Despite Snapchat’s rapid rise into the social media mainstream, it’s always had a reputation for being a little bit unintuitive. Following user feedback and competition from Instagram Stories, Snapchat updated its user interface at the end of 2017 to make things a little simpler to use, and we’re here to walk you through it.

Snapchat is at the forefront of social media and has been for a few years. Originally an app with a handful of uses, Snapchat has now evolved into a social media platform of its own design, and remains one of the easiest ways to share your life with your friends.

Snapchat has even launched its own smartglasses called Snapchat Spectacles - you can find out more about Snapchat's glasses in our Snapchat Spectacles review - and there are rumours the company is working on a Snapchat smartphone too.

How to use Snapchat

  • Make your way to the App Store or Google Play, download and install the app.
  • Sign up for an account. You’ll have to create some new credentials for this, but all you’ll need to enter is your e-mail and birthday. Do so and hit ‘Sign up’.
  • Choose your username. This will be your unique handle for Snapchat, and will be the name your friends will find you under. This can’t be changed once it’s been set, so make sure you choose wisely!
  • Now it’s time to find your friends! Snapchat will ask for access to your contact list, which is the fastest way of making sure you get all your friends into the app (unless you’d rather add them manually). Once it has found your contacts, it will show them to you as a list – and from there, you can hit the big plus button beside people’s names to add them into your Snapchat contacts.

New Snapchat

How to send pictures and videos in Snapchat

When you open up Snapchat, you will be greeted by the photo screen. If you’ve spent much time using the camera on your phone, then much of this should be intuitive for you.

  • Tap the point on the screen where you’d like your camera to focus (on your face, or the object you’re capturing). Tap the circle at the bottom of the screen to take a photo, and hold it to take a video.
  • If you’d like to save a photo you just took, you will find a down arrow at the bottom left of the screen. If you tap that, Snapchat will send the photo to your phone’s photo gallery so you can use it later.
  • Once you send a photo through Snapchat, it’s gone for good! So if you want to keep the photo you just took, make sure you save it to your phone.

Snapchat photos

How to set the picture time limit

At the bottom left of the screen, you’ll see a timer icon. Tapping this will allow you to select the amount of time your friends can view the picture for. This can range from a split second, all the way up to 10 seconds.

If you’d like to add a caption to your photo or video, tap the middle of the screen and hit the ‘T’ Icon. After you’ve written your desired caption, you can then use your fingers to pinch and zoom, altering its position to your liking.

Sending your Snaps

When your Snap has been adjusted to your liking and is ready to send, hit the arrow icon at the lower right of the screen. This will bring up your contacts, and will allow you to select which people you’d like to send this snap to. Once you’ve made your selection, tap the arrow at the bottom right once more to send.

Navigating Snapchat

The update to the interface that arrived at the end of 2017 had a number of goals in mind. One of these was to draw a larger distinction between professional and social content.  The app will still open into the camera, but now swiping right from the camera will bring you to your “Friends” screen. This is where all the content from your contacts can be found, and feels much more like your personal Snapchat space. Alternatively, swiping left from the camera will bring you to the “Discover” screen, which will show you the more professional side of snapchat including content from large brands and popular user stories.

This separation of your personal social content from the wider social media stream draws a line between the different types of content that snapchat has become famous for. Your friends are no longer competing with larger brands for your attention, and you’ll only be greeted by the content you wish to see – rather than having both social and professional content jumbled together in one feed. This change sets a nice precedent for the future of the app, as they’re giving the users power over the type of content we wish to see, rather than just pushing more professional corporate content into our feeds

How do I use Snapchat filters?

In similar fashion to Instagram, Snapchat has filters or lenses which you can add to your photos. However, they're not switched on by default so here's how to switch on filters in Snapchat.

Once you've taken a photo, simple swipe left or right and you'll see a message which says 'turn on filters'. Click the 'I want filters' button at the bottom of the screen. This will take you to the 'additional services' part of the settings menu where you can tick the filters box. Note that you'll need to enable location to be able to switch them on and for some to work properly.

How do I change my voice in Snapchat video?

Voice filters are now available for all video Snaps. Look for the new Speaker icon that appears at the bottom left of the screen once you have taken a video, then tap this to select a voice filter.

How do I face swap in Snapchat?

One of the most popular filters on Snapchat is Face Swap, which, you guessed it, swaps faces. There's also a new face swap feature in Snapchat that introduces the ability to face swap with a photo from your phone's photo library.

You can find out exactly how to use Face Swap here.

Lenses

Lenses are one of the most popular features of Snapchat - after the ability to send videos/photos that expire after 10 seconds, of course. It seems that Snapchat has also noticed this, with the photo-sharing giant once offering the ability for its customers to buy (with real life money) lenses to be used at any time.

The firm has since scrapped the idea of selling Lenses, and to stop the feature becoming stagnated, has introduced a new system. Instead of offering the same range of lenses on a day-to-day basis, the selection is updated regularly, removing the oldest Snapchat lens and replacing it with a brand new one. Don't worry, though - if you did buy any lenses, these will still be permanently available to you.

One of the most confusing things to new Snapchat users is how to access these lenses.

Turn the camera so your face is on the phone's screen as if you were to take a selfie, then tap and hold on your face until a mesh appears then release. Snapchat will load several lenses to the side of the capture button, which you can slide through to access. 

Snapchat lenses

How do I use Snap Map?

You'll find in-depth instructions on how to use Snap Map here, but in essence you just pinch the screen to open the Map. You can view Snaps of breaking news and events or featured Snaps here, or add your own. To add a Snap to the Map make sure you send it to Our Story rather than My Story.

For some users, though, Snap Map is potentially a bit too creepy. If you're concerned but have already added the feature, follow our instructions to disable Snap Map.

How do I screenshot on Snapchat without them knowing

With photos only being viewable for a maximum of 10 seconds, many users will take a screenshot to immortalise images – potentially to post them on other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Snapchat built in a system to notify users if a snap they sent got screenshotted, however, there's a way of doing it so they don't know. If you want to be sneaky, find out how to screenshot in Snapchat without them knowing here.

Snapchat Playlists

Snapchat has been updated again and now puts your friends first. Previously, Auto Advance made it difficult to choose which friend's story you wanted to watch, automatically playing one after the other.

Now you can select the friend whose story you want to watch, and even create playlists of various friends' stories. You just tap on the thumbnails next to your friends' names in the order you want to create your playlist, then press play at the bottom of the screen.

Snapchat Playlists

Delete Snapchat messages

Snapchat also has a messaging section of the app where you can type text and also send stickers. You might not want these to remain available so check out our guide on deleting messages in Snapchat.

How to make and submit geofilters

Geofilters are special filters that you only have access to in certain locations, so you might get a range of options if you're on a day out in London. But did you know you can make your own? See how to make and submit your own geofilter for Snapchat.

Use Snapchat on PC or laptop

Snapchat is a mobile app so you are no doubt using it on your smartphone or perhaps a tablet. However, you can use it on PC or laptop so find out how.

Add emoji to Snapchat video

If you're running the latest version of the Snapchat app you can add emoji stickers to your videos. These can be pinned to anything in the video, and will move with that thing. They're resizable, too.

To add emoji stickers to a Snapchat video just tap the add sticker icon and choose an emoji, then press and hold to pin on your Snapchat video. For full instructions on how to use Snapchat video emoji stickers click here.

Snapchat emoji video

Snapchat Chat 2.0

First, here's a list of all of the new changes in Chat 2.0:

  • 200 Stickers available in private chats.
  • Video Notes that let you record 10 seconds of video that'll loop when your friend watches.
  • Audio Notes that let you record audio if you fancy replying in song or can't type right now.
  • Video and Audio Calls that turns Snapchat into a phone alternative and brings it closer to rivals like Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp.
  • Multiple photos can be sent in Chat 2.0 at once.
  • Send photos during video and audio calls.

To access Chat 2.0, swipe right on a contact you wish to talk to. This'll open a Chat window with that contact.

Tap the image on the left to send multiple images, the phone icon to start an audio call, the circle in the centre to open the camera, the video icon to start a video call or the smiley face to access stickers.

You can tap and hold on the phone icon to record and send an audio message, and the same goes for the video icon for a video message.

Note that your friend will need to have updated to the new version of Snapchat if you want to use these features with them.

Download Snapchat videos

Screenshotting photos is one thing but how to you download a video in Snapchat? It's not as easy as taking a screenshot but we have some tricks up our sleeve and the sender won't even know you've done it. Find out how here.

How do I reply to Snapchat stories?

An integral part of the Snapchat experience is the Snapchat Story, which displays a collection of videos and photos you've taken over a period of 24 hours, and can be viewed (and replayed) by friends.

Stories automatically advance meaning you'll move straight on to the next story in your contacts list once the first is finished. But what if you want to reply to a specific Snapchat amongst the collection of videos and photos in your friends Story?

With the latest update, Snapchat has officially added story replies. When watching a friends (no doubt hilarious) Snapchat story, you can reply to a specific photo or video by swiping up from the bottom of the display, opening a new chat window.

Simply type your message, hit send, and your friend will recieve the message along with a snapshot of the photo/video you're replying to. Not the most groundbreaking addition ever, but it should make replying to Snapchat Stories a little bit easier in future!

Slo-mo and rewind filters

After you shoot a video in the latest version of the app, simply swipe left or right until you see three arrows (rewind) or a snail symbol (slo-mo). The rewind filter is useful if you want to make 'magic' effects such as impossible catches (since you're actually throwing something away from you).

Snapchat slo-mo rewind filters

Force Touch

Force Touch integration is currently pretty basic. You press hard on the Snapchat icon and get options to start a new chat or add a new friend.

Snapchat Force Touch

What are Snapchat Trophies?

Swipe down from the main screen to bring up your personal Snapchat code (see how to use Snapcodes) and you'll see a new trophy icon above it. Tap it and you'll see what trophies you've managed to unlock - they're basically achievements like you get on computer games.

At the time of writing there are 16 to unlock and we've only managed the first one (reaching a score of 500) so we better go send some more snaps. Tapping the locked ones simply displays question marks so you'll have to work out how to unlock them.

Snapchat trophies

Skip a story or snap

If you've had multiple snaps from the same contact, or what to view someone's story without it taking forever you can skip each photo or video whenever you're ready. When you're holding one finger on the screen to view a snap, simply tap anywhere else with another finger to skip to the next one.

Video calls

If you fancy chatting to a friend, swipe right on their name in your Snapchat inbox to begin. When you leave the chat screen, messages viewed by both you and your friend will be cleared.

The app will notify you if your friend is online when chatting, and if you're both chatting at the same time you simple have to press and hold to share live video.

Use multiple filters

It is possible to use more than one Snapchat filter at once. Having applied the first filter, hold your finger or thumb down on the image, preferably in the lower right side of the display, then at the same time swipe in from the left with another appendage. You should now see the second filter appear and you can cycle through them using the normal technique of swiping from the left. (See our separate guide on How to use two Snapchat filters at once.)

Change Snapchat number of best friends

While you're in the additional services menu, you can tweak how many friends appear in your best friends menu. Simply select it in the menu and choose how many you want it to be. There's a maximum of seven – we're not sure why.

How to use new Snapchat best friends

Delete your Snapchat account

If despite all the above, you just want to get rid of Snapchat and go further than just uninstalling the app. We show you how to delete your Snapchat account here. You can also read our guide which discusses whether Snapchat is safe for kids.

Follow Chris Martin and @TechAdvisorUKon Twitter.