Christopher Peterson

December 11, 2017

Quick pop-up emoji input on Linux [updated]

UPDATE: I’ve since rolled my own solution, which I prefer and recommend over this one. Check it out!

But the old post follows for reference..

I need pop-up Linux emoji input that doesn’t require a mouse. Something like Emoji Keyboard or EmojiOne Picker require the hands to leave the keyboard and click on an emoji - this is a bunch  better than jumping into a web browser and looking one up, but still. Yuck.

The solution I finally found is ibus-uniemoji. Ibus is a framework on Unix that is most generally used for input of foreign characters from a standard keyboard, e.g. Pinyin, Russian, or in this case, emoji. Uniemoji uses this to provide an easy pop-up for emoji selection by name or keyword. No mouse!

uniemoji emoji input

# Ensure the IBus daemon is running at startup, or whenever suits you:
ibus-daemon -drx
git clone /tmp/uniemoji
cd /tmp/uniemoji
sudo make install
ibus restart

Here is the script I wrote to toggle between normal input and emoji input:

#!/usr/bin/env python3

# Given a list of possible ibus engines to cycle through as args, will cycle
# through them. If current engine is not in the list, will select the first
# from the args.

def main():
    """ main """
    import os
    import sys
    import subprocess

    engines = sys.argv[1::]
    if not engines:
        print('No engines given - nothing to do', file=sys.stderr)

    engine_current = subprocess.getoutput('ibus engine')

    curr_idx = engines.index(engine_current)
    next_idx = (curr_idx + 1) % len(engines)

    cmd = [
    ], check=True)
    cmd = [
        'Swtiched ibus engine to "{}"'.format(engines[next_idx]),

if __name__ == '__main__':

And finally to toggle between (or cycle across) an arbitrary number of IBus engines, find the engines you want by running ibus list-engine and call the script like this from some key combination (see your X or window manager config, whatever): engine1 engine2

In my case, I bound this via my i3 config: xkb:us::eng uniemoji && bash $HOME/.xsession

Note: you may, like me, need to re-establish your X keyboard settings after each time you switch IBus engines or else you’ll lose your compose keys, maps, etc. To ensure this I just re-run my .xsession as above.