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Google Docs update lets you respond to text with emoji reactions

Google Docs on a laptop screen
Google Docs logo (Image credit: Jay Bonggolto / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google has introduced support for emoji reactions in Docs.
  • You'll be able to use emojis to respond to documents instead of words.
  • The feature is available only to Google Workspace customers.

Emoji reactions are a staple among the best messaging apps for Android (opens in new tab), such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Telegram, as well as enterprise chat services like Microsoft Teams and Slack. These types of responses are now available in Google Docs.

Google's online word processor now lets you use emoji to leave a comment on a document. The feature was originally announced at Google I/O (opens in new tab) last year, so its release shouldn't come as a surprise.

When you highlight text in a document while in editing mode, the emoji reaction button shows up as a third option between "Add comment" and "Suggest edits."

Google Docs emoji reactions (Image credit: Google)

You can bring up the full catalog of available emojis by clicking on the smiling face icon. A search bar also lets you find a specific emoji that best represents your reaction. All emoji reactions appear on the right side of the document, along with counters.

"The new emoji reactions feature provides a less formal alternative to comments to express your opinions about document content," the search giant said in a blog post (opens in new tab).

Google says the new feature supports Emoji version 14 (opens in new tab), which includes gender-neutral options. Docs will also remember the emoji skin tone and gender preferences you've used for each emoji and apply them the next time you leave a comment.

The emojis you've used will also be shared with Google Chat, "so any preferences set in one app will be reflected in the other." You can also use both services to update emoji preferences via the picker.

The new option comes on the heels of other handy features added to Docs, including a new email draft template (opens in new tab) powered by Gmail, a new document summary with Smart Canvas, and a pageless format (opens in new tab).

Emoji reactions are turned on by default in Docs, and there's no option for admins to disable the feature. That said, it's not accessible to everyone: Google says the feature is only available to Google Workspace (opens in new tab) Essentials, Business Starter, Business Standard, Business Plus, Enterprise Standard, and Enterprise Plus.

Google started gradually rolling out the feature on April 5 for certain types of domains. It will take a few more weeks before emoji reactions go live for all eligible users.

Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He is a tech journalist based in the Philippines who has been writing about consumer tech for the past six years and has been using various Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. When he's not writing, he likes to spend time outside, stealing scenes with his phone camera.