How to use ChatGPT: What you need to know now


Maria Diaz/ZDNET

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s most popular endeavor thus far, has kickstarted an artificial intelligence (AI) revolution since its launch in late 2022. The AI chatbot has been dominating headlines and has preoccupied the minds of those running TwitterGoogle, AmazonMicrosoft, Metaother tech experts, and, more recently, music labels. The AI language model became the fastest-growing ‘app’ of all time, even surpassing TikTok.

Also: The new AI-powered Bing is now open to everyone – with some serious upgrades

The ChatGPT model is certainly not underrated; users are coming up with creative ideas for prompts, such as asking questions in search of funny answerscreating content, improving their writing or Excel skills, finding and correcting a bug in code, or summarizing a book. Some even wonder if the AI chatbot could replace programmers, writers, and even doctors, and how it could revolutionize different industries.

Also: I used ChatGPT to write the same routine in these ten obscure programming languages

Across all these areas, one thing is clear: the genius of this AI tool isn’t in how innovative the idea of it is, but in how well it performs text generation and how accessible and easy to use it is. ChatGPT can hold conversational text interactions with users by employing AI, and these exchanges can feel as natural as if you’re having a conversation with another person.

How to use ChatGPT

Go to chat.OpenAi.com and register for an account with an email address, or a Google or Microsoft account. You need to create an account on the OpenAI website to log in and access ChatGPT. 

If you’ve never created an account before, click on Sign up and follow the prompts to enter your information. OpenAI does require a valid phone number for verification to create an account.

Log in to ChatGPT

If you haven’t created an account, click on Sign Up. Otherwise, log in with your OpenAI credentials.

Screenshot by Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Once you’ve logged into your OpenAI account on the ChatGPT side of the website, it’s time to get to know the AI tool’s window. Here’s a breakdown of what you will see, with the image below as an example:

  1. New chat button: On the left-hand side of your screen, you’ll see a button for New chat that you can click on to start a new conversation at any time. This is useful because the ChatGPT model remembers what was previously discussed in a conversation and will respond with context, so starting a new chat will clear a new conversation without prejudice.
  2. Chat history: The left sidebar also keeps all your previous conversations accessible, in case you need to go back to one, though there is the option of turning off chat history.
  3. Upgrade to Plus: ChatGPT Plus is a paid subscription that gives members access to the GPT-4 model, a faster and larger language model from OpenAI. You can choose to upgrade to Plus or stay with the free version. 
  4. Account: Clicking on your e-mail address or name on the bottom left of your screen will give you access to your account information, including settings, the option to log out, and help and FAQ from OpenAI.
  5. Your prompts: The questions or prompts you give the AI chatbot appear here.
  6. ChatGPT’s responses: Whenever ChatGPT responds to your queries, the logo will appear on the left. 
  7. Copy, Thumbs up, Thumbs down: Each time ChatGPT replies, you can copy the text to your clipboard to paste elsewhere and also provide feedback on whether the response was accurate or not, this process helps fine tune the AI tool
  8. Regenerate response: If you had issues getting a response in the chat or didn’t get a satisfactory answer, you can click on Regenerate response to prompt ChatGPT to try again with the latest answer.
  9. Text area: This is where you enter your prompts and questions, just hit enter to send them.
  10. ChatGPT version: OpenAI included a bit of fine print below the text input area, where you can read the disclaimer that this is a “Free Research Preview. ChatGPT may produce inaccurate information about people, places, or facts”. There is also the version of the ChatGPT model* you’re currently using. 

*This screenshot shows a typo from OpenAI, ‘Mar 3 Version’ should be ‘May 3 Version’.

ChatGPT explainer

Refer to the numbered list above to learn how to use the ChatGPT window.

Screenshot: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

That’s it. 

Now that you know how to log in to and access ChatGPT, it’s time to get started with it and ask the language model any burning questions you may have and see what kind of answers you can get. ChatGPT works as a tool with an infinite amount of projects, from software development to writing and translations.

Also: How I used ChatGPT and AI art tools to launch my Etsy business fast

At this point, you can type in any of your ChatGPT prompts in the text bar at the bottom of the page and press enter to submit your questions. The AI chatbot will then generate text in an attempt to provide helpful answers to your prompts.

ChatGPT screenshot

Start writing in the text box at the bottom of the page. Then, press Enter to submit your prompt.

Screenshot by Maria Diaz/ZDNET

ChatGPT prompt examples

ChatGPT can generate responses to prompts (a feature that could eventually challenge search engines) that are enough to become an important tool for content generation from writing essays to summarizing a book for you, but it can also write and fix code, make calculations, help you compile your resume, translate information, and more. Here are examples of prompts you could start with:

  • How does a computer store and process information?
  • Analyze this code and tell me how to fix it: [Paste the code]
  • Write a poem about a migraine in the style of Walt Whitman.
  • Write a country song about a dog named Speckles who loves to run.
  • Write a plugin for —– that does —–
  • What is the difference between a virus and a bacterium?
  • Write a sick note for my child who is missing school.


What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is a large language model that uses artificial intelligence to hold text conversations with users that can feel natural, as if you were asking someone questions. 

Also: Can AI detectors save us from ChatGPT? I tried 3 online tools to find out

The human-like responses are useful when translating from one language to another, looking for instructions on how to do something, and generating written content.

How does ChatGPT work?

ChatGPT uses reinforcement learning with human feedback (RLHF) to intelligently process its environment, using human demonstrations to adapt to different situations with learned, desired behaviors. 

Also: How to save a ChatGPT conversation to revisit later

ChatGPT was trained on a substantial amount of data prior to its research preview, and continues learning through the human knowledge users provide, making it able to give educated responses to a vast variety of topics. 

How do I register for ChatGPT?

In order to register for ChatGPT, all you need to do is sign up for a free OpenAI account using your email address. 

How can I access ChatGPT?

You can access ChatGPT by going to chat.openai.com and logging in. If you’re on OpenAI’s website, you can log in to your account, then scroll down until you see ChatGTP on the bottom left corner of the page, and click on it to start chatting.

Is ChatGPT free?

Yes, you can use ChatGPT for free — for now. Since the natural language processing model is still in its research and “learning” preview phase, people can use it for free; all you need is to register for a free OpenAI account, though there is an option to upgrade to a paid membership. 

ChatGPT Plus as of 3/8/2023

The key differences between a free account and ChatGPT Plus.

Screenshot: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

OpenAI launched ChatGPT Plus for customers who want to have unlimited access without black-out windows during peak times, faster responses, and priority access to new features, for $20/month. 

Also: The best AI art generators: DALL-E 2 and alternatives

It’s also based on GPT-4, which is a more advanced language model than in the free version of ChatGPT. 

What can I use ChatGPT for? 

Your imagination is the limit. Have fun with different ChatGPT prompts. ZDNET’s David Gewirtz asked the AI chatbot to write a WordPress plugin for him and used it to help him fix code faster, for example. He also asked it to write a Star Trek script

Also: How to use ChatGPT to write code

Others are using it to write malware. One professor is promoting the use of ChatGPT in his classroom and countless other teachers are using it even more than their students. Here are a few other ideas you could try: 

  • Write a song about [insert topic here] — Try adding multiple details. 
  • Write a poem about [insert topic here] — Again, add as many details as you can think of.  
  • Ask it philosophical questions. 
  • Ask it to summarize ideas or concepts.

The more details you write in your prompts, the more precise the answers will be. 

Also: How does ChatGPT work?

ChatGPT could one day replace and, in the case of Bing, enhance search engines. Though the text bar in ChatGPT isn’t a search bar, Microsoft introduced an AI-powered Bing search engine that is connected to the internet, making it able to provide answers to questions that ChatGPT can’t handle.

Can I use ChatGPT on mobile?

Although there is no ChatGPT mobile app, you can use the AI-based tool from your mobile browser on your smartphone. 

Also: How to use ChatGPT to write Excel formulas

The steps to use OpenAI’s ChatGPT from your phone are the same as above: go to chat.openai.com, log in, accept the terms, and start typing. The AI assistant will work just as it would when you access it from your computer. 

What is ChatGPT Legacy and ChatGPT Default?

ChatGPT runs on the large language model called GPT 3.5, but there are two versions of this model, the Legacy and the Default. The Legacy model is the one you access when you log in to a free account using your OpenAI account credentials and use ChatGPT.

The Default model does a better job of explaining and understanding nuances most of the time, and is more loyal to the developers’ efforts to prevent generation of inappropriate content than the Legacy model. This model was also the one available to paid ChatGPT Plus users before the release of GPT-4.

Also: ChatGPT is the most sought out tech skill in the workforce, says learning platform

In day-to-day use, both Legacy and Default are similar, but Default is superior. GPT-4 is faster, more accurate, and larger than both models of GPT-3.5. 

According to the May 3 ChatGPT release, all new messages will use the Default model, as OpenAI prepares to deprecate the Legacy model on May 10th. 

Is ChatGPT the best AI?

If you’re trying to figure out which is the best AI chatbot, you may wonder how OpenAI’s ChatGPT compares to others, like Google Bard and Microsoft’s AI-powered Bing. The rise in ChatGPT’s popularity can largely be attributed to the expert combination of wide accessibility, knowledge, and fluidity in conversations. 

Also: ChatGPT vs. Bing Chat: Which AI chatbot should you use?

Bard and Bing Chat are available on a more limited preview. Compared to ChatGPT, Bing Chat is more based on its search-engine nature, as it combines GPT-4 and gathers information from the internet, even quoting the sources for the web pages where it got its response. 

Can ChatGPT refuse to answer my prompts?

AI systems like ChatGPT aren’t all-powerful; they can and do reject inappropriate requests. Aside from having limited knowledge, the AI assistant is able to distinguish inappropriate requests to prevent the generation of unsafe content. 

Also: 6 things ChatGPT can’t do (and another 20 it refuses to do)

This includes questions that violate someone’s rights, are offensive, are discriminatory, or involve illegal activities. The ChatGPT model can also challenge incorrect premises, answer follow-up questions, and even admit mistakes when you point them out.

Does ChatGPT give everyone the same answer?

Using ChatGPT

ChatGPT can generate essays, write code, and more from user queries.

Screenshot by Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Most of the time, when different people ask ChatGPT the same question, they will get the same answer. There might be a few variations in words, but they will be almost identical. 

Also: I tried Bing’s AI chatbot, and it solved my biggest problems with ChatGPT

If someone wanted to determine whether an article was written by ChatGPT, or if a professor wanted to see if the language model was used for an essay by a student, asking ChatGPT the same question the article or essay was based on could help figure it out. ChatGPT also tends to generate more polite prose than human writers. 

Does ChatGPT give wrong answers?

ChatGPT, like all language models, is not without limitations and can give nonsensical answers and incorrect information, so it’s important to double-check the data it gives you. It’s constantly learning from the text data it is provided by users and the results it finds online, which can make it prone to misinformation. 

OpenAI recommends users provide feedback on what ChatGPT tells them using the thumbs up and down buttons, in order to improve the model. Even better, you could become part of the company’s Bug Bounty program to earn up to $20,000 by reporting concerning finds and safety issues. 

Also: OpenAI will pay you to hunt for ChatGPT bugs

The AI chatbot is not connected to the internet and is unable to determine the current date, so asking ChatGPT how many days until Easter won’t get you an exact number of days, for example — this is one of the ways ChatGPT differs from search engines.

Will my conversations with ChatGPT be used for training?

When you’re familiarizing yourself with how to use ChatGPT, you may wonder if your specific conversations will be used for training and, if so, then who can view your conversations. Your conversations can be viewed by OpenAI and used as training data to refine its systems, so I wouldn’t enter any personal or private information. 

Also: Teachers are using ChatGPT more than students. Here’s how

The prompts you enter when you use ChatGPT are also permanently saved to your account and you won’t be able to delete specific prompts unless you delete your whole account. If you’d like to delete your account, follow these steps:

  1. Log into your OpenAI account.
  2. Go to Help.
  3. On the bottom of the pop-up, select Messages.
  4. Click on Send us a message.
  5. Choose Account Deletion from the available options.
  6. Follow the prompts to delete your account and data.

Why is ChatGPT saying my access is denied?

During peak times, you may be unable to access ChatGPT. If you’re seeing a message that it’s at capacity, you can refresh the page or sign up to receive an email when it’s available again.

Also: 5 ways to use chatbots to make your life easier

Aside from reaching capacity, access to ChatGPT can be denied for various reasons — mine gets denied while using a VPN, for example. If you’re getting a message when trying to use ChatGPT that says your access is denied, it may be one of these issues:

  • Violation of the API’s terms of service.
  • User trying to access an unavailable version of GPT.
  • The API key may be invalid.
  • User has exceeded usage limits.
  • Violation of the OpenAI API terms of service.


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