If you’ve corresponded with someone who uses Microsoft’s Outlook email product, you may have noticed something weird: Their email messages might inexplicably end in the letter “J.”
So you get weird messages like this:
It’s an infamous and longstanding issue, with a totally mundane answer — Microsoft Outlook autocorrects the “:)” smiley face emoticon to the “J” symbol in Microsoft’s wacky, and proprietary, “Wingdings” font.
That’s fine if you’re using Microsoft Outlook, or Microsoft Internet Explorer. But Google Chrome, the iOS Mail app, and plenty of other email programs don’t support the Wingdings font. So people using those products only see that weird and otherwise inexplicable “J,” whenever their Microsoft-loving friends send them an emoji. This has been a well-documented problem since Outlook added emoticons in 2010.
Now, Microsoft tells Business Insider, the “J” problem is finally getting a fix, seven years later. The fix was first noticed by Guardian reporter Alex Hern on Twitter.
Users of Outlook on Office 365, Microsoft’s subscription-based cloud productivity suite, will find that the “:)” emoticon will actually get autocorrrected into a standard emoji. Which means that, as the feature rolls out, it’s goodbye “J,” and hello “????.” Microsoft expects the rollout of this update to be totally complete by the end of the year.
So long as the recipient’s email program or web browser renders emoji — and the vast majority do — your message will be a lot more comprehensible. Plus, Microsoft says, Outlook itself will get better at rendering iOS and Android emoji, meaning that the emoji language barrier between Office and the rest of the world is slowly cracking.
Here’s Microsoft’s full explanation:
Outlook uses Word as its authoring tool. Previously, we automatically changed “:)” to a smiley face character in the font face WingDings. When that email would show up in another client that doesn’t support Wingdings font, it can’t show that character. So it gets replaced. J is the character in the windings font that is a smile, so that is what was displayed in Gmail, iOS Mail, etc.
We’ve recently released an update that fixes this. Now, we properly represent emojis as true emojis. This means any other email app that recognises emojis will display the emoji in their app. We have also improved Outlook’s rendering of other email services emojis. We are currently rolling out this feature to customers and should complete in the coming year. As with all feature updates, these updates are available for Office 365 customers.
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