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Get good at Discord

Examples and screenshots of nearly everything you need to know to become a Discord pro.

This was originally written as a how-to/walkthrough/cheatsheet for MetaGame, a sort of “the 20% of effort that gets you 80% of the results” type thing. It got stuck in editorial purgatory and hasn’t been published over there, so I’m previewing it here.

Main sections of this post

Some of Discord’s most helpful features are hidden behind unlabelled icons or buried below layers of options menus.

I clicked all those icons and went deep into all the menus, and now I’m back with screenshots and examples of nearly everything you need to know to become a pro-user of Discord.

Read on for more (in no particular order) about:

  • Unique usernames with special characters and emojis
  • Text formatting tricks to make your messages clear and readable
  • Using the Inbox to make sure you don’t miss any mentions or important messages
  • Knowing where to find the info to get past gatekeepers on interesting Discord servers
  • How to create a custom status that shows up in member lists and group chats
  • Adding friends, blocking enemies
  • Basic keyboard shortcuts and combos

You’ve probably already got Discord installed and have a user account set up. No? You can install Discord for desktop, mobile (find it in your app store), or use it in your browser if you prefer.

(What’s Discord? It’s a mega-app: chat server with discussion forums, text chats, video calls, voice calls, screen-sharing, etc., etc.)

Your username and avatar

Your username and avatar are how you’ll be recognized when using Discord.

Change your username

Change your username if you don’t like the first one you chose.

  • Click the Gear icon ⚙️ to open the User Settings menu. (Right-click the Gear icon to open a list of all the categories in the User Settings menu.)
  • Click the Edit button by your username.
  • On a mobile device, tap your avatar at the bottom of the screen, tap on Account, then Username.
Screenshot of Discord Gear icon for settings
Gear icon.
Screenshot of Discord My Account screen
User Settings > My Account.

Pro-tip #1: you can use emojis 🐙 and 𝖘𝖕𝖊𝖈𝖎𝖆𝖑 𝖈𝖍𝖆𝖗𝖆𝖈𝖙𝖊𝖗𝖘 in your username to make it stand out. (Try perfectfontgenerator.com to get some special characters to copy-and-paste into your username.)

Pro-tip #2: Change your username for the current server only with the /nick command, or by right-clicking your avatar in the server members list and clicking Server Profile. (On a mobile device, find the Server Profile options by tapping the three dots ●●● by the server name.)

Animation of the /nick slash command in Discord
Using the /nick command to change your nickname on a server.
Screenshot of Discord mobile app server options shortcut
On a mobile device, tap the three dots ●●● by the server name to find the Edit Server Profile option.

Change your avatar

Your default avatar is a Discord logo. Change it to something that suits you better.

  • Click the Gears icon to open the User Settings menu.
  • Click the Edit User Profile button.
  • Click the Change Avatar button.
  • Upload and position your new avatar.
  • On a mobile device, tap your avatar at the bottom of the screen, tap on User Profile, then tap the avatar and pick Change Avatar.
Screenshot of Discord User Profile screen
User Settings > User Profile > Change Avatar.

There’s also a hashtag after your username. It’s not easy to change that.

What’s the hashtag all about? The hashtag combined with your username makes it unique, and others can use it to find you and add you as a friend.

Your username plus the hashtag is called your handle.

On a mobile device, copy your handle by long-pressing your username in the bottom left corner.

Find interesting servers and learn how to unlock access

There’s a Discord for everything. What are you interested in?

Find and join a server by searching for it by name or keywords in the Explore Public Servers section of Discord’s desktop app, or by following an invite link. (Look for invite links in Twitter bios, on official websites, or on aggregator sites like top.gg, disboard.org, and daoexchange.app.)

Screenshot of Discord Explore Public Servers option
The Explore Public Servers icon.
Screenshot of Discord server search results
Welcome to the MetaGame.

After you join a server you will see its channels and messages.

To begin with, you might only be able to see a few channels, and you might not be able to post messages.

Find out how to unlock more channels and posting privileges by looking for a #start-here channel to find server rules and guidelines. Channels like #rules, #introduce-yourself, #getting-verified, and #welcome are also common starting points.

Getting more information about a channel in a server

Make sure you’re posting in the correct channel.

At the top of the channel’s message list there is a space for a channel description, and a Pin icon that will reveal any pinned messages. Pinned messages often contain key information about the channel. Click or tap the channel name, description, or pin icon to read any extra information.

Screenshot of Discord channel info pane
L-R: Channel Name, Channel Description; Threads icon; Notifications icon; Pinned Messages icon; Member List icon.

You’ve joined a server, followed the rules to unlock access to server channels, lurked for a while … now you’re ready to post messages and start chatting.


Make your messages stand out

Messages that are a long run of plain text are hard to read. When writing a long message use line breaks to simulate paragraphs, and basic text formatting to highlight your key points.

Line breaks and paragraphsPress Shift+EnterFirst line of text.

Second line of text.
Bold text**This is bold**This is bold
Italic*This is italic*This is italic
Bold and italic***This is bold and italic***This is bold and italic
Underlined__This is underlined__This is underlined
Block Quote> Quoted text in a block quote

With your own comment below
Quoted text in a block quote
With your own comment below
Inline code format`Different colour, font, and background`Different colour, font, and background

React😛 to a message if you want to acknowledge it but don’t have anything specific to write.

Reply to a message to make it a conversation. The user you’re replying to will get a notification.

Start a thread to create a focused discussion that is separate from the discussion in the channel and will not cause notifications for others in the main channel. View any threads in a channel by clicking the threads icon at the top of the message list.

Use emojis to help signal the tone of your message. (The Ctrl/Cmd+E keyboard combination will open the emoji picker; use Shift+Left-click if you want to pick more than one emoji in a row.)

Screenshot of Discord React icon
L-R: Reaction icon, Reply icon, Threads icon, More options.

Add an image or photo to your message by dragging or copy-and-pasting the file into the message box.

Use @ to tag a user to bring their attention to a message. Expect to get flamed if you spam tags and mentions.

Make a link to a channel by typing # in the message box and picking the channel from the list that pops up. Keep typing to filter the list; start with #! to show just voice channels.

Messages on a mobile device

  • Long-press a message to open options for replies, reacts, and threads.
  • To make a line-break in a message, find the Enter key on the same keyboard view that you use to type a number.
  • Tap the + button by the message box to add an image.
Screenshot of Discord mobile app image upload icon
Tap the + to upload an image from your mobile device.

Key app features

Five key features and functions for Discord.

1. The Inbox

Find all your unread messages and mentions in the Inbox. Before I discovered the Inbox, I was trying to keep up by clicking through all the channels. You too? No more!

Screenshot of Discord Inbox icon
The Inbox icon.

The Inbox shows a list of everything you missed since the last time you were online. It’s the fastest way to catch up with messages and mentions in all of the servers that you’ve joined.

Screenshot of Discord Inbox Unreads list
An open Inbox, showing some of the options available to filter messages.

Inbox options

Filter by Mentions to show only messages that mention you, or pick Unreads to show all unread messages since your last visit.

Click the tick icon ✔ to mark a channel as read. (Click the double tick at the top to mark everything as read.)

Click the ‘Jump’ button to view a message in its original context.

Use the Notification Settings to curate the contents of your Inbox. You can choose to mute servers or specific channels, or include only @mentions for a particular channel.

Use the Ctrl+I keyboard shortcut to open the Inbox.

Search and Inbox on mobile devices

Open a search box and find unread channels by tapping the search icon at the bottom of the screen; tap the @ icon to see your mentions.

Screenshot of Discord mobile app bottom drawer
Mobile device bottom menu icons, L-R: Messages, Friends, Search, Mentions.

2. Search

Find information in previous messages; filter by user, channel, attachments, date ranges.

  • Click in the Search box to start a search. (Use Ctrl+F to open the Search box.)
  • Search on a keyword; add filters to narrow the search.
  • Click the ‘Jump’ button to view the message in its original context.
Screenshot of Discord search results
Search results for the keyword ‘playbooks’.

Search filters

FilterFilters by
from:Messages from a user on the server.
mention:Messages that mention a user on the server.
has:Messages with a link, embed, or file attachment.
before:Messages sent before a specific date.
after:Messages sent after a specific date.
in:Message sent to a specific channel on the server.

This search example shows a query that lists all the recent messages from several channels in the MetaGame Discord server.

in: ⚔-builder-reports in: 🔮-guild-n-raid-reports in: 😇-did-a-thing in: 🙌-give-props after: 2022-02-01
Screenshot of Discord search results
Filter search query results—259 recent messages.

3. Set a custom status

You can set your online status as Online, Idle, Busy, or Invisible.

Set a custom status to add a note under your username in the Member List of any servers or group chats that you belong to. You can’t use Discord emojis in a custom status, but you can add system emojis using your OS emoji picker. (e.g. Win+. on Windows systems.)

Screenshot of Discord options for online status
Click or tap your avatar to open the menu.
Screenshot of Discord showing a custom status
Custom status activated.

4. Direct messages and adding users as a friend

Click or tap on a user’s avatar or username to see options for messages and adding them as a friend.

Send a message

Left-click or tap their avatar to view their profile. You’ll see an option to send them a message.

Screenshot of Discord user profile menu
Left-click to view the user’s profile.

Add Friend

Right-click the user’s avatar or username to see a list of options that includes Message and Add Friend. (Long-press to see these options on a mobile device.)

Screenshot of Discord user profile extended menu
Right-click the avatar for more options.
Screenshot of Discord mobile app message, add, and call options
On a mobile device, long-press a user’s avatar to show options for messages, calls, and adding as a friend.

After your friend request has been accepted you can create a direct message from the Discord app home section. You can make a group DM with up to nine friends.

I mentioned the hashtag that comes after your username. If you want to add someone as a friend, but don’t have any servers in common, enter the username including the hashtag in the Discord Friends section to look them up.

Screenshot of Discord Add Friend screen
Discord Friends section: Add Friend with Discord Tag and other options. The speech bubble next to Add Friend starts a new Group DM.

5. Privacy settings for messages

The Privacy & Safety section of the User Settings menu lets you set who can add you as a friend.

Screenshot of Discord Privacy and Safety section
User Settings > Privacy & Safety.

Block direct messages from members of a particular server by right-clicking the server icon, clicking Privacy Settings, and changing the Direct Messages setting.

Screenshot of Discord mobile app Privacy Settings
Desktop app—right-click the server icon to show server options.
Screenshot of Discord server options icon
On a mobile device, tap the three dots ●●● by the server name to show the server options.

And that’s it. Fix up your avatar and username, try out markdown formatting and the main keyboard shortcuts, figure out the Inbox—that’s pretty much all you’ll need for day to day use of Discord.

For more information

Thanks to MetaGame players UniPuff and dysbulic for comments and suggestions.