New to Mac? How to set up and use the Messages app

How to use Messages on Mac

There are some things to get used to if you’re a new Mac user, especially if you’re switching from Windows. From the different labels and locations for items to how to use the Dock to your advantage, we try to cover it all for those new to macOS on iDB.

As another how-to in our series, we’re going to walk through how to set up and use the built-in Messages app on Mac.

Messages on Mac

This tutorial covers a lot of ground for those new to Messages on Mac. So here’s a summary in case you’d like to jump to a certain topic.

Set up Messages on Mac

If you haven’t opened the Messages app on Mac yet, you’ll be prompted to enter your Apple ID and password the first time, to get started. Use the same Apple ID that you use on iCloud, the App Store, and your other devices.

Sign In Messages on Mac

Once you sign into Messages, you can make some adjustments to your account information.

1) Click Messages > Preferences from the menu bar.

2) Select the iMessage tab.

3) Next you’ll see your Apple ID, phone number, and email addresses connected to your account. You can check or uncheck boxes for the ways in which people can reach you via Messages.

4) At the bottom of the window, click the drop-down box for Start new conversations from and select the phone number or email address you want to use.

Account Messages on Mac

Forward messages from iPhone

If you’re already using Messages on your iPhone, you can set it up so that those messages are forwarded to your Mac as well. This is super handy if you’re working hard on your Mac and receive a text without your iPhone nearby.

1) Open Settings on your iPhone and select Messages.

2) Tap Text Message Forwarding.

3) Enable the toggle for your Mac. If you have other devices in the list, for example your iPad, you can forward your text messages there as well.

Forward Messages iPhone to Mac

Now the next time you receive a text message on your iPhone, you should see it on your Mac where you can reply if you like.

If you try out this forwarding and decide it’s too distracting, just head back to those settings on your iPhone and turn off the toggle for your Mac. You’ll then stop receiving text messages from your iPhone on your computer.

Adjust your Messages settings

You have a few options for how long to keep text messages, what type of notifications to receive, and where to save files for Messages on Mac.

Messages Preferences on Mac

Click Messages > Preferences from the menu bar and select the General tab.

  • Keep messages: Choose if you want to keep your text messages for 30 days, one year, or forever on your Mac.
  • Application: Check the boxes for saving messages (unless you pick Forever above), notifications, and sound effects for new messages.
  • Message received sound: If you check the box above to Play sound effects, you can pick the sound in this drop-down box.
  • Save received files to: Choose a location in the drop-down box for saving files you receive in Messages.
  • Text size: Move the slider to adjust the size of the text in your Messages conversations.

Send text messages

To send a text, click the Compose new message button on the top left of the Messages window. Next to To: you can start entering the name of one of your contacts and then pick from the suggestions. Alternatively, you can click the plus sign to the right and choose a contact from there.

New Message on Mac

Then just type your text in the iMessage window at the bottom and hit Return.

Send a Tapback

There is a cool feature in Messages called Tapback. This lets you send a quick reply like a thumbs up, thumbs down, or question mark in response to a certain message.

1) Hold your Control key and click the message bubble from your recipient.

2) Choose Tapback.

3) You can then just click one of the icons to send that quick reply.

Messages Tapback on Mac

Contact actions

On the top right of the Messages window, you’ll see Details. This area provides information for that specific contact you’re having a conversation with, so the options you see will vary.

You may see buttons to share your screen or start a FaceTime audio or video call with them. You’ll also see any Photos or Files you’ve shared in text conversations with each other.

In most cases, you have a Do Not Disturb option and in some, you also have a Send Read Receipts option. Just check the box to enable one or both of these.

And if it’s a contact that’s sharing their location with you, you’ll see their current spot on a map.

Contact Details Actions Messages Mac

You can also see items like these for that particular contact by clicking Buddies from the menu bar while you have that conversation selected in Messages.

Delete text messages

You can delete both individual messages and complete conversations. Just be aware that once you delete a message or conversation, you cannot retrieve it.

Delete individual messages

Hold Control and click a blank area in the message bubble you want to remove. Click Delete from the shortcut menu that appears.

Delete Message on Mac

Delete conversations

Click the X in the left-hand sidebar for that person you are texting with or click File > Delete Conversation from the menu bar.

Delete Conversation on Mac

Sign out of Messages

If you want to stop receiving text messages on your Mac, you can simply sign out.

Open Messages, click Messages > Preferences from the menu bar and select the iMessage tab. Next to your Apple ID at the top, click the Sign Out button.

Wrapping it up

Having the ability to send text messages on Mac with a built-in app is truly convenient. And of course, if you discover it’s not for you, you can easily turn off Messages on Mac.

What are your thoughts on using Messages on Mac? Do you think it will be handy for you as a new Mac user or are you going to stick with messaging on your iPhone? Let us know!