, 2015 at 8:41 am #

    Hey, I just bought one, I’ve aimed to for a long time. And even though I’ve been learning Japanese for a while now, I couldn’t understand a thing on this jisyou! Thanks to your tutorial I understand it enough to actually use it now! Thanks a lot 🙂

  15. madmalkav April 27, 2016 at 10:56 pm #

    Hi everybody. I’m a relatively new japanese student. I have been offered a Casio denshi jisho for a good price but it doesn’t come with any SD Card. So want I need to know if it an SD Card is needed to operate the device or only used for expansion purposes.

    Thanks for reading.

    • ixregardo April 29, 2016 at 1:25 am #

      Gosh, I don’t know about that one! My guess is that the SD card is not necessary for regular function, and is more for additional dictionaries. You might need it to store things like saved entries, though?

      • madmalkav May 16, 2016 at 9:03 pm #

        I finally took the risk and bought it, just received it, and it is working ok without any SD Card. As you said, SD card slots are for additional dictionaries and perhaps to provide some additional storage for user data.

  16. Anonymous June 12, 2017 at 8:18 pm #

    Hi, Diane!

    Do you know if the Casio Ex-word Dataplus 10 is made in Thailand or China; I have been offered a Casio for a good price but it says made in Thailand (it is original?). Thanks n__n

    • ixregardo June 12, 2017 at 8:37 pm #

      Hi there,

      Gosh, I really don’t know! Hope you can find an answer, though! ❤


  17. Yeni January 6, 2018 at 1:42 am #

    Hi thank you for this post

    I just bough Casio exword XD-SF4800 from my friend’s friend. and there is a username already on the top of the screen. I tried to change the user name but can’t find how to (I asked my friend but she doesn’t know too). I also have pushed the reset button but the username doesn’t change. could you please help me how to change it?
    Sorry for my bad English

    • Diane Murray (@dmurring) January 11, 2018 at 6:18 am #

      Hi Yeni,

      Sorry, but I don’t have a version that shows a username at the top. That being said, you’re looking for a button that says 設定 (settings), then select 環境設定 (interface/environment settings), followed by ユーザー名 (username), followed by 登録/変更 (register or change).

      Mine seems to require a password along with a username, but it sounds like yours may not.

      Hope that helps!


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