If you’re a user of an iPhone or iPad, then you will probably agree that one of the nicest features of iOS is the Messages app. In particular, the best part about this is that the iMessage service means that you can send messages between iOS (and OS X) devices for free! The Messages app has gotten more functional with each revision, becoming far more expansive than a simple text messaging app. Here I’m going to show you just what the Messages app can do for you!

In case you haven’t done so yet, be sure to check out my article about how to properly set up and configure Messages, to make sure that you get the most of of it!

Here’s the overview of what I’m going to cover:
How to Send Text Messages
How to Dictate Text Messages
How to Delete Text Messages
How to Forward Text Messages
How to use Multiple Keyboards, Third-Party Keyboards, and Emojis
How to Send Audio Messages
How to Listen to an Audio Clip and Use the Raise-to-Listen Features in Messages
How to Save Audio Clips in Messages
How to Set Up Audio Messages
How to Send Photos or Picture Messages
How to Send Video Messages
How to View, Save, and/or Delete Photos and Videos in Messages
Other Cool Tricks in iOS 8 Messages
How to Get Contact Info or Share Location Info in Messages
How to Mute a Conversation
How to Use Messages Groups
How to See the Timestamp of a Message

Text Messaging

How to Send Text Messages

Sending text messages is the simplest and probably most common action that you will use in the Messages app. If you are on the main screen with all of your conversations with your contacts listed, you need too first select who or which conversation you would like to send a message. Alternately, click the + button to initiate a new conversation with someone. Once I to the conversation view, simply tap on the empty field on the bottom of the screen (which has a light text label that says “iMessage”), which will open the keyboard and allow you to type out your message. When done, simply tap the send button that appears to the right of your text.

How to Dictate Text Messages

If typing isn’t your thing, you can also dictate your message. Tap in the iMessage field to open he keyboard, but this time tap the button next to he space bar on the left that looks like a microphone. That will tell your iPhone to begin listening, and it will begin to transcribe your words to text as you speak. When you’re done speaking, tap on Done. Then you can do a final proofread to make sure your dictation was understood correctly, and then tap to send as with a regularly typed out message.

How to Delete Text Messages

If you find that you eventually have a particular message in a conversation that you no longer want (for example, you sent a message to the wrong person – it happens!), removing that message from your conversation is easy as well. All you need to do is tap and hold on the message that you’d like to delete, and then tap on More when it appears. This will place a small circle next to each message, with a checkmark filled in next to the message that you have selected. Now, you can tap on the trash can icon in the bottom left to remove just that message, or tap the circles to put checkmarks next to multiple messages to do a bulk delete. If you find that you just want to be rid of everything, you have an option in the top left that says Delete All. Tap, confirm, done. If you accidentally entered into this mode by mistake, there is a Cancel button to tap in the top right.

How to Forward Text Messages

The More button that you tapped to enter into delete mode also provides you with an arrow in the bottom right, which represents a Forwarding command. With your message(s) selected, tap on this forwarding arrow, and they will be copied into a new message and you will be prompted for a contact to whom you would like to forward it. Then tap send as with any other message.

How to use Multiple Keyboards, Third-Party Keyboards, and Emojis

For the first time on iOS, Apple now allows you to install third party keyboards. This means that you no longer have to be restricted to using the default keyboard layout on your device. Once you’ve found a keyboard that suits your style in the App Store, follow its instructions to set it up. Then, you can easily start using it to compose your messages. All you need to do is tap on the icon on the bottom left of your keyboard next to the spacebar and mic button, with an icon of a globe. By repeatedly tapping on this button, you will cycle through all of the available keyboards that you have already installed. You can also tap and hold on the button and then choose specifically which keyboard you want. You can also select the emoji keyboard in this manner, and that will allow you to select emoticons to include in your message!

Audio Messaging

How to Send Audio Messages

New in the iOS 8 version of messages is the ability to send sound clips as audio messages in your conversation. It is so easy to do, that many people refer to it as a “push-to-talk” feature, mainly because of how Apple has implemented this functionality. It may not be immediately obvious how it works, but once you understand it, you will have no problem using it all the time!

To open the audio recording interface, which will allow you to send a voice clip or whatever other kind sound you’d wish to send, you simply tap and hold on the mic button that is right next to the text input field for regular typed messages. (A simple tap will remind you that you need to tap and hold for this feature.) As long as you are holding the mic button, the mic button will expand and you will see the sound’s waveform being displayed to indicate that you are recording. When you have recorded all that you want to send, you have a few options available to you. If you release your hold on the mic button, you will see three new buttons: you can tap the Play triangle button (appears where you were holding) to play back what you recorded; you can tap the X button to cancel and delete the recording altogether; or you can tap on the up arrow which will send your audio clip. When you get used to this interface, you may wish to take advantage of an alternative “shortcut” way of sending or cancelling these audio messages. When you have finished recording your audio message, without lifting your finger, you can simply slide on to either the X button to cancel or arrow button to send when you let go. This reduces the process by a tap or more, and means that you can send your voice clips almost without looking at the screen at all. However, if you are one of those people who always likes to check and make sure of what you are sending, you will probably not make use of this shortcut as much, instead preferring to release your hold and tap to review your playback. Either way, this is a great functionality that is now built right into the Messages app!

How to Listen to an Audio Clip and Use the Raise-to-Listen Features in Messages

When you receive an audio message, you will see a small Play arrow on the message, which will playback the audio through your speaker when tapped. However, when you are exchanging voice clips as audio messages, you probably don’t always want to be broadcasting your conversation out loud like this. Maybe it’s not an issue when you’re home alone, but out in public, you probably want to be the only person that is hearing the message – just like a phone call. Apple has implemented a simple feature to address this issue. If enabled in the Messages settings, you will see written beneath this Play arrow a note that says “Raise to listen.” If you simply put your phone to your ear (like a phone call), the proximity sensor in your iPhone will trigger the playback to automatically begin playing through the earpiece.

How to Save Audio Clips in Messages

By default, audio messages that you receive in Messages will expire shortly after you listen to them. They aren’t meant to be persistent, as a collection of audio clips will quickly add up to a massive storage space issue! However, if you do find that a particular audio clip is valuable and you want to save it, you can simply tap on the small label that says “Keep” which appears next to the sound clip after you have listened to it. This will save the message in its place in the conversation, and you can come back to it later to listen at will.

How to Set Up Audio Messages

There aren’t that many options available to you to customize your audio messages experience in the Messages app. However, there are a few that you can chance as you wish. First enter the Settings app, and then tap on the Messages button. When you scroll towards the bottom of this page, you will find two options: you can set when audio messages will expire unless they are saved (choices are strange – either 2 minutes, or 1 year?), and you can enable or disable the Raise to Listen feature.

Photo / Video Messaging

How to Send Photos or Picture Messages

iMessage has always been a great way to send picture messages, especially when your cellular plan might otherwise charge you a fee for this service. Messages in iOS 8 has some slight changes to it compared to previous versions, but the same functionality is still there.

Sending an existing photo from your photo library is quick and easy, possibly even easier than before. You access this function by tapping on the camera icon on the left side of the screen. (Ensure its a “tap” and not a “tap and hold” as that unlocks a different action that I’ll explain in a second.) The resulting screen will display a carousel of your photos in reverse chronological order, so that your most recent photos are shown first. You can scroll this carousel right or left to find the photos that you want, and you can also tap to select multiple photos by doing this. Once you’ve selected one or more photos to send, the button below changes to “Add Comment” which allows you to send text to accompany the pictures. Tap out your message, then tap send and off the whole package goes.

Instead of selecting from the photo carousel, below that are two tapable buttons to choose an image from your “Photo Library” or “Take Photo or Video”. The first lets you choose any photo from your library to send, whereas the second will activate the camera and allow you to take a new one (while doing so, you’ll also have all the camera controls available – notably the button to flip from the forward-facing camera to the selfie camera). You can add a text message to accompany the picture after you’ve either selected or taken the photo.

The new functionality introduced in iOS 8 is similar to the “push to talk” feature. To access it, simply tap and hold the camera icon. This will cause the background screen to be replaced by the camera viewfinder and expand the icon you are holding into a gray circle with a big red circle on the right ( a video record button) and a camera button on the top. If you release your tap from where you started, the viewfinder will remain active, and you can frame what you want (flip the camera if you’d like), and then tap the camera button. On the other hand, if you continue to hold your initial tap, you can simply drag your finger up to the photo icon to instantly send whatever is currently in the viewfinder. This works really well and really efficiently, but be advised that this won’t take a picture and add it to a message and wait for you to tap to send. Rather, as soon as you let go of the camera button, it will capture the image and send it right away. So, make sure that you are taking the photo that you actually want to send!

How to Send Video Messages

Much like with sending a photo message, sending video messages are quick and easy. You access video mode the same way that you access photo mode – that is, you tap on the photo icon to the left of the iMessage text entry field. Tapping on this will prompt you to select from either your Photo Library, or Take Photo or Video. Obviously, if the video you want to send has already been recorded, you would choose the Photo Library option, and then select which one you’d like to send. If, however, you’d like to record a new video clip to send on, tap on the other button. This will open the camera viewfinder, the same as if you wanted to send a photo message. You will see just above the circular shutter button on the bottom two labels, for Photo and Video. The current mode will be highlighted in yellow with a small yellow dot above it. If Video is not highlighted, all you need to do is swipe along the bottom control area to switch it over. The shutter button will turn red to indicate that it is now a record button, and you can choose between the forward or rear camera for your clip. Once you have finished recording, tap the red record button again to end, and you can then play back what you’ve created, retake it if necessary, or tap Use Video to send it on in your message.

Like with sending a picture message, there are alternate ways of sending video messages. If you tap and hold on the camera icon, it expands to show two options. As explained above, you can tap on either the photo or red record button to enter into picture mode or video mode. In video mode, you can tap the record button again to end the recording, and then play it back, tap X to cancel, or tap the up arrow to send it. Also, the push-to-talk feature is available for video messaging. As explained above, by sliding your finger up, you will trigger the shutter to take a photo and send it on – no reviewing or anything, just shoot and send. Similarly, if you slide your finger to the right on to the red record button and hold it there, it will instantly start recording the image shown in the viewfinder for as long as you continue to hold the button. When you want to end your video, simply release it, and the video will send – again, with no reviewing. So, as with the instant photo messaging, be careful how you use this push-to-record feature!

How to View, Save, and/or Delete Photos and Videos in Messages

All of the photo or video attachments that you receive in a conversation can be quickly and easily accessed, so that you don’t have to scroll through lines and lines of text conversation to find just what you want. All you need to do is tap on the Details button in the top right of the screen in a conversation view, scroll to the bottom of the next screen, and you will find all of the imagery that has been received in this conversation.

If you find that your collection of photos or videos is starting to eat into your storage capacity, or you want to remove them for another reason, there is a simple action to do this as well. On the attachment you want to remove, simply tap and hold to trigger the menu pop-up, and then tap on Delete. That’s all there is to it! If you want more of a bulk delete, you can do that to. Tap and hold on any of the attachments, but then instead of tapping Delete, tap on More… This will overlay a small circle on each image, and you simply tap to put a checkmark in all of those that you want to delete, or tap a second time to remove a checkmark. When you’ve marked all the attachments you want to trash, then go down to the bottom right and tap on the garbage can. You’ll clear up a bunch of memory in no time with this trick!

If you receive a photo or video attachment that you think is particularly special and you want to save it to your Camera Roll for easy access later, you can do this similarly to how you would do the bulk delete noted above. Tap and hold on an image, tap on More… and put a checkmark in all of the attachments that you’d like to keep. Then, instead of the garbage can, tap on Save Image in the bottom left. This way, you will keep these pictures or videos safe with the rest of your media, especially if you have your message history set to automatically delete after a time.

Other Cool Tricks in iOS 8 Messages

How to Get Contact Info or Share Location Info in Messages

iOS 8 Messages also has a few cool tricks to find out information about your contact, and to share your location with them. When in a conversation, you can access this info by tapping on Details in the top right. There, if the other party has authorized you in the Find My Friends app, you will see their location on a map, followed by icon shortcuts to initiate a phone call or FaceTime call, directly from the Messages app. If you’re already chatting with them, this may save you a few taps and seconds, especially if your phone app or FaceTime app are buried amongst other apps! If you want to view the rest of your contact’s info, you can access their Contacts page with all of the info that you have added to it by clicking on the third icon, an “i” in a circle. Also on this page is a section for Location, which will send your contact your current location as a pinned location in Maps (note that this pin will not move – it is only accurate as of the time you share it!), as well as an option to Share your location, which will allow your contact to stay up to date on your location for either one hour, until the end of the day, or indefinitely.

How to Mute a Conversation

Have you ever been a part of a conversation where the other side just keeps sending message after message, and your iPhone seems to constantly ding and buzz with notifications? Don’t you wish that you could just make this be quiet for a while, but not disable notifications for other messages? In iOS 8 Messages, now you can do just that. In the conversation’s Details page, midway down the page is a toggle for Do Not Disturb mode. By sliding this toggle to on, you will still receive all of the messages as they are delivered, but you will not be notified of any of them. As well, you will continue to be notified of updates in other conversations.

How to Use Messages Groups

Of course, many people love having group messages – they’re a great way of sharing information with multiple people at once. To initiate a group message, simply tap on the New Message button in the top right of your messages view (it looks like a pencil writing on a piece of paper). Then, add the participants to your group in the To: field, just as if you were sending an email. Once they’ve been added, you just have to send a message once and everyone will get it at the same time, and they can all add messages to share with the group as well. If you eventually find that you want to add someone new to your conversation, you can easily do this on the Details page for the group conversation. Simply tap to Add Contact, and select them.

If you find that it might be easier to rename your group to something more easily recognizable on your message list, such as “Hockey Team”, all you have to do is enter the Details page, and slide the screen down to reveal a new field at the top of the screen. Then you can just type in your new group name, and it will be easy to pick out of your messages list.

In the same way that you can silence the annoying over-texter with the Do Not Disturb mode, you can also apply this to your group conversation as well. Simply toggle the slider to its green ON position in the Details page, and you won’t receive any further notifications of conversation updates until you disable this mode. This is very handy, especially when a lot of people have a lot to say at once!

If you find that you no longer wish to be a part of the group conversation anymore, it’s now easy to leave the group altogether, without needing a group admin or originator manually remove you, or any kind of complicated step. To quietly excuse yourself from the group, go into the Details page, and partway down the screen, you can tap to Leave this Conversation. You won’t get any further messages from your group, and if you want back in, you’ll need someone inside the group already to re-add you as noted above.

How to See the Timestamp of a Message

If you ever find that you need to precisely know when a specific message was sent or received, this handy trick will allow you to figure it out easily. In the conversation page, simply slide the screen to the left, and you will peek at the time stamps of each message on the right side of the screen. When you let go, they slide just offscreen again out of view. You can go to any place in your conversation, and this simple slide move will show you precisely the time that that message was sent!

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