We've rounded up some top tips for everyone's favourite instant messaging service. There are over a billion WhatsApp users worldwide right now. The bad news? Your mum has already found her new favourite way to spam you. The good news? You can easily avoid her on the down-low, and that’s just one of the messaging service’s many secret tips you probably don’t know about.
From disabling its ‘last seen’ feature to bookmarking messages you don’t want to forget about, there are loads of tricks to make your favourite IM app more useful than ever. You just have to be in the know.
Fortunately for you (and indeed for us), we’ve scoured every inch of WhatsApp to gather up its most useful features. Read these top tips and you’ll be a pro in no time at all.
1. BEGONE, BLUE TICKS OF MISERY
We know how it is. You're at figure skating practice, your phone buzzes, and you glance down briefly before nailing a spectacular triple axel.
Clearly, you've not got time to respond immediately. But at the same time, you don't want the sender to realise that you've already looked at the message, lest they think you're ignoring them when you fail to reply for two more hours. That's the privilege the blue ticks take away.
Recently though, the chat app has realised the error of its ways and silently come up with a workaround. The liberty of message-mulling is ours again.
How: In the Settings menu, go to Account, then Privacy and turn off Read Receipts. The only snag is you’ll no longer get them for other people either.
Want to get sneaky? If you need to read something on the downlow without giving up read receipt privileges, simply put your phone in Airplane Mode before reading the message and you'll dodge a blue tick. Just make sure you've closed the app before you turn your data back on. We won't tell anyone.
2. FIGURE OUT YOUR BFFS
In the year 2017, friendships aren’t measured on loyalty or time, it’s all about how much data you’ve shared. WhatsApp has that info – and you can use it to make your own ranked list of your favourite friends. No, there's nothing weird about that at all. What's more, if you click through you can mass delete stuff that’s taking up too much space.
How: Head to Settings > Data and Storage Usage > Storage Usage and you’ll see a list of your most important groups and contacts ranked according to the data you’ve expended on them. Ah, the romance of modern living.
3. SEE WHEN YOUR MESSAGES ARE READ
In group chats, those grey ticks only turn blue when every member of the group has read your message. But there lurks within WhatsApp a handy way to find out who’s neglecting you…
How: On Android, hold down on a message you've sent and select Info, or on iOS, simply swipe left on the message you want the details on. It'll show you who it's been delivered to, who's read it and when. This also works with individual chats.
4. HIDE YOUR PROFILE PIC
Batman. David Bowie. Pepe the Prawn. All people who have built their much-vaunted careers on an air of mystique and otherness. You can bet they’d have their WhatsApp profile pics set to private, instead of treating the world to a bedraggled photo of them and a bottle of Lambrini. So, as the saying goes, always be yourself unless you can be like Batman.
How: Head to Settings > Privacy > Profile Photo > Nobody.
5. MUTE GROUP CHATS
With WhatsApp groups only capped at 50 participants, they can sometimes get pretty busy. Prevent yourself from being woken up by incessant messages by muting particular groups.
How: Tap on the group chat of your choice, then the name to bring up Group Info where you will find the option to Mute the chat for either eight hours, one week or a year. Although if you're choosing the latter, you might as well leave altogether.
6. GET SHORTCUTS TO CONVERSATIONS
If you’re on Android you can create shortcuts to popular chats and let them live on your homescreen: useful if there are certain people you chat to more often.
How: Tap and hold on the chat (group or individual) of your choice and a tab will pop up. Select the Add Conversation Shortcut option and the chat in question will appear as the person's profile photo on your mobile desktop.
7. SEND YOUR MATES YOUR LOCATION
If you're trying to give directions to your mates on where to meet and getting nowhere, you can sling them a drop pin of your current location and get them to make their way to you using maps. If you're not there yet, you can also send them a pin of where you're heading to, or alternatively, use a newer feature to share your 'live location' to let them track your movements en route.
This will broadcast your location to them for a choice of 15 minutes, 1 hour or 8 hours. Changed your mind about wanting your whereabouts known? You can end it whenever you want by clicking the "stop sharing" option in the chat.
How: On iOS, click the + icon to the left of the chat box, and choose Location. This will bring up all of your options for the above, though you will need to approve Whatsapp to know your location at all times if you want to use Live Location (it will prompt you to do this if you haven't already). On Android, head to the Attach menu and choose Location in the same way – you'll need to approve the app for similar location permissions here too.
8. GO INCOGNITO
You can’t get away with not replying to messages if people can see when you were last online, so turn off WhatsApp’s ‘last seen’ feature to go incognito. Now you can ignore people at your leisure…
How: It’s in the Privacy menu, under Last Seen, and if you want you can hide from everybody, or only allow your contacts to see your activity.
9. SEND MESSAGES WITH YOUR VOICE
If you’re busy cooking, eating or juggling, replying to messages can be a real faff. But thanks to Siri on iOS and Google Assistant on Android, you can reply without touching your phone.
How: Holler “Hey Siri” or “OK Google”, say “send a WhatsApp to Jonny” and you can dictate your missive about missing Jonny’s wedding because of your juggling practice instead.
10. SEND PUBLIC INVITES PRIVATELY
If you’ve got a generic announcement to make – an invite to a weekend BBQ or an intervention about your friend's unhealthy obsession with KFC – and you don’t want to do it on the loudmouth platform that is Facebook, this feature works in pretty much the same way as BCC-ing people in an email.
Your recipients will get the message as if it was a privately composed one, oblivious to the fact that you’ve sent the exact same invite to 342 other people. Sincerity? What's that?
How: On the top-left-hand corner of your WhatsApp Chats window, just below the search bar, you’ll notice a Broadcast Lists. Tap on it for the option to create a new list of contacts you want your message to go out to, and message away like you would normally. Nobody will be any the wiser.
11. STAY SELECTIVELY NOTIFIED
Not all group chats are created equal, with some filled with little more than white noise. But there is a simple way to avoid reaching for the phone every time you get a new notification. Just assign different tones to different groups or contacts on WhatsApp and you'll know who's posting without even having to pick up your phone.
How: Go to the significant group chats, tap on the name to bring up Group Info and then Custom Notifications. There, you can select a custom message alert for the group chats of your choice. All you have to do now is remember which alert tone you assigned to which group chat. This customisation now works for both groups and individual chats.
12. BACK EVERYTHING UP
Worried about losing a year’s worth of messages? You needn't be. WhatsApp knows how precious your chat history is to you and secures it all for you in the cloud.
How: iPhone users get the option of backing their chat history to iCloud automatically on a daily/weekly/monthly schedule, and can choose to back up with or without videos. Head to Settings > Chats > Chat Backup to set your preferences for that.
For Android users to do the same, go to Settings > Chats and calls > Chat backup, which will let you set up an automatic Google Drive backup. The next time you install WhatsApp from fresh on any device, you can simply select the Google Drive backup option at the setup screen, to have all your up-to-date messages injected into your device, straight from the cloud.
Just interested in the one conversation? Both operating systems allow you to just save the deets of one special chat by going into your chosen convo and selecting to send it to yourself. On iOS, click your contact's name in chat > Export Chat, or on Android, click three dots > More > Email Chat.
13. SAVE YOUR MEDIA (AND DATA ALLOWANCE)
When you’re on a 1GB data plan, every byte counts; you don’t want to be slapped with a hefty bill at the end of the month from sending stupid shareable memes and screenshots of every little thing. Handily, there’s a way to make sure that all that heavy-duty image sending won’t eat up what little complimentary data you might have in your plan.
How: On iOS, go to Settings > Data and Storage Usage and tweak the settings for how you want your received media to be downloaded. Choose Wi-Fi if you don’t want to overload your data plan. Alternatively, you can trigger downloads manually by switching Auto-Download to Never. You can also save the hassle of having to clean up your camera roll every so often by tweaking Save To Camera Roll off in the Chats menu.
For Android, head to Settings > Data Usage for similar controls.
14. DRAW ON YOUR PICS
If a picture paints a thousand words, scrawling all over the top of them can only add a few more. Especially if the picture is of a load of sausages.
How: Once you’ve picked the picture you want to send from your camera roll, use the icons at the top of the screen to add words, draw pictures, or chuck in an emoji or eight.
15. STAR MESSAGES FOR LATER
When dinner time rolls around, the last thing you want to do is scroll through 352 frivolous messages to find the address of the restaurant you're meeting your friends at. Fortunately, WhatsApp lets you bookmark certain messages for easy access.
How: On iOS, long hold or double tap on any message and tap on the star icon to mark it. To find it again, all you have to do is tap on the chat’s name, and tap on Starred Messages to see all the messages you’ve marked out. On Android, long hold on the message then click the star icon at the top of the screen. To find your starred messages, just hit the three dots icon in the top-right and got to Starred Messages.
You can also see conversation context by either tapping on the arrow next to the message (iOS) on tapping on the message itself (Android). This will bring you back to the exact place in the chat. Messages can also be unstarred when you’re done with them, and viewed in their entirety in the main settings menu.
16. MAKE CALLS
WhatsApp is more than just a run-of-the-mill instant messenger: you can use it to make calls too.
How: Hit the Calls tab along the top or bottom of the app (depending on whether you're on iOS or Android), then click on the person you want to call. Alternatively, on Android, you can click on a person's name in a chat and then call them via the pop-up box. Be aware the quality of the call will be very reliant on your data signal, and so calling when on wi-fi is hugely recommended.
17. INSTANTLY ADD DATES TO YOUR CALENDAR
It’s easy to forget appointments when you’re a busy bee. You make vague plans for drinks, settle on a date, then promptly forget about it as the conversation rolls on. This handy little shortcut makes sure you commit to an appointment.
How: This one's currently iOS-only, but you might’ve noticed that whenever anyone mentions a date in a WhatsApp message it automatically gets underlined and highlighted in blue. Just tap it and you’ll be given the option to immediately create an event on that date in your calendar, so there’s no longer any excuse for forgetting. It’ll also recognise words like ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow’.
18. REPLY TO MESSAGES ON YOUR LAPTOP
You know what’s better than replying to WhatsApp messages on your phone? Doing it on a proper keyboard. And this one also has the added benefit of not using up any data. Well, assuming you're at work, not any data you're paying for.
How: Go to web.whatsapp.com on your computer’s web browser, fire up the app on your phone and scan the QR code that pops up via the WhatsApp Web/Desktop option in Settings. Voila. Then commence chatting on the sly without downloading anything. Handy, and also very, very distracting.
19. SAVE DATA ON CALLS
Making calls via WhatsApp is a very convenient feature, but it can also consume a lot of data. Thankfully, there's a new option to help those of us with data shortage problems.
How: In the Data and Storage Usage menu (Data Usage on Android) you can toggle a setting labeled Low Data Usage, which, as you might have guessed, cuts down the amount of data used when making phone calls.
20. PIN POPULAR GROUP CHATS
If there’s one group chat you use more than any other you can make sure it’s always at the top of the list by pinning it there.
How: On the main Chat menu, find the one you want to pin then, on iOS, swipe to the right; on Android, you do a long press then click the pin icon up top. That way you’ll never have to scroll through a bunch of others looking for it.
21. QUOTE MESSAGES IN YOUR REPLY
Group chats can get pretty hectic very quickly, and by the time you've typed your reply, what you were referring to can be as good as chat history. To give your reply the context it deserves, you can quote the message it is in response to and restore a bit of order among the chaos.
How: On iOS, simply swipe right on the message you want to respond to. On Android, press and hold the message you want to reply to, and click Reply from the pop-up menu. In both cases, the quoted message will appear in a preview above the text input box.
22. MARK MESSAGES AS UNREAD
If you have a habit of reading messages but forgetting to reply, mark them as unread so you remember to come back to them later.
How: In iOS, just swipe any of your chats to the right (like you do to pin them) and a blue dot will appear next to them. It’ll disappear next time you open the message, or you can repeat the process to unmark it. Android users can achieve the same thing by long-pressing on a chat, then selecting Mark as Unread from the top-right menu.
23. KEEP MESSAGES SECRET
Theoretically, all messages on WhatsApp are private – but not when you leave your phone on the table, and a new message notification pops up. However there is a way to turn off the preview part of the message, so the notification only reveals who's messaged you but not what they're messaging you about.
How: Go to Settings, then Notifications, and disable Show Preview. Now you can gossip in peace.
24. REPLY DIRECTLY FROM A POPUP
On Android, replying to a message involves swiping down the notification bar, selecting the relevant missive and tapping out your reply. But there is a faster way.
How: Go to Settings, Notifications, then Popup Notification, and choose from four different options. You can change this setting for both individual messages and group messages respectively. Unfortunately, this feature isn't yet available in iOS.
25. SEND AN ATTACHMENT
Unlike EPMD’s hip-hop classic, WhatsApp’s ethos is by no means Strictly Business. If you do need to quickly send a document to a colleague, and email isn’t an option, it’s easily done. Just select the file you want from Google Drive, Dropbox or iCloud and WhatsApp will fling it onwards as a PDF.
How: Tap the + symbol (on Android you get a paperclip) > Document > select your cloud storage service of choice and then the file itself. Bosh!
26. ADD EMPHASIS
To give your words a dash of typographical emphasis, Whatsapp has recently added in the option to customise your text with bold, italic and strikethrough effects. There is also a hidden ability to type in the one of the oldest fonts going, called FixedSys, which was first used in Windows 1.0, released in 1985.
How: To do this, you'll need to place choice symbols at either side of the word or phrase you want it to affect. For bold, use *asterisks*; for italics, use _underscores_; and for strikethrough, use ~tildes~. The secret font is accessed by using three "`grave"` accents either side of the word or phrase you want to change – Android users will find this more easily than iPhone users, who will find it hidden under a long press of the apostrophe key.
27. DELETE INDIVIDUAL MESSAGES
If you've ever sent a message to the wrong person by mistake, you might not realise that you've got a short amount of time in which you can put things right. Act within seven minutes, and you can delete the message from both you and your contact's message log, saving any embarrassment/drama/hilarity (delete as appropriate) before it happens.
How: As long as your message falls in the all-important seven minute bracket, just long hold it and select Delete. Be sure to select Delete for Everyone for it to disappear into the WhatsApp ether for good. There will be a message to let your contact know that you deleted a message, but you can come up with a decent enough excuse for that – just be sure to act before those blue ticks appear.
28. SAY IT WITH GIFS
When words fail you, sometimes only a GIF will do. Thankfully, WhatsApp has a whole stash of them built in, courtesy of the Tenor GIF keyboard, which you can search through and send for your comedic pleasure.
How: On iOS, click the + icon and choose Photo & Video Library. This will bring up your camera roll, but in the bottom left hand corner, you'll see and option for GIF. Click that and you can start browsing.
On Android, the option is similarly tucked away, and is included alongside the emoji keyboard. Click the emoji icon to launch the list of emojis you can use, and underneath the stream of yellow faces, you'll see an option to switch to GIF.
29. TAKE A CONVERSATION PRIVATE
When the group chats get too much, and you want to go one-on-one with your pal instead, WhatsApp makes it easy for you to carry on the conversation in private without having to exit the group chat.
How: Long hold on a message from the mate you want to message privately and select the option 'Message xxxx'. This will open up your previous chat, or load a new one if you haven't chatted privately before.
30. SET YOUR CHAT WALLPAPER
This is one of those things that only you will see, but considering most of us stare at our WhatsApp screen more than we care to admit, making sure it looks nice isn't something to be sniffed at. You can change your chat wallpaper to a choice of WhatsApp's own patterned or coloured options, or alternatively pick one of your own pictures.
How: On iOS, head to Settings > Chats > Chat Wallpaper, and simply choose what you'd like to appear as your background. On Android, click the three dots > Settings > Chats and Calls > Default Background for the same. With the latter though, you are also able to change your background for individual chats, which you'll find in the three dots menu within individual chats.
31. GET SIRI TO READ YOUR MESSAGES
This is one for iOS-flavoured voice assistants only at the moment, but if your hands are full and you can't read the latest message to ping into your notifications, you can ask Siri to do it instead. There's a bit of admin to go through the first time you ask for her help, but once you've done it, you won't be asked again.
How: Say "Hey Siri, read my last Whatsapp message" to kick things off – your phone will need to be unlocked and you'll have to grant Apple permission to read your WhatsApp data first. Siri will then read out the last message you received, giving you an option to reply via voice at the end. Smart stuff.
32. SEARCH YOUR MESSAGES
One thing that group chats are particularly great at is burrowing that one bit of information you really need to find, when you really need to find it. The search function can prove the perfect ally at times like this, and you can choose to go through your whole chat history, or pinpoint it down to one conversation.
How: At the top of your list of Whatsapp chats you'll see a search bar, which you can fill with the text you're looking for. This will then bring up all the chats with that word, or part of that word (search for cat, and expect to get catch, category etc), so the more specific the word the better. If you can focus it down to one chat (group or individual), that'll reduce your results significantly. On iOS click their name >Chat Search, and on Android, select the three dots > Search.
33. CONTROL GROUP CHAT CHAOS
The dread. The horror. You've just been invited to a birthday party via WhatsApp, mingled in with 52 faceless other contacts that are also invited to 'Pete's birthday BBQ'.
The inane comments start to come through, whereby someone called Rosa is broadcasting that she's busy moving house that day and that someone else called Henry, who has a hamster in a bow tie as his profile picture, is now a vegetarian and detailing the three main reasons for his decision.
Then it comes to the actual event and you have to scroll up 743 messages to find the postcode. WhatsApp saves the day and now has a new group setting where only admins are able to send messages to a group. This is an excellent idea, provided Henry isn't the group admin. WhatsApp understand that people use groups to receive important announcements and information, including parents and teachers at schools, and other organisation – and that it's not just for braai based bants.