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What is WhatsApp? Full guide and our favourite hidden tricks and features

WhatsApp is a versatile and feature-packed app for communicating with friends and family, working on a range of mobile phones and other devices. Here’s everything you need to know about WhatsApp messaging, including some hidden features and our best tips and tricks.

WhatsApp may seem like a basic chat app and at one point it certainly was just that. However, a number of updates over the years have turned it into a rather clever messaging service that lets you do more than just send funny cat GIFs to your mates.

We decided to round-up all of the best hidden WhatsApp features you may or may not know about to help you get the best from the app, with a focus on Android devices. However, almost all of these tips and tricks should work in iOS too, for you iPhone and iPad users.

As for the total newbies, we have included a handy explanation of exactly what WhatsApp is.

All you need to know about WhatsApp

Right, so if you’ve merely heard about WhatsApp and are yet to experience it for yourself, or you’re only just now dipping your toes into this complex and feature-packed messaging service, here’s the main things you need to know.

What is Whatsapp and how do I download it to my phone?

WhatsApp is a way of chatting to your contacts over a data or WiFi connection, meaning it uses data as opposed to your text message allowance. You sign up with your phone number and you will need the mobile number of any contacts in order to add them. Once they’re added to your account, you can chat, send pictures, record voice messages and even share videos with said contact.

The WhatsApp app is available on a number of platforms, including Android and iOS. Simply head to the relevant store and search for WhatsApp and then go through the process of downloading and installing. Signing up for a free account is quick and easy; the app will guide you through this process the first time you start it up.

How to use WhatsApp on your computer

Perhaps one of the most useful features, especially if you would rather type messages using a proper keyboard from time to time, is WhatsApp Web. Yet relatively few people seem to know about it.

Open your internet browser and enter in, and you should then see a QR code. Grab your phone and open WhatsApp, then press the three vertically-arranged dots from the chat menu where all your conversations are. From this menu, press the option WhatsApp Web.

Your phone will now initiate the camera, enabling it to scan the QR code on your computer’s screen (you may need to click to make a QR code appear). Once scanned, WhatsApp Web will mirror what you see on your phone.

Which WhatsApp version is best?

The Android and iOS versions of WhatsApp are very similar, offering all of the main functionality that you’d expect – at least, at the time of writing.

WhatsApp tips, tricks and hidden features guide

Now we’re all caught up on this messaging service, here’s our favourite tips and tricks for getting the most from WhatsApp.

How to give your WhatsApp messages a typewriter flavour

In case you want to make your text look like it was written on a typewriter (you old romantic, you), add in the ` character three times before the text you want to convert then add three after. Your message – formatted like this: ```your text here``` – will then appear in a typewriter font.

The character can be found on the Android keyboard by hitting the = < button. On iPhone it is done by holding down on the apostrophe key and then selecting the slightly slanted version. Or just copy and paste from our guide.

You can also bold words with * either side of the word, use _ either side for italics and use ~ either side for a strikethrough.

How to check when a WhatsApp message is delivered and read

For a slightly more detailed look at the delivered and read timing of a message, you can hold down on the message you want to check, then press the circle with an ‘I’ in the middle. On iPhone, you can swipe right.

What do I do when a WhatsApp message is not delivered?

If a message is showing as undelivered, the problem will most likely be with your internet connection. First, check to see if you have any signal and a data connection.

If all seems in order, try restarting WhatsApp; on Android, tap the recent apps button and swipe the app away, before tapping the icon to reload. On iPhone, you can see your open apps by double-tapping the home button. Again, swipe WhatsApp away and then open it up again.

Still no joy? Try connecting to WiFi and trying again. If the message is still not delivering, the problem may lie with the WhatsApp servers, so try again later.

How to video call a contact in WhatsApp

Video calling a contact is super-easy in this messaging app. Just start a conversation with the person you wish to speak face-to-face with and then tap the camera icon at the top of the screen. Your call will begin, as long as they accept of course.

Bear in mind that a video call will eat up lots of data compared with simple messaging, as well as killing your battery life. Make sure you’re connected to WiFi and have plenty of juice left before hitting the video call button.

How to use WhatsApp for file transfers

Really useful tip alert. Anything you share on your phone appears on WhatsApp Web, so you can share a photo or file on either your phone or computer and then have access to it nearly instantly on the other device after a quick download.

There is a file size limit on what you can send in one go, but really only videos will be a problem. If you do want to use this feature for videos, you could download a video compressor app such as Video Compress to make the files smaller and therefore sendable.

How to send a giant heart to your contacts (you big softy)

Nice and easy, this one. For the person you really love, just send one heart and it will appear much larger. Potentially embarrassing if you open on the train and someone is watching, but then maybe that was the aim for your own silly amusement.

How to keep your WhatsApp chats private

Being slightly naughty and chatting to someone or some people you shouldn’t? You can keep your chats from partially previewing when they arrive as a notification. To do so, hit the three dots, then settings, then notifications. Now hit popup notification and choose what you want, ranging from no popup to always show pop-up.

How to see who you talk to the most

In iOS, it is possible to see exactly how many messages you have sent to your contacts and groups. Head into settings, then go to data and storage usage. Here you can hit storage usage and see the results. Oddly, the option seems to be missing from Android (unless we are being totally blind – please let us know if so).

How to pin individual chats to the home screen

For the people in your life you talk to a lot, it is possible to create a shortcut for them. All you have to do is hold down on the chat you want to make a shortcut for, hit the three dots, press add chat shortcut and it will appear on your home screen.

How to check your messaging data usage

Want to know how much data usage WhatsApp is using? Hit the three vertically-arranged dots, press settings then go to data usage. In here, you can click network usage and see how many messages you have sent, how many messages you have received and a load of other statistics.

You can also reset the statistics at the bottom of the menu, in case you want to forget how much of your life is spent staring at a phone.

How to make WhatsApp calls use less data

If you wish to save some data, knowing your WhatsApp usage is eating precious data, you can press the three dots, then hit settings. From here press data usage and then tick the box called low data usage.

How to mute a WhatsApp chat

Got a WhatsApp group that never shuts up? It is possible to mute the conversation temporarily, for either eight hours, one week and one year. Quite why you would need to mute someone for a year, we aren’t sure, but the option is there. You can also choose to show notifications with a tick box.

How to block someone in WhatsApp

Is someone naughty or irritating spamming you with unwanted messages? No worries. Just open up the conversation in WhatsApp, then tap the menu icon at the top right corner (the three vertical dots in a row). Head to the ‘More’ section, and then tap ‘Block’. This will stop any more messages from that person coming through.

How to broadcast a message, BCC style

It is possible to send a message to as many people in your contacts list without them knowing who else you sent it to, exactly how BBC works in email. The function is done by going to the chat menu with all current chats, hit the three vertically-arranged dots and then select new broadcast. Now choose the contacts you want to send a message to then type out the message and hit send.

How to remove the time stamp

Online etiquette is bizarre. Someone may have read a message but they are mid-meeting or unable to reply, but in your head the reason may spiral. Did I upset them? Are they playing away? Maybe my bum really did look big in those trousers?!

So to avoid those weird “why didn’t you reply?” chats, hit the three vertical dots, go into settings, then account. Now hit privacy and here you can choose who sees your status, last seen timestamp and profile photo.

Be warned, disabling the last seen option also disables your ability to see it. Plus you will then have to explain why you decided to remove your timestamp entirely, which could be just as awkward.

How to show people your location

“I’ll be there in five minutes,” you say, just as you hop in the shower because you overslept. At least, that is what most people will think so make them think otherwise by posting your location. Simply click the paperclip in the top right and then hit location. You can then choose where you are or use your current location.

How to backup your WhatsApp chats

Depending on your phone, you can backup your chats in iCloud or Google Drive, which is useful for preserving them or if you change phone. Hit the three dots, go into settings, then press chats. Now hit chat backup and you can then choose backup to make a copy from that point.

You can also email chats if so desired. To do so, hit the three dots, tap settings then hit chat history. Here you can select email chat, pick a chat and then email it. You can also clear all chats and delete all chats from this very menu, or archive them all.

Alternatively, hit those three dots and then tap ‘More’, depending on which version of WhatsApp you’re using. This menu will contain all of the above features.

Want more WhatsApp tips and tricks? Check out our pick of the best secret WhatsApp features, for more insider knowledge.