Having trouble figuring out how to use emoji on your Mac? Here's the trick!

Using emoticons (or emoji) to express emotions, ideas and thoughts are very popular on the iPhone and other mobile devices. A couple of quick taps on the keyboard button and you've got them ready. How do you do that on the Mac? Read on — or watch! — to find out.


Originally popularized by texting phone users in Japan, emoji are representations of facial expressions, objects and other ideas that use a combination of keyboard characters. For a while, actual emoji images have been built into the iOS and the Mac to make using them more expressive, fun and interesting.

It isn't immediately obvious how to access them on the Mac, though, so here is a quick tip to help you get there faster.

To use emoji on the Mac

  1. Position the cursor in any text field you'd like to insert an emoji, like posting a tweet for example.
  2. Press the Command and Control keys on your keyboard. Then press the space bar. This will launch the characters palette.
  3. Click on the Emoji icon in the sidebar on the left side of the Character window.

    Emoji are divided into several categories: Smileys & People, Animals & Nature, Food & Drink, Activity, Travel & Places, Objects, Symbols, and Flags.

  4. Double-click on whichever emoji you'd like to use and it'll be inserted where you left your cursor.

  5. When you're done, click on the red close window button in the upper left corner of the Characters palette to make it disappear.

If you're having trouble seeing the emoji, click the gear icon in the upper left corner of the window and select large to make them bigger.

Bonus tip: Use the search field to find emoji you'd like to use. Type in the first few letters of the face, object or action you'd like to use.

Extra bonus tip: You can also add the Characters palette to your Menu bar so you can simply click on it if you forget the keyboard shortcut.

Emoji palette

Do you like to use emoji? Have you found an easier way to use them on your Mac? Sound off in the comments!

Originally written April 2015. Updated December 2016 to reflect changes in macOS.