iChat smileys via the keyboard

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Do you use iChat and take advantage of the smileys (emoticons) when talking with others? If so, you probably know you can send graphic smileys with keyboard shortcuts. For example, :-) sends a smile, ;-) sends a wink, and so on. This is a great timesaver, as you don’t have to access the smiley pull-down menu (to the right of the chat text field) to show your mood.

But what happens when you want to use a more obscure smiley, such as Innocent? In those cases, you may not recall that the keyboard equivalent is O:-), so you reach for your mouse, click the smiley drop-down, mouse around to the desired smiley, and finally, click the mouse to insert it into your chat. That’s quite a waste of time, not to mention a strain on that mouse hand.

So the next time your stuck for a smiley, try this all-keyboard solution instead. As you’re typing, when you realize you need an unknown smiley, just hit Tab. When you do, the Smiley icon should highlight. Now press the Space Bar, and the drop-down menu will appear. Use the arrow keys (all four of them) to navigate around the choices, and then press Return when the smiley you wish to use is highlighted. When you do, ichat will insert that smiley, and you can go right back to typing the remainder of your message. Even though I don’t personally use smileys, I know that some of my buddies enjoy them, so I actually use this quick trick relatively often, as I never remember any of the less-often-used abbreviations.

If this trick doesn’t seem to be working for you, it’s because you haven’t enabled Full Keyboard Access. To enable it, open System Preferences, click on the Keyboard & Mouse pane, and then click on the Keyboard Shortcuts tab. At the bottom is the Full Keyboard Access section. Make sure the All Controls option is selected. You can toggle this on and off as you wish using Control-F7, if you find it annoying in other applications.

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