Two new Microsoft keyboards have an Emoji key. Office-Watch.com has now tried one of these keyboards to see how the new key really works and hardware details.
There are various layouts available including US layout. We bought a UK layout keyboard with the Alt Gr key.
Firstly, it’s not an ‘Emoji key’. Everyone has been calling it that, including Microsoft, but according to the small paper guide with the keyboard it has a different name
Expressive Input key
The official name is Expressive Input key
It’s doubtful that name will stick. Even Microsoft is calling the smiley face key the ‘Emoji key’.
What duzzit do?
Pressing the Emoji key opens the Windows 10 Emoji panel that’s available in Windows 10 May 2019 update and later.
That’s it! There are no other special powers in this key or key combinations.
Emoji key combinations
The new key has the same key combinations as the neighbouring Office key. For example, Emoji + W or Office + W opens Microsoft Word.
While the Emoji panel is welcome, it’s current implementation is awful.
Keyboards without the Emoji key
The Emoji panel can be accessed on any keyboard with a Windows key … type Win + . (period/fullstop).
If the keyboard doesn’t have a Windows key, you’re out of luck. Ctrl + Esc is an alternative to the Windows key, but that workaround can’t be combined with a fullstop to access the Emoji panel.
Hardware scan code
Using a keyboard testing utility, we tried to find the hardware scan code for the new key.
The result is 0x5b (91) or VK_LWIN which is the same as the Office key.
There’s obviously some complexity here that current keyboard testers haven’t caught up with yet.
Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center
Microsoft’s software to accompany their accessories has very limited support for the new key.
At least it’s labelled as ‘Emoji key’ not ‘Expressive Input’.
The only choice is to change the key from starting the Emoji panel or a standard Application key.
The Emoji or Expressive Input key is an interesting idea that’s been poorly implemented. At the moment it’s just a novelty with no properly developed functionality.
Microsoft seems to have a fixation on colourful emoji’s, mostly ignoring the possibilities for quickly inserting regular Unicode characters. It’s an area Windows needs a lot of work.
It would be more useful if Emoji key combinations could be assigned to other symbols. In particular, inserting specific, user-definable, emoji or symbols. For example, Emoji + S could insert the Smiley face. Emoji + P could be assigned to either the Pound # sign, Sterling/Pound ₤ currency symbol or the Poo Emoji.