One of the great features of using Apple’s Messages app is the robust support for sending images and videos. At some point, however, Apple decided to treat the quantity of media items sent in one message in three distinct ways. This affects what you see in a Messages conversation and how you act upon the media in the message.
Apple divides media messages into three amounts:
Single photo or video: Appears by itself
Two or three media items: Appears as a loose pile that Apple calls a “collage”
Four or more media items: Appears as a stack inline with a label noting the number of items in the stack; tapping or clicking that label reveals a gallery of images or videos.
You can tap or click a Save icon next to any quantity to save all the images or videos to the Photos library. While viewing any individual item inline or with Quick Look (macOS) or as a full-screen preview (iOS/iPadOS), you can tap the Share icon in iOS/iPadOS or Control-click the item in macOS for more options.
You can also tap the Reply icon when it appears to create a Messages thread nested below one or more images you’ve selected.
For a gallery (four or more items), tap or click the top image, and then you can swipe left or right in iOS/iPadOS or use the arrow keys on a keyboard to move through the images. Tap or click the galley label, which reads “X Items,” and Messages reveals a grid of images and videos. You can then select one or more items in the gallery to act upon, such as saving or deleting.
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