The Beginner’s Guide to Snapchat

Snapchat, one of the hottest mobile messaging apps, has become a convenient and fun way to send photos and videos to friends and family without eating up your phone’s memory.

Launched in 2011, Snapchat allows users to add captions, drawings and filters to their photos and videos (also known as “snaps”). Unlike other messaging apps, you can view snaps for a maximum of 10 seconds, and then it’s gone for good. Anything shared through the service self-destructs, leaving no evidence that it existed. (However, just like everything else online, privacy isn’t guaranteed.)

See also: The Beginner’s Guide to Vine

If you want to join the Snapchat craze and learn the basics, check out this step-by-step guide.

1. Download and sign up

Snapchat can be downloaded for free on Android and iOS devices. Once you have it installed, open it on your phone. You’ll have the option to login with an existing account or create a new one.

To create a free account, tap “Sign Up.” After entering your email address, password and birthday, tap the “Sign Up” button.

Sign up for Snapchat

To create an account, you’re required to give your email address, birthday and create a password.

Image: Screenshot Snapchat

You need to be at least 13 years old to use Snapchat. If you aren’t, you’ll be be directed to a restricted version of Snapchat called Snapkidz. Snapkidz does not allow its users to send or receive snaps or add friends. Instead, it only allows users to snap, caption and draw local to the user’s device.

For those over the age of 13 who are creating a Snapchat account, you will now be asked to verify your identity by sharing your mobile phone number. Don’t worry — Snapchat makes a point to say that your number will not be shared with other Snapchat users. Once you’ve typed in your phone number, you have the choice to receive your six-digit verification code via SMS or a phone call. Once you have the code, enter it in the “Verification Code” field.

As part of the verification process, you may be asked a question like the one below. Once you’ve answered it correctly, you’re ready for the next step.

Snapchat verifies identity

To verify your identity, you will be asked a question like this.

Image: Screenshot Snapchat

2. Add contacts

Next, you’ll see the “Find Friends” screen. To help you find friends, Snapchat uses phone numbers from your device’s address book. To allow Snapchat access to your contacts, tap “OK” when the following notification pops up.

Snapchat contacts

To find Snapchat friends through your address book, press “OK” when you receive this notification.

Image: Screenshot Snapchat

Other Snapchat users who have your phone number saved in their address book can find you, too. You have the choice to add all your contacts who are on Snapchat, or add people one at a time by typing in their username into the search tool on the “My Friends” tab.

“My Friends” is a place to view your friends, add friends and search for other Snapchat users. You can find this page by simply swiping right or tapping on the three lines located the bottom right corner of the camera screen.

To add friends, tap the person icon with a plus sign in the top-right corner. Now you can see people who have Snapchat from your address book, and can add them by tapping the plus symbol. To find users by username, tap on the magnifying glass. To see who added you to their friend list, tap the person icon with a plus sign next to it.

Snapchat friends

Tap the person icon with a plus sign next to it to see who added you to their friend list.

Image: Screenshot Snapchat

3. Set personal preferences

Snapchat settings

Before using Snapchat, you’ll want to check out your settings.

Image: Screenshot Snapchat

Adjust your settings

Before using the app, take a look at your settings by tapping on the red square on the bottom right corner of your camera screen. Then, tap the gear icon in the top-right corner.

This is where you can update your personal information, choose who can send you snaps and view your Stories (we discuss Stories more below). If you prefer not to have your friends find you using your phone number, tap on “Mobile Number” to turn off that feature.

Activate additional services

If you tap “Manage” under Additional Services, you’ll see there are several bonus features that you can enable. In this section, you can enable filters, front-facing flash, power save mode and special text.

It’s important to point out that to use features like filters and “Our Story” (discussed in steps eight and nine), the app requires access to your location. By turning on filters, you are giving Snapchat permission to access your location.

The special text feature allows you to overlay large text and emoji on your snaps. After you activate this, the letter “T” will appear next to the pencil in the upper right-hand corner of your screen of your snap draft. Tap on the “T” and type letters or emoji. These characters will become magnified.

You can also activate the replay feature, which lets you replay one snap that was sent to you in the last 24 hours. The catch? You can only use replay once every 24 hours, and it will only allow you to replay the snap you last viewed. All users have access to the replay feature.

4. Create snaps

Snapchat camera

Snapchat’s camera features are circled in yellow.

Image: Screenshot Snapchat

Use camera

Snapchat automatically activates your phone’s camera, and it’s pretty easy to use. To adjust the focus of the camera, tap anywhere on the screen. Tap the camera icon in the top right-hand corner to switch from rear camera to front camera, and tap the lightning symbol at the top-left corner to turn on the flash on.

To take a photo, tap the circle at the bottom of the screen. To record a video, tap and hold the circle at the bottom of the screen. You can record videos up to 10 seconds long.

Add a caption

Snapchat allows you to spice up your snaps with captions. When your recipient opens the snap, the caption will appear in a bar on top of the photo or video. Tap anywhere on the screen to add a caption.

Draw on your snap

Drawing on Snapchat

Tap on the pencil icon in the top-right corner to use the drawing tool. Pick a color by adjusting the slider.

Image: Screenshot Snapchat

You can doodle on your snaps with the pencil tool, which is located at the top-right corner. To pick a color, simply adjust the slider. Then, use your finger to draw on the photo. If you make a mistake, don’t worry. Simply tap the arrow (left of the pencil) to undo your mistake.

Add a filter or effect

Want to add different hues or cool things like time or location to your snap? Make sure you’ve enabled the filter feature in your setting; swipe your finger left or right to preview each filter.

Set time limit

You can choose how long you want your recipient to view your snap for — up to 10 seconds. To adjust the time limit, tap the stopwatch icon at the bottom-left corner.

Snapchat Timer

Your snap can be viewed for up to 10 seconds.

Image: Snapchat

Save your images

To save your image or video before sending it, tap the downward-pointing arrow at the bottom of the screen. Snapchat must have access to your photo album in order to save an image.

Keep in mind that you cannot save a snap after you send it.

5. Send your snap

When you’re ready to send your masterpiece, tap the arrow in the bottom right-hand corner. Your contact list will appear, and you can select who to send it to. There is no limit as to how many people you can send a snap to — choose all the recipients you want, and hit send by tapping the arrow on the bottom-right corner.

Once your recipient has opened your snap, the triangle (for photos) or square (for videos) icon next to your friend’s name will not be filled in. A filled-in icon means your snap has been sent, but hasn’t been open yet.

So, what happens to your snap after it’s sent? Snapchat’s privacy policy states, “once all recipients have viewed a snap, we automatically delete the snap from our servers and our services are programmed to delete the snap from the Snapchat app on the recipients’ devices.”

6. View received snaps

Your contacts can send you snaps, too. To open these, go to the camera screen and you’ll see a number on the bottom-left corner of the screen. This number shows how many unopened snaps you have.

If there is a filled-in icon next to the user’s name, you haven’t opened that snap yet. An empty square or triangle means you already viewed the snap.

Snapchat friends

A filled-in icon next to your friend’s name means you haven’t opened the snap yet.

Image: Screenshot Snapchat

Press and hold the snap you want to look at. Make sure you continue to hold your finger on the screen to view the snap. When you let go, the snap will disappear.

You’ll see the timer in the top-right corner, which shows how long you can view the snap. When the timer ends, the snap is gone permanently (unless you use the replay feature, explained above).

Warning — if you take a screenshot of your friend’s snap (the same way you would take a screenshot of anything on your phone), he or she will receive a notification.

7. Create and send Stories

Like a snap, Stories can be photos and videos. The difference is that you can post a story to your feed, which can be seen by you and your friends. Stories were designed to show your friends what you’ve been up to in the last day. They exist for 24 hours and can be replayed as many times as you want.

To create a Story, take a photo or video and then tap the rectangle icon with a plus sign located on the bottom of your screen. Tap “Add to Your Story.” Once you’ve pressed this, it will exist on your feed for 24 hours. To delete the snap from your Story, go to your “My Friends” page and tap on the gear icon next to your Story. Tap “Delete.”

Snapchat story

To create a story, tap the square icon (circled in yellow) with a plus sign located on the bottom of your camera screen.

Image: Screenshot Snapchat

Another way to create a Story is to take the photo or video and proceed to the “Send to…” tab. Check off the circle next to “My Story.” You also have the option to choose which friends you want to receive your Story individually.

8. View Stories

To view Stories, go to your “My Friends” page. Tap your username at the top to see your own Stories. You can tap the gear icon next to the Story to save it to your phone’s photo album.

To view your friends’ Stories, tap their usernames, and a drop-down menu of their published Stories will appear.

9. Live Chat

Chat on Snapchat

You can send messages and snaps with Snapchat’s chat feature.

Image: Screenshot Snapchat

Send texts, photos and videos

Snapchat isn’t just for sending snaps and Stories. You can also have real-time conversations. To start a chat, visit your Snapchat inbox and swipe right on a friend’s name. To attach a photo or video, tap the yellow camera button.

Once you leave the chat screen, all messages between you and your friend will be cleared. If you want to save your message, you can either take screenshots of it or tap the conversation to save it. When you tap on the messages, the font will change and will be highlighted in gray, which means that you have saved the conversation.

Live video chat

Snapchat Video Chat

Not only can you send snaps and messages to your friend through the chat feature, but also live video chat.

Image: Screenshot Snapchat

If you and your friend are both in the chat at the same time, the camera button will turn blue. To start a live video chat, you and your friend must hold your fingers down on the camera button at the same time. Voilà! Your screen is now a live video chat.

10. View your Snapchat Score

Your Snapchat Score is the total number of snaps you have sent and received. To view your score, go to the page where you can view the snaps you have received. Tap “Snapchat” at the top, and your score will appear. Your score shows two numbers in the format “sent | received.”

Snapchat score

Tap “Snapchat” to view your Snapchat score.

Image: Screenshot Snapchat

If you have additional questions about Snapchat, visit the app’s support page.

Snapchat guide

Image: Mashable, Isar Chang

Note: Mashable has a Snapchat account. To learn more or follow us there, click here.

BONUS: How to Become A Professional Snapchat Artist… Oh It’s Possible

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