In iOS 11, the Messages app on your iPhone or iPad now boasts a new row of colorful icons at the bottom of the chat screen. Called the App Drawer, the iMessage mini-apps shown make it easy to add both frivolous and practical content to your messages. (Much of what you send using these apps will arrive intact only if it is received by people using Apple’s iMessage service—aka “blue bubble friends.”) To show or hide this drawer, tap the app icon to the left of the message field.
The left side of the drawer holds apps that you’ve favorited, and the right side shows icons for other recently used apps—a thin vertical bar separates the two. To see all available apps, swipe left on the drawer and tap the rightmost More icon. Any iMessage app available from your installed iOS apps appears here automatically. Open one by tapping its listing.
Meet and Manage Your Favorites
The left-hand Favorites area includes an App Store button you can tap to access (often for a few bucks), various sticker packs, games you can play within a Messages conversation, and planning tools like Fandango’s Showtimes. Anything you download will land in the left-hand position of the recently used area.
Also in the default Favorites area are Apple’s Digital Touch and #images apps:
- Digital Touch has plenty of features to fool around with. Tap with one finger to send a ring or with two fingers to send a kiss. Tap the video icon to send a photo or video. You can even sketch on a photo before or after you snap it, and during a video recording. All these Digital Touch messages will expire for your recipient after 2 minutes unless your recipient taps Keep.
- #images is for sending cheesy animated GIFs, which Apple describes as “hundreds of trending GIFs.” You can browse for just the right animation or type search terms (like “cute penguin”) in the search field.
Do you subscribe to Apple Music? If yes, a Music app appears in the Favorites area by default. Tap its icon to share a song you played recently—either the full song for Apple Music subscribers or a preview for others.
It’s easy to add or remove an app (except for the App Store) from the Favorites area. Tap and hold on its icon, and then drag it into the right-hand side of the drawer. You can also arrange icons in the Favorites area by dragging them in this manner. (Or, slide left on the drawer, tap the More button, tap Edit in the upper-right of the screen, and tap the plus and minus buttons to move apps in and out of Favorites.)
More iMessage Apps
The right side of the drawer shows apps that are not in Favorites. For example, you might see apps from Dropbox, Yelp, and Zillow. Using these apps is usually simple, since your choices tend to be extremely limited. Unsurprisingly, the Dropbox app lets you send a file quickly. With Yelp, you can share any recently viewed location, and Zillow might be perfect for a couple sharing house listings while house hunting. Other interesting apps include Airbnb, which lets you share rental listings; Starbucks, in which you can buy gift cards; and Zappos, which you can use to share catalog entries.
Many apps merely contribute brand-related stickers. Warby Parker offers cartoon-style inspirational stickers and a few eyeglass images, and Trello, a popular project management app, has stickers of Taco, its husky dog mascot.
To remove an app from this area, tap the More button at the far right, tap Edit at the upper right, find the app’s listing (they’re in alphabetical order) and turn off its switch. You can’t arrange these apps in a particular order, but they generally appear in the order they’ve been used, with the last-used app at the left.
Learning the mechanics of working with the App Drawer is easy. The real fun comes in figuring out what all the different apps do and thinking about which you might enjoy using to spice up your conversations.