How to use Snapchat and all of its features

It’s the fastest growing social network in the world with an estimated 200 million active monthly users and 100 million using it on a daily basis. You’ve almost certainly heard of Snapchat and probably know dozens of people who have signed up, but what exactly is it, how do you use it and why is it so incredibly popular?

In case you’re looking for something specific, you can jump ahead by clicking one of the points below

What’s so special about Snapchat?

The unique feature of Snapchat is that anything you send out will self-destruct and therefore become unavailable after a limited amount of time. In a world where people worry about having a digital history that will remain online forever, this feature has proved to be especially popular and is the driving force behind Snapchat’s rapid growth. It means you can share material with specific friends that you might not want to broadcast across the whole of the Internet.

Download the free Snapchat app [iOS / Android] and sign up by entering a unique username and password. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to enter the main screen of the app. This can be a little confusing as the main screen is actually the live view from the camera of your phone or tablet, but it doesn’t take long to get used to this – and it’s a great time saver when it comes to sending out pictures and videos of your own.

The squiggle icon in the top left-hand corner lets you toggle your flash on and off while the icon in the top right lets you toggle between the rear and front facing cameras. The ghost icon at the top takes you to your profile page while the big round button at the bottom lets you take pictures and videos. The icons at the bottom left and right are used to access your contacts and Snapchat stories.

How to add friends on Snapchat


From the main screen, tap the round button to take a snap, or hold it down to shoot a video that can be a maximum of 10 seconds long. Once you’ve finished, you’ll be taken to the preview screen which displays a still or moving image of your snap depending on whether you shot video or a picture. In the top right hand corner, icons enable you to draw doodles, add text or emojis to your message.

In the bottom left-hand corner, you can decide how long someone will be able to view your picture for (in the case of video, this option switches to allow you to choose whether to include sound with your clip). You can also download the image or video to your device or add it to your “story” which we’ll cover later.

How to open Snaps

What are Snapchat Stories and how do you use them?

You can view Stories by tapping the icon on the bottom right of the main screen. This will take you to a screen showing all of your contacts and unread Stories. Tap on a story to view it.

Once you have taken a photograph with Snapchat, swiping left or right allows you to add different filters to the image. Current filters include a Black and White filter for that old school look, a Sepia filter for a stylish yellow tint, a filter that adds the speed you were moving at when the picture was taken and one that adds the temperature at your location.

How to use Snapchat face effects or Lenses

From the main screen tap the icon in the top right-hand corner to switch to selfie mode. Position the camera so your face is in the middle of the screen then tap and hold your face until a mesh appears, showing your image has been scanned. A list of available lenses will then appear and you can try them out by selecting them.

How to chat in Snapchat


If you used Snapchat a bit already, you might have noticed that some of your friends you send or receive snaps from have a little emoji on the right side of their name.

  • Smile: A smile refers to someone you send snaps to a lot.
  • Grimace: Someone with a grimace and you share the same “best friend” on Snapchat.
  • Smirk: Stalk much? A smirk means that someone sends you a lot of snaps but you hardly send any back.
  • Sunglasses: The friend and you send each other a lot of snaps. It’s basically having a smile in both directions.
  • Fire: You’re on a “Snapstreak”! You and your friend have been sending each other Snaps for several days in a row.

If you use the screenshot function on your device to capture an image from Snapshot so you can keep it forever, the app will inform the sender that you have done so. There are, however, ways to get round this.

Alternatively, there are a number of third-party apps available that will enable you to save both snaps and videos, all without the sender knowing. Future updates to the Snapchat app might mean that some of these third-party apps no longer work and there is a chance that those that do work may not always do so. For this reason it’s best to check carefully before downloading anything – and especially before parting with any money.

The fact that such third-party applications exist mean you should also assume that anything you send to anyone might be kept and posted elsewhere, even if the images vanish from Snapchat itself.

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