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How do I insert emoticons in Instant Messenger and online discussion boards?

Answer: Emoticons, sometimes called "smilies," are small facial expressions you can use to add a specific feeling or emotion to your text. For example, you can use :-) to show that you are happy, ;-) to show that you are winking, or :-P to show that you are frustrated.

You can create emoticons by just typing characters on your keyboard. For example, to create the :-) emoticon, type a colon, then a dash, followed by a right parenthesis. While text-based emoticons work fine for adding a little emotion in online chat, some instant messaging programs and online discussion boards allow you to use graphical smiley faces.

Programs like AOL Instant Messenger, Apple iChat, Yahoo! Messenger, and MSN Messenger automatically change common text expressions such as :-) or =) into smiley face images. You'll have to experiment a little bit to find out which keystrokes create the different smiley faces, though it is the quickest way to insert them. Alternatively, some chat programs include a list of smiley faces that you can choose from and insert into your messages. There are also several third-party emoticon collections that you can download, which will give you more smiley faces to use.

Most online discussion boards can turn common text-based emoticons into graphical emoticons as well. However, different discussion board systems use different sets of emoticons, and each uses its own character-to-graphic translation as well. So typing the same characters in two different discussion boards may not create the same graphical smiley face. Fortunately, most discussion boards have a chart explaining what characters you need to type in order to insert certain emoticons. Advanced discussion boards even have a dashboard of smiley faces that you can click to insert into your message postings.

For an extensive list of emoticons, view the Sharpened Emoticons Page.

Published: May 21, 2005 — by Per Christensson

Answer from the PC Help Center