Microsoft surprised many last week by including an overhaul of all emojis in the preview release of the Windows 10 "Anniversary Update".
There's plenty to cover, but I first want to look at this guy who is new to Segoe UI Emoji1:
Above: Ninja Cat is a set of emojis exclusive to Windows.
- 🐱👤 Ninja Cat
- 🐱🏍 Ninja Cat Flying
- 🐱💻 Ninja Cat at Computer
- 🐱🐉 Ninja Cat riding T-Rex
- 🐱👓 Ninja Cat with Coffee
- 🐱🚀 Ninja Cat in Space
You might have figured based on the way these are shown above on most platforms, these have been implemented as Zero Width Joiner sequences. Each combines the 🐱 Cat Face with another emoji such as the 👤 Bust in Silhouette or 🚀 Rocket to make a new character:
Above: ZWJ sequences for the Ninja Cat emojis.
Used for a variety of purposes, ZWJ sequences are fully supported by Unicode, but don't need to go through the usual approval process. Apple used this feature to create an anti-bullying emoji into iOS last year which was subsequently supported by Android.
Moving along from the Ninja Cat, Microsoft has a brand new design language for all emojis in the forthcoming Anniversary Update.
Compare the current Windows 10 emojis:
With the emojis coming in the Anniversary Update:
The new style has a distinctive thick black stroke around each character which looks great on the screen of my retina MacBook Pro running Windows 10.
Above: Windows 10 Anniversary Update displaying Smileys & People.
This new style isn't just an update to the previous emojis; it's a complete do-over. Every single emoji has been designed from scratch in this new style.
I'm told the team at Microsoft went back to understand the history and intent of every emoji when creating the latest set. This can be seen in characters such as the 😪 Sleepy Face which have become more Japanese than the name would otherwise suggest.
Above: Sleepy Face goes back to its Japanese origins with a snot bubble in this update.
Yellow is the new gray
The default shade for human-like emoji characters should be "non-human" according to the Unicode Consortium. This could technically mean pink, blue, yellow, or gray.
Microsoft chose the latter when first adding diverse skin tone support in Windows 10, which ended up looking a bit bizarre.
The latest update changes the default skin tone to yellow. Now our people are consistently yellow on all platforms, unless a modifier is chosen to change the skin tone.
Above: Yellow is to be the new default shade for human emojis.
All the skin tone options remain, with five variations available. This is the same number of skin tones supported in the existing version of Windows 10.
Above: Emoji Modifier Fitzpatrick Type 4.
Despite the flak that Microsoft has copped over their emojis in the past, one area Windows is often ahead in is new character support.
Emoji sequences for two men kissing or two women kissing aren't (yet?) supported. This may change by the time of the public release. As with other sequences, the fallback is to show each of the emojis individually in order.
Above: ZWJ sequences supported in the Anniversary Update.
Flags are also not (yet?) supported, and continue to show as two-letter country codes as has been the case in past versions. It's looking more likely that flags may be a deliberate omission by Microsoft, but let's not judge until the final version is released.
MS Power User reports that Windows Phone is also set to get the same emoji update in the coming months. The picker UI for changing skin tones is also new.
Above: New emoji designs previewed on mobile. Screenshots via MS Power User.
This is only a preview, with all details here subject to change prior to public release.
Microsoft says the Anniversary Update for all Windows 10 users is due for release "Summer 2016"3. More details will be provided at the time of the full release.
Above: The 💩 Pile of Poo Emoji is set to smile in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. At last!
Segoe UI Emoji is the name of the color emoji font on Windows. It's part of the same family as Segoe UI Symbol which provides black and white glyphs. ↩
I now understand the Ninja Cat often rides a Unicorn, which makes it suprising a 🐱 + 🦄 sequence has not been included. ↩
Northern Hemisphere summer being June-August. Seasons are less helpful than months when talking to an international audience. ↩