Sometimes it’s the little things that really matter. In this case it’s the story of a small but powerful macron and a passion project driven by two New Zealanders determined to make te reo Māori more accessible to all.
The launch of Windows 11 includes a new feature specifically for using te reo Māori. The new Aotearoa keyboard, which will be loaded as the default New Zealand language for updated devices, makes it easy to write correctly in te reo Māori, using macrons.
The keyboard is a labour of love by Microsoft’s Dan Walker (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāti Maniapoto, Tūhourangi and Ngāti Kahungunu) and Ellie Greenly, who has a background in linguistics. Both have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to improve the diversity of Aotearoa’s tech sector and bring free te reo Māori interfaces to the technology Kiwis use every day.
Dan Te Whenua Walker and Ellie Greenly
As a vital component of Aotearoa’s culture and identity, te reo Māori and its accessibility are crucial. The frustration of using the previous te reo Māori keyboard and macrons led Ellie and Dan to realise the need for change. They worked from development to release to ensure accessibility for Māori whānau. “Given te reo Māori is one of the official languages of New Zealand, it was only right to make it as accessible as possible,” said Ellie Greenly.
The new Aotearoa keyboard featured in the recent Windows 11 update allows for easier use of te reo Māori. Macrons can be added with a simple press of the tilde (~) key before a vowel, with no switch of the keyboard or copy and paste needed. The update also provides a downloadable language pack for spell-checking standardized kupu Māori. Packs for different iwi dialects are not yet available but are hopeful releases for the future.
The new Aotearoa keyboard available on Windows 11.
“It is a privilege to work at an organisation that is embracing te ao Māori,” said Dan Walker. “For me Microsoft is a platform company – a platform that I can use to provide benefits back to the communities I love. Māori is just one of our focus areas where our people can express their purpose mindset.”
“The Aotearoa keyboard addition to Windows 11 may seem like a small thing, but it represents the latest milestone in the work we’ve been doing alongside cultural and language advisors for the past 15 years to support te reo Māori as a vital part of Aotearoa’s culture and identity,” said Vanessa Sorenson, Managing Director of Microsoft New Zealand. ”It’s also about encouraging more Kiwis to learn and engage with each other in the language every day. The Aotearoa keyboard will enable millions of Windows users around Aotearoa and the world to write more easily in te reo Māori, removing the barriers people currently face to expressing themselves in our indigenous language. That’s huge.”