Tips & Tricks
- November 21, 2013
If you find that you frequently type the same text on a regular basis, there’s a handy feature hidden away in the iOS Settings app that can save you a lot of time. If you take a trip into Settings, General, Keyboard you’ll find a section labelled “Shortcuts” where you can add your own abbreviations that will automatically expand into any larger phrase that you would like. While it’s not without a few limitations—multi-line text isn’t supported, for example—it’s definitely a really useful feature, especially on the iPhone and iPod touch keyboard.
Once you’ve created your shortcuts, simply type in the abbreviation and it will be automatically expanded, auto-correct style, to the full phrase. Not only can this be used for common phrases like “On my way” but is also great for things like you’re email address or longer logon names used for online services, since this replacement feature works in just about any text field throughout iOS. It can also be used to override phrases and spellings that auto-correct frequently gets wrong—simply enter the exact same text in the “Phrase” and “Shortcut” fields and this will override the normal auto-correct lookup when typing that word in.
Not only does Google’s Maps app for iOS generally provide better mapping data, but it also includes some nifty UI features, including the ability to zoom in and out on a map with a single finger. This is a particularly great feature for one-handed operation on an iPhone or iPod touch, although it works in the iPad version too. Simply double-tap and hold your finger down anywhere on the map and then slide your finger up to zoom out or down to zoom back in. A single tap-and-hold gesture after releasing your finger returns you to normal panning mode. It can be a really cool way to navigate around your maps once you get the hang of it.
iOS 7 now allows you to set up a list of numbers that you do not wish to receive calls or messages from. Numbers can easily be added to this list simply by selecting a contact card from your recent calls, messages, or contacts and tapping the Block this Caller option at the bottom. A single block list is shared by the Messages, Phone, and FaceTime features, and adding a number to the list will block you from being contacted from that number by any of these methods.
You can view the list of blocked numbers from within the iOS Settings app by selecting Blocked from the Phone, Messages, or FaceTime sections; as noted above, however, the list is shared across all three of these services, so these are just three different ways of accessing the same list.
Messages and FaceTime calls from blocked numbers will be ignored entirely; Phone calls will be sent directly to voicemail, but any resulting voicemail messages will be stored in a separate “Blocked Messages” section that can be found at the bottom of your visual voicemail message list.
iOS 7 introduces a great new feature for users on limited data plans: You can now track how much cellular data is being used by each app on your iPhone or iPad and even disable access to cellular data for specific third-party apps. This is a big improvement over prior versions, where only an aggregate cellular data counter was provided and little to no control over which apps could cellular data.
You can access this feature form the Cellular section in the iOS Settings app; scrolling down will reveal a list of the third-party apps installed on your device. The amount of data used by each app is listed under the app’s name, and a switch to the right of the name allows you to disable cellular data for the app on an individual basis. A section at the bottom of the list provides information on any data used by apps that have been removed from your device as well as a detailed list of data usage by each built-in system service.
Note that this information only affects cellular data use; data used over Wi-Fi is not counted in any of these figures, and switching an app off from this screen will not prevent it from using data while on a Wi-FI connection. These counters will accumulate until manually reset; the “Reset Statistics” button at the very bottom of this screen can be used to reset all data counters—a good idea to do at the start of your monthly billing cycle if you’re trying to track data usage against your monthly allotment.
Last year, iTunes 11 introduced a new “Home Videos” category, providing a great way—in principle—to use iTunes for storing personal videos and syncing them with other Apple devices without cluttering up the main “Movies” category. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the release of Apple TV 6.0 and iOS 7 that the category become fully supported across all of Apple’s current hardware devices.
The “Home Videos’ category will remain hidden in iTunes and on other devices until you actually place something in it; to categorize a video as a “Home Video” simply import it into the main “Movies” section and then open the properties by selecting it and choosing File, Get Info, selecting the Options tab and setting the Media Kind field to “Home Video.”
You’ll need to sync the video to any iOS devices the old-fashioned way, since iCloud doesn’t support non-purchased video content, at which point a new “Home Videos’ button should appear in the iOS “Videos” app.
Sometimes it’s useful to have access to certain maps while away from an Internet connection, especially if you’re an iPod touch or Wi-Fi-only iPad user. If you’re using Google Maps—and with the sub-par performance of Apple’s own built-in Maps app you probably are—recently viewed information is cached automatically to some degree, but you can also actually tell Google Maps to pre-load a full detailed version of whatever map view is on your screen.
Simply focus on what you’d like to save, and then type the phrase “ok maps” in the search box. You’ll see a brief dialog indicating that Google Maps is pre-loading the map followed by a confirmation that the on-screen map area has been cached on your device. This is particularly useful for working with larger areas like whole cities, as the full detail will be stored on your device, allowing you to zoom in and see everything even while offline. Keep in mind, however, that this doesn’t work beyond a certain maximum area—about the size of an average city—so don’t expect to be able to store maps for your whole state or country.
- October 29, 2013
- Apple TV,
One of the more subtle new features in the Apple TV 6.0 Software Update is the ability to have future updates downloaded and applied automatically—a great feature if you don’t feel like waiting for an update to apply when you’re getting ready to watch your favourite show. You can find this option and switch it on or off under Settings, General, Software Updates from the Apple TV menu.
Note that this feature is enabled by default on new Apple TV units and disabled by default if you’re updating from an older version. If you leave it disabled you will still be prompted to apply updates manually whenever new Apple TV software is available, as in prior versions.
If you regularly flag messages in the iOS 7 Mail app, you may have noticed that the traditional flag icon has been replaced by an orange dot, similar to that used for unread messages, simply presented in a different colour. Fortunately, if you miss the more visually discernible flag icon used in prior iOS versions, there is in fact a way to put it back. Simply go into the iOS Settings, select Mail, Calendar, Contacts and look for the Flag Style option.
You can only change the style, so you’re stuck with orange as the colour; the multi-coloured flags found in Apple Mail on OS X remain absent from its iOS counterpart.
With iOS 7 you can now choose to display abbreviated names in apps like Mail and Messages, allowing you to fit more information on the screen. This is particularly useful for dealing with messages with multiple parties, but can also help when working with longer names as well.
By default, iOS 7 will show the user’s full first name and last initial, or a user’s nickname if you’ve set one. If you prefer to disable this, or use another form of abbreviation, this can be changed with a quick trip into Mail, Contacts, Calendars in the iOS Settings app, under the “Short Name” option.
Did you know that the iOS Messages app allows you to easily browse through the photos and videos in your iMessage or text message conversations? When you tap on a photo to view it in full-screen mode, you can swipe back and forth through all of the photos in the current conversation, much like you would in the Photos app. In addition, tapping on the button in the bottom right corner while viewing an item will bring up a list of all of the media in the current conversation, with the current item highlighted; you can tap on any item to go directly to that entry, and then continue swiping left and right from there.
Keep in mind that Messages only displays the last 50 messages, but all of your older messages remain stored on your device unless you’ve manually erased them; you can access these previous entries by scrolling up to the very top of a conversation and tapping Load Earlier Messages. Once loaded, any older photos and videos in the conversation will also be included in the media listing and browsing views.
iOS 7 introduces the ability to have your apps automatically updated in the background, saving you the trouble of going to the App Store to check for and download updates automatically. Your device tries to handle this intelligently to avoid draining too much power or consuming data needlessly, but if you don’t want to use this feature at all, you can easily turn it off. Simply go into Settings, iTunes & App Stores and look for the “Updates” option below automatic downloads. If you’re on an iPhone or cellular-capable iPad, a “Use Cellular Data” option can also be toggled off from here to force your updates to download only over Wi-Fi.
Keep in mind that even with automatic updates on, you’ll get a message in Notification Centre telling you what’s been updated, and you can open the App Store to check out what’s new in your latest app updates.
The new Parallax feature is one of the more interesting design changes in iOS 7, but many find it to be motion sickness inducing or just downright distracting. If you find yourself in that group of users, the good news is that you can easily turn it off. Simply go into Settings, General, Accessibility and you can the option listed as Reduce Motion; toggling this ON will disable the parallax effect throughout iOS 7. As an added bonus, turning this off may even help you conserve a bit of battery life by reducing the use of the accelerometer and gyroscope.
If you’ve ever tried to e-mail out some of your pictures from the iOS Photos app you’ve probably noticed that the e-mail option disappears if you select more than five photos. While this still hasn’t been addressed in iOS 7, the good news is there’s a quick and fairly easy way to work around this limitation: Simply use the iOS clipboard. Go into the Photos app, select as many photos as you would like to share, and then choose “Copy” from the sharing menu. You can then switch over to the iOS Mail app, start composing a new message, and paste your photos in by tapping and holding in an empty area of the message and selecting “Paste” from the pop-up menu that appears.
There doesn’t seem to be any practical limit to how many photos you can share via the clipboard, but keep in mind that just because you can select dozens of photos doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to send them out in a single e-mail message at full size—many mail servers will reject e-mails with excessively large attachments. The good news is that iOS Mail app will offer you to reduce the size of your attached photos for you before sending your message, so sending a large number of photos via e-mail is definitely an option if you’re willing to scale them down.
With the redesign of the music app in iOS 7, Apple also removed the ability to directly playback an entire track list from a specific genre. While Smart Playlists would still be one obvious workaround for this, this may not be practical if you have a lot of genres and are used to being able to easily select them.
The good news, however, is that you can still workaround this. Swipe downward to reveal the search field and type in your Genre name there. When it appears in the search results you can tap on it to view all of the tracks assigned to that particular genre, grouped by album. Tap on an individual track and your device will begin playback using the displayed list of tracks as your playlist.
If you’ve just upgraded from an older iPhone to a new iPhone 5c or iPhone 5s, chances are that you transferred your data over from your old device using a backup made by iCloud or iTunes. While this is a really easy way to get your new device up and running quickly, it’s important to remember that both iTunes and iCloud store your backup based on your specific hardware device, not simply your device’s name. This means that your old backup is left lying around taking up space after you switch to a new device, while your new device creates an entirely new backup.
Once you’re sure that you’ve restored everything properly to your new device, it’s really quite easy to get rid of these old backups. For iCloud backups, go into Settings, iCloud, Storage & Backup and tap the Manage Storage option on your new device. This will show a list of all of the backups shown in your iCloud account, with the one for the current device indicated. Tap on the other backup with the same name, and choose “Delete Backup” from the subsequent screen that appears.
If you’re an iPhone user already and have just upgraded to a new iPhone 5c or 5s, chances are that you want to move all of your data over from your previous device. iOS actually makes this process really easy simply by allowing you to restoring a current backup from either iTunes or iCloud. There is one small catch, however: For security purposes, passwords for services such as your Wi-Fi networks and e-mail accounts are stored in your backups in a way unique to your original device. This protects them should your backup fall into the wrong hands, but it also means that they can’t be transferred to a different iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch for the same reason. The good news, however, is that you can use an encrypted backup in iTunes in order to store your passwords for transfer to another device; since the backup is already encrypted, iTunes and iOS don’t need to encrypt the passwords inside any further.
To set this up, simply connect your original iPhone to your computer, open iTunes, and check the “Encrypt iPhone Backup” option. You’ll need to set a password that can be used to decrypt the backup, after which iTunes will immediately make an encrypted backup of your iPhone to your computer. You’ll simply need to supply this password when restoring your backup to your new iPhone, and not only will all of your applications, settings, and media content be restored, but your passwords will to, avoiding the nuisance of having to type them in all over again. Be sure to check out our Complete Guide to Transferring your Content to a new iPhone, iPad or iPod touch for a more detailed look at the entire process of moving your data over to your new device.
iOS 7 introduces to new convenient features that can now be accessed from the lock screen by default: The improved Notification Centre and the new Control Centre. These features give you quick and easy access to your pending notifications along with weather, calendar appointments, reminders, traffic information, as well as a new flashlight feature alongside the clock, calculator and camera apps. If you normally use a passcode to lock your iOS device, you may be concerned at the amount of information and number of features that can be accessed from here, but the good news is that you can turn almost all of it off entirely.
The Notification Center and Control Center sections in your iOS Settings app provide toggles to disable access to these features when your device is locked. Control Center provides a simple on/off toggle for disabling the feature entirely from the lock screen, while Notification Center allows you to individually restrict access to the Today View, Notifications View, or both. You can also simply disable individual sections in the Notification Center, such as the Calendar Day View, although this option will hide these sections entirely, not only when your device is locked. Note that you can’t disable the camera button in the bottom right corner, however the camera app in this mode only lets you to take new pictures, it doesn’t allow access to what’s already in your photo library.
If you’re only worried about specific notifications showing up, iOS can also hide notifications from specific apps in the lock screen Notification Centre. This is done in much the same way as it was in iOS 6: simply go into Notification Center, select an app for which you don’t want notifications appearing on your lock screen, and then scroll down and switch the Show on Lock Screen option OFF. This will hide any notifications from that app on both the main lock screen and the Notification Centre when it’s accessed from the Lock Screen; these notifications will only appear when you pull down Notification Centre after unlocking your device. Certain apps such as Messages and Mail take this one step further: the Show Preview option can be toggled off to hide the detailed text of a received message.
Early this week, Apple officially announced that iOS 7 is coming next Wednesday, September 18th. If you’ve got an existing iPhone and you’re concerned about what you need to do to prepare for the next iOS version, the good news is that despite the major user interface changes, the actual updating process is pretty straightforward, and won’t be any different from other recent iOS updates. Apple will likely make it available as an “over-the-air” (OTA) update, meaning you should be able to download it over your Wi-Fi connection and update without even connecting to your computer.
That said, it’s always a really good idea to ensure that you have a current backup to either iTunes or iCloud, and in fact it really doesn’t hurt to do both before attempting an update. While most iOS updates install “in-place” without any problems, making a backup is always a sensible precaution just in case. Even if you’re normally backing up to iCloud, you can easily make a manual backup in iTunes any time you like; simply select your device in iTunes 11 and click the “Back Up Now” button that appears on the summary screen and iTunes will immediately make an on-demand backup of your device. You can also check the date and time of the last backup to each service from the same page.
Be sure to check back next week for our comprehensive guides to what’s new in iOS 7 along with what to look for in the updating process and how to smoothly transition to the new iOS 7 user interface.
- September 3, 2013
- Apple TV,
Accessing your iCloud Photo Stream and other Shared Photo Streams from your Apple TV is a really handy way to view your photos and show them off to friends and family. You may not know that you can also delete photos or even entire Shared Photo Streams right from your Apple TV without having to return to your iOS device or computer. To do this, simply highlight a photo or Photo Stream and hold down the Select button on the Apple Remote until a pop-up menu appears with an option to “Delete Photo” or “Delete Photo Stream.” This also works with Photo Streams that have been shared with you by other users; “Unsubscribe” will appear on the menu in this case instead of the delete option, allowing you to remove only your copy of the Shared Photo Stream.
Keep in mind, however, that this doesn’t just remove these items from your Apple TV—as on iOS the items will be removed from your iCloud account and any other devices that sync with it.
- August 29, 2013
- Apple TV,
The Apple TV’s AirPlay feature makes it a great accessory to bring your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch content to the larger screen. By default, however, this feature is wide open; anybody running iOS or iTunes on the same network can freely broadcast content to your Apple TV at the tap of a button. For most home users this isn’t a huge problem, but if you have kids in the house, or you otherwise use your Apple TV on a network shared with other iOS users, you may find it useful to restrict AirPlay access to your Apple TV—particularly since starting AirPlay from another device will interrupt whatever you may currently be watching.
The good news is that Apple has provided a couple of options for this, both of which can be found in the AirPlay section under your Apple TV’s Settings menu. If you don’t want your Apple TV to be accessible via AirPlay at all, you can simply toggle it off from here. Alternatively, you can use an onscreen code or a password to prevent AirPlay access to your Apple TV from iOS devices or iTunes. The Onscreen Code option will display a one-time code on the Apple TV screen whenever a user attempts to select it for AirPlay, requiring the user to enter this code on their device before AirPlay streaming will begin; the password option will simply prompt the user for whatever password you choose to set here, again refusing to begin AirPlay streaming unless the proper password is supplied.
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