Setting up a Discord server and then inviting your friends and family to join could be the perfect way to stay connected during the coming holiday season. In this tutorial, we create an account, deploy a server and client, set up various channels, and then invite people into the server to chat and share files. We also take a quick dive into the permissions system.
Create a Discord account
We begin by visiting www.discord.com to create an account. Select the Login button on the top right of the site, and just below the login section, you’ll find a “Register” link. Click this, then add in your email address, a username and password. You’ll also need to add your date of birth.
Once the account is live, you’ll be prompted to make a new server.
Make a server
A “server” is simply an online space that will be connected to specific individuals, and in the case of this one, you will be the owner. A typical discord user might belong to tens or even hundreds of servers, allowing them to take part in multiple communities from one single app.
Click the “+” icon on the far left to launch the setup. There is a selection of templates, but we’re going straight for “Create My Own.” Give your server an appropriate name (remember your users may belong to lots of servers, so it’s good to be distinctive) and upload an image or icon. If you don’t do the latter, you’ll end up with a boring circle with some initials in it.
Now you’re a server administrator. Exciting-ish.
Create your community
The setup will finish with the option of inviting some users. You can invite users individually, but the quicker option is to choose the “Invite via link” option. This will give you a URL you can share with participants. If they already have Discord accounts, they’ll be added to your server, and if they don’t, they’ll first be prompted to create an account of their own. Once your users have joined, they can take part in the default channels for text and voice and also send you direct messages. The latter are accessible by looking under the Discord icon at the top of the narrow pane on the left.
Select a user from the list to see your chat history. At the top of the chat history pane, you’ll see icons to begin a voice or video call, view pinned (saved) messages or add extra participants to a group chat. Group chats retain their own history.
Download a desktop or mobile client
Discord is great in a browser, but really comes to its own when it’s running as an app. There are apps available for Windows, Linux, macOS, Android and iOS. Find the software in your app store or from the Discord website.
We installed through Ubuntu’s Software manager, and on first run the software did a couple of updates, then requested our credentials. Once you’ve installed this software, you can accept its offer to provide desktop notifications. When you get new messages, they will appear in your notifications drawer.
The utility of something like Discord comes from being able to move conversations into specific channels, which can be open to all or only to particular users. To set up a channel, click the “+” icon in the TEXT CHANNELS section in the pane on the left. Provide a name and then set permissions, and your channel will be available to everyone on this server.
You can restrict things to specific users. To do this, you first need to set up a “role,” add users to that role, then apply that role to a channel.
Managing roles and permissions
Roles are managed in the Settings. (Select the server and use the arrow next to its title to open the menu, then choose Server Settings.)
Click Roles on the left to see your current roles – there should only be one: @everyone. Click the small “+” icon next to the Roles title and type in a new name on the right. You can then choose a highlight color for the role and set the permissions.
There are a lot of permissions, and the defaults are usually okay. However, we would recommend selecting “Manage Messages” so that other users can pin messages to channels, and “Manage Emojis” so that they can add their own custom emojis.
Hit the Save button to create the role.
Next, head into the “Server Settings -> Members page,” where you’ll see a list of users. Click the “+” icon next to a name to see a list of available groups. Choose the group to assign the user. You can access all groups as an administrator.
Finally, go back into your new channel’s settings, click on Permissions, select the “+” icon next to ROLES/MEMBERS, and select your newly created role. To make the channel private, click on the @everyone role and turn off the “Read Messages” and “Send Messages” options. To make it invisible to non-members, scroll down the permissions for @everyone and ensure that “Read Text Channels & See Voice Channels” is in the off position.
Join more servers
When someone shares a server link with you, you can simply click it and join the server. It will appear in the list on the left.
One tip: we would definitely recommend muting general notifications using the bell icon at the top right of the interface if you join any especially large or active servers. Selecting this will mean only messages that “@” you will be sent to your notifications.
Now that you have finished setting up a Discord server, check out these bots to improve your Discord server. If you have trouble migrating your family over, Zoom and Skype are good alternatives for doing video calls, but don’t have the same channelized features, and Slack is good if you don’t want the broader community features.