Māori Keyboard Layouts

Yoshi the little dragon

Māori Keyboard Layouts - Keyboard Layouts

There are several keyboard layouts that can be used to produce macrons using a standard keyboard.
There is a standard keyboard layout for Windows XP/2000 provided by Microsoft, and some alternative keyboard layouts available fromt this site that many people will find easier to use.

If you're unsure which keyboard layout to use, I strongly recommend the New Zealand Māori (Alt) Keyboard Layout described below.
You can download this layout free from the Download page.

If you're reading this you probably know what a macron character is, and why you'd want to type one, but for completeness...

Māori (and other Pacific Island languages) have elongated forms of the five vowels (a,e,i,o,u).
Over the years, these have been variously represented in written language using a double vowel (e.g. Maaori, a vowel marked with a macron (e.g. Māori) or not marking the length (e.g. Maori).

Most modern written Māori has standardized on using the macron, with lower and upper case forms.
e.g.

ā Ā
ē Ē
ī Ī
ō Ō
ū Ū
There are two common ways of generating macron characters:
  • AltGr (Right Alt) + Key
  • Dead Key then Key

The AltGr (Right Alt) + Key method uses the right [Alt] key on the keyboard, which is often marked as AltGr on European keyboards that use this method.
A macron character is generated by holding down the right [Alt] key and pressing the corresponding vowel character, in much the same way as a capital is produced by holdiing down [Shift] and then pressing the key.
Capital letters with macrons are produced by holding down [AltGr] and [Shift] and pressing the vowel key.
e.g.

ā [AltGr] + [a]
ē [AltGr] + [e]
Ā [AltGr] + [Shift] + [a]
Ē [AltGr] + [Shift] + [e]

The downside to the AltGr method is that the right [Alt] key is no longer used for [Alt] + Key combinations. I've found this isn't a major problem as I mostly use the left [Alt], but it depends on your typing habits.

With the Dead Key method, one of the keys on the keyboard becomes a Dead Key that is pressed before the corresponding vowel character to produce the macron version. Pressing the Dead Key once doesn't produce a character, hence the name.
e.g.

` ` key twice
ā [`] then [a]
ē [`] then [e]
Ā [`] then [Shift] + [a]
Ē [`] then [Shift] + [e]

There are a few downsides to the Dead Key method:

  • To produce the character that would normally be produced by the Dead Key, you need to press it twice.
  • Because of the first reason, the Dead Key is typically one of the least used keys, such as the back-quote/tilde [`/~] key. This can make it awkward to use, especially if you type fast.
  • It's really unintuitive if you haven't used the method before - most people will be more familiar with holding down a modifier key to change the behaviour of a key.
This is a keyboard layout based on the basic English (US) keyboard.
The Pound (£), Euro (€) and Yen (¥) characters have also been added to the keyboard, as they're the most commonly encountered currencies in NZ.

Macron characters are generated by using the [AltGr] (Right Alt) key in combination with the vowel.
This is a natural and fast way of typing the macron characters, and is the layout that I think should have been chosen by Microsoft when they included developed a Māori keyboard for Windows XP - it's certainly the layout that most people have used over the years when they've 'rolled their own' keyboards.

The new parts of the keyboard layout are shown below.

Māori (Alt) Keyboard Layout with AltGr key pressed
Māori (Alt) Keyboard Layout with [AltGr] key pressed

Māori (Alt) Keyboard Layout with Shift and AltGr keys pressed
Māori (Alt) Keyboard Layout with [Shift] and [AltGr] keys pressed

The Microsoft New Zealand recently provided a Māori keyboard definition that could be installed on Windows XP and Windows 2000
This keyboard definition has since been included in Windows XP Service Pack 2, so if you've installed this service pack you already have it. It can still be downloaded if you haven't upgraded, or use Windows 2000 - check the Links page for the link.

This keyboard uses the Dead Key method for generating macron characters. Macron characters are produced by typing the back-quote/tilde [`/~] key and then the corresponding vowel character.

Personally I find this very unweildy to use (being a touch typer with weak little fingers), which prompted me to produce the (Alt) keyboard layout described above.

This is an alternative keyboard layout that combines both the AltGr and Dead Key methods of producing a macron.
This could be useful on a shared computer, where some people are used to using one method or the other.
This is an experimental keyboard definition based on the basic English (International) keyboard, using the AltGr method.
This keyboard definition supports macron characters, as well as the European accented characters - very useful if you're working in Europe.

Macron characters are generated by using the [AltGr] (Right Alt) key in combination with the vowel.
This means that the [AltGr] + Key combination can't be used for the accented characters that were previously produced by these keys, so these have been shifted to the ~ + Key combination.