Typing Māori easily / Te māmā hoki o te patopato

Macrons are an important part of written te reo Māori, giving important clues to pronunciation and helping you to avoid potentially embarassing slips of the tongue.

However, keyboards do not typically have a key for macrons, but they can be typed easily with just a little configuration beforehand.

Assuming the software you're using can accept macrons, we should be good to go.

Mac OS X (10.6 Snow Leopard)

This is very easy. Just change to using the Māori keyboard, and press Alt+vowel to get a macronised version of that vowel. If holding down Alt is too difficult, type a ` character and then the vowel to be macronised.

The steps to adding the Māori keyboard (soon to have screenshots!):

  1. Click on the Apple in the top left and open System Preferences.
  2. Open Language & Text.
  3. Click on the Input Sources tab.
  4. Scroll down the input methods list under you find Maori. Tick this. At the bottom of the dialog tick Show Input menu in menu bar.
  5. Now you have the input menu shown at the top right by your name. If you have multiple keyboards enabled - I only use the Māori keyboard - you may choose the Maori keyboard on the input menu.

Presto! Now you can easily type macrons in.


Mac OS X (10.4 Tiger)

This is very easy. Just change to using the Māori keyboard, and press Alt+vowel to get a macronised version of that vowel. If holding down Alt is too difficult, type a ` character and then the vowel to be macronised.

The steps to adding the Māori keyboard (with screenshots!):

  1. Click on the Apple in the top left and open System Preferences.
  2. Open International (or search for Keyboard Layout).
  3. Scroll down the Input Menu until you find the Maori keyboard. Tick this. Also at the bottom of the dialog tick Show input menu in menu bar.
  4. Now you have the input menu shown at the top right by your name. On the input menu choose the Maori keyboard.

Presto! Now you can easily type macrons in.


Note that you can also use different keyboards for different applications. When I'm typing in a terminal to a remote machine that expects ISO-8859-1 I use a US keyboard for that. What is this gibberish? It's technical!

While in the International settings you may also wish to configure the languages you can speak.

The Character Palette (on the Input menu) is quite good. You can browse by Category (European Scripts then Latin) or even search for the word macron to find all possible characters with macrons.

Windows XP

If you're using Windows and you've figured out how to use the Māori keyboard then go to the head of the class. Most people consider the way to input other languages to be yet another nasty inconvenience. Given Microsoft's track record, they weren't wrong to think that.

Ready to get your mits really dirty?

  1. First we have to locate where XP has made the language bar disappear to. It could be hiding by the title bar of this application. Maybe it is lurking down by the icons in the bottom right of the screen. Maybe it has disappeared into the Control Panel somewhere.
  2. Using your eXtreme Pointer (XP) skills, click on the tincy tiny weeny little downwards pointing rectangle to get the menu. Select Settings...
  3. The Text Services and Input Languages box appears. Click on Add....
  4. In the Input language dropdown select Maori. (You can press M a few times to locate it.) Alternatively, and this may cause Microsoft Word's spellchecker a different amount of confusion, you can choose the language as English (New Zealand) and manually choose the Maori keyboard layout.
  5. Here we can see the Maori language and Maori keyboard are available. You can set Maori to be the default keyboard rather than the English (United States) being the default if you want. Let's knock this on the head by clicking OK. Or click Apply then OK. Or click Apply then Cancel. Suit yourself.
  6. Now in the language bar you can see the current language, which happens to be EN. Very nerdy, and they don't even relate to ISO 639 codes. Click on the little square that says EN and the list of available languages pops up. Now we can choose Māori (or English (New Zealand) if you went that route in step 4).

Right! Let us go over to Microsoft Word and see if we can type some macrons.

People call Windows easy. Are they insane?

Eion Robb is a plucky bloke who sends in this slightly easier method of typing macrons:

On Windows, its easier to just hold the alt-key and type 257 while holding alt, rather than changing character sets

257 is the decimal value of the lowercase a with a macron, U+0101. You can look up the value of the other characters for use as required. If you're frequently typing macrons then this could get quite tedious, but for occasional use it's a snap.

Mac OS X (10.3)

Before Tiger you do not have a Māori keyboard type. You will have to enter macrons using the mouse.

  1. System Preferences
  2. International
  3. On the Input Menu page tick that you wish to have the Character Palette visible, and that you wish for it to be shown in the menu bar.

Go into the Character Palette. Find all the macrons (they are all near each other) and add them to your favourites. This is a bit tedious. Now in future you can look in the palette for your favourite macrons and double-click to type them.

GNOME on Linux

Eion Robb sends in some useful advice for Gnome/GTK:

On Gnome/GTK (which isn't just Linux), press ctrl-shift-u (to hop into unicode mode - a u with an underline appears) then type 0101

Gnome on Linux also has a keyboard layout chooser found through System->Preferences->Keyboard (from the gnome panel menu), on the Layout tab, and has the Maori keyboard layout.

KDE on Linux

This advice from Pontus Lurcock will be helpful for those using KDE:

Although there's no Māori keyboard layout, there is (at least on my system) a Latvian layout, which includes macrons: simply hold down right-alt and type the vowel of your choice, and there's your macronated letter.

It's also possible to use the US international (a.k.a. US w/ dead keys) layout, in which case you hold right-alt and hit the - (hyphen) key, after which you release Alt and type the letter on which you want the macron.

I've only tested this on KDE on Fedora Core 4, but I'm fairly sure it should be applicable on both KDE and Gnome on most modern distributions: these things seem to be a lot more standardized on Linux than they used to be. KDE and Gnome both come with taskbar keyboard layout switchers, making it easy to flip between Māori/Latvian and any other layouts you might require.

Fedora Core 4


In Bash you can try: export LANG=mi_NZ

All applications that support it will now be talking in Māori, for example, ls:

 932 Whi-nu 10 13:41 macronise.sh
3432 Pae  4  2005 maori-algo.php
9100 Whi-nu 18 12:51 maori-keyboard.html.utf8
5182 Mahu 28 12:09 maori.php


In vim note the command: :set encoding=utf-8

You can also add at the bottom of your document: vim:encoding=utf-8:

Online keyboard

Tomasz P. Szynalski writes to announce his online method of entering text with macrons. I tried it myself and it worked a charm. He says:

I have just launched a free online keyboard for typing Maori characters (macrons) at http://maori.typeit.org . It's an easy way to type macrons on any computer with Internet access, without installing and switching keyboard layouts, installing fonts, etc.

Application Specific

Some applications have other methods for entering special characters.

Microsoft Word

On the Insert menu choose Symbol.

Choose (normal text) as the font. Scroll through the gigantic list of symbols until you find the macrons. They should be a page or two after the standard alphabet, but before all the Korean / Mandarin / Kanjii / Hanzi / Arabic characters.


Is XHTML an application? Possibly!

Here's a shell wrapper for a sed script to convert HTML entities (in the numerical form) to proper UTF-8 macrons. I suggest reading my page on Unicode macrons before using it.

Notable Mention

A few people have been in contact to ask questions and make mention of this page. Two in recent memory are:

.nz Domain Name Commission
When adding macron support to the .nz space was suggested, a primary reference for typing in Māori was this page.
Hapimana (Toby) Rikihana's Legacy in Aotearoa / New Zealand's Astronomical Science Education. Tony Fisher
Whilst preparing this work Tony says he had difficulty in placing macrons over vowels on the computer. After finding this page, he writes in the appendix: I have found [Stephen's] system really good, rather than other systems that require actually programming your computer to change keyboard configuration.

Stephen Cope 2011-10-21