Tag Archives: enehana

“Why Two Hawaiian Keyboards?”

I frequently get asked the questions, “Why do we need two different Hawaiian keyboards?” and “What is the difference between the Papa Pihi HI and Hawaiian keyboards on the Mac?”. Good questions.

Hawaiian Keyboards on MacintoshThere are two different ways to represent the ?okina and kahak? on your computer, and they use two different font technologies. Therefore, we have created two different keyboard layouts.

The first keyboard, the Papa Pihi HI uses the “HI” fonts standard developed by Hale Kuamo?o in the early 1990s. Until the development of the Unicode standard and its implementation by software vendors the only way to have the computer type, display and print the Latin vowels with macron (the kahak?) and glottal stop (?okina) used in Hawaiian was to use custom fonts like “HI” fonts, which replaces the umlaut vowel combinations (äëïöü ÄËÏÖÜ) with vowel-kahak? (????? ?????). It also replaced the y-umlaut (ÿ) with the ‘okina.

HI fonts have been used for many years at many institutions and by private individuals. They are useful for word processing, page layout, database and presentation software. If you send documents which contain Hawaiian text using the HI fonts to other people, they must also have the fonts installed in their system in order to see and print the kahak? and ?okina because the fonts are not embedded in the documents. The only exception to this is when you create a .pdf document, in which case the fonts can be embedded into the document, allowing the recipient to see and print Hawaiian properly. There are free HI fonts available from our website Kualono, and the fonts sold by Guava Graphics are also compatible with these. The Papa Pihi HI, seen at right, works with these fonts. We recommend that you not create HTML documents using these fonts and it would require all users of your web site to install the “HI” and other compatible fonts on their computers in order to view the Hawaiian.

The Unicode standard was developed in the late-1990s to address the deficiency of computers in their ability to represent many of the world’s written languages. Many fonts that now ship with computer operating systems like Windows XP and Vista as well as Macintosh OS X come with fonts that contain the characters for many different language, include the vowel-macron combinations and the glottal. However, not every font in these operating systems contains these characters, so you may need to experiment with some of the fonts that come with Windows to determine which one do contain them. Some of the more popular fonts that contain the vowel-macron combinations and kahak? on both Mac and Windows are Helvetica, Palatino, Times New Roman and Courier. There are some OS-specific fonts like Lucida Grande (Macintosh) and Lucida Sans Unicode (Windows) which have all of these characters, though there are others as well. The “Hawaiian” keyboard that has shipped with OS X since 10.2 is a Unicode keyboard, so it can type the ‘okina and kahak? using fonts that contain all of these characters.

Most contemporary programs support Unicode, allowing you to create text, graphic, database and other documents containing the ?okina and kahak?. If you send these documents to someone who has the same program, they will probably not have to install any custom fonts in order to see the ?okina and kahak?, however, if you send the documents to people on older operating systems than yours, they may encounter problems getting these characters to display and print.

Unicode is also the preferred method for representing Hawaiian language in documents on the World-Wide Web. This page shows Hawaiian in Unicode, so if you see the ‘okina and kahak? in your browser, then it and your operating system support Hawaiian in Unicode. See the following document for details:


This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to typing Hawaiian, and I’ll address other issues, particularly platform specific ones, in future posts.