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QUICK TIP: How to Use Effects, GIFs, and Search in Messages in macOS Big Sur

The Messages app gets a pretty big revamp in macOS Big Sur, making it easier to search all your past conversations for links, photos, and phrases.


The “new search experience,” as Apple calls it, organizes your results into links and photos and highlights matching terms. 

The fastest way to do this is to press Command-F to open. Type in a name or word and the results pop up under Conversations. Click on a specific conversation and all details, including text and pictures, appear.

mac messages search results

You can also find trending images and GIFs and add them to any message. You can discover popular memes when you open or search by keyword to find images relevant to your conversation.


Here’s how to send a GIF or use an effect:

  • Choose an existing conversation or start a new one.
  • Type your message.
  • Select the App Store icon to the left of the Message box at the bottom.
  • Choose #image or Message Effects.
  • Click the GIF or effect you want to use.
  • Select the up arrow next to your message at the right to send it.
send message with effect

You can use the updated photo picker to quickly access and share your recent photos and albums.


Here’s how to send a photo:

Choose an existing conversation or start a new one.

  • Type your message.
  • Select the App Store icon to the left of the Message box at the bottom.
  • Choose Photos.
  • Click the photo you want to use.
  • Select the up arrow next to your message at the right to send it.

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Contributing Author
Dennis has over 40 years of journalism experience and has written hundreds of articles. For the past 20-plus years, he's been an online journalist, covering mainly Apple Inc. He's written for MacCentral, MacWorld, MacMinute, Macsimum News, Apple Daily Report, and is now contributing editor at Apple World Today.
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