How to use WhatsApp: With more than two and a half billion users worldwide, WhatsApp is one of the most successful apps in the world and a major way to communicate across borders. WhatsApp offers VOIP calls, video calls and free messaging. Any international friend or family member can simply say, “WhatsApp me” – and we know that when a company becomes a verb, it really comes into its own.
Want to become part of the WhatsApp craze? We’ve put together this quick guide to help you get started with WhatsApp messenger on iOS, Android or desktop in a few easy steps.
What’s new in WhatsApp?
WhatsApp is frequently updated with new features and improvements. For those using iOS 14, WhatsApp contacts now appear as suggestions in the content sharing window when you share content from other apps. New search options allow you to filter by author and content type, making it easy to find the specific chats or images you’re looking for. The app has also introduced new privacy settings that let you control who can add you to groups and admins can send you personal invitations. To get started, go to Settings > Account > Privacy > Groups.
WhatsApp has added support for call waiting, so you can receive incoming WhatsApp calls while you’re having another conversation. You can also now send messages from the Braille keyboard when using VoiceOver mode. And turning on low data mode disables automatic media downloading.
Recent updates to WhatsApp include new packages of animated stickers, QR-code scanning of contacts and a dark mode for WhatsApp Web and Desktop. But perhaps the biggest change is that the maximum number of participants in video and voice calls has doubled, from four to eight. In video calls, you can now tap and hold to maximize a participant’s video, and the video chat icon is automatically added to group chats of eight people or less, so you can start a video call with a single tap.
Downloading and installing the app
WhatsApp is available in all popular app stores for all major platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Mac and PC. The app is completely free. Just install and run it just like any other smartphone app. You’ll be asked a series of installation questions, including your phone number and country code, and whether you want to receive notifications.
If you’ve used WhatsApp before, you may be asked if you want to restore your chat history. This is the only way to do so. If this is your first time using the app, you can skip “Restore” if it appears. Then enter your name and profile picture and allow WhatsApp to access your contacts.
When you enter your phone number, the app will send you a text message to verify your phone number and country code. You can re-enter the number if you make a mistake.
Set up your account
- Allow WhatsApp access to your contacts and photos.
- Enter your name and add an image as your avatar.
- Once you’ve entered your details, you’ll be ready to chat.
Customize your settings
At the bottom right of the screen, you’ll see a Settings tab that allows you to edit your profile under “About Yourself.”
In addition to adding an avatar to your name and number, you can also personalize your “About Me” description. The default status on your profile is “Hi, I use WhatsApp,” and that can get a little annoying, especially if most of your interlocutors haven’t bothered to change it. Don’t be that person. Change your status to whatever you want, or even use some of the pre-made statuses if you don’t feel like making up a new one. There are plenty of options on WhatsApp, including: Available, Busy, At school, At work, In a meeting, Battery about to die, Asleep and many more.
- In the settings panel under “Edit Profile,” find the “About” line and click on it.
- You’ll see the Currently Set To status and you’ll be able to choose one of the ready-made ones.
- You can also write the original status if you want.
- Your status will be updated on other users’ phones only when they turn on data or Wi-Fi.
Changing your phone number
If you have a new phone number and need to change it on WhatsApp, it’s easy to do. Simply tap the three dots in the top right corner of the WhatsApp screen and choose Settings > Account > Change Number. The app will notify you that when you change your phone number, your account information, groups, and settings will be transferred. You will still have access to all of your old messages. Make sure your new phone is set up and able to receive SMS and calls. If you have both a new phone and a new number, you must first change the number on your old phone. Click Next, then enter the old phone number and the new number, then click Next to confirm the change.
Defining privacy levels
WhatsApp gives you the ability to choose who can see you and how much information about your activities the app can divulge. You can configure the Last Seen, Profile Photo, About, and Status settings so that they are seen by everyone, just your contacts, or no one. Last Seen shows you when you last logged into the app. It also shows your location in real time, if enabled in your smartphone settings. You can also choose who can see your status updates. In addition, you can use the privacy settings to block contacts. A blocked person won’t be able to call or text you, but the app won’t notify them that they’re blocked. Instead, they will only see one green check mark indicating that their message has been sent (rather than a second check mark indicating delivery). They also won’t be able to see the “Last seen” or “Online” status, nor will they be able to see a profile picture.
The Read Receipts feature, which you can turn on with the checkbox, sends notifications when you or your conversation partner reads a message sent by another. If this feature is turned off, you will not send or receive receipts, except in group chats.
Adding new contacts
You don’t have to put a lot of effort to view your contacts on WhatsApp. That’s because all of your contacts using WhatsApp are already known without having to add them manually. WhatsApp identifies contacts by phone number, so everyone who is in your address book and has their phone number on WhatsApp is immediately known when you connect. However, you may want to invite contacts who aren’t already on WhatsApp, as well as people you know who aren’t currently on your contact list. To add friends to your WhatsApp contact list, do the following:
- Tap the Chats icon in the bottom right corner.
- Tap New Contact.
- Add that person’s name and phone number.
- Now you can also add friends by tapping the QR code symbol to the right of “New Contact” and scanning their QR code.
- You can invite a new user by scrolling down the window and tapping Invite Friends on
- WhatsApp, where you can choose how to send the invitation: by email or text message.
If you’re adding a friend from another country, make sure you do the following.
- When adding a contact’s phone number to your address book, start with a plus sign (+).
- Enter the country code, a numeric prefix specific to the country, and then the phone number. If you do not know the correct country code, look it up online.
- After entering the country code, remove any leading zeros or calling codes from the actual phone number.
Chatting is the easiest part, because all you have to do is pick a friend and start chatting. Once you start chatting, there will be a notification that your communication is encrypted, so no one will be able to eavesdrop or overhear your conversation. Your friend will receive a notification on their phone that you sent them a message, and so on.
- Select the person you want to chat with.
- Click on the chat box at the bottom of the screen.
- Enter your message and add emoji, pictures, videos, or voice messages using the icons to the right of the chat box. The small square allows you to add a sticker. The camera lets you add a photo or video, and the microphone lets you tap and hold to immediately record a voice message in the app. You can also bold, italicize, strikeout, or code text.
- Then click on the arrow icon to send.
But what if you want to send a message to more than one person? There are two ways to do this: Form a group or send a message to a group. Which option you choose depends on how you want to communicate and what kind of response you’re looking for. The difference between group messaging and broadcast messaging is that with group messaging, it can be a free-for-all — everyone can talk to everyone else in a free-for-all exchange. In the case of broadcast messages, it’s more of a top-down communication – you address the group, but they can only respond individually and privately to you, not to each other.
Creating a group
Group chats allow you to share messages, photos, and videos with up to 256 people at a time. You can also name your group, mute or customize notifications, and more. Setting up a group to allow only administrators to send messages to the group can make chatting easier in certain circumstances.
- Tap the New Chats icon.
- Tap New Group.
- Add all the members you want to include (up to 256).
- Tap Next.
- Add a chat theme and icon.
- Tap Create.
- In the chat dialog box that appears, start your encrypted message with stickers, pictures, or a voice message.
You can easily start a video or voice call in your group for groups of eight participants or less. Simply click the video camera icon in the upper-right corner of the group chat to start a video call, or the phone icon to start a voice call.
Using Broadcast Lists
WhatsApp’s Broadcast Lists feature allows you to send one message to multiple contacts who won’t see that the message has been sent to others. Only contacts with your number in their address book can receive your broadcast messages, and they can only reply to you individually in a chat, as opposed to group messages.
Backing up chats
Let’s say you’re done chatting. Now what? After you’re done chatting, you can choose how you want to dispose of your chats. Chats are immediately saved to your phone’s memory. But you can be more systematic and back up your chats automatically or manually by pressing the “Backup” button. You can also choose whether or not to include video. You can back up to iCloud for iPhones and Google Drive for Android. WhatsApp advises you to disable cellular data when backing up or restoring chats from iCloud or Google Drive, as this action may incur data transfer fees. You can also archive, clear, or delete all chats if you no longer need them.
- Go to Settings and tap Chats.
- Tap Backup.
- Use the slider to enable or disable video.
You can use the Status panel to update your status. Status updates expire after 24 hours.
- Click the Status panel.
- Click the pencil icon.
- Tap the paint palette icon to set different background colors.
- Use the keyboard to type your message.
- Use the Type tool to change the font.
- You can also set a photo, video, or emoji as a status update.
Syncing with Mac or Windows
By installing WhatsApp on your phone, you can access a web-based version of the app that reflects your activities in chats, groups and broadcasts. You can use the web interface on your Mac or Windows computer in major browsers to communicate, but you can’t make phone calls. You can also enable desktop notifications to notify you of incoming WhatsApp messages.
- Click the WhatsApp download link to download and install WhatsApp on your computer.
- Open WhatsApp Web in your browser.
- When prompted to enter a QR code, use the mobile app’s scanner to scan it.
- You will then be able to access your chat history and send and receive messages in the web interface.
Changing your wallpaper
WhatsApp allows you to completely personalize your experience with different themes, colors and backgrounds. You can choose from a library of visuals, choose a monochrome background, or even upload your own photos as wallpaper.
Customizing your appearance is easy. From the settings page, choose Chats > Chat Wallpaper and choose a wallpaper from the wallpaper library, solid colors, or one of your own photos.
WhatsApp Messenger is one of our favorite messaging apps because it’s easy to use and you can quickly master the more advanced features. Before you dive headfirst into the advanced features, we recommend mastering basic features like calling and texting. After that, you’ll be more ready to explore themes and other features.
These features allow you to update your status, send messages to groups, and communicate with groups by keeping everything encrypted. You can do all this without spending a dime.