There are so many ways to keep in touch with friends and family online these days, but Facebook’s Messenger app is one of the easiest options.
Why? Many of the people you know are probably already on Facebook’s main social networking site, so there’s no need to faff around with phone numbers or PINs.
Facebook separated the Messenger part of its service from the main app in August 2014 – to the outrage of many, who believed Facebook was strong-arming them into downloading another application. Most people have now accepted Messenger’s separation from the main app and seen the advantages: it’s speedier and has more features than before.
If you’re still hesitant about joining up, here’s a guide to Facebook Messenger and the features it brings into play…
Step 1: Download Messenger
Firstly, you’ll need to download the app. It’s free from your app store, or by following the prompt from the main app. If your Facebook account is tied to your phone you won’t have to login again.
Step 2: Mobile number request
Initially Facebook asks for your phone number. The company sells this as a benefit as it allows your non-Facebook friends to find you on Messenger. Skip this step if giving Facebook your mobile number makes you uncomfortable by clicking Not Now – the app works without it.
Step 3: Importing contacts
Next you’ll be asked if you wish to import your phone contacts into the app and add them as Messenger contacts, even if you’re not friends with them.
Importing those contacts will store them on Facebook’s own servers, so again, it’s at your discretion.
Step 4: Basic control
Once set up, you’ll see the familiar chat screen, where all of your ‘Recent’ conversations are displayed in chronological order. Friends who also have the Messenger app installed are highlighted by the blue lightning bolt icon.
Unread messages are displayed in bold, while swiping right allows you to delete or mute the conversation. Finally, tapping a name takes you through to the chat window.
Step 5: Taking a photo
Hitting the camera icon allows you to snap a quick picture and attach it with a single tap.
Step 6: Attaching a photo
You can also easily attach a photo from your camera roll by tapping the photograph icon. Previously, this would load your gallery app, but the Messenger app loads a mini gallery at the foot of the window in a neat, time-saving feature.
Step 7: Filming
Holding down ‘Send’ allows you to record up to 15 seconds of video and attach it straight to a message.
Step 8: Smiley faces
It’s also possible to add Facebook’s emoji stickers to the chat.
Step 9: Audio snippets
Tapping the microphone icon and then holding down Record lets you capture a 15-second (or less) audio message.
Step 10: Shared photos
There’s also an info icon that will take you to access photos users have shared privately with each other, while also offering a shortcut to their profile. You can even mute messages from them.
Step 11: Share your location
If you’re meeting up with a person, the location feature can be useful. Click the pointer icon and your device will determine your location (make sure location settings are switched on for this to work).
Step 12: Make an audio or video call
Tapping the top right icon allows you to make free video call or audio calls to your Facebook friends. It’s best to do this on a wi-fi connection to save your data allowance.
If your friend isn’t available you can even leave them a voicemail.
Step 13: Chat Heads
Messenger runs in the background when you’re not using it and Chat Heads appear when you get a new message on Android. These are small circular icons of your friends that appear on the side of your screen.
Click them to open Messenger and start chatting to them. Or drag them to the bottom of your screen to dismiss the message.