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Easing Your Transition To iOS 7
By Jesse Hollington | 09.18.13

Today, Apple released iOS 7, making some very significant user interface changes to its iOS operating system—a design that had remained mostly the same for over six years. While some users will happily embrace iOS 7 for breathing new life into old iPhones, iPads, or iPod touches, from our own experiences it’s clear that not everybody is going to consider this a welcome change to a system that had become familiar and comfortable. The good news is that there are a few things you can do immediately for a smoother transition to the new operating system.

For a full in-depth look at what’s new in iOS 7, be sure to check out our full article, Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 7.0.

Choosing A Background To Match iOS 7’s Thin Font

How well the new icon design, font choices, and parallax effects in iOS 7 work for you will depend largely on your choice of Home Screen wallpaper, and if you’re used to having a colorful background image here, you may find things to be a bit hard to read or distracting. If you don’t want to give up your favorite Home Screen wallpaper, you can tweak some of these features to work better for you, but you may find that it’s still better to choose a wallpaper that doesn’t clash as much.

The built-in dynamic and static wallpapers in iOS 7 aren’t too bad, but if you still want to personalize your experience, you will probably have the most success staying with darker patterns with softer textures as opposed to actual photos or very colorful choices. iOS 7 flips between white or black text dynamically based on your wallpaper, but doesn’t always do the best job of picking the color that works well with backgrounds. Using a photo editor to manually adjust your background’s contrast or color saturation may help.

Improving Font Visibility

The new minimalist design in iOS 7 also applies to the font choices made by its designers, and some users may find these to be thin to the point of being unreadable. The Home Screen provides a particularly good example of this, and if you rely on the text labels beneath your app icons, you may find it difficult to read them, particularly if you’re used to anything other than a very plain Home Screen background.

The good news is that a new Accessibility option allows you to beef your fonts back up throughout the entire iOS UI. Simply go into Settings, select General, Accessibility and toggle on “Bold Text.”

While this feature improves the Home Screen and Lock Screen considerably, it also has some potentially unwanted impacts upon otherwise fully readable text elsewhere within iOS 7 apps. You’ll have to decide, for now, whether fixing one set of problems is worth dealing with others.

Turning off Parallax

Not everybody is going to be a fan of the new parallax effects in iOS 7, which basically cause your backgrounds and wallpapers to shift perspective as you move your iPhone around. The good news is that if this effect makes you dizzy, or you simply don’t like it, you can toggle it off by enabling the “Reduce Motion” switch found under General, Accessibility in the iOS Settings app.

Disabling Automatic App Updates

By default, iOS 7 offers to enable automatic updating of your iOS apps in the background. While most users will likely welcome this new feature, it does carry the risk of automatically receiving problematic app updates, and some users may therefore prefer to disable it. This can be done easily by going into the Settings app in iOS 7, selecting iTunes & App Stores and toggling OFF the “Updates” option.

Changing Sound Effects And Ringtones

The visual redesign in iOS 7 is accompanied by an audio facelift as well, with a whole new collection of sound effects, alert tones, and ringtones included. In fact, Apple has gone so far as to change the defaults and give the new ringtones top billing, relegating the old ones into a “Classic” sub-folder. Your old general ringtone may well have shifted to something different in the process.

Like other aspects of iOS 7, some users will welcome these new tones, while others will hate them. While you’ll be stuck with some of them—such as the lock/unlock sound and new charging bleep when you plug your device in—most can be customized and even reset back to their mostly original tones by taking a quick trip into the Sounds section of the iOS Settings app. A “Classic” section can be found at the bottom of the new sounds providing access to the pre-iOS 7 list of tones. Note that even these have been enhanced somewhat, so don’t expect them to sound quite the same as they did in iOS 6, but they’re a good option if you prefer the old sounds to the new.

Hiding iTunes Store Content

One of the great new features in iOS 7 is the ability to stream all of your purchased music, movie, and TV show content directly from the iTunes Store, much like you can already do with the Apple TV and iTunes 11. This means that even if you’re not an iTunes Match subscriber, you’ll be able to listen to the music you’ve purchased, streamed from iTunes in the Cloud.

If you’ve purchased a lot of content from the iTunes Store, however, you may find this list to be a bit daunting the first time you open the Music or Videos apps, since it will include everything that you’ve ever purchased from iTunes. The good news is that you can easily hide anything you don’t want to see here simply by taking a quick trip to your Purchased section in iTunes on your Mac or PC. From here, simply hover over an item that you want to hide, and a small “X” will appear that you can click on to make it disappear from your iTunes in the Cloud purchase history.

Keep in mind that this will affect the visibility of the hidden item on ALL of your devices, however, including your Apple TV and iTunes in the Cloud purchases within iTunes. This will, however, only hide the cloud-based version; if you’ve downloaded the item to your iTunes library you can still play it on your computer directly or stream it to your Apple TV or other devices via Home Sharing.

You can view a list of items that you have hidden and bring them back by going into your iTunes Store account information and looking for the “Hidden Purchases” entry under iTunes in the Cloud.

Note that if you don’t want to access iTunes in the Cloud content on your iOS 7 device at all, you can simply turn the option off entirely in the Settings app under either the iTunes & App Stores, Music, or Videos sections. 

Checking Your Parental Controls

If you’re updating a child’s device to iOS 7, you’ll want to pay particular attention to the new iTunes in the Cloud features, since this will potentially give them access to everything in your purchase history. You can disable this feature entirely or hide content as described above, or alternatively you can enable parental controls to restrict which content appears in these apps.

Simply go into General, Restrictions in the iOS Settings app and specify the maximum rating that you want to be available on the device. Anything above the specified rating will be hidden entirely from view. This can also be a handy way to give your kids easy at-home access to their favorite shows on a lower-capacity iOS device.

Limiting Access to Control Center

By default, the new Control Center can be opened from the Lock Screen, providing quick access to a number of useful features. If you would prefer to keep this feature under lock and key, you can disable it under Control Center in the iOS Settings app.

Turning off “Access on Lock Screen” will not only prevent the Control Center from being opened when the device is locked, but will also remove the small grey dash that appears at the bottom of the screen.

An additional feature here, “Access within Apps” can also be toggled off if you find that Control Center is getting in the way. Disabling this will require a trip back to the Home Screen to access Control Center, but can prevent it from inadvertently popping up when playing games or using other gesture-based apps.

Customizing Notification Center

Notification Center has been expanded to include more information and can also now be accessed from the Lock Screen by default. The good news is that when it’s accessed from the Lock Screen, Notification Center respects your “Show Previews” and “Show on Lock Screen” privacy settings, meaning that anything that’s normally hidden from popping up directly on the Lock Screen won’t show up in Notification Center without actually unlocking your device.

Even so, you may still have certain security or privacy concerns with information being available when your device is locked, and in this case the Notification Center section of the iOS Settings app allows you to disable the Notifications View, Today View, or both. You can also choose to disable only certain elements, such as as the Calendar Day view, to prevent your actual appointments appearing on this screen.

Note that if you’re using multiple calendars in the Calendars app, only appointments from those calendars that are actually selected and visible in the Calendars app will be shown in the Notification Center Today View.

Re-Enabling On/Off Labels on Switches

In its attempts at a minimalistic user interface, one subtle change in iOS 7 is the removal of the “ON” and “OFF” labels found on option switches in places like the Settings app, replaced instead by a green indicator for when an option is ON. While this seems to work well enough in the core iOS apps, you may find that third-party apps designed for iOS 7 don’t make this distinction clear enough; users with vision limitations may also prefer stronger cues. An option can be found in the Accessibility settings to re-enable these On/Off Labels, which will appear as I/O indicators instead of the previous ON/OFF text.

Choosing Name Abbreviations

iOS 7 can now abbreviate names in apps like Mail and Messages in order to fit more information on the screen, most commonly done when dealing with multi-party messages. By default, iOS 7 shows the user’s full first name and last initial; it may also show nicknames if you’ve set them. If you prefer to disable this, or use another form of abbreviation, this can be configured by going into Mail, Contacts, Calendars in the iOS Settings app and looking for the “Short Name” option.

Here you can turn the short name feature off entirely, or choose to use only the first name, last name, first initial and full last name, or the default full first name and last initial. A “Prefer Nicknames” option here also allows you to specify your own short name for specific people by using the Nickname field in the iOS Contacts app.

Are there other iOS 6 to iOS 7 issues you’re trying to deal with? Let us know in the comments section below, and we’ll address them in our weekly tips.

Next: iOS 7: Find My iPhone only available on primary iCloud account

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