Emoji Panel is part of Windows that totally sucks

Windows 11 and 10 has an important addition, the Emoji Panel. What a pity that it totally sucks and is incredibly dumb. Emoji Panel is better than what we had before (nothing) but not by a lot.

We’re talking about the Emoji Panel or ‘keyboard’ which appears in Windows 11/10 when you press Win +  .  (Windows key plus period/fullstop) or Win + ;  (Windows key plus semi-colon).

This is how it appears in Windows 10.

In Windows 11, its changed a little. At least Search has been fixed but otherwise the big problems have been ignored.

We’ll show how to use the updated Emoji Panel and explain the many limitations.  Knowing the problems in advance may save some frustration.

Emoji are all well and good, but Windows has long needed a quick way to enter symbols like Copyright, Trademark and many more. Especially ‘foreign’ currency symbols like Sterling, Dollar Euro, Yen, Ruble etc. whichever ones aren’t on your default keyboard.

Word has Insert | Symbol and some shortcuts but Windows itself only had the Character Map which is just OK but not easily accessible.

Compared to the same feature in the Mac OS, Windows Emoji Panel is a sick joke. Mac users have a full featured and comprehensive character viewer/insert utility at Control + Command + Spacebar. Windows has nothing like it, even in 2022.

Emoji panel plus symbols and characters

The Windows Emoji Panel includes emoticons and symbols/characters, done in a sloppy and frankly dumb way.

Search works badly, when it works at all.

The tooltips are almost useless. So bad they’d earn a failing grade in any UI design class.

The best explanation we’ve heard about the hover / preview is that it’s the product of a demented mind wishing to punish Windows users.

The interface design lacks basic elements to separate menus from buttons to insert.  There’s a Most Recently Used MRU list, if you know where to look and is inconsistent.

Overall, the Emoji Panel has an emoji fixation. It’s a case of style over substance that users need day-to-day.

This has all the hallmarks of a Microsoft ‘check box’ feature. They’ve done just enough to say there’s a ‘character keyboard’ in Windows and no more.

Microsoft can do better. The Photos app in Windows has some good photo and video editing features. Even the humble Calculator app has received a quiet boost – these days Calc has many measurement conversion options and even currency conversions with live exchange rates.

Buttons or tabs?

In the Windows 10 Emoji Panel, the top row has selectors or tabs to the three main types of symbol available: Emoji, Kaomoji and Symbols.

On the bottom row are ‘tabs’ to different selections of characters.

For Symbols they are: Currency, Latin, Geometric, Maths, Supplemental, Language.

So far, so good but start to use this feature and its many limitations are very obvious.

The bottom row is poorly designed. There’s no difference in look between the menu/tab buttons on the bottom row and the insert symbol buttons on the rows above. It’s not clear, for example that the $ symbol switches to the Currency pane, not insert the $ character.  The bottom row should have the same background color at the top section of the app.

Emoji first and always first

Typing Win + . always brings up the emoji display first.  Bad luck if you’re not interested in the colored icons but want to type in more traditional characters or symbols.

The pane should open to the last one you used. Instead users always have to click away from emoji.

Why open at emoji first?  Probably because that’s the feature Microsoft wants to show off.  Inserting symbols is ‘merely’ useful to customers but not fancy for Windows demonstrations.

Searching the Emoji Panel

The search option in the character viewer is very strange. It’s hard to understand what Microsoft intends customers to do.  In Windows 10, the top label says ‘Keep typing to find an emoji’.

When you type, those letters go into whatever document, cell or text field you’re working on!  Here’s what happens when we typed Win + . then ‘c o p y’

See how the four letters are in the document we’re working on?  Not in a search box within the app.

If you select one of the found emoji (search is only for emoji, we’ll get to that in a moment) the text is replaced with the emoji you selected.

But if you don’t choose a symbol (ie press Escape or the Close button top right) the text remains!   In our use and tests of this app, we’re often left with stray letters in documents, web forms and other text fields.

Search text should be in the app doing that search, not dropped into some other document or field.  Aside from interfering in another program unexpectedly, it’s often hard to see what’s been typed/searched.  The Emoji Panel hides the search text.

At least this was fixed in Windows 11, there’s now a proper search field in the Emoji Panel. But it’s limited to finding emoji or GIF — not the broader symbol set.

Search for emoji only

Microsoft’s emoji fixation means that the intrusive search only works for emoji.  Symbols or Kaomoji aren’t included in any results.

Look again at the example above.  We searched for ‘copy’ and it found the Copyright emoji but NOT the standard Copyright character.

That’s an important difference. The emoji won’t necessarily display correctly in a document or email, the standard character will. The symbol’s look depending on the font you’ve selected, the emoji doesn’t.

Order of symbols

Currency symbols are in some unexplained order that makes no sense in Windows 10. For example, the Euro symbol is hidden on the bottom row, you have to scroll down to see it.

Meantime the Afghani currency symbol gets a prominent position, fourth from the left on the top row!

With all due respect to the Afghani national currency, the Euro is much more widely used and should be better placed.

It’s hard to understand the order of the currency symbols at all.  Dollar sign is first then the generic (but rarely used) currency symbol.  After that it seems like an irrational dump of currency characters.

Emoji Panel tooltips are useless and small

Hover the mouse over an icon in the Emoji viewer and a tooltip appears.  No surprise that the Emoji tooltips are useful but the symbol ones are not.

Hover the mouse over an emoji and the name of the icon appears.  This is the text used for searches.

Hovering over a symbol only displays a smaller, harder to see, version of the symbol! Even the old Windows Character Map has a tooltip that’s much larger with text and Unicode value as well.

Most Recently Used

We wondered why there wasn’t an MRU or Most Recently Used list of previously inserted characters.

It’s there …  that clock symbol on the bottom row,

But it doesn’t work as you might expect.  When the Emoji Panel first opens, pressing Win + . then clicking the MRU/Clock icon seems to do nothing!

That’s because the MRU option for emoji puts the recently used emoji first then other icons immediately after.

MRU list for emoji shows the previously selected icons then others on the same pane

But MRU for Symbols only displays previously selected symbols and other else – which is normally what a Windows MRU list does.

MRU list for Symbols has only previously selected characters.

Tabs or buttons

The bottom row of the symbols pane is really tabs to parts of the character set, not buttons to insert symbols.

The bottom buttons have the same look and background as insert symbol buttons. You’re forgiven if you don’t realize that they show more options.


What’s the Smiley face option between emoji and symbols on the top line?  That’s for Kaomoji – a popular Japanese version of ASCII art.

There are simple ‘classic’ emoticons plus other panes of more complicated combinations. There are labels for the kaomoji tab icons only.

Like Symbols, the tooltips for Kaomoji are useless.  The tip only shows a smaller version of the kaomoji not a name.  If you’re wondering what a particular kaomoji is supposed to mean, the Microsoft Emoji Panel is no help.

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