Hawaiian Characters: My newest WordPress plugin with a good back story

I write this to you in the brand new version of WordPress: 4.5. It came out just a few hours ago. With it, you can now use my newest plugin, Hawaiian Characters!

Plugin Banner: Hawaii Map with All Characters

What Does It Do?

By default WordPress has a “Character Map” feature built into the editor for adding hard-to-type characters like these: © ® ™ ¼ ∞ ± … ♣ ¶ ¥

However, there’s never been a way to add to the default list of characters. Why would you need to do that? Well, one situation is if you’re writing in Hawaiian which requires the diacritical mark called the kahakō. That’s a kahakō there over the “o”.

Using the Hawaiian Characters plugin adds all the possible kahakō characters as well as the okina (ʻ) character.

Character Map with Added Hawaiian Characters
The plugin adds a new last row of special characters with the kahakō diacriticals and the okina.

Why Did I Build It?

The back story of the plugin is a fun one!

Years ago, I built the website for KUA. They do fantastic community-based environmental work in Hawaii. In their own words:

[KUA] supports creative and collective community-based solutions to problems stemming from environmental degradation in Hawai’i.

One of their feature requests was an easy way to insert these characters into the text editor. At the time, it was impossible, but it always bothered me that I couldn’t build the feature. It felt like an example of an English-centric bias in the WordPress project. Finding a way to make it easier to use other different characters in WordPress felt like an issue of fairness.

So this year, I showed up at the “core” WordPress project’s chat about the text editor to ask what was required to allow this. The answer, it turned out was “upstream” in another open-source project that WordPress used: TinyMCE. I reached out to TinyMCE and let them know about the issue.

When I clearly explained the need for why people should be able to change or add to the Character Map, everyone was on board to do this. Luckily, it didn’t take much effort, so the ability to “filter” the “charmap” got into WordPress 4.5!

With that new TinyMCE feature in place and TinyMCE updated in WordPress, I was able to build a new plugin to add the characters. Voila! New characters in the character map, and a little-bit-easier-to-use WordPress.

A big mahalo to Miwa and the others at KUA who reviewed my description of the plugin before publishing it to make sure I correctly described the characters and the plugin behavior.

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