Main Snap Screen
More than other social apps, Snapchat’s outward simplicity hides a treasure trove of hidden complexity. When you first open the app, you come directly to the recording screen. At the bottom are three icons to take you to different parts of the app: the Chat tab on the left, the Memories icon right below the record button, and the Discover tab on the bottom right. At the top of the screen are icons to go to your profile, search the app, turn flash on and off, or switch to the front-facing camera.
Recording snaps is the easy part. Tap the large clear button once to take a photo, or hold it down to start recording a video. The button will turn red and a ring will begin to form around it indicating how long your video is. You can record with the main camera or use the top-right button to flip to the front-facing camera.
Take Multiple Snaps
As long as you keep holding down the record button, Snapchat will keep snapping. Each video snap is 10 seconds long, so your videos will show up as small cards to indicate how many snaps you’ve just recorded before you start editing and sharing.
Once you’ve got a recorded photo or video, you can swipe left or right to check out all the available geofilters. Usually you’ll find a few different tints and shades if your snap is too bright or dark, location filters depending on where you are, a few themed filter options if there’s an event or holiday, some animated filter options, and a couple sponsored filters. This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to customizing snaps, but let’s start with the basics.
Set Snap Time Limit
On the right of your editing screen is column of different icons. The clock icon near the bottom is where you set a time limit for your snap. This can be anywhere from 1-10 seconds, or select the infinity icon to let recipients view your snap for as long as they like until they tap out.
Directly Save or Share Snap
Snapchat is ephemeral by design, so once someone views a snap it’s gone, unless they quickly tap again in the chat tab to replay it. Replay only works once per snap. There are a few ways to get around this. One is to sync your snaps to your cloud-based Memories storage (more on that later), but the easier way is simply to save the snap to your camera roll using the button on the bottom left of the edit screen. Next to it is a quick share button that will send your snap directly to My Story.
Share Snaps and Stories
When you’re ready to send a snap, press the blue paper airplane icon on the bottom right of the edit screen. This takes you to the share page, where you can choose friends, groups, or stories with which to share your snap either by scrolling down the quick add list or using the search bar. When you’re ready, hit send and your snap will be out in the world.
On the top right of the share screen is a small option to create a custom story. This gives you a few options. You can leave the story private where only you can add to it and control who sees it, create a custom story where specific people you designate can add to it, or create a geo story that allows anyone in a specific location to see and add to a local story.
Trick Out Your Snaps
Text Colors and Styles
The first two options—the font and pen icons—are where you can write out messages and change text colors. You can choose normal text, big text, glowing text, or rainbow text. Tap the letter icon one more time to center the text on your screen. Once you’ve chosen your text style and written out one or more captions, the pen icon can change the text color using a rainbow slider.
Draw With Emoji
One cool hidden feature is the ability to write or draw with emoji. At the bottom of the color slider is a hearteyes emoji. Tap it to open a secret menu of different emoji that you can then select and draw with on your screen.
Emoji and Stickers
Make Your Own Stickers
Snap also lets you make your own stickers out of whatever objects are in the frame. Using the scissors icon, which you can find both on the bottom emoji library bar and in your main editing icon column, you can create stickers either from whatever’s in your snap or pull automatically from your Memories and camera roll. If you’re creating your own, you can outline the person or thing with your finger, then drag the newly made sticker around like any other visual element. There’s also an editing toolbar where you can use a magic pen to erase, or change the colors of your custom stickers.
Add Links to Snaps
Use the link icon to attach a URL to your snap. Simply copy and paste the website into the bar, and when your snap recipients or story viewers see your snap, they’ll be able to click the hyperlink straight to whatever page or site you’ve linked.
Layer Multiple Filters
A relatively new addition is the ability to layer more than one filter on top of each other. For a photo or video snap, once you swipe to add a filter you’ll see a new stack icon appear at the bottom of your edit tools column. Click it to lock that filter in place and start swiping again to drop another filter on top of it.
We’ve reached selfie mode, folks. Once you tap the camera icon to switch to your front-facing camera, you can unlock animated face filters or lenses. This is one of Snapchat’s most famous “secret features.” To open the face filter menu, you need to hold your finger down on your face until you see the app quickly map and outline your features. Then the face filter menu will appear, letting you swipe left and right to try out different masks, voices, and more. The simplest lenses are ones like the dog face, where if you open your mouth you’ll see a big dog tongue appear and lick the screen. Filters change every day, so don’t expect one you used yesterday to necessarily be there today.
There are also voice-changing filters, which combine a visual lens with an audio component that distorts your voice in any number of ways. You’ll also find full screen filters that turn you into an animal, a fish, or even a cartoon with your face that’s dancing on tiny legs. Snapchat embraces the weird.
You’ll usually come across some animated filters sponsored by different brands as well. Snap’s got to make money somehow.
The newest wrinkle to the face filter catalog are interactive games called Snappables. These work just like normal animated filters, except the game will prompt you to open your mouth, move your head around, or do something else to play some kind of a basic game while you’re snapping. The idea is to play a game, send the snap to your friends and see if they can beat your score.
AR Animation Filters
Animated filters aren’t just for the selfie cam. You can flip back to the front-facing camera or simply hold down on that screen to check out what cartoons and animations are available to roam around your snaps. In this case I found a little emoji guy who you could tap to change to a different emotion, and a dinosaur stalking around the screen. Unfortunately, the famous Snapchat hot dog did not make an appearance this time around.
If you’ve linked up your Bitmoji avatar to the Snapchat app, you’ll also find different Bitmoji animations to play around with. As mentioned, these filters all change by the day or even more frequently, but in this instance my Bitmoji was having a picnic, taking a nap, and having a lot of trouble opening a pickle jar. The Bitmoji animations actually tend to be pretty long and complex little scenes, so make sure to record the whole thing before you decide what you want to send.
This brings us to the second of three main areas of the Snapchat experience: the Chat tab. Accessed by swiping to the left or tapping the bottom left icon on your main screen, you’ll see a list of all your friends. Tap on a friend’s name to open your direct chat window with them. If there’s a circle around their icon, that means they have a recent story you can tap to view. There are different emoji next to friends to indicate your best friends and other relationship types in the app, or whether you’ve got a Snap Streak going with a friend. Further down in the story I’ll explain how to customize your friend emoji.
Request and Share Location
One of the newest Snapchat features is inspired by iMessage. When you hold down on a friend’s icon on your Friends tab, you can now send your location to a friend or request a friend’s location. This consent-based location-sharing feature is far less creepy than the initial version of Snap Map before it became opt-in, which let everyone see exactly where you are. This handy pop-up panel also gives you quick links to share your username, tweak friend-specific settings, and launch right into a snap, chat, call, or video chat.
There are three different tabs in the Chat section. Next to the main chat list is Groups, which lets you add friends to a shared chat with up to 32 other people where you can talk, send photos, stickers, and GIFs, and call or video chat with each other.
The last tab is where you can add new friends in a bunch of different ways. You’ll see a quick add list of users who’ve added you already (you need to accept before you’re friends) and you can sync your contacts to see a list of everyone in your phone book who’s on Snapchat. You can also add friends by Snapcode, but we’ll get to that.
Send Photos in Chat
Once in a chat window, you’ll see an option bar at the bottom. The photo icon lets you upload images from your camera roll to the chat. You can also press the snap button at any time to launch into the snap recording screen sent directly to that person or group.
Snapchat also lets you call friends through chat. Tap the phone icon to start a voice call over Wi-Fi.
You can also tap the emoji icon to choose from the same wide selection of emoji, stickers, and custom stickers to paste directly into the chat window. Pro tip: tap on the little bear on the bottom bar to expand a whole other menu of different sticker lists.
Use Bitmoji in Chat
You can tap the Bitmoji icon as well to choose from a couple different categories of your personalized avatar organized into happy, angry/sad, romantic, and celebratory.
Another feature that just rolled out is the ability to delete a chat you’ve just sent. Designed to help you delete a message you regret or that has a typo, you can now hold down on the chat message to pop up a panel with options to saved, copy, or to delete the chat before the recipient sees it. However, just as with screenshots, Snapchat will tell the user that you’ve deleted a chat. The delete feature works in both one-on-one and group chats for text, stickers, audio, or pictures and videos sent from your camera roll or Memories.
If you swipe right from the Snapchat home screen, you’ll find the redesigned Discover tab. This is where you can find stories from friends, celebrities you follow, and Discover content from different partner brands and publications as well as popular Snapchat influencers automatically populated in the Discover feed.
Friend Stories and Subscriptions
At the top of the Discover tab is where the most recent Snapchat redesign has dropped the feed of your friends’ stories. Tap on a card to view the story, and afterward you’ll see icons to replay it or send the person a chat. Below that are subscriptions, where stories from all the celebrities or other accounts you follow will show up.
Tap Through Discover Stories
Scrolling down the Discover tab, you’ll find a tile-like feed with stories from Snapchat Discover partner brands and selected influencers. When you click on a brand story, you can tap through a variety of interactive snaps, slides, videos, and links depending on how much work the media partner has put into the daily experience.
Share Discover Stories
If you like a Discover story and want to send it to a friend, tap the menu icon at the top right to edit and share the story as you would any normal snap.
The profile section of your app is where you can manage contacts and friends, edit your Bitmoji, and a lot more. You can navigate quickly to your profile from any part of the Snapchat app by tapping the icon on the top left. If you have a Bitmoji, you’ll see your animated face in the left corner of your screen.
Snapchat has a gamified element called Trophies that you’ll see in the option bar below your username on the profile page. You can rack up trophies for all sorts of things, from “sending 100 snaps with big text” to “screenshotting 50 snaps” and racking up different Snapchat score levels. Check out the trophy case to see which ones you’ve earned without even realizing it.
Story Privacy Settings
You can also add to your story directly from your profile page, and set custom privacy settings so that everyone, only friends, or a list of custom contacts can view that story.
Snapcodes are a unique QR code you can take a picture of to scan and add someone as a friend. If you tap on your profile icon, it will open your own unique snapcode that you can share or save.
Another hidden feature is Snap Map. From the main recording screen, pinch the middle of the screen with two fingers to open up this real-time heat map of friends and events near you. You can zoom in and out not only in and around your location, but all around the world. If you tap on an event going on, it’ll open up the story for that location.
Search Your Snap Map
If you tap the search bar at the top of your Snap Map, you’ll see a list of friends on the map, nearby stories, and featured stories happening around the world.
Tap the Map
You can also tap your Snap Map anywhere to bring up random local stories. The heat indicators show you where the most users are clustered, so you can simply tap to see what’s going on in the area.
Not everyone wants every one of their Snapchat friends to know exactly where they are at all times. If you (like me) are one of those people, tap the settings icon on the top right of your Snap Map and toggle on Ghost Mode, which masks your location on Snap Map.
If you want to pair a new set of glasses from this screen, tap the Pair New Device option. You’ll need to hold down the capture button on your Spectacles for seven seconds, and then when it appears you’ll be able to name your Spectacles and choose a Wi-Fi network where snaps recorded with the glasses will automatically sync with your app.
Uploading Spectacles Footage
If you’ve been out using Spectacles and are now back on your home Wi-Fi network, open the Memories tab in your Snapchat app to upload and sync your footage. If snaps aren’t syncing automatically, you can choose the Tap to Import button to start your sync. Spectacles snaps will then appear as stories in your Memories tab that you can group together or edit and send individually.
Editing and Sharing Spectacles Snaps
Once the Spectacles snaps are uploaded, you can tap through each recording in a story to edit it individually with a full complement of text, stickers, filters, and more. Check out our first-person footage from testing Snapchat Spectacles 2 out in New York City.
Don’t Sleep On Settings
If you don’t mess with the settings in all your apps, especially social media, you’re missing out. Snapchat in particular has an exhaustive settings page that lets you configure and customize your experience far beyond defaults. To get to settings, tap the cog icon on the top right of your profile page. The first settings you’ll see are the boilerplate options: name and username, birthday, phone and email, changing your password, etc. You can edit your Bitmoji from the settings menu as well. Below, we take you through some of the more nuanced settings and hidden ways to trick out your Snapchat.
Configure Your Notifications
Go into the Notifications setting to toggle different types of alerts on and off. You may want to be notified when someone tags you in a snap, but skip push notifications where Snapchat suggests friends for you.
Save Snaps to Memories
The Memories setting is where you decide how you want snaps to be saved. Under the storage section, you can enable Smart Backup to automatically sync snaps, but this option may use mobile Wi-Fi when available so don’t enable it if you’re dealing with strict data caps. You can also manually import snaps from your camera roll here. Most importantly, you can set where you want snaps to save: to Snapchat’s cloud-based Memories, only to your phone’s camera roll, or to both.
Create Filters and Lenses
Snapchat lets users create their own filters and lenses, but fair warning you will have to pay. If you’re wondering how that couple got a custom Snapchat filter for their wedding reception, this is how. Tap the Filters and Lenses option in settings to create your own filter for an occasion or play around with a custom face lens.
If Snapchat merch is your thing, you can explore the Snap Store option in the settings menu to buy new items every day. If you really want a $10 dancing hot dog keychain, go nuts.
Manage Additional Services
Many of the coolest settings are tucked into the Manage Additional Services option. This is where you can enable or disable filters, choose the skin tone for your emoji, toggle on Travel Mode to reduce mobile data usage, and a number of other customization options…
Customize Friend Emoji
…the coolest of which is customizing your friend emoji. Snapchat has all sorts of designations like BFs, Besties, BFFs, and Super BFFs etc for different relationships with your friends and how often you snap them. In this settings tab, you can set custom emoji that will appear next to friends in your chat tab. You can choose any emoji for any friend designation you want.
Permissions are maybe the most important privacy setting in your Snapchat app. This is where you can enable or revoke the app’s privileges to access your contacts, camera, location, microphone, notifications, photos, and more.
Lifestyle and Interests
Snapchat wants to personalize your experience as much as possible, and the Lifestyle & Interests tab in the additional settings menu lets you decide exactly the types of content you’re interested in and want to see. Fair warning: this info will be used not just for what stories the Discover feed shows you, but for personalizing ads as well.
Speaking of ads, the Ad Preferences tab in additional settings lets users decide whether you want the app to show you audience-based ads that use third-party data or activity-based ads where Snapchat is monitoring your activity through other app and website partners. If you disable these options you’ll still see ads (them’s the breaks) but a message will appear warning you that the ads will be similar without these preferences enabled.
Stop Sharing Usage Data
This is a good rule for all your apps, especially social media. If you turn off this setting, your app will no longer share anonymous location and usage data with map providers. Don’t share any more of your data than you have to.
Clear Your History
Snaps disappear after you view them, but that doesn’t mean all that data is gone. If you scroll all the way to the bottom of your settings menu, you’ll see a list of options to clear your cache, conversations, search history, sticker searches, top locations, and Our Story snaps as well as a login page to view all the data Snapchat has collected of yours. Make a habit of periodically clearing your histories and checking out what data your Snapchat app is storing. Nobody else will look after your data but you.