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How to Use the Facebook Inboxes

After you’re comfortable sending and receiving messages to and from your Facebook friends, it’s time to find out about the Inbox, where all your messages are collected for easy viewing at any time. Facebook’s Inbox is organized a bit differently from traditional e-mail Inboxes. Most significantly, messages you receive from people you aren’t friends with and are unlikely to know are separated from the conversations you're having with friends.

To understand how Facebook Messages works, take a look at how your Messages Inbox is organized on the page. First, navigate to the Messages Inbox from your Home page by clicking the Messages icon (it looks like two overlapping word bubbles) on the left menu. You may have to hover your mouse over the left-hand menu to expand it.

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The main portion of this page, the center area, is where conversations appear. As you click different conversations on the left, the contents of that conversation — messages, photos, links, and files — appear in the main portion of the screen.

The left side of your Inbox displays your messages. Each conversation gets its own line in the Inbox. Like your e-mail Inbox, these conversations are organized from most recent near the top to older ones toward the bottom of the page. As you scroll down, Facebook will continue to load your conversation history right back to the very first message you ever sent on Facebook.

The bottom one is a conversation among many people. You can see the text of the most recent message and the profile picture of the most recent sender. The top one is a one-on-one conversation with a single friend. On the right side of each is the conversation’s timestamp. And below the name of the person or people you're talking to is a preview of what was most recently said.

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When you hover your mouse over a particular conversation, two icons appear in the lower-right corner:

  • The little circular button allows you to mark a conversation as read or unread. The button appears filled when the message is unread and unfilled when the message is read.

  • The little X icon allows you to archive a conversation. Archiving conversations allows you to move them to a different part of your Inbox until a later time, when they become relevant to you again.

The Other Inbox

Facebook Messages brings your messages from friends to the front of your Inbox. The Other Inbox is for, well, all that other stuff. This might include messages from people you don’t know, large group messages, and so on.

In many ways, the Other Inbox is exactly like your main Messages Inbox. The conversations are organized by person. Conversations with unread messages are highlighted in blue. When you click through to view a message, you’ll see the most recent messages at the bottom, as usual.

You can change your filtering options to adjust how often messages are sent to the Other Inbox. You have two options for filtering messages:

  • Basic Filtering: This is the default filtering option for your Facebook Inbox. It works by showing you all the messages you receive from friends, as well as the messages you receive from people Facebook thinks you might know. (Facebook determines whom you might know based on factors like mutual friends or schools you both attended.) Messages from people you don’t know are sent to the Other Inbox.

  • Strict Filtering: If you find you’re getting messages that are effectively junk — you don’t really know the people who are sending them, or you don’t find the content important or interesting — you may want to consider turning on Strict Filtering, which shows you only messages from friends and sends all other messages to the Other Inbox.

You can adjust your filtering choice from the Privacy Shortcuts menu on any page. In the left sidebar, click the lock icon next to your name, which opens the Privacy Shortcuts menu. When you click the Who Can Contact Me? section, you can choose either Basic or Strict Filtering.

If you have a conversation in Other Messages that you want to be more prominent, click into the conversation, click the Actions button to open the drop-down list, and choose Move to Inbox. All the other options are the same as the conversations in your main Messages Inbox.

How to search the Inbox

If you’re a Facebook frequent flyer, your messages add up over time. And if you don’t want to go scrolling through tons of messages to find the one you’re looking for, you need a faster way to get to the information you want. That’s why at the top of the Messages Inbox, you’ll notice a Search box. You can search for people’s names or for the content of messages.

For example, say you want to find the address of a park where you’re meeting with some friends to play Frisbee and you organized this whole outing through Facebook Messages. You can search for the name of the friend(s) on the conversation. As you do so, Facebook tries to autocomplete your friend’s name and shows you snippets of recent conversations with her.

Alternatively, you can type Frisbee in the Search box and press Enter. When Facebook can’t find any messages sent by a person named Frisbee, click the Search Messages link to get a list of results from conversations where the word Frisbee appeared.

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