It's no secret that emoji play an integral part in today's daily communication. From a user experience point of view, emoji pictographs make up a universally recognized language that adds emotional nuance to conversations. They've been integrated throughout our digital lives, and in 2018, Chrome gained a shortcut to quickly insert them on the desktop. It poses a problem for Chrome OS users, though — clicking on the context menu launches the on-screen keyboard, which is clunky and unintuitive with a mouse. However, that's changing soon as Google is working on a dedicated emoji picker for Chrome OS.

We've been tracking this feature over on 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 at 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 up half of your screen. It's now much easier to use with a mouse: the emoji aren't too far 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 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.

Refreshed UI, search bar, and more

It's been a couple of months since we covered the Chrome OS emoji picker. Google has since pushed out various updates to it, including a close-to-final UI and a handy search bar. The improvements are live in Chrome OS Dev and Canary, which you can preview by copy-pasting chrome://flags/#enable-cros-ime-system-emoji-picker into Chrome's URL bar and enabling it from the drop-down menu. After your Chromebook restarts, you can launch it by pressing the Search, Shift, and Space keys at the same time.

An improved emoji picker for Chromebooks.

The updated emoji picker looks and feels a lot more polished than the last version. It ditches its floating window for a modal dialog, dismissible by clicking off to the side. There's a large search bar on top that'll help you find the emoji you need much faster. Its search feature can also link emoticons to emoji, so if you type ":-)", for example, it'll output the smile emoji. We can also see some minor bug fixes and a bit of additional polish to the design of the picker, too, like rounded corners, larger buttons, and fixes to broken emoji.

The Chrome OS emoji picker is shaping up to be a great drop-in replacement for the old virtual keyboard implementation. Its design no longer feels like an afterthought — picking an emoji is actually easy to do with a mouse now. Despite the short development time, it looks like Google is preparing to release it by Chrome OS 91. We're not expecting any major changes to arrive by then, but we'll keep you updated if we discover anything else.