Hand holding a phone with Twitter open
These features can make Twitter a less horrible place. Claudio Schwarz / Unsplash
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This story has been updated. It was originally published on July 29, 2017.

Since 2006, Twitter has been breaking major news, connecting celebrities directly to their fans, and creating all kinds of memes from the hilarious to the downright bizarre. Whether you use the service or not, Twitter has played a huge role in internet culture for the past 15 years.

Despite its surface simplicity—a non-stop flow of updates, 280 characters long or less—this social network hides powerful tools and customizations under its unassuming exterior. Here’s how you can start getting more out of Twitter, both on your phone and your web browser.

1. Create lists

One of Twitter’s best features—its endless scroll of updates—is also its worst. If you follow friends, celebrities, news organizations, humor accounts, and others, all the disparate content will get jumbled together in a muddle. That’s where lists come in. This frequently overlooked feature lets you put together collections of themed accounts (sci-fi authors, your coworkers, National Parks, etcetera), and then view tweets from those accounts in a single stream. Throw together your favorite comedians for a list you can read through when you want to laugh, and trusted science news outlets for a timeline that will stimulate your sense of wonder.

[Related: How to create and curate your watchlists on any streaming platform]

To make a Twitter list, simply open up the profile page of someone you want to add to a list, click on the three dots (third to the right of the Follow button), and then choose Add/remove from Lists. The pop-up window will let you add the account to an existing list or make it the first account in a brand-new list. On your phone, you can find the lists option by opening up a profile and tapping the three dots.

Once you’ve created a list, you can find a link to it on your profile page. If you’ve set your list to be private, then only you will be able to see and access it. If you’ve made it public, then anyone can view it. Other people can subscribe to your public lists, so you can also use them to curate Twitter accounts for your friends to follow.

2. See a performance review

You’ve got an amazing hot take that you know will set Twitter on fire. But how can you be sure it’s performing to its full potential? For that, you need to see what kind of updates your followers are interested in, and what will make a big impression on your audience. Which is why Twitter created its own free analytics dashboard, available for all users to take advantage of.

Navigate to the analytics page, and you can see how much you’re tweeting, how much traction those tweets are earning over time, how many new followers and profile visits you’re getting, and more. If you want to start paying to promote posts on the network, you can do this from Twitter Analytics too.

3. Embrace the night

When you’re curled up in bed at night, naturally you’ll want to grab your phone and scroll through the feed of your Twitter app (available on Android and iOS). But the blue light emanating from the screen can strain your eyes and disrupt your ability to fall asleep. So turn on night mode, which gives the entire interface a darker look that’s easier on the eyes after the sun’s gone down.

To access the night mode setting on Android, go to the app menu by tapping your avatar, open Settings and privacy, and then hit Display and sound, and then Dark mode. On iOS, go to  Settings and privacy, Accessibility, display, and languages, and Display and sound—then choose Dark mode There, you can turn this feature on and off, and also choose what kind of dark mode you want—you may choose from Dim (applies a dark blue background) and Lights out (applies a black background).

If you’re using an Android phone, then Twitter gives you an extra bonus option to set the dark version of your feed to automatically kick in based on your region’s sunset and sunrise times. To turn it on, just choose Automatic at sunset under Dark mode

On desktop, things are even easier. On the sidebar menu, click on More and then on Display. On the pop-up window, choose between Default (light mode), Dim, and Lights out.

4. Find specific tweets

Like Google, Twitter has advanced search options for looking up your favorite vaguely-remembered tweets. You can access them on the advanced search page, which gives you plenty of options for tracking down your query.

In addition to searching for certain keywords while excluding others, you can look for tweets based on the account that wrote them, as well as the post’s geographical location, date, language, and more. These advanced search abilities instantly turn you into a superpowered tweet hunter.

5. Mute certain words

Tired of hearing about a news story that has set Twitter abuzz? Trying to avoid spoilers for your favorite TV show? Now’s the time to mute certain words. This prevents tweets that contain the forbidden phrases from appearing in your timeline or in your notifications. However, they will still show up in searches.

To adjust your mute options, open the Twitter settings page, then Privacy and safety, and click on Mute and block. On the menu, go to Muted words and click on the plus sign button in the top right to add to the list. You can get specific about individual words, as well as phrases, emojis, and hashtags. You can also give your filter a limited lifespan, with options ranging from one to 30 days, or you can leave it on and deactivate it whenever you want.

Be careful when entering the things you want to avoid: The system ignores capitalization, so typing “CATS,” for example, will also mute “cATs.”

6. Download your past

If you get tired of Twitter and decide to delete your account, you don’t have to consign your old posts to obscurity: Twitter lets you download your past activity as an archive. Even if you aren’t abandoning Twitter, this archive can come in handy, providing backed-up proof of what you’ve said and when. And it’s much easier to search through this local archive by year or by month than it is to sift through your previous posts on the actual Twitter website.

To archive your account, go to the Twitter settings page online, and under Your account click on Download an archive of your data. When Twitter has prepared your past activity for download, you’ll receive an emailed link. Click it to download a compressed HTML file containing all of your tweets, from the very first to the latest one.

7. Give your devices their own accounts

Want to share with your friends every time you hit a target with your Fitbit, go on a bike ride with Strava, or turn the temperature down on your Nest thermostat? Thanks to the wonders of IFTTT (If This Then That), a free web service that connects all kinds of apps together, you can give smart devices the power to brag about your progress on Twitter.

The first step is to sign up for a free account at iffttt.com and connect the specific apps you want to use. Once you’ve done that, you can start building little programs called applets. Even beginners can put applets together, and IFTTT guides you through the whole process. In this situation, you’ll need an applet that responds to a trigger—say a ping from your fitness tracker that says you’ve hit your target—with a corresponding action—in this case, a tweet.

8. Plan tweets ahead of time with Buffer

Just because you plan to go on vacation doesn’t mean you want to neglect your Twitter account. So schedule your tweets in advance. Plenty of add-ons offer this service, but none match the polish and ease of use of Buffer. It can also pre-plan your Facebook and Instagram posts.

Access Buffer as a web app or via its various browser extensions and phone apps. Once you link it to your Twitter account, you can queue up your tweets in a long list to go out on a schedule, or set certain tweets to go live at certain times. Buffer handles all the extras, such as embedded images, for you.

On the free plan, you get up to three social media accounts and a queue of 10 scheduled posts. To plan further in advance, you’ll have to pony up $5 a month per channel, which lets you schedule unlimited posts.

9. Supercharge your interface with TweetDeck

If you’ve tried out one or more of these tips, you’re probably ready to take your tweeting to the next level—so it’s time to fire up TweetDeck. Originally a third-party client, the free service is now owned and run by Twitter itself. In TweetDeck’s interface, you can see real-time updates for multiple accounts at once, schedule tweets, perform advanced searches, and more.

All you need to do is sign in to the service—use the website, or download one of the computer or phone apps—with your existing Twitter credentials. TweetDeck provides a set of columns, which can all be customized to show exactly the tweets you want, whether they’re from a particular account or matching a certain hashtag or search term. You can also see your own timeline, tweets, notifications, and lists—or the tweets or mentions of any particular user. Each column has filters to let you avoid or focus on certain words, and to customize the way it displays embedded media.

10. Stay in the know

If you’ve ever looked at a list of trending topics and wonder what some of them mean, or see a people in your timeline tweeting the same hashtag and not understanding what’s going on, then Moments are for you. This features encapsulates all the buzz surrounding a particular event or piece of news, so you can understand what’s happening, what people are saying about it and stay up to date with every new development. If you’re using Twitter to follow elections, a launch, a sports event, or an unfolding natural disaster, just follow the corresponding Moment to become an expert on the subject. 

Twitter automatically generates Moments curated just for you based on your interests, and you can find them under What’s Happening in the Explore tab on the sidebar menu. You can also curate tweets and hashtags to create your own Moment. To do so, go to More and click on Moments. There, click on Create new and the platform divide into two halves—on the right, you’ll be able to give your Moment a title, a main photo, a description, and even attach the URL of a tweet. On the left, you’ll be able to look for tweets to add to your Moment and use filters to refine your search. To add tweets, click on the green circle in the top right corner of it to select them, and then click on Add. When you’re done, click on Publish and select whether you want your moment to be public or private, if you want it to be unlisted (meaning, only people with the URL can access it), and whether it has sensible content. 

Under the Moments tab you’ll be able to see, edit and delete the ones you’ve created, and even tweet about them again if you want to. To see other people’s public Moments, go into their profile, click on the three dots button and choose View Moments

11. Take a shortcut

If you like to touch your mouse only when strictly necessary, then Twitter shortcuts are for you. There are a bunch of them, and you can find a comprehensive list by clicking on More and then Keyboard shortcuts. But using your mouse to click on something so you can cease to use your mouse is slightly counterintuitive. This is why there’s a shortcut to display the keyboard shortcut cheat sheet—just press the ? key and you’re set. 

[Related: 20 essential Windows keyboard shortcuts that will make you forget your mouse]

Once you do that, you’ll find out helpful key combos, like hitting J to create a new tweet or the period to reload your timeline, pressing G + N to go directly to the Notifications tabs. With time you’ll need the cheat sheet less and less, but if you ever forget something, know that it’s there to help you out and make your tweeting more productive. 

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