Emoji Regular Expressions in Swift
May 17 2016

A recent Swift project required detecting emoji characters in various bits of text. This is becoming pretty common — everybody ❤️ emoji!

It was a huge pain in the ass. Emoji are much trickier to work with than “normal” characters since they use all kinds of Unicode Voodoo. I kept thinking, “WHY ISN’T THERE JUST A TABLE-FLIPPIN’ REGULAR EXPRESSION FOR EMOJI!?!?”

So I made some, and I put them on GitHub for you! SwiftEmoji provides regular expressions for finding emoji in Swift strings. It’s available via Cocoapods, Carthage, and the Swift Package Manager.

But wait! I didn’t want to half-ass this. Emoji are complex, and change over time. How would I know if got them all? What truly defines whether an emoji is emoji? 🤔

Unicode, of course! Instead of hand-coding the regular expressions, SwiftEmoji derives them directly from the Unicode data files that define emoji in the first place. This means the expressions are comprehensive, and easy to update in the future.


UPDATE: If you're curious how Emoji work, but don't want to read code, I wrote a follow up that dissects the seedy private lives of Emoji. 🕵