There are many things Apple doesn’t tell you about its products, and that’s definitely the case when it comes to its Messages app. Hidden features lurk in your SMS and iMessage conversations just waiting to be found, and we’ve unearthed some of the most secret ones.

Instead of just sharing all of the “hidden” features that everyone else does, like keyboard tricks, pinning conversations, viewing shared content, bulk deleting chats, tagging contacts, revealing received and sent times, threaded replies, editing sent messages, unsending messages, and marking messages as unread, I’ll focus on the things that are truly hidden or not very obvious.

Note: the tips below also work for iPadOS, and some even apply to macOS.

1. Use Secret Triggers to Send Effects

Some people don’t realize that you can long-press the send button in a message draft to choose a bubble or screen effect to go with it. Even more people don’t realize there’s another way to send effects: using keywords and key phrases.

While no keywords or key phrases can trigger a bubble effect, over 200 code words and phrases across 40 different languages will send a full-screen animated effect. In Apple’s defense, it does provide two or three triggers for most languages in its user guides, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Some of the more secret code phrases include “happy Eid” for the shooting star, “pew pew” for lasers, “best wishes” for confetti, “happy Deepawali” for fireworks, “happy lunar new year” for celebration, and “iyi ki dogdun” for balloons. To see all 200+ available, check out the complete list.

2. Add Periods to Show Full URLs

Sometimes, you’ll want to share an actual URL instead of an inline rich link preview that hides everything in the URL but the domain. Apple doesn’t tell you anywhere, but you can disable the preview by putting periods before and after the URL. The full URL will appear for both you and the recipient, sans the extra dots.

Other punctuation works, not just periods, and it works a little differently when using the URL in a sentence, using more than one URL, and using line breaks.

3. Long-Press to Reveal Full URLs

The formatting trick above is suitable for sending links, but it’d be hard to make all of your contacts use it in the messages they send you. If you like seeing the full URL of a link before opening it or expanding its preview, copy/paste may be your first thought — but there’s another way.

Simple long-press the rich link preview to expand it, then tap “Hide preview” at the top of the webpage preview; That will reveal the full URL of the link. And from now on, any link you long-press in Messages will show the full URL and will no longer load a preview of the webpage.

4. Pick Which App Opens a Link from Messages

As of iOS 16, some non-rich links you send or receive in Messages can be opened in more than just one app. To try it out, long-press a non-rich URL to open the quick actions. If you see “Open Link,” and that’s it, you can’t pick an app. However, if you see multiple app names, you can choose any from the list. For example:

  • A shortcut’s iCloud link may let you “Open in Safari” or “Open in ‘Shortcuts.'”
  • A podcast’s RSS feed link may show “Open in Safari” and “Open in ‘Podcasts.'”
  • A YouTube video’s link may show “Open in Safari” and “Open in ‘YouTube.'”

5. Help Others Perform Specific Actions

If a friend asks you to share somebody’s phone number or email address, you can send them a formatted link they can tap to start the message or call. This is possible using URL schemes. When the recipient taps a formatted Phone or FaceTime link, iOS will open a confirmation they would use to start the call. New drafts will open up for SMS texts, iMessage, and Mail links right away.

There’s a list below with just a few examples of how you can use URL schemes to send convenient action links to other people in Messages. To see everything you can do, check out the “Complete List of iOS URL Schemes for Apple Apps and Services.”

Start a new SMS or iMessage
sms:1-408-555-1212 OR sms://1-408-555-1212
sms:14085551212 OR sms://14085551212
sms:408-555-1212 OR sms://408-555-1212
sms:4085551212 OR sms://4085551212
sms:[email protected]
Start a new SMS or iMessage with body
sms:1-408-555-1212&body=The%20body%20text OR sms://1-408-555-1212&body=The%20body%20text
sms:14085551212&body=The%20body%20text OR sms://14085551212&body=The%20body%20text
sms:408-555-1212&body=The%20body%20text OR sms://408-555-1212&body=The%20body%20text
sms:4085551212&body=The%20body%20text OR sms://4085551212&body=The%20body%20text
sms:[email protected]&body=The%20body%20text

Start a new FaceTime video call
facetime://[email protected]
facetime-prompt://[email protected]

Start a new FaceTime audio call
facetime-audio://[email protected]
facetime-audio-prompt://[email protected]

Start a new Phone call
tel:1-408-555-1212 OR tel://1-408-555-1212
tel:14085551212 OR tel://14085551212
tel:408-555-1212 OR tel://408-555-1212
tel:4085551212 OR tel://4085551212

Start a new Mail draft
mailto:[email protected]
Start a new Mail draft with CC
mailto:[email protected][email protected]
Start a new Mail draft with BCC
mailto:[email protected][email protected]
Start a new Mail draft with subject
mailto:[email protected]&subject=The%20Subject%20Text
Start a new Mail draft with body
mailto:[email protected]&body=The%20body%20text
Start a new Mail draft with all of the above
mailto:[email protected][email protected]&[email protected]&subject=The%20Subject%20Text&body=The%20body%20text

6. Send Secret Dialer Codes

Building on the URL schemes tip above, you can use the phone scheme (tel:) to send dialer codes that perform specific actions. These links can show the iPhone’s regulatory information, cellular data usage, and more.

For example, if a friend or family member can’t figure out how to find their device’s IMEI number, send them the tel:**#06# code. When they tap that link, the call action will appear, and when they tap that to make the call, it will open right to their device information screen where the IMEI, MEID, and EID are.

Dialer Code Examples
tel:*#06# (view device IMEI)
tel:*#07# (view Legal & Regulatory info)
tel:*3282# (AT&T: view data)
tel:#932# (T-Mobile: view data)
tel:#3282 (Verizon: view data)
tel:*#002# (view call forwarding configuration)

7. Avoid the Typing Indicator

When you’re typing a message in an iMessage chat, and the other recipient has the conversation open already, they’ll see the typing indicator (the animated ellipsis). That way, they know you’re about to send something. If you don’t want that to show up, there are a few workarounds you can use.

You can disable iMessage temporarily, type in Airplane Mode, or dictate the message to Siri. However, the best option might just be the one that doesn’t use another feature (Siri, Airplane Mode) or makes you leave the app first (Settings); Simply start a new draft, type the message, then choose the contact.

8. Rearrange Your iMessage Apps

If you’re big on using iMessage apps, there’s a quick way to move your most-used ones to the favorites for easier access. Just long-press an app in the recently used section, drag it left of the divider line to the favorites, and drop it where you want. You can also rearrange just the favorites list using this trick.

To do it the traditional non-secret way, swipe to the end of the apps, tap “More,” choose “Edit,” then hit the plus (+) next to apps to move them to your favorites. Then, you can rearrange your favorite apps using the three-lined icons.

9. Text in Bold Letters

Open Settings, tap “Messages,” then toggle on the “Show Subject Field” switch. You’ll now see a subject line field in Messages, and whatever you type there will show up as bold text. If you want to use bold text only, you may have to put a space or another invisible character, like a zero-width character, in the regular message space or the subject like will just turn to normal text. Those invisible characters are also good for making the names of Home Screen folders disappear.

There are also third-party keyboards you can use with different characters, fonts, and styles available, and you can even use a website such as LingoJam to choose fonts and copy and paste them into chats. Unfortunately, fonts installed on your system won’t show up in Messages, but you can also type it out elsewhere and move it to Messages.

10. Copy and Paste Messages Faster

Usually, when you need to copy and paste a message, you’d long-press the message, tap “Copy,” tap the text field where you want to copy it, and hit “Paste.” But there’s a faster way.

Instead, press-and-hold the message and quickly drag it away, then drop it wherever you want it pasted. You can also select multiple messages by tapping them after pulling the first away. Even better, you can select multiple messages and move them completely out of the Messages app into another, like Mail, Notes, Pages, etc.

11. Add Media to Messages More Conveniently

When you need to add a photo or video to a conversation, you’d probably use the Share Sheet from Photos or the Photos app in the Messages app drawer to find and share it. However, using the same trick from Tip 10 above, you can drag and drop media directly into conversations.

So if you’re looking at a photo in the Photos app or even an image in another Messages thread, just drag and drop it onto the chat from the conversations list. The same goes for documents in Files and content in other apps.

12. Make Stickers from Almost Any Photo

Apple gave us all a new image cutout tool with iOS 16, and it even works in the Messages app. Just open any image from a conversation, press the subject until it separates, then drag and drop the new sticker wherever you want, like in the same chat, another thread, or even an entirely different app. You can also cut out objects from photos in other apps and drag them over to Messages to use as stickers. To see more about how it works, check out our complete guide:

13. Get Info About Photos in Your Chats

On iOS 15 and later, Visual Look Up, Apple’s image content recognition system, can help you find more information about artwork, monuments, flowers, books, animal breeds, and more. When viewing an image in Messages, look at the toolbar’s information (i) button. If it has stars, there are results, and tapping it will open the Visual Look Up window. You may see Siri Knowledge results, similar web images, Siri-suggested websites, and Maps, to name a few items.

14. Keep Prying Eyes Away from Lock Screen Previews

If someone is always glancing over at the incoming messages on your Lock Screen, you can prevent them from reading the notification. Go to Settings –> Notifications –> Messages –> Show Previews, then change the setting to “When Unlocked.” To read the message preview on the Lock Screen, use Face ID. If you have a Touch ID device, touch your fingerprint to the sensor but don’t push the button (make sure “Rest Finger to Open” is off in your accessibility settings).

15. Make Emoji, Text, and Sticker Explosions

While the screen effect trigger words and phrases from Tip 1 are fantastic, there’s another cool thing you can do with screen effects.

Type an emoji and use the Echo effect, and it will multiply that emoji and send it as a quick burst. Using multiple emoji looks good too, and using spaces between emoji can make it seem more interesting. You can even take over the entire screen with big blocks of emoji. And you can use text, stickers, and more.

Other Things You May Not Have Known About

Like I said in the beginning, the above features are the more obscure ones that Apple doesn’t tell everyone about, or things that aren’t obvious, but there are plenty of other features that other sites may refer to as hidden that aren’t. However, what’s obvious to some may not be to others, so here’s a quick list of other cool things you can do in your iPhone’s Messages app.

Don’t Miss: The 7 Coolest Hidden Features for Your iPhone’s TV App

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Cover photo, screenshots, and GIFs by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks