How-To Emoji keyboard open on a MacBook

Published on January 19th, 2024 | by Sandy Writtenhouse


How to Use and Customize the Emoji Keyboard on Mac

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Emojis have become more and more popular over time. After all, they provide a quick and easy way to show how we feel, where we’re going, and what we’re doing. But these handy mini pictures and icons can go well beyond that.

You can use emojis to assemble an equation, show a process, create a list, display currency, and much more. Not sure where to find these extra symbols or how to add them to your notes, documents, or emails? Here’s how to use and customize the emoji keyboard, also known as the Character Viewer, on Mac.

Open the Emoji Keyboard

Like many actions on macOS, there’s more than one way to open the emoji keyboard. You can use a keyboard shortcut, globe key, app menu, or Mac menu bar. 

Use a Keyboard Shortcut

The quickest and simplest way to open the emoji keyboard is with a keyboard shortcut.

Press Command + Control + Space and the keyboard pops right up.

Command Control Space on a Mac keyboard

Use the Globe Key

Like your iPhone and iPad keyboard, the Mac keyboard offers a globe (fn) key allowing you to change the input.

First, make sure that you have the globe key set to display the emoji keyboard by following these steps:

  1. Open System Settings using the icon in your Dock or Apple icon in the menu bar.
  1. On the left, select Keyboard.
  1. On the right, use the Press [globe] key to drop-down list to pick Show Emoji & Symbols
Globe key choice in the System Settings
  1. Then, press the globe key in the bottom left of your Mac keyboard to open the emoji keyboard.

Use the App Menu

One more simple way to open the Mac emoji keyboard is with the menu for the app you’re using. This works for Apple’s apps like Pages and Notes as well as many third-party apps like Microsoft Word and Slack.

With the app active, select Edit > Emoji & Symbols in the menu bar to access the keyboard.

Emoji and Symbols in the Edit menu

Use Emojis, Icons, and Symbols

Once the emoji keyboard is open, you have two views. One is condensed and the other displays an array of options.

Emoji Keyboard Views

The condensed view displays your Frequently Used emojis and symbols at the top followed by Favorites, Smileys & People, Animals & Nature, and so on. You can use the Search box at the top to find a specific symbols or the tabs at the bottom to jump to a category.

Condensed emoji keyboard

The expanded view lists the categories on the left, subcategories (where applicable) to the right, and the symbols next. This lets you skip to the section you need quickly. Plus, you can use the Search box at the top just like the condensed view.

Expanded emoji keyboard

To switch between these views, click the expand/collapse icon on the top right of the window to the right of the Search box.

Icon to switch emoji keyboard views

Insert Emojis and Symbols

You have a couple of simple ways to insert emojis and other symbols into a document.

Method 1: Place your cursor in the location in the document where you want the emoji. Then, double-click the symbol in the emoji keyboard to pop it right in.

Double-click to insert an emoji

Method 2: Drag the symbol from the emoji keyboard to the location where you want it in your document.

Drag an emoji

Customize the Emoji Keyboard

When you use the expanded view, you’ll see many categories on the left side for things like emoji, arrows, punctuation, currency symbols, and more. But what you might not realize is that there are many more you can add.

Maybe you want to use technical symbols for a business document or stars for a bullet list. 

  1. To add more categories to the emoji keyboard, make sure you’re in expanded view and click the Action button (three dots) on the top left.
  1. Choose Customize List.
Customize List in the Action menu
  1. In the pop-up window, you’ll see categories for Symbols, Scripts, and Code Tables. Expand a category to see the symbols it contains. 
Symbol list options

For example, if you expand Symbols, you’ll see options for Braille Patterns, Geometrical Shapes, Musical Symbols, and so on.

Symbol list expanded
  1. Check the boxes for those symbol categories you want to display and uncheck those you don’t. 
  1. When you finish, click Done and you’ll see your changes immediately.

Bonus: Add Your Favorites

Along with seeing your Frequently Used emojis and symbols, you can add those you like most to your favorites. This then places them in the Favorites sections of both the condensed and expanded views of the emoji keyboard.

Open the expanded view, select the symbol, and click Add to Favorites on the right. 

Add to Favorites button for an emoji

You’ll then see the emoji, icon, or symbols in your Favorites for fast access.

Emoji added to Favorites

Using the emoji keyboard, or Character Viewer, is convenient for more than just smileys and peace signs. If you want to use other symbols, it’s easy to customize this handy tool on Mac.

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About the Author

has a BS in Information Technology and worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She then decided to follow her dream and now writes about technology full-time.

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