macOS: 4 Easy Ways to Use Emoji Shortcuts

I use Emoji all of the time (and no, I’m not actually 12 years old, despite what my friends may think). Those cutesy little characters, though sometimes annoying, are at least a good way to impart sarcasm or emotion, especially because it’s difficult sometimes to tell the tone of text conversations.

My current, pre-coffee mood.

Under OS X, there are several different ways to insert them. You can, of course, click on the Emoji button that’s provided in Messages:

You could also turn on the “Show Keyboard, Emoji, & Symbol Viewers in menu bar” option within System Preferences > Keyboard (under the “Keyboard” tab). That’ll put a little square icon at the top-right of your screen, and when you click it, one of the options will let you show and pick from the available Emoji and symbols:

I think there are a couple of easier ways to add those characters in, however, at least in places where there isn’t an obvious option of how to do so (like Mail). First, you can use the special keyboard shortcut that’s available in OS X Mavericks and later, which is Command-Control-Spacebar. That’ll launch the same Emoji & Symbol Viewer shown in my screenshot above, and you can double-click on any of the options to add them to your text. (If you see the smaller version of the Viewer, just click the square icon in the upper-right to expand it.)

Finally, let’s talk about my favorite method! I’ve added text shortcuts for my frequently used Emoji and symbols (like the Mac’s Command icon and one of the smiley faces I use all of the time). To set this up, all you need to do first is open the Emoji & Symbol Viewer using one of the methods I discussed above and insert the character you’d like to create a shortcut for into an email, document, or message. You’ll have to do that so that you can select and copy it.

That’s me selecting the Command symbol. Isn’t that an awesome screenshot?

Anyway, next you’ll open System Preferences > Keyboard and choose the “Text” tab. Within that pane, click the plus button at the bottom to add in a new shortcut, and type whatever text you want to be replaced with your symbol on the left. Then paste the Emoji or icon you copied into the rightmost pane.

As you can see, I’ve chosen “cmd” to be replaced by that icon, which works well because I wouldn’t often type those letters in any other context. (If you pick, for example, your first name to be replaced with the poop Emoji, you’re gonna have a bad time.) Afterward, though, every time I type in “cmd,” my Mac will offer to replace it with the correct icon:

Neat! I’m sure you won’t want to use this with dozens of your Emoji and symbols or anything—I mean, the likelihood that you’d remember all of those text substitutions is low, if nothing else—but for the ones you pick most often, it’s a handy trick. So go forth and enjoy Emoji-ing, and have a happy New Year, you guys!