WhatsApp for Windows 11 gets 3 super-cool new features in its latest update

A new update to WhatsApp for Windows 11 and Windows 10 adds three new features that boost user experience in a big way: multi-window support, a new ‘hamburger’ menu, and a new interface. These are also hints of the addition of Meta AI features here (and we’ll come back to that later).

Spotted by Windows Latest, the update has added a little bit of life to the WhatsApp interface on Windows, which was pretty boring and drab beforehand. You had to struggle when resizing to get your contacts and message threads to show at the same time and often had to choose between the two. However, now you can hide the contact list within the menu, so your chat takes up the full-screen space, and you can easily bring your contacts list back up by clicking through the menu. 

Secondly, you can now open a chat in a new window if you want to isolate just one conversation. You’ll also be able to open multiple chats if you don’t want to have the whole app open, and want to keep up with just a few important people. The chat window will open up with a more stripped-down layout, keeping it simple. 

Finally, a new hamburger menu (a cute way to refer to drop-down menus that are shown as three lines stacked on top of each other) separates the app into chats, calls, and status updates. So overall, the update adds useful new features and streamlines the app into a more digestible format. 

Windows Latest suggests that the simple hamburger menu may make space for a range of Meta AI features to come to WhatsApp, as announced earlier this year. This could include using the search bar to input queries to Meta AI without making a separate chat. The integration of AI assistants into WhatsApp sounds similar to the ones introduced to Instagram last year, which included famous personas like Snoop Dogg!

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A big WhatsApp update will soon make it easier to find your chats – here’s how

Meta is making it much easier to locate chatrooms on WhatsApp by introducing four new filters to the service's inbox. This may seem like a small, inconsequential update on the surface. After all, filters already exist on the platform, how much can four more really help? In this case, each one will help you cut through all the chaos of an active WhatsApp inbox. 

As Meta points out, the new tools will make fast and simple the chore of “finding the right conversation” especially as Meta continues launching new features and the app becomes more bloated over time.

These filters will show up as bubbles above the chat list on the WhatsApp home page. “All” is the default setting letting you view an inbox without any filters enabled. “Unread” highlights all of your unread messages. Chats that have yet to be responded to will have an indicator next to them on the right. 

There's “Groups,” which apparently was a “highly requested feature.” This allows you to see all of the group chats you’re currently a part of. Plus, ongoing conversations from Community subgroups will appear under the filter as well. 

Finally, there is “Contacts.” The X post doesn’t describe what this filter does, however it did show up months ago on a past WhatsApp beta. WABetaInfo in their coverage says the Contacts filter lets you find messages from people on your contacts list while blocking spam from unknown numbers.

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Potential future update

The patch is currently rolling out “and will be available to everyone” within the coming weeks on mobile. No word if it’ll make its way to the desktop version of WhatsApp

There may be more filters on the way. Back in February 2024, hints found in an old WhatsApp beta indicate Meta was, at one point, working on a Favorites filter for friends or family you frequently interact with. What's more, users might even receive the ability to create custom tags that “suit their preferences.” It’s unknown if either of these are still under development, but they are something to look forward to on WhatsApp.

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WhatsApp is testing an all-knowing AI chatbot that will live in your search bar

WhatsApp is slated to receive a pair of AI-powered upgrades aiming to help people answer tough questions on the fly, as well as edit images on the platform.

Starting with answering questions, the upgrade integrates one of Meta’s AI models into the WhatsApp search bar. Doing so, according to WABetaInfo, would allow users to directly input queries without having to create a separate chat room for the AI. You'd be able to hold a quick conversation right on the same page. 

It appears this is an extension of the in-app assistants that originally came out back in November 2023. A screenshot in the report reveals WhatsApp will provide a handful of prompts to get a conversation flowing.

It’s unknown just how capable the search bar AI will be. The assistants are available in different personas specializing in certain topics. But looking at the aforementioned screenshot, it appears the search bar will house the basic Meta AI model. It would be really fun if we could assign the Snoop Dogg persona as the main assistant.

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AI image editing

The second update is a collection of image editing features discovered by industry expert AssembleDebug, after diving into a recent WhatsApp beta. AssembleDebug discovered three possibly upcoming tools – Backdrop, Restyle, and Expand. It’s unknown exactly what they do as not a single one works. However the first two share a name with other features currently available on Instagram, so they may, in fact, function the same way.

Backdrop could let users change the background of an image into something different via text prompt. Restyle can completely alter the art style of an uploaded picture. Think of these like filters, but more capable. You can make a photograph into a watercolor painting or pixel art. It’s even possible to create wholly unique content through a text prompt.

WhatsApp's new image editing tools

(Image credit: AssembleDebug/TheSPAndroid)

Expand is the new kid on the block. Judging by the name, AssembleDebug theorizes it’ll harness the power of AI “to expand images beyond their visible area”. Technology like this already exists on other platforms. Photoshop, for example, has Generative Expand,  and Samsung's Galaxy S24 series can expand images after they have been adjusted by rotation. 

WhatsApp gaining such an ability would be a great inclusion as it’ll give users a robust editing tool that is free. Most versions of this tech are locked behind a subscription or tied to a specific device.

Do keep in mind neither beta is available to early testers at the time of this writing. They're still in the works, and as stated earlier, we don’t know the full capabilities of either set. Regardless of their current status, it is great to see that one day WhatsApp may come equipped with AI tech on the same level as what you’d find on Instagram especially when it comes to the search bar assistant. The update will make accessing that side of Meta software more convenient for everyone.

If you prefer to tweak images on a desktop, check out TechRadar's list of the best free photo editors for PC and Mac.

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WhatsApp for Android is making it much easier to find older messages

WhatsApp users on Android just got access to a feature that iPhone owners have been making use of for a while now: the ability to search through conversations by date, which makes it much easier to dig out old chats.

The new feature was announced by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on his WhatsApp channel (via TechCrunch), and is apparently rolling out to Android devices now – so if you don't have it already, you should see it soon.

To use it, head into any of your chats, then tap the three dots (top right) and Search. You should then see a calendar icon in the top-right corner, which you can tap on to jump to messages sent and received on a particular day. You can also tap on the name of the conversation at the top to find the Search option.

This is all very similar to how the 'search by date' function works on other platforms, but Android has been lagging behind in this respect – even WhatsApp for the web offers the option to search through chats by date.

Regular updates

WhatsApp date search

How the ‘search by date’ feature looks on Android (Image credit: Future)

This is of course a handy and welcome addition for WhatsApp users on Android, as it could save a serious amount of scrolling – assuming of course, that you can remember the date when you got the message or media file you're looking for.

To give the WhatsApp team credit, it's an app that gets new features on a regular basis, though not always at the same time on Android and iOS. The app actually looks different depending on which mobile OS you're using – Android puts the navigation tabs at the top, for example, but they're underneath the chat list on iOS.

Despite these disparities, the app continues to grow in popularity as a cross-platform, secure, and reliable messaging platform. It's estimated to have around 2 billion active users worldwide, which is a fair chunk of the global population.

In recent months we've seen WhatsApp roll out upgrades for photo and video sharing, as well as test an expansion of the Chat Lock feature, making it easier to protect certain conversations across multiple devices.

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WhatsApp launches overdue formatting features, bringing order to chaotic texts

WhatsApp is releasing several new formatting tools to help you manage those long walls of text in group chats.

Triggering one of the new text formats requires you to enter a certain punctuation mark, followed by a space, and then the words themselves. Hyphens let you create a bullet list. A numeral with a period right after establishes a numbered list. Users can even make block quotes by first hitting the Greater Than arrow on the keyboard and then adding a space. To make inline code, you’ll have to press the accent symbol (which is found below the Esc key on most keyboards) followed by a single space. If done correctly, the messages you enter will be reformatted to your specifications. Otherwise, you’ll just see a bunch of random punctuations.

In total, users now have eight different ways to spruce up their conversations on the platform counting the likes of bold, italic, strikethrough, and monospace from years prior.

WhatsApp's new formatting tools

(Image credit: Future)

Finer details

Meta announced the update on social media and via WhatsApp notification; however, they neglected to mention some of the finer details. Not only are the features present in one-on-one chat rooms but also on the platform’s Channels, according to TechCrunch. The tools are available on WhatsApp for Android, iOS, Mac, and web browsers. Do keep in mind the patch is still rolling out so there’s a chance you may not have it on your mobile device. We didn’t get it on our Android, but luckily, it's currently live on the web version.

If you look closely, you’ll notice that we didn’t mention the Windows desktop app. This is because, for whatever reason, the Windows version lacks these features. It’s a rather strange omission especially when you consider the fact that this update has been in the works since August 2023. You’d think Meta would’ve brought it over PC in that time. So we reached out to the company asking for information on a Windows release. We’ll let you know if we hear back.

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WhatsApp working on a way to stop users from screenshotting your profile pic

Meta may be releasing yet another layer of privacy protection to WhatsApp that will prevent people from taking screenshots of your profile photo on the service.

This upcoming feature was discovered in the most recent WhatsApp beta on Android by WABetaInfo. It'll be housed within the Privacy section of the Settings menu, according to tomsguide.  Having access to the blocking tool, they attempted to take a screenshot of a profile picture however they were prevented from doing so. The publication was met with a notification at the bottom of the screen stating they couldn’t take a screenshot “due to app restrictions”. 

As explained in the report, WhatApp introduced the option to stop users from saving “others’ profile photos” about five years ago. It was supposed to prevent bad actors from sharing images without the owner’s consent; however, screenshotting completely bypasses this. WABetaInfo argues that directly blocking the ability to screenshot allows WhatsApp to further reinforce “the concept of user privacy and consent” on its service. It seemingly doesn’t want said bad actors to utilize people’s photographs for scams, impersonations, or harassment.

Analysis: A small, yet important issue

Now you may be wondering, “Is taking unauthorized screenshots of a WhatsApp profile picture really that big of an issue?” 

Well, based on the brief research we did, it seems screenshotting profile photos isn’t a major problem plaguing the user base, but it is an anxiety held by a small group. We’ve seen multiple posts on Reddit of people voicing their concern over this issue. Someone on the Privacy subreddit even asked if it was possible to find out who screenshotted their WhatApp profile pic.

We also found an interesting post on Medium by writer Bilge Tekin who proposed the concept of a Screenshot Restriction feature for WhatsApp back in 2021. Tekin’s idea took it a step further by preventing screenshotting in chat rooms. When he had people try out his idea, it seemed the testers liked having the option to restrict others from sharing private conversations. 

Granted, none of these examples come from a Meta-financed scientific study or an official poll. There haven't been any large-scale studies delving into this phenomenon as far as we can tell. But at the very least, it could give WhatsApp an edge over rivals by appealing to this niche subset of the user base. Neither Telegram nor Signal have a feature like this. Plus, having the option doesn't hurt.

If you’re interested in trying out the new tool, you’ll first need to join the Google Program Beta Program and then install the beta version of WhatsApp. The blocking update may not be available to you as only a select group currently has access, but WABetaInfo states it will be rolling out to more users over the coming weeks.

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WhatsApp is expanding Chat Lock so it syncs with other versions simultaneously

WhatsApp is working on expanding its Chat Lock feature allowing it to synchronize across all linked devices. So if you lock a conversation on the mobile app, it’ll remain locked on WhatsApp for web and Windows. It doesn’t work that way currently as the other platforms are treated as separate entities.

This future update was discovered by WABetaInfo after diving into the latest Android beta. They discovered a window with a line of texting stating WhatsApp took the opportunity to also close up the chat room on a linked device. And to open it up again, you’ll need to “use your secret code”. This “secret code” they’re referring to is a recently released security feature that was added to the platform this past November. The publication goes on to say all locked chats will be collected into a list and to access that list, you’ll need to enter your code.

Added convenience and security

Chat Lock’s expansion accomplishes two things that we’re huge fans of. One: it makes WhatsApp more convenient to use since you don’t have to relock the same conversation on Windows. It simplifies the process. And two: it offers the promise of consistent protection across your devices. This upgrade, as WABetaInfo points out, will unify privacy management across the platform’s different forms.

The feature is still under development. It doesn't work in any capacity. Although judging by the posted image, the enhanced Chat Lock may be rolling out to beta testers soon. No word on whether the same tool will be released to WhatsApp on iOS. WABetaInfo doesn’t say whether or not it will, however, it could just be a matter of time until we see it crop up on iPhones.

Instant block

Alongside the leak, Meta made a small update to WhatsApp giving users a way to block others right from the lock screen or chat list without ever having to open the text. Notifications will now have a Block option on them next to Reply. We don’t blame you if you have no idea about this. The company didn’t announce anything on its social media platforms or main avenues. Meta instead made the reveal via text coming from the official WhatsApp channel. So unless you're subscribed to the channel, you wouldn't know anything.

This patch is currently rolling out to the Android app. It’s unknown if iOS users will receive the same tool. Meta hasn’t said anything nor could we find anybody talking about getting the feature on their iPhone. So we reached out to Meta asking for information on if there are plans to expand the lock screen block tool to iOS. This story will be updated at a later time.

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WhatsApp could soon let you directly message other apps like Signal

Meta is currently working on improving WhatsApp’s interoperability by giving users the ability to directly message people on different platforms like Signal.

Evidence of this upgrade comes from WABetaInfo revealing the feature was found on a recent WhatsApp beta for iOS. The post offers very few concrete details, but enough that we can paint a picture of what the final release may look like.

An image on the post shows the Chats tab will have a new section exclusive for third-party conversations, storing all outward chats. Users will apparently be given manual control over this function with the option to disable it at any time. Additionally, text messages to and from third-party sources will sport end-to-end encryption to ensure complete privacy. 

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It’s unknown exactly how many or which platforms will be able to communicate with WhatsApp. Signal is only mentioned as an example.

Normally, we would direct you to install the WhatsApp beta on iOS to try out this feature. However, the TestFlight program for the platform is completely full at the time of this writing. No word on whether or not extra spots will open in the future. But, if you own an Android phone, you can join the Google Play Beta Program and download the WhatsApp beta from there. You might get the opportunity to try out the update. Google’s service tends to have more spots available for people interested in early software builds.

New rules

Although it’s not officially confirmed, WABetaInfo believes this increased interoperability is the result of the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA). 

The DMA, if you don’t remember or are familiar with it, is a law that was passed back in 2022 aimed squarely at major tech corporations. Its main purpose is to limit the amount of power these “gatekeepers” have over the industry and their users. One of the new rules requires companies that own a messaging platform (i.e. Meta) to allow people to talk to others on third-party apps. EU regulators didn’t like the fact these services function essentially like islands; isolated from each other and forcing users to play by their rules.

After the law passed, government officials in Europe gave these corporations ample time to prepare their services for when the DMA officially goes into effect. The EU will begin enforcing the legislation on March 6.

It’s unknown when WhatsApp’s interoperability upgrade will roll out. Given that the effective date is a little over a month away, we may see it come out sometime in February or very early March. Perhaps, it'll come out to Android first since its beta has been out since September 2023. Keep in mind that this is all speculation on our end. Things can always change.

Until then, check out TechRadar's roundup of the best encrypted messaging apps for Android of 2024.

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WhatsApp on Android could soon let you share files with nearby friends

WhatsApp may receive its own version of Apple’s AirDrop as a recent Android beta shows hints that a file-sharing feature is in the works.

A post on WABetaInfo offers insight into the potential update. Like AirDrop, the feature only works between two people. Both users will need to have the software open to the tool and be “within close proximity” to exchange files. What’s particularly interesting about this file sharing is the receiving person will need to physically shake their smartphone to create a share request. 

WABetaInfo explains this is to maintain a “controlled approach to file exchanges” between contacts. It's similar to how AirDrop lets people configure its settings so they only receive content from trusted sources. However, the website claims it will be possible to share media with non-contacts on WhatsApp. Phone numbers will remain hidden in this situation to preserve anonymity.

And just like sending messaging on WhatsApp, file sharing is end-to-end encrypted according to the website, ensuring personal information and content being sent is protected from outside interference. 

Pending information

That’s pretty much all that is known about WhatsApp’s file-sharing feature. A lot of the finer details have yet to be revealed. 

It’s unknown exactly how sending media to non-contacts will work. Will all receiving users have to shake their device too or will Meta change its mind and throw out that step replacing it with a simple menu setting? Going back to AirDrop, Apple’s version lets you change the receiving setting to Everyone allowing non-contacts to accept content from you.

Additionally, we don’t know if there are any file-size limitations for shared files. The maximum size for sending media to group chats is 2GB at the moment. The upcoming feature will probably have a similar size although it would be nice to see Meta expand the limit. Considering that we live in a world where 4K videos exist, an expansion would be great to have.

No word on when this update will become available to beta testers. WABetaInfo states the tool is still under development, so a preview build doesn’t exist yet. If you’re interested in trying out the file-sharing feature once it’s ready, you can become a WhatsApp beta tester by joining the Google Play Beta Program. You may be one of the lucky few to gain access down the line.

Analysis: cross-platform sharing

One thing we would like to see is compatibility across different operating systems. Imagine being able to send files from an Android phone to an iOS device and vice versa. It would certainly give WhatsApp an edge over Quick Share.

If you’re not familiar, Google and Samsung recently entered a partnership that resulted in many new products and combining Nearby Share into Quick Share. Now Android users can use the function for quick file sharing, hence the name. Assuming Meta rolls out the update in its current state, it could cause a lot of confusion as people would arguably be receiving the same thing twice. Giving WhatsApp's tool cross-platform support would make it stand out considerably.

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WhatsApp launches self-destructing voice messages to Android and iOS

WhatsApp is officially giving users the ability to send out temporary voice messages to their contacts.

We say “officially” because this feature has actually been around for the past two months or so although it was in a beta state. People in the beta program were the only ones who had access at the time. Don’t worry about feeling like you missed out because the View Once messages, as they’re called, function exactly the same as before. Meta didn’t make any changes with the official release.

You start by holding down the record button, then swipe up to lock it. Recordings must be locked first in order to make the View Once icon (which is the number one inside the circle) appear in the bottom right-hand corner. Tap it once to activate it and a timer will be attached to the message. Hit Send and you’re done

WhatsApp's new View Once voice messages

(Image credit: Future)

A few limitations

From there, the recipient has two weeks to listen to the recording. You’ll know they’ve listened when the little receipt marker appears below the message. If they ignore it the entire time, WhatsApp will automatically delete it. Do note you’ll be unable to save, share, or forward these self-destructing voice messages. 

It is possible to restore a recording from a backed up chat room, but only if it was never opened in the first place, according to a page on WhatsApp’s support website. If it was already heard, then you’re out of luck. Another one will have to be sent.

The update is currently rolling out globally to all WhatsApp users on Android and iOS devices. Be sure to keep an eye out for the patch when it arrives over the coming days. We reached out to Meta asking if there plans to add the same feature to the desktop app. If you’re not aware, the company gave WhatsApp on desktop the ability to send self-destructing images and videos. Perhaps it’ll also receive support for temporary voice messages. This story will be updated at a later time.

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