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14 Oct 2021

WhatsApp tips and tricks: seven essential features you need to try in 2021

You're probably familiar with the fundamentals, but there are plenty of lesser-known features you should play around with

Since it launched back in 2009, WhatsApp has become the go-to messaging app for millions of smartphone users. To help you get more from the app, we're sharing some handy quality-of-life improvements that make WhatsApp even better.

Exploring WhatsApp's settings pages means you'll uncover features that are slightly tucked away - you can manage groups, delete messages you've sent by accident and even reclaim storage space on your device.

Our instructions below cover both iOS and Android devices, although the precise steps will vary slightly.

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Useful WhatsApp features

1. Use WhatsApp on your PC or Mac

Using the WhatsApp Web Portal, you can make calls through WhatsApp via your PC or Mac. To get started, head to web.whatsapp.com.

You'll be asked to scan a QR code to link your phone and computer. On your phone, launch WhatsApp, tap the Menu (three dots) button on Android or the Settings option on iPhone, and select WhatsApp Web/Desktop. Point your camera at the QR code and that's it - your chats and contacts will now be accessible through the web interface, where you can send messages as usual.

Alternatively, you can install the WhatsApp desktop app on your Mac or Windows computer - grab it at whatsapp.com/download. As with WhatsApp Web, you'll need to scan a QR code to begin the setup process.

2. Create and manage a WhatsApp group

If you're using WhatsApp to keep in touch with friends and family, you can message multiple people at the same time using the group function.

From your phone, tap the Chats tab. Select New chat and then New group. Next, search for the contacts you want to include, then tap their names to add them. You can add up to 256 people to a single group.

Tap Next and type a name for your group. You can add a picture by tapping the camera icon and either taking a photo or choosing one from your device. Select Create when you're finished.

It's easy to add more people to a group you've already set up. Open the group chat, tap the name of the group. Select Add Participants, then the contacts you want and choose Add.

3. Unsend messages

If you've ever sent an email only to wish you could undo it, you'll be grateful for this WhatsApp feature, which lets you delete a message after you've sent it.

Find the message you want to delete, then tap and hold it. On an Android phone, this will select the message. iPhone users will see a menu at this point - tap Delete and the message you tapped will be selected.

Next, tap the Delete (bin) icon and select Delete For Everyone - this option will only be available for around an hour after you sent the message. Your contact will see an entry stating 'This message was deleted'.

4. Save space on your phone

WhatsApp retains all the photos, videos, and other media your contacts have shared with you, which can take up a fair amount of space.

Take a trip to the Chats tab. On Android, tap the Menu (three dots) button > Settings > Storage and data > Manage storage. On iOS, it's Settings > Storage and data > Manage storage.

At the top of the screen, you'll see how much space WhatsApp is using. Below this, you'll be able to review and delete items. WhatsApp organises media into two categories - items larger than 5MB and items that have been forwarded many times. Tap on either category to browse and view items.

On iPhone, tap Select and choose any unwanted items, then hit the Delete (bin) icon > Delete Items. On Android, long-press on any items you want to delete, then tap the Delete (bin) icon > Delete.

You can stop WhatsApp automatically saving media to slim down your installation. On Android, tap the Menu (three dots) button > Settings > Chat and switch off the Media visibility setting. On iPhone, tap Settings > Chats and disable the Save to Camera Roll option.

5. Boost your security and privacy on WhatsApp

WhatsApp has a reputation as one of the better messaging platforms for privacy, thanks to the way it enables end-to-end encryption on all your chats. But there are ways to improve your privacy further.

By default, anyone can see when you were last using WhatsApp. Your profile picture and 'About' text are also publicly visible. You can address this in your Chats tab - tap Menu (Android only), then Settings > Account > Privacy. Here you can customise your visibility to a level you're comfortable with.

To improve security, you can also add two-factor authentication. You'll be asked to create a Pin, which you'll have to punch in when setting up WhatsApp on a new phone. Once that's entered, you'll periodically be asked to enter it before you can use the app.

To add a Pin, go to the WhatsApp menu and tap Settings > Account > Two-step verification. You'll be asked to create a six-digit Pin, and prompted to add a back-up email address, too.

6. Customise settings for a specific contact

To access a contact or group's settings, open their chat, then tap the name at the top of the screen. You'll see lots of options, including the ability to mute overactive chats (so your phone doesn't keep pinging every five seconds), set a custom tone for your contact or group, and more.

To allow or block a specific contact's media from being saved, tap the Save to Camera Roll (iPhone) or Save Incoming Media (Android) option, then choose Always or Never, as required.

7. Back up your chats

To keep your chats safe, it's possible to set WhatsApp to back up automatically. Android users get the option of backing up to their Google Drive, while iOS users can back up to iCloud.

To visit backup options, tap Menu (three dots) > Settings > Chats > Chat Backup (Android) or Settings > Chats > Chat Backup (iOS). Here, tap the Auto Backup option and choose your frequency from Daily, Weekly or Monthly. You can also choose whether or not to back up videos - bear in mind that doing so will consume more of your online storage space.

If you're moving to a new phone or temporarily uninstalling WhatsApp for any reason, it's a very good idea to make a manual last-minute backup of your messages, by tapping Back Up Now.

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Additional reporting by Tom Morgan.