It's no secret that emoji play an integral part in today's daily communication. From a user experience point of view, emojis' pictographs are a universally recognized language that adds emotional nuance to increase user engagement. They've been integrated in our smartphones, billboards, and PCs, and in 2018, Chrome gained a shortcut to quickly insert them on the desktop. The shortcut poses a problem for Chrome OS users, though: clicking on the context menu launches the on-screen keyboard, which is clunky and non-intuitive with a mouse. However, that's changing soon, as Google is working on a dedicated emoji picker for Chrome OS.

We've been tracking the emoji picker for Chrome OS over at the Chromium Gerrit, and in the last few weeks, more details have emerged from the repository. It received numerous back-end changes and UI polish in recent Chrome OS Canary builds, inching closer to a finished product. If your device is on Chrome OS Beta, Dev, or Canary, you can try it now by copying and paste chrome://flags/#enable-cros-ime-system-emoji-picker into Chrome's URL bar and enable it from the drop-down menu. After you restart your device, right-click any text field and click Emoji on the top of the context menu.

The new dedicated Emoji picker for Chrome OS

The new system emoji picker takes on a compact and organized design. Unlike before, Chrome OS no longer launches the virtual keyboard; it opens a floating window that doesn't take half of your screen. The chooser is much easier to use with a mouse: the emoji aren't wide apart, and the ability to finally scroll with the mouse wheel is much more intuitive. Clicking on any of the symbols will close the picker and insert it into the text field. Google has more features planned for the chooser to help express yourself with emoji easier. This recently merged commit says you'll soon be able to search that hard-to-find emoji directly from the picker's inline search box, saving you time and endless scrolling. You'll also be able to quickly launch the emoji picker by pressing the Search, Shift, and Space keys on your keyboard.

The Chrome OS emoji picker has a long way to go before it's ready to ship to Chromebooks. Its current design feels placeholder-y, there are missing flag symbols, and significant features like search still haven't trickled down to the latest Canary builds. Despite this, I enjoy using it more than the virtual keyboard layout. We'll continue to keep an eye out for changes and will update this post when we discover more.