I use the Messages application a lot on my Mac Book Pro. It is lovely! Since most of my friends uses iMessage I could send messages directly to them on their phones.

I use emojis a lot. I know some substitutions for popular emojis like :) gives me a smiley. However I want to be able to use substitutions for all the emojis. I find it disturbing to use the drop-down menu for inserting an emoji. This forces me to switch from the keyboard to the mouse/touchpad way to often :/

Is there a complete list of all emoji substitutions used in the Messages app?

  • 1
    iChat listed all the shortcuts in a plist, but it seems that plist doesn't exist with the new Messages.app
    – grg
    Jul 18, 2014 at 9:32
  • almost a decade later, seems we can now do a sequence like fn ok ⬇️ ⏎ -- still annoying though compared to :thumbsup:tab on github/slack Dec 15, 2023 at 14:13

4 Answers 4


You can define your own ones for emojis that are not pre-defined.

Open System Preferences > Keyboard and then navigate to the Text tab.

  1. Click on the Plus Symbol on the left bottom corner
  2. Type the text you want to replace with a emoji into the left field
  3. Double Click on the right field
  4. Go to the menu and click on Edit > Special Characters ...
  5. There you can add your favourite emoij (or even more than one)

It's not a real shortcut solution, but a workaround when you want to use emojis a lot.

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  • With Shortcuts i thought of keyboard-shortcuts.
    – ohboy21
    Jul 18, 2014 at 16:01
  • Just out of curiosity I checked the pre-defined shortcuts by selecting the "Edit -> Show substitutions". In that menu there is a "Text preferences..."-button. This opens up the same preferences as shown in this answer. There are actually some pre-defined "shortcuts" or substitutions. However these do no include the substitutions that I am looking for. Thus this answer helps me with my problem. Jul 19, 2014 at 12:18
  • Feel free to check my answer as correct.
    – ohboy21
    Jul 21, 2014 at 7:48
  • 1
    @2DD8847 In part your answer is correct. It helps to solve my problem, but the statement "There are no pre-defined keyboard-shortcuts for this emojis." is not correct since there are in fact pre-defined shortcuts, like the one for an ordinary smiley. I have tested this on Mac OS X 10.9.4. Jul 22, 2014 at 6:38
  • @2DD8847 I have suggested an edit of the answer. I think this will make the answer worth checking the answer as the correct ;-) Jul 22, 2014 at 6:41

This list is based off of the old iChat plist and scripting the list of emoticons from Wikipedia into Messages.app:

😊 :)
😉 ;)
😟 :(
😎 B)  
😃 :D  
😩 D:
😋 :d
😜 ;p
😛 :p
😮 :o
😖 :s
😶 :x
😐 :|
😕 :/
😳 :[
😏 :> 
😷 :@  
😘 :*
😬 :!
😇 o:)
😠 >:-o
😈 >:-)
😺 :3  
👍 (y)
👎 (n)
❤️ <3

Note most support using - for a nose so :-) works for 😊 as well.

  • 😘 :* doesn't work anymore :/
    – goofology
    Nov 18, 2016 at 16:34
  • 1
    @goofology Did you hit space after the slash? Dec 16, 2016 at 16:26
  • 2
    :* did work for me (macOS 10.13)
    – Gab
    Oct 13, 2018 at 16:13
  • 4
    DEEPLY ANNOYING that there is no built-in keyboard substitution for getting a :simple_smile: without that goddamn blush!! I don't want to send a smile with a blush every single time!!! Sorry, had to vent somewhere.
    – Aditya M P
    Feb 18, 2020 at 2:19
  • 1

Easiest way I've found without doing anything outrageous was to:

  1. Type the key combination Cmd-Ctrl-Space

    As You see there are tons of options. More than iPhones do.

    Emoji keyboard comes up! Also gives you more options. For example: ☃☼☞⚽︎⚾︎✇

  2. From System Prefs > Keyboard, there is also an option to keep an icon in the menu bar.

    Another choice for quick emoji access. 🎃

    Not exactly a substitution for the emoji keyboard, but makes it a lot easier to just be able to open it with a quick command and then forget about it.

  • 3
    The question is how to input emoji without using the mouse/trackpad. This answer doesn't seem to help do that at all, it's in fact the method the asker wants to avoid having to use. Jul 31, 2016 at 11:43
  • i found this helpful as i didn't know about this feature before
    – ryantuck
    Aug 12, 2016 at 14:38
  • I think this is relevant to the question, so upvoted :D
    – coffekid
    Dec 22, 2016 at 22:52

I have recently bought a mac and wanted to know the same question I've recently discovered the easiest way to do it. If you go onto your settings and click the key board option, then select the text sub heading it will give you the option to create your own shortcut I put the short cut that i wanted to use in the left hand side box. If you then double click the right hand side box and hold down ctrl cmd and space bar at the same time it will come up with a list of emojis which you can then insert. Then you are ready to use them in your messages.

Hope this helps

  • This does not answer the OP's question regarding a list of all emoji substitutions. You answered by indicating how to create your own, which is already covered in other answers. Please see How to Answer for how to provide a good answer to a question.
    – fsb
    Sep 22, 2016 at 19:46

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