The Secret Features of iMessage on iOS and Mac OS

Dave Greenbaum

The Messages app on your iPhone, iPad and Mac is obviously used for sending an iMessage or SMS messages to other people. That’s just the beginning. You might not have noticed some special features. That’s a shame, because you’re missing out on some powerful options.

Let's shed some light on the secrets of Messages - Photo by JuditK - http://flic.kr/p/bCXmfW
Let’s shed some light on the secrets of Messages | Photo by JuditK

Find Someone’s Location 

Find My Friends has been around since iOS 6. Until El Capitan, the Mac OS hasn’t had a dedicated way of accessing someone’s location. That’s because it’s been under Details in Messages. To use this feature the person has to agree to share their location with you.

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On any Apple device running Messages, clicking or tapping Details will show you the location of your contact. If they haven’t agreed to share with you, there won’t be a map of their location.
This works nearly identically in iOS and Mac OS. In iOS, it will show your location relative to that contact. With iOS, if you want to share your location with that person, select Send My Current Location. If you want them to be able to find you later, you can select Share for One Hour, Share Until End of Day, or Share Indefintely.

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Changes in El Capitan: Although you can use the Details tab, now there is a Find My Friends widget.

Get Contact Information

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Instead of opening Contacts and searching for the person, just find a message from that contact. In iOS, after tapping Details, tap the circled i icon. That brings up the card for the contact. On the Mac, right click on the name in Messages and select Show Contact Card.

Do Not Disturb

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If one contact is bothering you when you’re trying to get work done (sorry Mom), you can essentially mute just that person. The messages go through, you just won’t get notifications they sent you via messages. This feature works the same on iOS and Mac OS.

Start a FaceTime Chat

Text messages and emoji don’t always help you communicate. Sometimes your voice and face help you express yourself. Instead of switching apps, you can start a Facetime session in iOS or Mac OS directly from the Messages application.

Watch your Data: FaceTime could eat up your data plan, so check out our guide on how to track your usage.

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For FaceTime Audio, select the picture of the phone receiver. On an iPhone, if you tap the picture of the phone receiver, you’ll get the choice of FaceTime Audio or a Voice Call. If you’d like to add video, select the camera icon to start a video chat session.

Manage Pictures Sent From that Contact

Pictures people send you from Messages aren’t automatically saved to your pictures. Instead of scrolling up in a conversation trying to remember when the picture was sent, scroll down a bit in details. If that contact sent you a pic, all those pictures will be there. Tap or select a picture and you’ll get a few options. In iOS, you can copy it (great for sharing the picture in another conversation), delete it (that’s a great way to clear up some space on your iPhone or iPad ) or you can save it. The options in Mac OS are similar:  Open, Add to Photos Library, or Delete.

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It works for attachments too: when I lose an attachment, I know I can always find it again in Messages.

Mac OS: Start a Remote Control Session

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This feature only works if both parties are running Yosemite or above. You’ll notice the standard Mac screen sharing icons in the Details tab. Click on that icon. You’ll either invite the person to share your screen or you’ll ask to share their screen. This trick is handy if the other person is non-technical and may not be able to find the Apple screen sharing app. All they need to do is wait for your request in Messages. Sadly, this doesn’t work between Mac OS and iOS.

Want cross-platform remote control? we have some apps that do support cross-platform remote control.

Apple continues to add great features to the Messages app, so keep your eye open for even more features in Mac OS and iOS.

Also See
#imessage#location

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Dave Greenbaum

Written By

Dave Greenbaum

I have a passion for helping people make technology work.

For my day job, I own a computer repair business in Lawrence, Kansas. Drawing on my support background, I focus on practical technology from the user perspective. I enjoy it all: Android, Chrome OS, iOS, MacOS, Windows and everything in between.