Tips & Tricks
Apple’s Mac computers have long offered users a built-in speech engine that can read on-screen text aloud—but did you know that your iOS device can do the same thing? To activate the feature, open the Settings app, tap on Accessibility, tap on Speak Selection, and turn on Speak Selection. Once you’ve got that set up, simply select any text, and you’ll see a new “Speak” option sitting next to the standard copy option. Tap it, and you’ll hear your device begin to read the text back to you. While it’s definitely a handy feature, you’ll want to play around with the speaking rate until you find a pace that’s right for you—we found the default setting to be a bit too speedy.
Searching around for some last-minute holiday gifts? If you’ve got any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch users left on your list, an app might be just the gift they’re looking for. To gift an app, simply open the App Store on your desktop computer or own iDevice, and find the app you’d like to send out. On the desktop, click on the downward-facing arrow next to the app price, and choose “Gift This App”, or if you’re on an iOS device, simply scroll to the bottom of the individual app’s page—if necessary—and tap on “Gift This App”. You’ll be taken to a page where you can enter the recipient’s email, a personal message, and choose whether to have the gifted app delivered by email or—if you’re on a desktop—via a physical page that you can print out and hand to the recipient yourself. Just make sure you don’t send the app to new owners until after they’ve opened their iOS device.
Sure, it was cool at one time, but these days iPhones—and iPads and iPod touches, for that matter—are so common that the “Sent from my iPhone” signature on your email has ceased to be special. If you’re not leaving it there for the purpose of explaining away a potentially terse and/or typo-ridden reply, why not make it a little more personal, or just remove it altogether? Doing so is easy. Open the Settings app, tap on Mail, Contacts, Calendars, scroll down, and tap on Signature. Your current “Sent from my…” message will appear in a text field that will let you easily edit it to whatever you want. Once you’re pleased with the result, tap the back button, and you’ll never send those unnecessary characters again. [via Cult of Mac]
After installing iOS 5 on our devices, the Weather widget in Notifications Center quickly became one of our most often-used, if not favorite, features of the new OS. But did you know it does more than just show you the temperature? Simply swipe to the left or right on the widget to access a six-day forecast, and repeat the motion to return to the temperature view. It’s not the most complex tip, but as with many things Apple-related, sometimes it really is that simple.
So you’d like to share a calendar with a family member or spouse, but that person doesn’t want to deal with the alarms you set for yourself. Signing into your account on the other person’s device sounds like an ideal solution, but unfortunately, you can’t turn off the alarms on an iOS device, so unless that other person doesn’t mind hearing an audible alert every time you’ve got a meeting, it’s not a workable solution.
There is a workaround, though. If you set the calendar in question to be shared publicly by visiting iCloud.com and hitting the small “broadcast” button next to the calendar, you’ll be given a highly obscure URL that the other person can use to subscribe in iCal, choosing “Remove Alarms” when they add it. If the other person isn’t a Mac user, they can subscribe to the URL directly from their iOS device by entering the URL in Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Add Accounts > Other > Add Subscribed Calendar, and choosing the “Remove Alarms” option. Once that’s done, they’ll have access to your complete calendar, but without the potential annoyance of unnecessary alarms.
So iCloud and iOS 5’s new Photo Stream feature is, conceptually, a great one: any photo you shoot—provided you’re on Wi-Fi—can instantly be accessed across all of your devices, and even used as a screensaver for your Apple TV. But what if you shot something you didn’t want to have plastered all over your TV, only to realize that there’s no simply way to remove a single photo? Well, you either have to live with it until it gets pushed out by 1,000 other photos, or reset your entire stream. Today we’ll show you how to handle the second option.
First, make sure you have an original backup of the photos in your Photo Stream, preferably in Apple’s iPhoto or Aperture photo management programs. Then, visit iCloud.com, sign in, and click on your name in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. On the pop-up that appears, click on Reset Photo Stream. One you’ve given confirmation, go around to your devices and turn Photo Stream off and back on to flush the previous contents. Sure, you’ll then be left with an empty Photo Stream, but you can easily refill it using those originals in iPhoto and Aperture, and even if you don’t, it’s still better than leaving potentially embarrassing photos on semi-permanent rotation in your living room. For more information on iCloud, see our Instant Expert article.
Sure, it would have been crazy just five years ago, but in these modern times of iTunes Match, iTunes in the Cloud, eight-megapixel photos, and HD video, the idea of needing to quickly—and temporarily—free up space on your iOS device isn’t as absurd as it might sound. Apparently, Apple’s developers thought this way too, and included a super-simple way to do so. First, open the Settings app, then General, Usage, and Music, in that order. At the top, you’ll see a listing called “All Music”—simply swipe to the right across this listing, and a Delete button will appear, giving you back however many MB—or GB—you might have tied up in audio. And if you’re ready to get some of it back and don’t have access to your home computer, follow this easy tip to re-download past purchases straight from iTunes.
- December 1, 2011
Key logging or no, having your phone number and potentially even your location sent off to some random company isn’t exactly comforting — so if you’d rather not let your info become part of Carrier IQ’s “Intelligence”, here’s the easy steps on how to turn it off. Simply open your Settings app, tap on General, then About, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and tap Diagnostics & Usage. On this page, tap Don’t Send—if it doesn’t have a checkmark next to it already—and you’re done. If you’re curious, you can even tap on Diagnostic & Usage Data at the bottom to see what data your phone has collected so far, although be warned: most of it won’t make a whole lot of sense unless you’re a developer or a cellular engineer. Just think—your iPhone had a tin foil hat built-in all along. Who knew?
If you’re into photography, odds are you know that lots of pros use cable releases as a way to eliminate vibrations and thus take sharper photos — but you might not know that as of iOS 5, your iPhone comes with a cable release packed right into the box. Since Apple added the ability to snap a photo in the Camera app using nothing but the volume up button, it also made it possible to do the same using the volume up button on most remote-laden sets of headphones, letting you mount your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad on a tripod or in some other secure fashion and make your picture from afar. [via Lifehacker | Mac OS X Hints]
- November 22, 2011
Sure, it’s great that all you have to do to silent your iPhone is flip the switch on the side, but then you’re at a loss for telling the difference between an important business call and your neighbor who’s looking for someone to watch his dog. Fortunately, iOS 5 offers a relatively simple way to set up custom vibration patterns for different contacts, so you’ll know when you really need to pick up.
First, open up Settings, tap General, tap on Accessibility, and turn Custom Vibrations on. Next, open Contacts, choose the contact you’d like to have a special vibration, and tap Edit. You’ll see a new field next to ringtone called vibration. Tap it, and you’ll be on a page where you can select from a handful of preset vibration patterns, with an option for creating a custom vibration at the bottom. When you’re finished, simply tap Done, and the next time that person calls when your phone is in your pocket, you’ll know who’s calling before you even see the screen.
- November 17, 2011
While no one predicted it before the launch, one of the more interesting aspects of being an iPhone 4S owner is finding new ways to use Siri. Today’s tip is one such example: how to set up a reminder to call someone using the virtual assistant. When you ask Siri to remind you to call a contact, it will ask you to specify which number to call—somewhat odd, considering that this information doesn’t actually appear anywhere. But when you actually get the reminder and tap on it in notifications, the Reminders app will open and prompt you to call the contact with a simple “Call” button, saving you the trouble of digging through your contacts for the number. Interestingly, this only happens after you receive the notification, and only when tapping on the notification directly - but still, a handy time saver for those who have a lot of contacts.
While third-party camera apps have allowed users to lock the focus and exposure of their shots for some time, the feature is a new one for users who prefer Apple’s built-in Camera app. Thankfully, the steps to enable it couldn’t be simpler. Once you’ve decided on a subject you want to be in focus and properly exposed, simply tap and hold on its image in the viewfinder until the blue focus box pulses a few times. Once you let go, you’ll see “AE/AF Lock” on the screen, letting you know that your settings are locked in. Disabling it is just as easy: simply tap anywhere in the viewfinder.
iCloud is already proving to be incredibly handy for syncing personal information, documents, and media across devices, but what if you’ve got someone—a spouse, roommate, or child, for example—with whom you’d like to be able to share some of your information? Luckily, there’s an easy way to do so. If the information you’re wanting to share includes Contacts, Calendars, Reminders—such as a shared shopping list—Bookmarks, or Notes, you can simply add your iCloud account as a secondary account on the other person’s device. Simply open Settings, tap on Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and then tap on Add Account…. Choose iCloud from the list, enter your account information, and when prompted, turn on the options you want to share.
If you’d like to share Documents or have a joint Photo Stream with the person, you can do that too—simply setup the shared account as the main iCloud account on the both devices, then add personal accounts as secondary accounts using the steps above. Notably, this method will require you to share iCloud backups, but for families that need additional storage space anyway, this may save them from having to pay for additional storage for two separate accounts. For more specific information on iCloud, see our Instant Expert article. [Thanks, Allen Mazie]
- November 8, 2011
Siri is proving to be an indispensable tool for some iPhone 4S owners, providing a powerful spoken interface for common tasks—but sometimes to utilize that power, you have to watch what you say. Like, for instance, when you’re trying to create an undated reminder with Siri. If you ask it to remind you of something, the entry will have a date, and possibly a place or time—since it’s commonly used with phrases like “when I get home”. To keep this from happening, simply ask Siri to “remember to”—it’ll notice the difference and create an undated listing in your Reminders app.
While it’s not a feature you’re likely to use every day, the new version of Safari on iOS 5 does have a handy new trick up its sleeve: Private Browsing. If you need to turn it on—for instance, you’re using someone else’s phone to check your bank information, or otherwise simply don’t want to leave a trace of what you’re looking at—simply open the Settings app, tap on Safari, and turn Private Browsing on. You’ll see a prompt asking if you want to keep the currently open tabs open—if there are any—and will see a similar prompt when turning the feature off. Once it’s enabled, Safari won’t remember the pages you visit, your search history, or your AutoFill information, allowing you to browse in (relative) anonymity.
Ever find yourself going through your music only to find an artist or track name that’s too long to display fully on the screen of your iPhone or iPod touch? Well, if you’re running iOS 5, there’s a simple and easy way to see the track information without leaving the screen you’re on. Simply tap and hold on the song you’d like to know about, and a popup will appear showing you the full track name, album title, and artist. You can even move your finger up and down while continuing to hold to see the info for the songs around it.
Giving a name to an iPod, iPhone, or iPad is one of the first things owners do to personalize their devices, but what do you do if you’ve taken advantage of iOS 5’s PC-free setup, only to decide that you’d rather your digital pal carry a different moniker? Thankfully, Apple has thought of this exact situation, and has built-in a way to change it without ever plugging the device in. Simply open Settings, tap General, tap About, and tap into the Name field—it will become editable, letting you rename you device anything you want. When you’re finished, simply tap Done, and enjoy the fact that “Charles’ iPhone” is now the “White Knight,” “Grover Cleveland’s Wallet,” or anything else you can come up with.
- October 25, 2011
Siri is incredibly handy for finding places to eat and sending text messages, but wouldn’t it be great if it could update your Facebook status or post to your Twitter feed for you? As it turns out, it—or is it she?—can, thanks to these clever workarounds. Since both Facebook and Twitter offer SMS integration, all you need to do is setup the service and then add the correct number to your contacts list under “Facebook” or “Twitter,” and you’ll be good to go.
For Facebook, you need to text “Hello” to 32665 in the US, then follow the instructions in the reply to finish setting it up, and add that number to your contacts. The process is very similar with Twitter, only you send “START” to 40404 to get the ball rolling. Once you’re done, all it takes to post is a quick “Tell Facebook (or Twitter)...” and your post will appear without touching a single key. [via Time]
Apple hasn’t yet released its first point update to iOS 5, but when it does, you’ll be prepared to grab it without having to plug your device into your computer. When word drops that an update has been released, all you need to do is open Settings, tap on General, and tap Software Update. This causes your device to ping Apple’s servers, responding with a graphic showing the new update’s version number and brief release notes if one is available, along with an App Store-like install button. Tap it, and voila—you’ll have the latest update installed on your device before you know, all without plugging in a cord.
Among all the features and improvements in iOS 5, the revamped Notifications system—dubbed Notification Center—is one of the most anticipated and welcome. Like a lot of things, while it’s good out of the box, it can be even better if you take a little time to configure it to match your priorities and preferences. To do so, simply open the Settings app and tap on Notifications. You’ll be taken to a view that lets you choose how you’d like the apps to be sorted, and shows you which apps are in Notification Center and which aren’t. Tapping on any of the apps brings up a view with even more options, letting you decide whether it appears in Notification Center, how many updates to show if it does, what type of on-screen alert you’d like the app to present—you can choose between old-school, screen-blocking alerts, sleek, top-of-the-screen banners, or none at all—whether or not you want the red, numbered update badge to appear on the app’s icon, and whether or not its notifications appear on the lock screen. It might take a few minutes to get everything set up to your liking, but the first time a relatively minor notification comes in, appears briefly at the top of the screen—you can even swipe to the left on the banners to make them disappear more quickly—and leaves you, uninterrupted, right where you were, it’ll all be worth it.
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