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12 of the best hidden WhatsApp features you need to know

WhatsApp has a new feature that can make messages automatically disappear. Learn how to do that and much more with these tips.

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WhatsApp is popular, and for good reason. 

Angela Lang/CNET

Looking for ways to get more out of WhatsApp on your Android phone or iPhone? We have your back. For example, rolling out right now is a new setting that will automatically clear out your messages after a week. It's a Snapchat-like feature, sure, but who says that's not welcome in other apps? You can even format the text you send in a message, adding some flair to an otherwise boring conversation. 

Or how about using WhatsApp on your computer -- yes, it's possible. It's also easy to set up and use. Below, you'll find tips on all sorts of hidden features and tricks in WhatsApp.

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WhatsApp lets you format text and fonts on the fly. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

1. Format the text to add some verve to your messages

WhatsApp lets you bold, italicize or add strikethrough to text on the fly. To do so, you'll need to add a couple of special characters before and after the text you want to format.

To bold text in WhatsApp, use an asterisk (*bold*); italicize text with an underscore (_italics_); create strikethrough text with tildes (~strikethrough~).

2. Make your messages disappear

WhatsApp is currently rolling out a new feature that allows you to turn on disappearing messages for specific conversations. When it's enabled, all of your messages will disappear from a chat after seven days. 

Turn on Disappearing Messages by tapping on the contact or chat's name at the top of your screen. Select Disappearing Messages from the list of options and then tap On

Keep in mind that any images you send or receive are automatically saved to your or the recipient's phone, so while the message with the photo will disappear, the actual image may still be saved.

3. Star a message so it's easy to find later

Starring a message creates a convenient way to go back to a meaningful message, phone number, address or article link a friend sent you. Long-press on the message, then tap on the Star icon. A small star icon will be placed next to the message so you can easily identify it when scrolling through your conversation. 

You can also view your starred messages on an iPhone ($599 at Apple), by going to the Settings tab and selecting Starred Messages. Android users need to tap on the Menu button, then Starred Messages.

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The Contact Info page has plenty of tools and options. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

4. Clear out storage, and see who you talk to the most

Curious about who your BFF is on WhatsApp? It's easy to find out. 

On your iPhone or Android phone, go to Settings > Storage and Data > Manage Storage. A list of contacts will populate, in order of who is using the most storage on your phone. Tap on each contact to view more detailed stats, such as the number of messages exchanged, images and GIFs.

The new-look storage section of WhatsApp makes it easier to get rid of large files taking up space on your phone, as well as giving you a way to see who you chat with the most. 

5. View message details

Ever wonder what time a message was delivered or read? Swipe to the left on a message you sent to view those stats on your iPhone. Android users can long-press on a message, then tap on the menu button followed by Info.

6. Mute a conversation

When heading into a movie or meeting, use WhatsApp's mute feature to silence a chatty group conversation or a friend who doesn't get the hint that you're busy.

Android users can long-press on a chat, then tap on the crossed-out speaker icon at the top of the screen. iPhone users can swipe to the left across a conversation, then tap the three-dot button followed by Mute

You can choose to mute for 8 hours, one week or always. 

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Control your privacy and export conversations. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

7. Hide your last seen status

Sometimes it's too much pressure knowing that people can see when you were last online and it makes you feel like you have to reply to pending messages. 

Don't want friends or random contacts to know your "Last Seen" time? Open Settings > Account > Privacy > Last Seen.

Then pick from Everyone, My Contacts or Nobody. 

8. Disable read receipts

Going one step further, you can disable read receipts in WhatsApp. This will prevent fellow users from knowing you have read a message. 

Open Settings > Account > Privacy and uncheck the box or slide the switch next to Read Receipts to the Off position. 

Note: Turning this feature off will also prevent you from seeing when a friend has read your message. Group Chats will still use read receipts, however.

9. Don't save photos, videos by default

If you'd rather not have WhatsApp saving every photo and video you receive to your camera roll, taking up space and cluttering up your own photos, disable autosave.

On an iPhone, open Settings > Chats and turn off Save to Camera Roll. On Android, go to open Settings> Chats and turn off Media Visibility

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WhatsApp has stickers you can share, too. 

César Salza/CNET en Español

10. Use WhatsApp on a computer

Sitting down at your computer and using a full keyboard and mouse is a much better experience when you're juggling many different conversations or in a long talk with an old friend. And thanks to WhatsApp's web version, PC or Mac apps, you can do just that with very little effort. 

We walk you through the entire process, which takes 3 minutes at most. 

11. Receive custom notifications

Instead of having the same alert sound for every incoming message, you can set custom alerts for individual contacts. Doing so will make it easier to know who messaged you without looking at your phone.

Android users should tap on the Menu icon when viewing a chat thread, followed by View Contact > Custom Notifications, check the box and then finish setting it up. 

For those using WhatsApp on an iPhone, tap on the contact's name when viewing a chat thread, then Custom Tone.

12. Export a conversation

You can export a conversation should you need to save it. When viewing a conversation, Android users need to tap on the Menu button followed by More > Export Chat.

On an iPhone, the process involves viewing a chat thread, tapping on the contact name at the top of the screen, then scrolling to the bottom of the Contact Info page and selecting Export Chat.

Both devices give you the option to export with or without media attached. 

WhatsApp is a popular chat app, but if you're looking for something else to use, we have a few options for you. iPhone owners can always take advantage of iMessage, which has many of the same features as WhatsApp. Android owners have seen the Messages app receive some meaningful updates over the years, as well.