Various emoji.

How to find any emoji or symbol on a Windows keyboard

Microsoft's Windows comes with an amazing built-in character picker for typing emoji or other symbols. Here's how to access and use it.

Emoji, symbols, and special characters

One of the most tedious aspects of trying to use a special character (or even a character from another language, like for example German umlauts) or emojis using Microsoft’s Windows is that most of the time, at least if you’re an English speaker using a regular 101/102-key English keyboard, you don’t have a key for that particular character you’re looking for (let alone a key for the thousands of emoji out there).

For example, let’s imagine you have to write an email to someone named Günther and you don’t have an umlaut key, or maybe you want to write an email to someone named José, and you don’t have an accent key. You can either just write Gunther and Jose (but that’s a bit disrespectful) or you can go to an Internet webpage with a collection of special characters, umlauts or accents, find the one you need, and then just copy it and paste the character into your email.

That just takes a lot of time and work, and if you’re in a busy day you may then opt for just going with option one. The good news is that you can have the best of both worlds: all characters you need at your disposal and also speed and convenience. Windows now incorporates a built-in special character and emoji search tool that can be activated easily and quickly. This tool is called the Character picker or also the Emoji picker. It’s an easy to use tool that pops-up a little window that appear when you press a few keys simultaneously, and it basically lets you search for any character and emoji you may ever need.

The Windows character picker

In order to access the Character picker, you just have to press the following combination of keys: WIN + . (WIN + Period) or: WIN + ; (WIN + Semicolon).

Once you’ve pressed that key combination a small pop-window will appear on your screen. It looks like this:

Windows' Character picker.
Windows’ Character picker.

The Character picker has three main sections: Emoji, Smiles and Symbols/Special characters. You can choose between them by just clicking on the symbols on top the top part of the Window’s Character picker:

Windows' Character picker main options.
Windows’ Character picker main options.

Now, in order to find the emoji or symbol you’re looking for you can either start typing (it comes with a fuzzy search functionality) or you can look into the subcategories. The subcategories are accessed by clicking any of the symbols on the bottom part. Here’s an example:

Windows' Character picker suboptions.
Windows’ Character picker sub-options.

In this example we chose Symbols and then the Currency symbols sub-option, and as you can see it’s showing us all the currency symbols in the world. Be aware that sometimes you may need to scroll down to find the particular symbol you’re looking for (just place your mouse pointer on top of it and use your mouse wheel for scrolling up and down).


In order to use the Emoji picker you’ll need an up-to-date version of Windows 10.

If you type WIN + . (WIN + Period) or: WIN + ; (WIN + Semicolon) and the Windows’ emoji picker doesn’t pop-up you probably didn’t boot your system using an English keyboard. If your system’s language is set to English and your keyboard is set to any language other than English you may experience some issues with the picker. Make sure both your system’s language and your keyboard are set with the same language.

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