Fixing macOS's CharacterPicker madness

Ever since updating to macOS Sierra I had a weird issue: the character picker (“Emoji & Symbols”) behaved erratically. I could only open it every couple of minutes and then it might appear out of nowhere whenever I focused a native text input field. Today I was close to simply re-installing the whole machine as I was also facing some other issues but decided to check first if the behaviour could be reproduced in a fresh account.

But before that I went through the list of third-party kernel extensions to see if anything might be relevant. kextstat | grep -v com.apple is really nice for that 😉 Just don’t kextunload any extension directly 😉

After removing some old extensions of apps I had previously uninstalled the manual way (and restarting as I definitely kextunloaded things I shouldn’t have), I tested if I could still reproduce the issue. Yep, CharacterPicker was still drunk. So on to creating a new dummy account and another reproduction-attempt.

Turns out, it was gone. Plans for operation “Nuke and rebuild” were cancelled and I started sifting through ~/Library. I even moved that whole folder but “Emoji & Symbols” was still hanging in the Activity Monitor. I dug a bit deeper and learnt that the CharacterPicker.app (which is just localized with that name) was launched or at least controlled by a background service:

launchctl list | grep Char
605	0	com.apple.CharacterPicker.FileService

Whenever I had that issue, that service would die a horrible death after a minute or so with the exit code -9. But during that time there was another service called com.apple.CharacterPaletteIM.<some number> visible in that listing. Googling for com.apple.CharacterPaletteIM on DuckDuckGo lead me to a support article by apple titled “Mac OS X Leopard: Keyboard Viewer, Character Palette does not appear”.

Hm… there are most likely no traces of that OSX on my current machine simply because I had a completely different backup-strategy back then. Anyway, I opted to follow the steps mentioned there after inspecting the mentioned folders first:

sudo rm /System/Library/Caches/com.apple.IntlDataCache*
sudo rm /var/folders/*/*/-Caches-/com.apple.IntlDataCache*

The latter wasn’t relevant as I didn’t have any matching files, though. After a reboot, everything was working fine again 😄 And yes, there was definitely some “Migration Assistant” in the past of my current setup. I’m just not sure if I used it for Sierra or El Capitan.

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