WinterFest’20 | Discord Tutorial

If you’ve read our guide ‘WinterFest’20 | are you online-ready?‘ and are satisfied that you’re good for go – or will be ready soon – then it’s time to get more familiar with how Discord works.

Prefer video? Try the tutorials at our YouTube channel here.

You can use Discord on computer or mobile device. You may also download the app (Windows, Apple Mac, Android or iPhone) or use it via your browser by visiting the website discord.com. We’ve found whilst testing that the best and most predictable results come from downloading the app, so we definitely recommend that.

Therefore, our tutorial will follow the path of download for use on a Windows computer. Discord is not difficult to use once you know your way around, so following our tutorial should make it just as easy to use across all platforms; but do keep in mind that there may be some features that are accessed a little differently across platforms.

Installing Discord

If you’ve already downloaded Discord, look for the DiscordSetup.exe file in your Downloads folder (or where you saved it to) and launch it. The program will do most of the work automatically and deliver you to a login page.

Figure 1: login page

Because you are a new user, ignore the login and click on register as indicated just below the login button.

2. Create User

Fill in the registration form (email, username, password) and proceed.

Tip: for your username, consider using something similar to your actual name rather than a pseudonym. Pseudonyms are cool, and also helpful if your name is a common one and already used by somebody else; but pseudonyms won’t be very social in a space where we’re hoping most people will recognize each other the way we do in the real world.

In my case, the username Patrick was already taken. However, Patrick_M4A_Davidson was not. If you cannot use your actual name in its simplest form, try doing something similar by adding the M4A in somewhere, or even WF20 (shorthand for WinterFest’20). Anything you like, really.We’ll also show you how to change your username, so consider that what you choose need not be forever.

Discord will bring you to a blank dashboard. But before you can use it properly, Discord will also send an email to test that you’re not a robot. The orange bar at the top will disappear once you’ve followed the email instruction.

Figure 2: home dashboard, before setup

3. Getting into Discord and finishing setup

Once you’re confirmed as human, let’s finish your setup. Notice that in Discord, your main user area is down in the bottom left corner of the dashboard, as indicated by the arrow in Figure 2.

Next to your username appear three icons:

  • Microphone for mute
  • Headphones for deafen
  • Gear wheel for user settings (the tip of the arrow is pointing right at it)

Click on user settings. The dashboard changes to show a new menu on the left. The only two items we’re interested in at this stage are: My Account and, about halfway down the list; Voice & Video. Let’s start with My Account, since the main display area to the right or the menu already shows that menu item.

Figure 3: user settings

There are only two things we’d like so show you in My Account.

  1. you can upload an image to make yourself more easily recognizable to friends
  2. if you’re not happy with your first choice, you can change your username

In order to do either, just click the purple edit button on the right (as seen in Figure 3) to see the following in Figure 4:

Figure 4: customize my account / change username

From here, click on the little grey button at the image to upload a photo, use the fields to change your username (must include your password again to make this change) and finish with save.

Normal users don’t have to activate two-factor authentication. It is optional.

Now turn your attention back to the menu on the left and click on Voice & Video.

Figure 5: voice and video settings

This is where you can select and test your hardware. Discord may have already selected the correct devices automatically (ie: default), but this is not always the case depending on your computer or smartphone.

If you try the test (click the let’s check button) and nothing is happening, use the dropdown menu (probably lists “default” if you’re not getting any results) and see if it lists any input (microphone) and output (speaker) devices. Choose what you’d like to use. If it shows items you don’t know, just try a couple until something works. if it shows nothing, you have a bigger problem and may need to reload device drivers. That would be a Windows issue and not a Discord issue.

Once the test shows that your microphone is detecting sound and your speakers are putting it out, scroll down to the video settings and do the same.

Tip: if you’re going to be in an especially noisy environment, activate the push to talk feature. That means Discord will only transmit your microphone signal when you push a button down (and hold it down), thus saving you data consumption plus any potential embarrassment if you’re accidentally drowning out conversation for other users who must listen to your party.

You’re set and ready to go! Return to the home dashboard by clicking ESC up near the top-right.

4. Connecting to a server

At the moment, your Discord experience is still a pretty lonely one. There are several things you can do to connect with people, but we’re going to focus only on getting you ready for WinterFest’20. You can experiment and play around more if you like.

Figure 6: home dashboard

First, notice at the bottom left that our user has updated to include the M4A logo. In your case, a photograph will appear if you added one.

Next, think of a server as a sort of venue. It’s the “home” of WinterFest’20 where we’ll all meet, but like many venues, it has rooms, tables, etc – basically a number of smaller areas within it where you can talk with smaller groups of people, but still mingle at large.

To join with a server we’ll add you to a testing server, created especially for tutorial purposes. We’re calling it the WF20 Tutorail and playing around in it, so we don’t mind making a mess. We’ll connect you to the real server at a later time. In the narrow column (the server list) at the extreme left of the page, notice a green + symbol. That is the add a server button. Click it. You’re presented with the choice between creating a new server or joining an existing one. In Discord you can be a member on many servers if you like. We’d like you to join ours, since that is going to be our event space.

Figure 7: join a server

Click the join a server option and copy/paste this link –> https://discord.gg/z8qwmc7 <– into where it asks for a link. Then click on join.

Boom! You’re in. What appears now is the M4A server dashboard named WF20 Tutorial.

Notice how the layout is very nearly identical to your home dashboard, but what displays in each area and how it functions will have differences. In Figure 8 below we’ve added some markers to outline each major section in the layout, and we’ll describe what they are:

Figure 8: [email protected]) Tutorial landing page

Server List

Column number 1 on the far left is your server list. If you’re a first-time user on Discord, mostly likely you only have the one server listed and yours looks exactly like our screen display. More established users will have several servers which they are members of, and will be listed here, filling up the space.

In this column you can switch between servers that you’re active in (if you’re member to more than one), join them or even create them. It sounds more complicated than it is. If you’re only here to join WinterFest’20, then we’ve shown you everything you need to know about this column except for one final thing:

  • Click on the Discord logo at the top (right above our WF20 logo image) to return to your own home dashboard.
  • Click back on our WF20 image to return to us.

That’s it!

Chat Rooms List

Column number 2 on the near left currently lists a whole lot of labels. Most labels represent a sort of a chat room. So, if the server is our “venue”, each chat room is an area within the venue space, if you were to think of it that way, or; a cluster of people who strike up conversation around a common topic.

Some of the labels are in all-capital letters – these are category labels and serve no function except to contain a number of chat rooms which relate to the over all topic. Clicking on a category label will just expand or collapse the list within it to hide or reveal the chat rooms for that category. Try it. Click once. Click again.

As for the labels in small-letter text, these are the exciting ones. By clicking on one, you will in effect enter that space and join whatever is going on in there. Some will be strictly text-based (the ones with the # symbol), where others will have voice, audio, video, or combinations.

Tip: note that if you use the server list to return to your home dashboard, like discussed earlier, then the function of column 2 changes a little. Instead of chat rooms, it’ll populate into a list of people you have had direct message conversations with so you can easily re-visit them again in future.

Communications panel

Column number 3 in the middle is your main communications panel, in the sense that this is where information will appear and, in particular, your text messaging and DMs (direct messages). Or, when you enter video chat rooms, the video feeds will arrange in this area.

Tip: okay, and what we’re showing you with the arrow and encircled label is: sometimes when you’re using a server with many chat rooms, you might lose track of which one you’re currently inside of. This top area labels which chat room you’re in.

Note that your arrival into the WF20 Tutorial is a blank page, but is labelled #Admin Stuff. It’s an invisible channel I’m using for… you guessed it: admin stuff. Therefore, please click on the chat room we’re pointing to with the other arrow “# use text to say hello”.

Active participants

Column number 4 on the far-right simply lists active users. It’ll also list inactive users lower down. Basically everybody who is part of the server will be shown here. If we think of it in terms of a WinterFest’20 event, it could just as well be an event attendance register – but with the benefit that if you see somebody you’d like to talk to, you can pick them out of the crowd almost instantly and greet them with a DM if you click on them in this column.

Join a text chat

For demonstration purposes, we’ve encouraged that you begin by clicking on “# use text to say hello”. As the label suggests, please do greet us with something and start to get a feel for how it all works.

Figure 9: use text

Okay, great. Now try switching between rooms to get a feel about “roaming” the event and interacting along the way. Feel free to spew some nonsense (just keep it civil) in the four chat rooms under the “text chatting” category label.

Join a voice chat

Now that you know about entering rooms, go to the one labeled “just give this a try”. Obviously it’s better to do if somebody else is in there too, otherwise you’re talking only to yourself. However, notice that three things happen when you click in there:

  1. Your user details suddenly appear immediately underneath the chat room label. This is visible to others as being “present” in that room and they can find you to join you there.
  2. Lower down, also in column 2, a block appears with a green header stating “voice connected”. Ie: you are live! Speak, and if others are in that room then you will be heard.
  3. The main middle column still shows the text room you were in previously. Yes. You can actually be in two places at the same time in Discord. You can be active in one text-based room and one voice-based room simultaneously.
Figure 10: voice connect

Now connect video

Whilst your voice is active, that little block shows you a few buttons. You can connect a video feed to your voice by clicking on the “video” label as I have done in Figure 11. If you’re alone, you’ll only see yourself, of course. In my case, I created a second user on a second computer for the sake of this tutorial – connecting myself to myself. lame, but it works for the example.

Figure 11: video connection

Tip: the arrow at the top-right is pointing to a button you might find useful. It changes the configuration of how the video feeds display. For example, when there are more people in the chat, it can tile the feeds, or have one big (whoever is currently speaking) and the others reduced in size, etc.

Next to video is a button called “screen” and allows for a screen share. This is a more advanced feature which, although you can use it, we’ll be encouraging and coaching only bands and other formal presenters to use. The final button we need to show you is the one you use to end an interaction, as shown by the arrow in Figure 12:

Bear in mind that there are other ways to leave a voice/video conversation – and beware of doing so by accident! By clicking on another voice chat room, your existing chat will immediately terminate; but more significantly, it will move. Remember how clicking on the first voice channel you were automatically connected? Well, this happens every time you click on a voice channel. Also bear in mind that the video part must always be manually activated, so if you leave a room by accident or not, in returning to it don’t forget to click the video button again as well if you want to see and be seen.

Let’s take a break

That’s more than enough for now. Play around, grow familiar. See if you can explore and find out how to invite interested friends to this server yourself (or just link them to this tutorial and let them figure it out) and use this space socially. It’ll be good practice and maybe even a bit of fun if you find other new users getting familiar. Why not?

I’ll add to this article for other features as we manage to get them more refined. Like, how we’ll watch bands, listen to music and other stuff. Ideally, I’ll also make a few videos eventually.