Facebook is one of the biggest, baddest social networks. At times it’s a little bit too bad. Whether it’s pestering you with Candy Crush Saga and Meow Chat invites and autoplaying videos, toggling your News Feed between Top Stories and Most Recent, preventing you from doing what you want as you live outside the US, or just giving away a little more information than you’d like, follow our tips and tricks to help you get the most out of Facebook. Like PC Advisor on Facebook. (See also: 15 great Twitter tips and tricks.)
Update June 2016: Facebook is about to delete your album of photos synched from your phone. Before 7 July you need to either download them via a web browser or install the Facebook Moments app on your phone or tablet and sign in to prevent those photos being deleted. Facebook used to offer the option of synching photos from your phone, but it has now moved this to the Moments app.
Use the following links to jump straight to the tip or trick:
1. Use Facebook reactions
2. Reply to comments with a video
3. Download Facebook data
4. Make photo albums available offline
5. Get US Facebook apps in the UK
6. Stop Facebook videos autoplaying
7. Watch your Facebook Lookback video
8. Display a nickname or maiden name
9. Block app requests and notifications
10. Stop apps posting on your behalf
11. Block an ex-friend
12. Separate your friends, colleagues and acquaintances
13. Limit who can see a post
14. Keep your Facebook profile private
15. Switch between Top Stories and Most Recent
Best Facebook tricks: 1. Use Facebook reactions
We knew it was coming for a while: now you can ‘Like’ something with various reactions from joy to sadness. Simply tap and hold on Like beneath a post to bring up the range of emotions.
Best Facebook tricks: 2. Reply to a comment with a video
Rolling out as of June 2016, you can now reply to a post not just with words or a photo but also a video. Now, when you click the camera icon in the comment box, you’ll see the option to pick a video.
Best Facebook tricks: 3. Download your Facebook data
With so much of our lives plastered over Facebook, many of us feel forever locked in for fear of losing that content. It doesn’t have to be this way. Facebook can email you a Zip file containing any posts, photos and videos you’ve shared, messages and chat conversations, information from the About section of your profile, and more. Just click the downward triangle at the top right of the page and choose Settings. On the General tab hit the link ‘Download a copy of your Facebook data’. Finally, on the next page click ‘Start My Archive’.
Best Facebook tricks: 4. Make your photo albums available offline
My mum keeps threatening to join Facebook. She’s interested only in looking at my photo albums. Rather than giving her access to everything and staying on my best behaviour forever more, I can simply send her a link to view the photo album offline. To do this just open an album and click the settings icon. Choose Get link. You can either copy and paste the photo album link or click ‘Send in message’, but note that the latter uses Facebook’s messaging system, so it won’t work for your not-on-Facebook mum. So copy the link, open an email client, paste in the link, address the email to your mum, hit Send and voila.
Best Facebook tricks: 5. Use US Facebook apps in the UK
When Facebook launches new apps it tends to do so only in the US. Two recent examples are Facebook Paper and Facebook Slingshot. We’re far too impatient to sit around for an international launch, so here’s how to get Facebook Slingshot and Facebook Paper in the UK.
Get Facebook Paper in the UK: Facebook Paper completely overhauls the Facebook News Feed in a style very similar to that of Flipboard. A standalone iPhone app, Paper focuses on content, readability and design. To get Facebook Paper in the UK you need to trick the App Store into thinking you’re in the US. Open the App Store, scroll to the bottom of the page, then tap the Apple ID button. Choose ‘View Apple ID’. Enter your password, then tap Country/Region, Change Country or Region, and choose United States. Tap Next, then agree to the TCs. When asked for a payment method choose None. Make up a phone number (three numbers followed by seven numbers) and a postcode (or ‘Zip’ code – five numbers) and select any State from the list. You can now tap Next and search for Facebook Paper in the App Store.
In the screenshot above you can see how to change your country or region on an iPad. The process is the same, although Paper is available only for iPhone.)
Get Facebook Slingshot in the UK: Facebook’s Snapchat-style photo-messaging service Slingshot is also available only in the US. You can get it on iOS using the instructions above, or follow our very simple guide to how to get Facebook Slingshot on Android in the UK.
Best Facebook tricks: 6. Stop Facebook videos autoplaying
If your Facebook News Feed is anything like mine, it’ll be chock-full of shared videos. Many of these videos have been shared because they are shocking, or filthy, or downright disgusting. Or perhaps they are videos of cats. Always cats… Whatever they are, I don’t want them autoplaying when I’m sneaking on to Facebook for a few minutes and have forgotten to turn down the sound.
Using the Android mobile app you simply go to Settings, App settings, scroll down to Video AutoPlay and choose either Wi-Fi only or Off.
To do the same with iOS you used to have to use the main Settings app. Now Facebook has moved the setting to the Facebook app itself. Tap the More icon (bottom right) then Settings. Tap Account Settings, then scroll down to Video and Photos.
Under Auto-play, choose Never Auto-play Videos. (There’s also a “On Wi-Fi Connections Only option.)
If you’re using a web browser, see How to stop videos and ads autoplaying in a web browser.
Best Facebook tricks: 7. Watch your Facebook Lookback video
Back in February you probably noticed videos popping up all over your Facebook feed of your friends’ Facebook history. Then it was annoying, but now the hype has died down Facebook Lookback videos are actually pretty cool. Just head to facebook.com/lookback, then deselect anything you don’t want to appear in your video. Also, you don’t have to share it with others unless you want to.
Best Facebook tricks: 8. Display a nickname or maiden name
Remember when people used to change their names on Facebook every other week, perhaps adding in a nickname or a maiden name? Well, Facebook had the last laugh when it limited the number of times you could change your profile name. As if the wind had changed, all of a sudden you were stuck with that name for all eternity. For example, I know a bloke called Neil who is now called Philip for Facebook purposes (I don’t pretend to understand why).
If you must play around with nicknames, maiden names or whatever, there is a better way to do it. Click the downward triangle at the top of the screen and choose Settings, then on the General tab click Edit next to Name. Enter an alternate name and tick the box to include it on your Timeline, then click Save changes. Don’t try to add anything that is either offensive, promotes your business or impersonates someone else, however – Facebook will block your attempts.
Best Facebook tricks: 9. Block app requests and notifications
Did you just get yet another request to play Candy Crush Saga? Or are your friends pestering you to log into Meow Chat? Are you still just as disinterested as ever? The good news is that it’s incredibly easy to block Candy Crush Saga, Meow Chat and any other apps that irritate you.
In a web browser, just click that downward triangle icon, choose Settings, Blocking, then scroll to the bottom of the page and enter the names of any apps you don’t want to hear from.
In the Android or iOS apps,the Blocking menu is only for users, not apps.
For full details see How to block Candy Crush Saga, Meow Chat and other Facebook apps.
Best Facebook tricks: 10. Stop apps posting on your behalf
You don’t want your boss to know you are playing Bejeweled Blitz when you should be working, yet it insists on posting to your wall on your behalf whenever you hit an achievement or beat someone’s score. And it won’t let you play without this permission. It’s not just Bejeweled Blitz – many apps insist on posting to your wall. But you can stop them. Click that downward triangle and choose Settings, Apps. Find the offending app in the list and choose Edit, then set the ‘Visibility of app’ field to Only me. It will still post to your wall, but only you will see those updates.
You can do this from the Android or iOS apps, by choosing the Apps menu within Settings.
Best Facebook tricks: 11. Block an ex-friend
Sometimes when we fall out with people there is just no going back. De-friending them is as simple as going to their profile page, then selecting Unfriend from the Friends drop-down displayed on their cover photo. If you have mutual friends, though, they’ll still be able to see anything you post that those friends either like, comment on or share, and they’ll still be able to search for you. To completely remove someone from your Facebook life you need to block them.
To block a person on Facebook go to Settings, Blocking, then enter their name in the Block users field. You do not have to be friends with someone to block them – perhaps you might want to block someone who you know is on Facebook and you either don’t want them to find you or are worried that they already have and are already nosing through your photos.
If you don’t dislike someone and don’t want to delete them, but don’t really enjoy them filling up your News Feed with pictures of cats and their dinner, a good alternative to defriending or blocking them is to hide their activity. And they’ll never know. Find one of their statuses in your News Feed, then select ‘Unfollow [friend's name]‘. If it’s just a single post – perhaps a disgusting video – that’s distracting you, instead choose ‘I don’t want to see this’. If it’s several but not all of their posts that irritate you, see our next point.
Best Facebook tricks: 12. Separate your friends, colleagues and acquaintances
The new office work experience boy just sent you a friend request. You’re probably never going to see him again after Friday and, for professional purposes, you’d rather he didn’t see what you got up to at the weekend. The good news is you can set up friend lists (perhaps better described as groups), then limit what they can see on your profile as well as how much you see of them. In the News Feed view look down the left sidebar for the Friends category. Hover your cursor over this, then choose the More link that appears.
You’ll notice you already have several friend lists, although adding a new list is as simple as clicking the + Create List button. Create a list or tap one of the existing ones to see who is in that list. You can then click the ‘Add Friends to List’ button. Now click Manage list at the top right, and toggle on or off whether you want to see status updates, photos, games posts, comments and likes, music and videos, and other activity from these people.
To limit what someone can see on your own profile add them to the Restricted friends list. These people will see only the posts and profile info you make public.
Best Facebook tricks: 13. Limit who can see a post
Sometimes you don’t want a specific friend to see a particular item that you’re sharing. Perhaps you don’t want your mum to see a photo of you holding a cigarette, or your boss to see a post in which you’re telling the world you’re pulling a sicky. Write up your status or add an image as you normally would, but before you hit post click the Friends drop-down before it. Choose More options. From here you can choose to share it with either a particular friends list, or you can click Custom to specify exactly who can and who can’t see the update.
Best Facebook tricks: 14. Keep your Facebook profile private
Facebook these days does a pretty good job of securing your privacy by default, but you may have accidentally altered a setting and are now giving away far more information than you’d like – and potentially to complete strangers. Head to Settings, Privacy and check all the options listed. From here you can define who can see your posts, items you’ve shared or those you’re tagged in, as well as who can request you as a friend. There are other options, too. Check them out.
Best Facebook tricks: 15. Switch between Top Stories and Most Recent
Why, why, why must Facebook keep playing with our News Feeds? I don’t want to look at what it thinks are the top stories, because I have already seen them! I’d much rather quickly pop in, see what’s new, then duck back out. It’s easy to toggle your view between Top Stories and Most Recent – just use the News Feed toggle under your profile name – but the process differs slightly with the mobile version and various apps. For full details see How to view Most Recent stories in your Facebook News Feed.
If you’ve followed all our tips and still find Facebook annoying, here’s how to deactivate or delete Facebook.
Follow Marie Brewis on Twitter.
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