“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.

7 comments on ““Why Two Hawaiian Keyboards?”

K. A. Holmes says:

You recommend fonts sold by Guava Graphics. However, those fonts are stolen from the original designers and patent holders. The additions or modifications to these fonts are strictly against the rules of patent ownership. Furthermore, Guava Graphics uses font names, e. g. HAWNLITHO which is a rip off of Adobe’s Lithos, which are only slightly different that the TRADEMARKED names of the fonts. This is known as trademark infringement and it is illegal. I will be passing this information on to Adobe and the other originators of these fonts.

The original designers of these fonts are hard working, sincere people and Guava Graphics is stealing what is rightfully theirs. You should be ashamed of yourself for supporting this.

keola says:

Aloha K.A., and mahalo for your post. If this is true, have the owners ever litigated? Guava Graphics has been selling these fonts for years. For the record I have no affiliation with them whatsoever.

I personally contacted Adobe years ago about modifying their fonts to add the Hawaiian diacritics and they told me we (the Hawaiian language center at UH-Hilo) could do whatever we wanted to their fonts, including reselling the modified versions as long as we did not say that they were Adobe fonts. I found this hard to believe, and contacted others in Adobe who told me the same thing. We never did so because we are not a commercial entity and are simply promoting the use of the Hawaiian language.

I’ve been dealing with technology issues as they relate to the Hawaiian language for about 15 years. I am respectful of copyright, trademark and patent issues. The four Hawaiian fonts that our office modified to add the Hawaiian diacritics were done with the permission of the creator, and renamed them so that they did not resemble any trademarked font names.

For the record, nowhere in my post do I “recommend” Guava Graphics fonts. There are on the market, have been for years, and I am simply trying to educate people on the differences between our HI font standard, which Guava Graphic follows, and the use of Hawaiian in Unicode because I get calls and emails ever couple days from people asking what the difference is and why they are having problems differentiating between the two technologies.

I have no idea how GG created their fonts, whether they are actually modified versions of someone else’s fonts, or if they hired someone to create fonts that look similar to well known fonts. If you can convince me that they illegally modified someone else’s fonts and are reselling them I’d happily remove the link and reference to them.

You should be ashamed of yourself for jumping to conclusions on this and making misinformed statements and judgments about people, particularly on their own blogs. While I’m tempted to simply delete your post I’d prefer to leave it and set the record straight.

keola says:

BTW, as far as I know you cannot patent a font. You can patent a font technology but not the font face. You can, however, copyright it, and of course, register the name as a trademark.

Lui says:

I think this matter needs clarification, considering how strong the accusations against a company whom many of us have supported over the years.

Les says:

Help! I started a project adding diacritics to the Baibala Hemolele using the Hawaiian Fonts on my Windows XP computer. Since my old puter died and now I have a new one with Vista and the font installer doesn’t work with Vista. Anyone know a work around?

Neil Durcholz says:

Aloha, I have a Hawaiian Pictofonts 1 that I bought a few years back from Hopaco in Hilo. I got it to load on Windows 98 I think. It was a long time ago. Now I have XP and I’m trying to download the fonts. Can I do this.If so would you explain to me how to do it. Mahalos , Neil

keola says:

Neil, the fonts probably still work on XP though the installer for it and probably the keyboard layout application may not. Best to contact the manufacturer of the fonts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top