How to use emoji reactions in Google Docs

Because sometimes a thumbs up is all you need.
Person at cafe looking at laptop and smiling
Work can be a tiny bit more fun. Brooke Cagle / Unsplash

Google Docs has been adding lots of goodies to its platform lately—like Markdown support, a master shortcut, and an activity dashboard. And the new features just keep coming. 

These days, the big G is in the midst of rolling out emoji reactions on Google Docs, which allows users to respond to specific chunks of body text with smiley faces and or Spanish dancers. You may think there’s no use for emojis in text processing tools, but the collaborative nature of Docs actually warrants the ability to easily show how much you like your colleagues’ additions or passive-aggressively request changes. 

First, make sure you have emoji reactions

The company announced the rollout of the feature on April 5 and said all users (whether you pay or not) should be able to see and use the tool within the next 15 to 20 days.

[Related: The greatest Google Docs shortcut you’re probably not using]

To make sure you have access to emojis, all you have to do is select some text and see if the pop-up menu on the right margin includes a yellow smiley face. If it does, you’re good to go. If you can only see the shortcuts to enter suggesting mode or add comments, you may have to wait a few days before you get the option. You can also try closing any open Docs, restarting your app, or refreshing your browser to see if that changes anything.     

How to add emoji reactions to Google Docs

Emoji reactions in Google Docs work very similarly to how they do in text messaging apps. But in this case, instead of long-pressing on a block of words to bring up the emoji options, you just need to highlight what you want to react to and click the Add emoji reaction button—the yellow smiley face we mentioned earlier.

Now it’s time to pick your emoji. As on most platforms, you’ll be able to scroll and choose any reaction you like. If you also use Google Chat, you’ll notice the last row of emojis is fixed and shows your favorite responses with the skin and gender specifications you’ve already set up. These two platforms are now interconnected, so if you change preferences on one, they’ll carry over to the other.  

Clicking on an emoji will post your reaction and, just like a regular comment, will highlight the text you selected so other users will know what the emoji is connected to. If you or anybody else with access to the document wants to add a reaction to the same chunk of text, you can click on it and then hit the smiley face to open the emoji menu and pick another icon. You can also second somebody else’s reaction by double-clicking the emoji they added, which will add a number to the count on the right. All the reactions will accumulate on the margin and you’ll be able to see who added what emoji by clicking a specific one and hovering your mouse over it. 

[Related: Emojis and reaction GIFs make Slack better. Here’s how to create them.]

Clicking a phrase someone you or anyone else has reacted to will also bring up Google’s classic three-dot menu. Click it, then choose Resolve to delete any emoji, no matter who added it. You can also get rid of an emoji you added by clicking on it twice.

Unfortunately, this new feature won’t allow you to easily react with emojis to written comments in a Google Doc. Still, if you don’t mind the extra work, you can do this by copying an emoji—not the written character translation, but an actual emoji like this one 👋—and pasting it as a reply to a comment. Google Docs will read it and display it properly so your colleagues know when you think something in the document is 🔥 or 💩.