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  1. Computer Skills
  2. OS X
Computers

Make the Most of the New Features in Messages

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:ShortLanguages:

With the release of Yosemite, the OS X Messages app got some great feature upgrades, including easy screen sharing and the ability to receive SMS messages. 

While most of us rely on our phones for quick communication, shifting your attention from your computer to a mobile device can break up your workflow, making it difficult to regain your focus once you’re ready to return to your previous task. The Messages app in OS X mirrors all of the functionality of the iOS version while keeping you in the OS X environment.

I’ve previously demonstrated some of the best ways to use Messages; in this tutorial I’ll demonstrate the new features. If you’ve never  before used Messages, or just want to find out what’s different in Yosemite, this tutorial will give you the tools to make the most of the new features.

Set Up Messages

To begin using Messages, you need to connect your Apple ID in Messages Preferences by clicking Messages > Preferences... If you want to syncronize conversations between a Mac and an iPhone, you must use the same Apple ID that you use for iOS Messages.

Log in with your Apple ID
Log in with your Apple ID.

In Messages Preferences, enter the Apple ID username and password and click Sign In. Note: If you’ve enabled Apple’s 2-step verification, you’ll need to enter an application-specific password. Generate and manage application-specific passwords, edit 2-step verification settings, and more in the Apple ID Security Settings

Decide how you want to be reached
Decide how you want to be reached.

Once signed in, you can select how you want to be reached for Messages conversations and add or turn off additional email addresses. Choose whether new messages are sent from the Apple ID or a phone number associated with an iPhone.

Verify your account with your iPhone
Verify your account with your iPhone.

If this is your first time connecting an iPhone with Messages in OS X, you’ll be prompted to verify the account by entering the code—displayed on the Mac—on the iPhone. You’ll receive a notification once the verification process is complete.

Browse All Images in a Conversation

To view all images in a conversation, select a conversation in the list to the left. Click Details, found in the upper right of the Conversation pane.

Browse all images sent and received in a conversation
Browse all images sent and received in a conversation.

Scroll down to view thumbnails of all the images you’ve both sent and received. Double-click an image to open it in Preview. Save the image by selecting the caret next to the filename at the top of the Preview window and selecting a save location.

Edit and save an image from a conversation with Preview
Edit and save an image from a conversation with Preview.

Stop Receiving Notifications for a Conversation

Whether it’s to quiet a chatty friend or to stop all the beeping from an SMS spammer, you may want to mute a single conversation. While you can silence all notifications from the Messages app in the Notifications pane of System Preferences, found by clicking Apple menu > System Preferences, you may wish to continue receiving notifications for less annoying conversations.

Turn off notifications
Turn off notifications.

To mute notifications for a single conversation, select the conversation in the list to the left. Click Details in the upper right, and toggle on Do Not Disturb. A moon icon will appear next to the conversation in the list to let you know it has been muted.

You will continue to receive all updates to the conversation, but you will no longer be notified of new messages. To restore notifications for a conversation, click Details and toggle off Do Not Disturb.

Leave a Group Conversation

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a group SMS message, you’ve likely found your patience wears thin as the conversation veers off-topic with only a few of the original recipients continuing to respond. 

Without a way to leave the thread, you’ve got the option of asking to be removed from replies and potentially offending your friends or choosing to ignore the distracting notifications.

Politely exit a conversation
Politely exit a conversation.

Fortunately, Messages has a useful feature that allows you quietly to back out of those group conversations and stop the notifications without calling attention to your departure. 

Under Details in a group conversation, select Leave this Conversation. You’ll no longer receive either notifications or messages from the chat. If you do decide you'd like to start receiving messages from the group conversation again, one of the other participants will have to add you.

This only works for conversations with four or more users. If you’re included in a conversation with only two other people, Leave this Conversation isn’t available. In that case, you may want to try the Do Not Disturb feature in Messages.

Screen Sharing in Messages

There are a lot of reasons you may want to use screen sharing on a Mac, particularly if you or a friend needs help with a technical issue or if you just want to demonstrate something in OS X to another user. Screen sharing isn’t new to OS X, but it’s never been as easy as in the newest version of Messages. For this screen sharing method, both participants must be using Messages in OS X 10.10 or later.

Use Messages for quick OS X screen sharing
Use Messages for quick OS X screen sharing.

Click Details to the right of the conversation window. Select the Screen Sharing icon, and choose whether to share your own screen with another user or to ask the user to share theirs. The other user has to agree to screen share, so you don’t have to worry that anyone will be able to see your desktop without your permission.

Start a Video Chat

While you only need to open Facetime to start a video chat, Messages makes it easy to initiate a video chat with other iOS and OS X users from an existing conversation. Click Details in the upper right of a conversation. Select the camera icon to begin a video chat.

Initiate a Facetime call in Messages
Initiate a Facetime call in Messages.

The Facetime app will open and begin calling the contact. Enter full screen or mute the conversation using the icons at the bottom, or click the red phone icon to end the video chat.

Start an Audio Chat

It’s a similar process to initiate an audio chat with Messages and Facetime. Select the phone icon in the Details panel. The Facetime app will open and begin calling the chosen contact. 

Use your Mac like a telephone
Use your Mac like a telephone.

Use the internal microphone or a headset to talk to your friend as though you were calling on the phone. Facetime audio calls received in iOS do feel very much like a standard cell phone call and are a good alternative to traditional phone calls for Mac users.

Send a Single Audio Message

You may want to send a quick audio message in a text conversation without actually initiating a Facetime call. Audio messages are pretty handy alternative to keyboard input if your hands are otherwise busy.

Record and preview your audio message
Record and preview your audio message.

To send an audio message, click the microphone icon in the bottom right of a conversation. Messages will almost immediately begin recording; click the stop icon to end the recording. 

You can listen to your message after you send it too
You can listen to your message after you send it, too.

You can then review your audio message, send the message, or cancel it and record it again. You can also listen to your message again after it’s been sent.

Conclusion

Messages has always been a powerful communication app, but with the new features added in Yosemite, it really can do just about anything the iOS Messages app can. 

New features for managing notifications and interacting with conversations combined with the easy ability to initiate screen sharing, video chats, and even mimic voice calls, Messages makes it easy to keep in touch without reaching for the iPhone.

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