If you text or email groups of people and haven’t tried apps designed specifically for that, you’re missing out. Not only do chat apps make it easier to group chat, add-on apps let you share files, calendars, to-do lists and even create and plan projects — all within the app. Everything is cross-platform, synced and Web-based so you can do it all from your computer.
Here are 11 ways to streamline your tech life by hopping on the best chat apps:
While there are dozens of chat apps, Slack, GroupMe and WeChat pretty much set the bar. They’re also free or have free versions. Once you download and invite contacts or join conversation threads, you can:
1. Stop switching apps. No need to keep toggling from one app to another. These apps are built for a mobile and collaborative lifestyle so their built-in features are also built for convenience. With integrated services and add-on apps — or mini-apps that expand the apps capabilities — you can do most (if not all) of your communicating and sharing without leaving the app.
2. Organize your conversations. Friends, family, work teams, neighbors, bar buddies, kickball team — group channels make it easier to find who you want to communicate with and do it quickly and intuitively.
3. Share files and search them later. Everyone in a group can share things like voice memos, calendars, maps, reminders and to-dos to the thread. With Slack, you can also share files stored in the cloud, including images, PDFs, docs and spreadsheets from Dropbox, Google Drive and Box. These files are searchable, too — a real time-saver.
4. Move seamlessly from your phone to your laptop to your tablet. And back again. The threads are always handy because they’re on all of your devices.
5. Use #hashtags to label and search threads. Works just like it does on Twitter.
6. Stop using your cellular minutes. WhatsApp includes voice calling that works like Skype.
7. Stop worrying about messages not being secure. WhatsApp messages are encrypted end to end, which means even WhatsApp itself can’t read them. Slack’s security practices are similar to other cloud services and GroupMe doesn’t make a lot of claims about privacy, so choose your chat app accordingly.
8. Take photos and videos from the app. So it’s only one step to share them, not two. Or more. They’ll be there later if you want to refer to them again or download to other apps or storage.
9. Share potentially embarrassing comments. Not that you would, but you could. Groups are private. So you share with a select group instead of broadcasting to all of your Facebook friends.
10. Create and plan events. Slack and GroupMe have you covered.
11. Let your spam-filled email inbox collect dust. Who needs email? Not experienced chatters. Work teams can also successfully move away from email — Slack was founded as a business productivity tool and is the most robust when it comes to integrated collaboration.
Businesses have good reasons to add business chat, too.
There’s one thing chat offers that Leapfrog isn’t excited about. WeChat (and other chat apps) offers a payment add-on so you can pay for all kinds of things via the app. This is very popular outside the U.S. but us frogs are leery of connecting financial accounts to apps that are not built specifically for finances. If you must pay for something through a chat app, make sure to connect a credit card and not a debit card or your bank account.
And always, always take advantage of the security features your apps offer, especially two-factor authorization.
Happy chatting! And chat-based sharing, commenting, planning, hashtagging, voice calling…
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