Wednesday, July 13, 2016

WhatsApp features

With over 1 billion active users globally as of April 2016, WhatsApp is pretty much indispensable. Some time ago, Facebook added the end-to-end encryption to the instant messenger, making it hard for anyone to snoop or intercept a WhatsApp chat. Then there was the desktop client for PCs, which linked to a user’s smartphone. Similarly, there are lot of other features which the WhatsApp app on your phone packs in, but you probably haven’t used them yet.

1. Save your messages forever

When a WhatsApp user switches to a new phone, he has to install and configure the WhatsApp account from the beginning. This doesn’t mean a user has to lose all the text and chat threads from his last phone. WhatsApp allows users to take backup of all your chats, images and videos on Google Drive at the time of configuring the account or even after it. Even if you don’t have a Drive account on your device, you can save your messages on Drive by going to settings->Chats->Chat backup.

2. Find your favourite messages

In case you wish to save a chat or a message there is an option called Starring. To access this option hold and long press any message or group of messages and the star icon will show on the top of the chat window. Tap on it and the selected message will be starred. You can access the starred message anytime in settings->starred messages. You can see all the starred messages at one place, so you forward it to others or go back to the chat threads around which the chat took place.

3. Sending messages made easy

If your smartphone runs Android Marshmallow, you can take advantage of Android Direct Share feature in WhatsApp. This means that a user can share a web page with their favourite groups or contacts from the share page itself. The share window automatically shows the contacts your are most active with on the share page. This saves the user a trip to WhatsApp for sharing a link.

4. Chat in Indian languages

WhatsApp is one of the few messenger apps which supports Indian languages, and lets users use them for messaging. While you can use the app in 12 Indian languages right away, you can send messages in Hindi, Urdu and Bengali. To change the language of the app go to settings->chats->app language. To change the language for sending messages go to phone settings->language and input-> keyboard and input methods and select Google Indic keyboard.

5. Find your favourites among the clutter

One of the predicaments of using WhatsApp is the many groups one is added even if one doesn’t wish to be there. This increases the length of the home page unnecessarily, making it difficult for one to figure out the chat group that a user actually wants to be on. You can create a shortcut of specific chat groups as if they were a separate app in itself. Press and hold any such chat group and a select create shortcut option from the pop-up window that shows up. This will add the shortcut on the homescreen and will show the profile picture of the group as the app icon. You can access the group right away. This feature can be used for individual contacts too.

6. Send messages to many users

This feature works on similar lines as sending an email to many users at once. You can send a common message to a group of people simultaneously. Just go to menu button on the main homepage of Whatsapp and select new broadcast. It will ask you the names and numbers of the receiver. Just tap on + icon and select the contact from the phone book.

WhatsApp has the habit of sneakily delivering new features without you ever realising it.

Their latest update brings a bunch of super useful features that you need to known about, including disabling read receipts at last. Let us educate you on the other features hiding in the nooks and crannies of WhatsApp. You can thank us for our intrepid sleuthing later. As usual, we'll take credit, not cash.

Bold, italics and understrike your messages

Make yourself heard. But not to the point of being rude with an all caps ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME message. Instead, just bold your text to bring more attention to what you're saying, or be a bit more subtle and italics certain parts of your message.

Also, be a little snarky and do a strikethrough when you intend to express a sorry, not sorry message to your friends.

How: to bold, add an * before and after the text, so it should look like *Hey*. For italics, add _ before and after the text, giving you _Hey)_. And finally to strikethrough your text, add ~ before and after the word, so you'll get ~Hey~

Unfortunately, it's only available to iOS users for now but the update should roll out for Android phones pretty soon. If your iOS-loving friends start sending you messages with *, _ and ~ mixed in, at least you know what they're trying to do.

Send PDF documents to people

This isn't exactly new but it's high time WhatsApp added the feature. A recent update allows you to send documents to fellow WhatsAppers. But for now, there are two caveats. First, it only supports PDF documents. Second, the recepient must update their WhatsApp to the latest version, else it'll trigger a failure to send notification.

So remember, it pays to always update your WhatsApp to the latest version.

How: For Android users, tap on the attachment icon on the top right corner of the interface. iOS users, land your thumb on the arrow up icon on the bottom left. You should see a new Document option, so go crazy and start sending PDFs to your friends.

Data savings

If you ever bothered looking at which apps consume the most data on your iPhone, chances are WhatsApp ranks high up there since you use it to send photos of your lunch to everyone. As if self aware of its data-hungry habits, WhatsApp has revamped its Settings tab for iOS and included a brand new option that every data cap-buster will appreciate. Called Data Usage, this is your one-stop shop for watching your WhatsApp diet.

How: Go to Settings, then tap on Data Usage. In there you’ll find options pertaining to the type of media you can receive and whether you should always only accept them on Wi-Fi, or both Wi-Fi and Cellular. If you’re dangerously close to the limit, make sure everything is only on Wi-Fi, so the next photo of your friend’s dog won’t push you dangerously nearer the edge.

Also handy is the Low Data Usage for WhatsApp calls. Make sure that’s switched to make your WhatsApp calls with better peace of mind.

Curb your calls

If you’re curious about how much data your calls actually take up, there’s a way of finding out.

How: Go to Recents, then tap on the "i" next to any name to bring up pertinent information on that individual including how long each call was and how much data it ate up exactly. Shocked? Good. This will teach you to go easy on the WhatsApp calling when line calls are perfectly viable options. But if you’re using Wi-Fi, go crazy.

Just make sure you’re really on Wi-Fi before commencing your gossip sesh.

Star messages for easy reference

Sometimes you get important messages in your WhatsApp chats like the address of the restaurant you’re supposed to meet your friends at but it gets lost in all the digital chatter. When dinner time rolls around, you try to scroll through your 352 frivolous messages to find that one message that matters. With WhatsApp’s latest update, there’s now a way to bookmark certain messages for easy locating.

How: 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.

To see conversation context, just tap on the arrow next to it and you’ll be brought back to the exact place in the chat. When you’re done with it, just double tap the message, hit the star icon again to unstar it. It’s only available for iOS users for now, so fandroids, wait your turn.

See all starred messages

Now that you’ve gotten into the habit of starring messages, you’ll realise that you can quickly lose track of how many you’ve accumulated. You no longer have to go into each chat to see if you have any starred messages within. There’s one spot to find them all.

How: Go to Settings and you will see Starred Messages right at the top. Tap on it to find all the messages you’ve wanted to note for whatever reason at that point in time. Can’t remember anymore? Tap on each one to see the chat context, and unstar them if you no longer need them.

Because nobody needs clutter, even in their digital lives.

Preview links

Everyone has that friend who likes to share nothing but links. And sometimes links are nothing but words that lend no clue to the content of the site. Thankfully, for the paranoid ones, links on WhatsApp can now come with previews, should the sender wish it so.

How: Copy and paste a link into the message bar as usual, and you’ll have to wait for a bit for the preview to pop up if you want to include it in your message. If not, just ‘x’ it and let the recipient guess what’s the true nature of your dubious cryptic link.

3D Touched WhatsApp

For those of you with the latest iPhones, WhatsApp has received the gift of 3D Touch. Not sure what that latest message meant? Peek into a chat to see its context quickly. Should you feel like replying, Pop right into it.

How: Oh come on, by now you should have mastered the mechanics of 3D Touch. Press a little harder to peek into a chat and when you swipe up, you get more chat options like Mute and Delete without having to fumble your way around the chat window, looking for the quick actions you need. Otherwise, apply more pressure to proceed into your chat of choice.

Also, fun way to show off what your new iPhone can do.

Instantly add dates to your calendar

It’s easy to forget appointments when you’re a busy bee. You make vague plans for drinks, settling on a date but promptly forget about it as the conversation rolls on. This handy little shortcut makes sure you commit to an appointment.

How: Just state a date and you get an automatic link to add it to your calendar. It also recognises words like ‘today’, ‘tomorrow’ and days. But it would be best to use specific dates, just in case you get the day wrong. No more excuses for forgetting drink dates anymore. At least, not for iOS users. Android users still have a little time before the update happens.

Use Whatsapp on the web

WhatsApp Web is the best creation since...WhatsApp itself. It’s not an entire new feature as Android users have been enjoying it for a while, and rubbing it in the faces of those on iOS. Guess what, their gloating days are over, as the feature has been quietly rolled out to iOS, too.

How: To enable inconspicuous chatting on the web as you do your work, all you have to do is go to Settings, tap on WhatsApp Web. Then head to on your computer and scan the QR code that appears using your phone. Commence chatting on the sly without downloading anything. Genius.

Locate group chat

For those with too many chats to keep track of, this next trick is for you. Bet you didn’t know you can find old group chats by checking with individuals. This is useful for when you want to revisit old topics and you can’t remember where to find them. Chances are you'll remember who was in the chat, more than what the chat was.

How: Just tap on any individual chats, and tap their name for more information. From there you’ll be able to see all the groups you have in common with said individual, even if they go way back, which makes for an easier way of finding what you were looking for.

Backing up videos

WhatsApp is almost like a digital diary of everything that’s happened for as long as you’ve been using it. There’s probably few other apps that you use as regularly as it. It used to be that you could only backup images in your chats, but not videos. Now that’s changed.

How: Get into Settings, then Chats and Calls, and pop into Chat Backup. This is the control centre for backing up your wordy memories.

You can choose when you want Auto Backup to happen (but make sure you disable backing up using data within your phone’s settings or there will be hell to pay). And now, you can also choose to not leave videos out in your backup by toggling Include Videos (duh). Would it be greedy of us to ask for voice messages to be included in the next update too?

Visual reminder

Have the habit of reading messages then forgetting to reply to them? Now you have no excuse to neglect them as there is a new Mark as unread feature that’s been introduced in WhatsApp. What it allows you to do is to mark the chat with a blue dot so that you know you still have to attend to it. The only problem is remembering what you want to remind yourself to do…

How: Just swipe any of your chats to the right and the option to Mark as unread will show up. Tap on it and a blue dot will appear on the chat as a visual marker. Once you’re done with it, just swipe the chat to the right to unmark it. Simple.

Staying selectively notified

You can know who’s contacting you via WhatsApp even before you look at your phone now. How? By customising your chat notifications, of course. Now all you have to do is remember which sound alert represents who and you're gold.

How: Tap on any chat (both group and individual), then on the name of the chat, and hit up Custom Notifications. From there you can choose from a variety of sound alerts for both calling and texting purposes.

Begone, blue ticks of misery

Sometimes we need to glance at a message, and then take a little time to formulate a response as we carry on with the rest of our day. All that, without having the sender realise that we actually looked at said message five hours ago. But the inception of the double blue ticks took that privilege away.

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: Go to Settings, then Account, and finally Privacy to make it yours again. All you have to do is switch off Read receipts. Bear this in mind- if you turn your blue ticks off, you won’t be able to see if people have read your messages either. However, read receipts will always be sent for group chats so that’s a compromise you’ll always have to live with.

Make calls at last

WhatsApp is more than just a run-of-the-mill instant messenger. You can use it to make calls too.

How: Make sure you're using the latest version of WhatsApp. You should see a new Calls tab alongside the usual Chats and Contacts. Just send a voice call invite to another WhatsApp user and you'll be chatting away in no time.

Prevent people from accidentally reading your messages

Theoretically, messages on WhatsApp are private. But not when you leave your phone on the table, and a new message notification comes in. How many times have you unintentionally read someone’s message just because you’ve curiously looked over when their phone screen blinked to life with a new message notification? Admit it, we’ve all done it, and read something we all regretted.

How: Go to Settings, then Notifications, and disable Show Preview. Now you can gossip in peace, without anyone accidentally reading your conversations by just glancing casually at your phone when a notification comes in. Your notification will just reveal who has just messaged you without divulging any of its super secret contents.

Reply directly from a popup

Oh, new message! Swipe down the notification bar, tap the message and reply. Sounds simple, right? We're tell you there's an easier way. Cut to the chase and reply to it directly from a notification.

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 is only available for Android. For now.

See when your messages are read

Think the double blue ticks are the worst thing to happen to relationships since Last Seen? Think again. There’s another way to cause upset and destroy friendships, and in a very specific way at that. More than finding out your message has been read, you can see the exact time your message was successfully delivered, and the exact time your message was read if you choose to stick with the ticks.

How: Go to any of your WhatsApp chats, tap and hold on any of the messages you’ve sent in that chat, followed by the Info option. For iOS users, you can also drag towards the left to reveal a window which will show the time your message was delivered and subsequently read. Works for group messages too with the window listing the time each participant read the message. Guess you can no longer get away with WhatsApp murder.

Tied to your number

If you’re overseas and you get a new data sim, there’s no need to register the new number attached to the SIM and have to reintroduce yourself to all your WhatsApp contacts when you can just continue WhatsApping using your normal number.

How: When you put your new SIM in and activate WhatsApp, you’ll be prompted by the messaging service to register the new number. But doing so will mess up your contacts list. Just ignore the pop-up or cancel it and your WhatsApp should work linked to your old number, while using your new data SIM.

Sending public messages privately

If you’ve got a generic announcement to make, like an invite to a weekend bbq. 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 like it’s a privately composed one, unbeknownst to the fact that you’ve sent the exact same one 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 (like the people on your birthday party guestlist, or your harem of girlfriends who might not know about one another…). And message away like you would normally.

Back it up

Worried about losing your year’s worth of messages? You don’t have to. 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. If it’s only selected chat histories you desire, click on the chat you want, then the user’s name and finally email conversation to yourself or whoever else.

Android users will find the file within the WhatsApp folder in their phone. Switching Android phones? Make sure that file, found in WhatsApp > Databases and named msgstore.db.crypt7, is copied and transferred to the exact same folder in your new Android device.

Shortcuts to conversations

If there are certain people you converse with more than the others, almost on a minute to minute basis, it might be a good idea to create a shortcut for them directly on your homescreen so you don’t have to keep opening and closing WhatsApp just to talk to them alone.

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. Unfortunately this only applies for Android users and not iPhone ones. Sorry guys.

Keeping group chats on the down low

As WhatsApp becomes the go-to chat app for more and more people, the likelihood of making group decisions gets carried over as well. So if you’re always getting added to new group chats filled with strangers (you social butterfly, you), you might want to keep certain details private until those strangers become friends.

How: Head to Settings, Privacy, and then tweak your Last Seen, Profile Photo and Status to retain a bit of mystery. Choose to share them with Everyone, or only your Contacts, or Nobody at all. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about hiding your phone number.

Mute group chats

We’re all in at least a few group chats at any one time, created because someone (likely the group admin) was bored. People tend to get overzealous in chats, especially since WhatsApp allows group conversations of up to 50 participants. Who hasn’t woken up to the horror of 100+ unread messages fuelled by a night of boredom?

How: To prevent yourself from being woken up by the constant lighting up of your smartphone screen, you can (a) either turn it down screenwards or (b) Mute the offending group chat. 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 eight hours to one week or a year. Alternatively, you can exit it altogether.

Find out the truth about where your friend is

All of us have been a victim of that “On the way” lie when the person in question is still in bed. To prevent yourself from ever getting duped again, insist that the contact shares his current location with you by tapping on the arrow icon next to the text box and then Share Location. We hear you protest that he can still manually enter the location he’s supposedly at. Which is true, but there’s a way of getting around it.

How: The way the location appears is a clue to whether he sent his current location, or whether he chose to enter the location he’s purportedly at. If it’s the GPS-based location he’s at, the location share will appear as a dropped pin, but if it’s a location he had to enter, its address will appear beside the dropped pin. Feel free to call him out on it.

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