Move over Teamspeak, Discord is the way to go
Discord is a social text and voice communication platform primarily targeted towards gamers and is currently taking over most other VoIPs out there. There are a lot of things to love and very few to hate about Discord. The most appealing among them being free server hosting unlike Teamspeak and the application interface is quirky but simple to use.
Not only is Discord completely free, but it is also secure, lightweight and works on almost every platform. Discord currently runs on Microsoft Windows, Linux, MacOS, iOS, Android and even on web browsers.
Discord works quite differently than most of the other server-based VoIPs. If no one on your server is online then the server temporarily vanishes. This results in lower bandwidth consumption and at the same time reducing cost, making it possible for them to provide free server hosting. One can easily create an infinite number of servers (hosted by Discord) and text/voice sub-channels. There are about nine server regions where you can individually assign a region to each channel. So selecting servers closer to your location will result in lower audio lag.
In the text channel, you can pin messages, drag-and-drop images, embed YouTube videos, GIFs, images and other links. The voice channel settings let you control the sound quality or set specific permissions individually for each member. You can connect to YouTube, Twitch, Reddit, etc, and set notifications, key-bindings for voice etc. There are no hidden charges, no in-app purchases, and no ads.
Once inside the app, entering a new username and password is all you need to get started. You can then link it to your email account from the User Settings > Accounts.
In addition, Discord also has a web version that you can try out from your browser in case you don’t want to download the application, although, the web version is limited on some of the features and functionality.
Setting up a server
- Select the ‘+’ icon on the left and you will get a pop-up window with an option to create a new server or join an existing one.
- Select ‘Create a Server’. Now set a particular name, choose an icon, select a server region (we went with Singapore as it was closest to India) and hit the create button.
To invite others to your server, you can simply select “Invite people” from your list. You will also receive a link that can be either shared on your connected social accounts or manually sent to intended users. You can also set a specific expiration time for your invite link and select the maximum number of users to it.
Selecting the small icon beside your server name will pop-up a window to your server settings, notification, privacy, etc. Here you can also set nicknames for yourself (you can have multiple nicknames for different servers). Under server settings, you can reset your server details, set specific roles for your members, ban members and even integrate your partnered Twitch or YouTube gaming account.
Creating text and voice channels
- To create text and voice channels, select the “+” icon
- Set a channel name and select the basic permissions for access to the channel if you have more members on the server.
- Hit “Create”.
You can have an infinite number of text and voice channels and on each of them, there is a gear icon which gives access to specific settings for that particular channel. Renaming the channel or setting a specific topic can be done under the Overview tab.
Design and layout
Your servers and channels are displayed on the left while the members are listed on the right. In the mobile app, you can have the same view by swiping from the right or left whereas switching between different channels is only a click away.
From the Appearance tab under User settings, you can change the appearance to a dark or light theme and make the chat display compact to fit more messages. To say Discord has the best UI in the VoIP market would be an understatement. The sleek theme is easy for anyone to understand.
Roles and Permissions
The Roles and Permissions settings can be found under your Server Settings > Roles. Using this tab we can assign members with different roles, permissions, and Jobs that they will be in charge of on the server. For each role, you can have unique names and colours and users with different roles can be assigned with various permissions for managing the servers.
- General permissions: This includes Administrator (Members with this are granted every permission and can also bypass channel specific permissions), Manage Server, Manage Roles and Channels, permission to Kick/Ban Members, Create Instant Invites, Manage Webhooks etc.
- Text permissions: These permissions allow users to send and read Text/TTS messages, Embed external Links, Attach Files, Mention Members and also Add Reactions.
- Voice permissions: This grants permissions to join voice channels, Speak and Mute Members, permissions to Use Voice Activity, etc.
Emojis and Widgets
One of the newer features in Discord is the ability to add custom emojis. From your Server Settings under the Emoji tab, if you have the “Manage Emoji” permission, you can upload up to 50 custom emojis for each server. Any image can be uploaded from your computer, although for optimal resolution, it is recommended to upload a smaller size image as it will be rescaled to 32×32 pixels. Keep in mind that the custom emojis can only be used in the particular server they were uploaded on, so you need to upload custom emojis for each server separately.
You can also add reactions to your chat messages using emojis in Discord. To do this, simply hover over to the particular message and you will see a “plus smiley-icon”. Clicking on it will get you a new pop-up with all your emojis. You can also hold down your shift key to add multiple emojis at once.
Just below the Emoji settings, you have Widgets, using which will help you quickly see if your server friends/members are online without needing to log into your game. Widgets can also help streamline your recruits and viewers can also join your recruitment channel without an invite.
There are many third-party Discord bots online which can be easily added to your servers to do specific tasks or functions.
- Head over to carbonitex.net where you will find dozens of interesting bots available for free.
- After you have chosen the specific bot you want for your server, select “Add Bot to server”.
- You will get a new pop-up window asking you to confirm the particular server you want to install the bot.
- Set the server, select the particular permissions for the bot and then hit the “Authorize” button.
Made for Gamers, by Gamers
Other than being a regular text and voice communication application, Discord has several features dedicated to gamers. Here are some features that gamers across all the genres can take advantage of:
- YouTube Gaming and Twitch integration:
To get started, head over to User Settings > Connections > Select the Twitch/YouTube icon. Once connected, you can sync data about your stream sponsors from your Server Settings > Integrations for your live stream on both the platforms.
- In-game overlay:
In the desktop app, there is an in-game overlay feature that can be activated using certain keys to display your chat without the need to minimize your game. You can do this by setting a specific key binding or shortcut from your Voice Settings.
- Display game activity:
Discord can even detect which game you are currently playing and will automatically display the game activity in your status, sort of like what the Steam client does with the Friends tab. It currently works on most of the Steam games, but you can even add your own custom games and applications manually. To add games, go to User Settings > Games > Add it. Give Discord a try and let us know what you think.