Snapchat has taken everyone by storm. It’s one of the hottest messaging apps. Part of the reason why it’s so popular is because it gives the user a sense of security because messages are deleted a short time after they are sent (however it must be said that some users are still concerned about privacy online, since it’s hard to delete online content forever).

The basic concept is that you can record video messages and text your friends within the app. You can either take a photo or record a short video (up to ten seconds), with or without audio, and send it as a message to your contacts within the app. As a bonus, users can use tools to write or draw directly on their videos or photos. There are also tools that allow you to type out captions and add various graphics like emoticons.

Got it? Now, let’s review the steps on actually using the app.

  1. First, you’ll need to download the app from the app market (either Android or iOS)…it’s free.
  2. Upon first opening the app, you’ll need to log in or sign up as a new user. When you tap the “Sign Up” button, you’ll be prompted to enter your information. (Note: You must be at least 13 years old to use the app.) A verification screen will appear asking you to identify photos, to make sure that you’re human.
  3. After you’ve logged in as a new user, you’ll be asked if you want to add contacts who are already in your phone book and who are already using Snapchat. The same goes for other users…once you are registered, they will be able to find you on Snapchat too.
  4. By default, when you log in, you are automatically taken to the screen where you can take a photo or record a video. To see your contacts or find new ones, swipe your screen to the left or click on the three lines located in the bottom right corner of the screen. Your contacts will be listed, along with any recent photos or videos that they’ve shared. You’ll notice that there are icons at the top of the screen. To search for contacts by username, click on the magnifying glass. Clicking on the arrows will refresh the list, and clicking on the person with a plus sign allows you to see who has added you as a contact. Swipe your screen to the right to get back to the camera view.
  5. When in camera view, you’ll see two icons at the top…the one that looks like a lightning bolt allows you to turn the flash on and off, and the other icon with the arrows will reverse the direction of the camera. When you take a photo, tap the circle button once. To take a video, tap and hold the circle button.
  6. Once you take a photo or video, you’ll be taken to the screen to select the details, and you’ll see different icons. When you take a photo, the clock at the bottom adjusts the length (in seconds) that the photo is shown. If you take a video, instead of the clock you’ll see a speaker button that allows you to remove the sound. Tap the screen and a text field will appear so that you can add a caption. The arrow pointing down lets you save the media to your gallery, and the square with the plus sign enables you to post the photo or video to your “Story.” If you select this, you allow others to view your video or photo for the next 24 hours, and then it will be deleted from your “Story” feed. By tapping the pen icon in the top right corner you can draw or write your message. Change the color of the pen by clicking the appropriate color box.
  7. When you’re ready to send your media, hit the arrow in the bottom right corner, and you can select contacts to send it to. Again, by choosing “Story” all of your contacts will be able to see your media.
  8. If you swipe your screen all the way to the right (or hit the red square in the bottom left hand corner), you’ll see contacts listed who have shared messages with you directly. To view, tap and hold down. On this screen you can also change your settings by tapping the gear at the top. To exit, tap “Settings” in the top left corner.

And voila, there you have it…the basics of Snapchat. Now you’re ready to record your first video or take your first photo. Once you start using it, don’t be afraid to explore additional features. Give it a try, and have fun!