by Anthony 

November 29, 2021

Signal is a free chat messaging, voice, and video calling app much like Whatsapp and Telegram.  It was recently recommended by tech entrepreneurs Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey, and has been a long time favorite of privacy advocate Edward Snowden. So how do you start using Signal?

To begin using Signal, first download the app on your phone as a regular app. Then provide a mobile number to register. Afterwards in the home screen, you can add or invite contacts. You can also link to the desktop version and finally, begin sending both private and group messages.

Signal is available on IOS and Android as well as PC, Mac, and Linux. Although you can’t use it on a desktop platform without first setting up your account on your mobile phone.

Download Signal to your mobile device, like any other app from the app store. And when you first open the app you’ll be taken through the setup process.

Signal download options

Firstly, you’ll be asked to give permission to allow notifications and access to your contacts. By allowing access to your contacts Signal will then check if any of them are also signed up to Signal.

Signal then asks for your phone number to authenticate you. Having added your phone number you’ll receive a verification code to validate your account.

You then provide your name, providing your Surname is optional, and finally a pin number. The pin is only used to secure your information. So don’t worry, you won’t be asked for the pin every time you use the app.

Register to Signal

The final step in the registration process is to allow Signal to find other devices on your local WiFi network.

This is used should you ever transfer your account to a new phone or device, such as a tablet, and is not entirely necessary. Regardless of whether to allow or disallow this option, it won’t affect you using the app.

Having completed the setup process, you’ll be taken to the home screen which is also your inbox. This is where you will start to see the messages you send and receive.

If you allowed access to your contacts during setup, Signal will notify you if any of them are already on Signal. And I can see that Wilson has the jump on me and has already signed up.

Signal home screen

Along the top of the window is the main menu. The first option takes you to Settings and your profile.

I won’t go through all the settings but just some of the more common ones. For example, you can click on your name to change or add a profile picture. You will need to allow access to your camera or photo library to do so. For my profile pic, I’ll choose my faculty of apps logo.

If you allowed access to your contacts list, you can invite friends who are not already on Signal. Simply click on their name and this will generate an SMS containing a link that your friend can then click on to install the app.

Invite friends to Signal

In Appearance, you can set the app to use dark mode. There are numerous privacy options for you to sift through, and you can change how Signal notifies you when you receive a message.

For example, you can change the alert tone and how much information is displayed on your lock screen.

If you want to use Signal on a second device such as your computer, Linked Devices is where you can link your account using the QR scanner.

Simply download the Signal app for Windows, Mac or Linux by going to signal.org/download, and once installed, use your phone to scan the QR code that appears on your computer screen. You’ll need to allow signal access to your camera to do this.

Back on the main screen, the next menu option is to access your camera should you want to quickly send a photo to a friend.

Signal share photo
Signal share photo sample

Here I’ll send Wilson a photo of the camping lamp I recently bought from IKEA. Having taken the photo, I’ll choose Wilson from my contact list and hit send. Having sent the message you’ll notice my chat session with Wilson now appears on the main screen.

The final menu option is to create a new message or a new group.

To create a group, simply click on New Group and add the people from your contacts you wish to include.

New group chat in Signal

Since I only have Wilson in my contacts I’ll just add him. Give your group a name. I’ll call our group Cast Aways, and click Create.

This will send out an invitation to everyone you included in the group. You’ll start to see notifications popping up on the screen as your friends accept their invites.

To add additional people after creating your group and to access your group settings, click on the Group name at the top of the screen.

If the people you want to add are already on Signal and in your contacts, simply click on Add members, otherwise you can create an SMS link for those who are not on Signal.

Click on Group Link and enable the option. Choose Share and then select the app you wish to use to send out your link.

If you enable the approve New members option, you will receive a notification to approve each member as they click the link. If the notifications don’t pop up automatically, you can access them in Member requests and Invites.

Start a group call

To start a group video call, click on on the camera icon in the group chat window.

If you wish to make individual calls, open up your chat session from the main inbox or click on the new message menu option, choose the individual you wish to call, and either click the video or telephone icon depending on how you wish to speak to them.

And that is how to start using Signal. For more tips like these, please check out my YouTube Signal app playlist.

P.S.

Facts of Apps

  • Signal is developed by the non-profit Signal Technology Foundation and Signal Messenger LLC. According to their website, the mission of the foundation is: “To develop open source privacy technology that protects free expression and enables secure global communication.”
  • As of January 2021, Signal had more than 105 million total downloads, and approximately 40 million monthly active users.
  • Signal requires a phone number for verification, thereby eliminating the need for usernames or passwords.
  • Signal is blocked in Iran and China.
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