10 WhatsApp tips and tricks you might not know

WhatsApp is more powerful than you may realise

WhatsApp is a popular messaging app worldwide, allowing us to easily send messages, pictures, videos, audio and more while sharing them with groups of friends, family members or colleagues. 

Over the years, it has gained ever more features – some you may know, while others may have flown under the radar. Unless you’re someone who likes to root around in menus, or keeps a keen eye on update logs, you may not be aware of them… until now.

WhatsApp logo on the screen of a phoneCredit: Shutterstock / DenPhotos

We’ve been using WhatsApp since its formative years more than a decade ago, when it was set up as an alternative to sending pricey text messages. We have followed its progress and numerous updates, allowing us to share our best tips and tricks with you.

Not used WhatsApp before?

You can download it free on your phone: iPhone | Android 

1. Make a call

Be it phone or video, WhatsApp does it

WhatsApp isn’t just a messaging platform; you can also make voice and video calls on the app. This is particularly handy if you find yourself without a phone signal but do have access to wi-fi, as the app doesn’t require a traditional mobile phone connection to work. 

It’s most useful when travelling aboard. If your hotel or accommodation comes with complementary wi-fi, you can call back home using WhatsApp and avoid those outrageous cost-per-minute charges. 

Open a chat with the person you want to call, then tap either the phone or video camera icon in the top right of the screen to initiate a phone or video call. Alternatively, you can tap the “Calls” tab in the app. 

Just one thing to bear in mind: whoever you’re calling also needs to have WhatsApp installed and set up on their phone.

2. Leave a voice note

Speak, don’t type

WhatsApp voice noteCredit: Exceptional

Touchscreens have plenty of practical advantages, but tapping away on a digital keyboard isn’t for everyone – especially if there’s a lot you want to say. WhatsApp can make these long messages (and shorter ones) easier by not requiring you to type at all. 

Just hold down the microphone icon in the bottom right corner of the screen and start speaking to dictate your message. It’s then sent as an audio file to the other person, who can listen to it within WhatsApp. 

3. Run a poll

Get the votes flowing in

WhatsApp pollCredit: Exceptional

Want to find out what your friends and family think about a new purchase or where to go on holiday? Well, you can do so easily with WhatsApp’s handy poll feature. A relatively recent addition, polls offer a fun and practical way to engage with friends and family. 

You can add up to 12 answer options per poll. Each member of the chat group (including you) selects one option. Everyone can then tap “view votes” under the poll to see how each person voted. 

Android: open the chat, tap the paperclip icon at the bottom of the screen, then tap Poll

iPhone: open the chat, tap the plus icon at the bottom left of the screen, then tap Poll

4. Not just your phone

Use WhatsApp on your iPad or computer

This is our favourite WhatsApp tip. The app isn’t officially available in app stores for tablets or computers, but you can still use your WhatsApp account on these devices.

You do so by linking your phone to the WhatsApp website on your tablet or computer. This is particularly useful if you find it fiddly to type long messages on your phone and would rather use a proper keyboard.

Read our guide on ‘How to get WhatsApp on iPadto find out more information (these tips work pretty well for laptop or desktop computers too). 

5. Mute a chat

Quieten down noisy chats

If you’ve found yourself in a particularly active WhatsApp group where the volume of messages is driving your notifications into overdrive, you can quell the furore without the need to leave the chat completely.  

Muting a chat stops the flow of notifications but keeps you in the group, allowing you to return at your leisure when you’re ready to catch up.  

Open WhatsApp and long-press on the chat you wish to mute until a new menu bar appears at the top, then tap the icon showing a speaker with a line through it. You can choose how long to mute the chat for – 8 hours, 1 week or always – and you can unmute at any time by the same method. 

6. Delete individual messages

Accidental post? You can remove it

WhatsApp delete messageCredit: Exceptional

Have you ever accidentally posted a message in the wrong WhatsApp chat? We certainly have, but the good news is there’s an instant solution – delete it! 

Long press on the message in question and tap the icon of a bin that appears at the top of the screen. You can then choose to either “delete for me” or “delete for everyone”. 

The former will remove the message from your chat feed but it will remain in the chat for the other person (or people if it’s a group). Tap the latter option if you want to delete the message from everyone’s view – but note that you and everyone else will see “This message was deleted” in its place. 

7. Block nuisance contacts

Stop the spam in just a few taps

WhatsApp is not immune to spam messages and nuisance chats. If you start receiving messages from an unknown contact, you can block the account to prevent them messaging again. 

Open the chat, tap their number at the top of the screen, then scroll to the bottom and tap “Block”. 

8. Disappearing messages

Leave no paper trail

If you find yourself messaging a contact where the contents are a little more, ahem, sensitive, you can opt to have all the messages in a particular chat delete themselves automatically. 

You can enable this by opening the chat, tapping on the person’s name at the very top of the screen, then scrolling down till you find the option for “Disappearing messages”. 

From here, a pop-up display allows you to choose how long messages should stay visible for before disappearing. The options are 24 hours, 7 days and 90 days.  

Remember, enabling this deletes all messages after the selected time for both people in the chat, and both you and your contact can alter these settings at any time. 

9. Emoji reactions

Quickly thumbs up, heart and more

WhatsApp EmojiCredit: Exceptional

Occasionally you’ll open a WhatsApp chat to find a whole ream of messages you need to catch up on. It can be tricky to react to the older ones when the conversation has moved on. 

With emoji reactions, you can provide quick, simple feedback to other people’s messages without the need to reply.  

Long press on a message and a horizontal bar will pop up with six popular emojis to choose from. There’s also a “plus” icon, which takes you to the full suite of emojis so you can find the perfect response. 

10. Reply to a specific message

Get specific with your replies

If a simple emoji reaction isn’t enough to respond to a particular message, you can also make it clear you’re commenting on a specific one by simply swiping across it from left to right. 

Doing so will put a preview of the message above the text field where you type your response, and when you send your message it’ll be clear that it directly relates to the one you’ve highlighted. 

John McCann

Written by John McCann he/him

Updated:

John McCann has been a technology journalist for more than a decade, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He’s interviewed CEOs from some of the world’s biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. During his time in journalism, John has written for TechRadar, T3, What Laptop, Windows 8 magazine and Gizmodo UK, and he’s appeared in the Evening Standard and Metro newspapers.

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