How to Get Emojis on a Mac

How to Get Emojis on a Mac

Wish inserting emojis was as easy on a computer as it is on a phone, or that you could search for emoji? Find out here how to get emojis on a Mac (using an emoji panel or the keyboard) easily, and how to search for emojis by name.

First, George Bernard Shaw Spins the World

Light is wonderful from the left when the right hand writes.

The sun, alas, is not always on the left, and when it is—it soon moves.

For some twenty years, famed writer George Bernard Shaw moved with it. He moved not his chair or desk, and not his spot for writing. He moved his rotatable writer’s shed instead.

Now, are the light and sun to your left? Turns out getting emojis on MacBook and other computers using macOS is easy any way you look at it:

How to Get Emojis on a Mac (Emoji Panel, Search and Keyboard)

Time needed: 1 minute.

To get the list of emojis and insert them easily anywhere text can go on a MacBook or other macOS device:

  1. Position the text cursor where you want to insert the emoji.

  2. Select Edit | Emoji & Symbols from the menu.

    Mac emoji keyboard shortcut: You can also press Command Control Space to get the viewer for emoji and other special characters. (See below for changing the keyboard shortcut for the emoji panel.)
    Note: Depending on the macOS version, the menu item may read Edit | Special Characters….

  3. Use the categories at the bottom to browse emoji (Smileys & People, Animals & Nature, Food & Drink etc.).

    No categories: If you see no categories at the bottom, click the character viewer button (How to Get Emojis on MacBook and macOS - Character Viewer button) near the Character Viewer window’s top right corner.
    Mac Character Viewer: You can also use the full Character Viewer, of course, to get emojis on MacBook and macOS. (See below.)

  4. Use Search (at the very top of the emojis list) to find emoji by name.

  5. Click an emoji to insert it at the text cursor’s current position.

    Color variants: For emoji that have multiple (typically color) variants, click the emoji followed by the desired variation.
    Dragging and dropping: You can also drag and drop emoji to get them into text.
    How to Get Emojis on MacBook and macOS - Emoji panel

Looking for the right emoji? The 4 Best Tools to Search for Emojis Reviewed

How to Insert Emojis Using the Mac Character Viewer

To insert emoji and other special characters using the macOS Character Viewer:

  1. Press CommandControlSpace or select Edit | Emoji & Symbols to get the emoji panel or Character Viewer.
  2. If you do not see the full Character Viewer window, click the character viewer button (Character Viewer button) to expand the emoji panel.
  3. Go to the Emoji category on the very left.
    Note: If you do not see Emoji as a category, click the settings gear button (Character Viewer settings gear button) and select Customize List… from the menu and make sure Emoji is checked, then click Done.
    Tip: Drag and drop categories to re-order them in the list.
  4. Select an emoji category or browse the list.
  5. Double-click an emoji to insert it at the text cursor’s current position.
    Note: For emoji that are available in different colors, click the desired emoji followed by the desired color variant.
    Tip: You can change the size of emoji in the list. (See below.)
    How to Get Emojis on MacBook and macOS - Character Viewer

Change the Mac Emoji Keyboard Shortcut

To change which key or keyboard combination acts as the emoji keyboard shortcut on a Mac:

  1. Select | System Preferences… from the menu.
  2. Open the Keyboard section.
  3. Go to the Shortcuts tab.
  4. Now select App Shortcuts on the left.
  5. Click the + button.
  6. Select All Applications under Application:
    App-specific Mac emojis keyboard shortcut: You can set up application-specific shortcuts as well, if your preferred shortcut clashes with an application keyboard shortcut, for instance.
  7. Type Emoji & Symbols under Menu Title:.
  8. Click in the Keyboard Shortcut: field.
  9. Press the key combination you want to use as your emoji shortcut.
    Example: Press CommandShiftE, for instance, to make that the shortcut for emojis.
  10. Click OK.
    Set a emoji keyboard shortcut for your Mac

Fn Alternative: You can also make the Fn key launch the emoji panel. To activate this:

  1. Go to the Keyboard tab in Keyboard system preferences.
  2. Select Show Emoji & Symbols for Press Fn key to:.

How to Get and Use Emojis on a Mac: FAQ

Can I see larger versions of emoji in the Character Viewer list?


To increase the size of emoji (and other special) characters in Character Viewer:

  1. Click the settings gear button (Character Viewer settings gear button) in Character Viewer.
  2. Select Medium or Large in the list under Character Size.
    Note: This size applies to emoji and character in the full Character Viewer window, not the emoji panel.

Can I keep the emoji panel open to get emoji into my text even faster?


To pin the emoji panel to the screen, click character viewer button (Character Viewer button) twice, once in the unpinned panel, then in the Character Viewer window.

Can I get a Mac emoji keyboard and enter emoji by typing?

You can set up a kind of emoji keyboard on your own—and type emoji characters.

To add a keyboard shortcut for any emoji:

  1. Click the Apple menu ().
  2. Select System Preferences… from the menu.
  3. Go to the Keyboard category.
  4. Now open the Text tab.
  5. Click + at the bottom.
  6. In the Replace column, type the shortcut you want to use for the emoji.
    Tip: In the spirit of Vim, use a leader character perhaps, in combination with a shortcut or description.
    Example: Use .sheep for 🐺, a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
    Smileys: Of course, you can also use ASCII smiley faces as shortcuts and use them to enter emoji in places other than Messages.
  7. In the With column, press CommandControlSpace or select Edit | Emoji & Symbols from the menu.
  8. Find and enter the desired emoji.
    Tip: If the Character Viewer does not appear, enter the emoji in a new note, for example, then copy and paste it.
    Setting up text shortcut for emoji in macOS
  9. Hit Enter.

Now, to enter the emoji anywhere with just the keyboard:

  1. Type the full text shortcut.
  2. Press Enter, Space, . (period) or another punctuation character to enter emoji.
    Using a text shortcut for emoji in macOS

(How to get and use emojis on a Mac tested with macOS Big Sur 11.0 and macOS 10.15; updated June 2022)

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