iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iOS and iTunes Tips & Tricks | iLounge

Tips & Tricks

Showing only downloaded books in iBooks

By default, the iBooks app on iOS will show you not only content on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, but also anything that exists in your purchased library. While this is a handy way of making your entire library readily available to you without having to sort through your iBookstore purchase history, it can sometimes get a little overwhelming.

The good news is that it’s easy enough to filter out this content to show only iBooks that have actually been downloaded to your device, rather than including everything from the cloud. While older versions of iBooks hid this away in the iOS Settings app, it’s closer to access in iOS 8, although not as obvious — you need to tap on the name of the current collection at the top of the screen, which will bring down a pull down menu with a toggle to “Hide iCloud Books.” Simply turn this ON, and everything that hasn’t already been downloaded to your iOS device will vanish from your library, leaving you with a more focused view of your library.

Resetting your Home Screen Layout

If you keep a lot of apps on your iPhone and are always moving icons around, you may sometimes find that you’ve hit a point where things are just too overwhelming and you can’t really find anything anymore. Sometimes it’s nice just to start with a clean layout. The good news is that iOS makes this pretty easy, with a one-tap setting that lets you easily reset your home screen icon layout back to its factory defaults – without affecting any other data or settings on your device.

To do this, simply go into the iOS Settings app, and choose General, Reset, Reset Home Screen Layout. You’ll be prompted to confirm you want to do this (and keep in mind, it’s irreversible if you proceed), after which your icons will all be nicely organized with the built-in apps in their original, out-of-the-box configuration, and everything else sorted alphabetically after that. Note that this will also remove all of your folders, placing your app icons at the home screen level, but if you feel inundated by apps, this can be a great way to do a spring cleaning and get rid of apps you no longer need that may have otherwise been hidden away in folders.

Inserting Pauses when Dialing a Phone Number

Although dial-up touchtone services like voicemail and calling cards have started to be replaced by modern technologies like Visual Voicemail and voice-over-IP, sometimes they’re still useful and necessary. If you find yourself frequently dialing into a voicemail system that requires a password, making long distance calls using a calling card service, or even dialing somebody’s office extension, the iPhone still provides the ability to automatically insert pauses into your dialing sequence to help you automate the process.

When dialing from the iPhone keypad, you can do this by holding down the * key to insert a timed two-second pause, or holding down the # key to insert a manual pause — causing the iPhone to wait to send additional touch tones until you tap the “Dial” button again. These pauses are represented by a comma and semi-colon, respectively, and you can enter these characters directly into an iOS Contact record if you want to save the number that way — useful for when you need to reach somebody through an automated switchboard, for example.

Setting a Sleep Timer on the iPhone

If you regularly like to fall asleep to music, you may find it handy to know that the iPhone and other iOS devices have a sleep timer feature hidden away in the Clock app’s Timer section. To find this, simply open up the Clock app and go to the “Timer” section. Set a duration for the timer, and instead of choosing a sound, scroll down to the bottom and select the “Stop Playing” option. To set this up even more quickly, you can open the Clock app from the Control Center, which will take you directly to the Timer screen.

This doesn’t just work in the built-in Music app either; this feature will stop any audio — or even video — that happens to be playing when the timer expires, so it can be used with everything from Spotify to YouTube.

Managing Saved Passwords and Credit Cards in Safari

If you’ve been using Safari for a while on your iPhone or iPad, you’ve probably had it offer to save passwords and credit numbers for you on more than one occasion. If you’re wondering where all of this information goes, look no further than the Safari section in your iOS Settings app. Under the “Passwords and Autofill” subsection, you’ll see categories for “Saved Passwords” and “Saved Credit Cards.”

If you’ve passcode-protected your device (and if you’re storing passwords and credit cards on it, we’re really hoping you have), you’ll need to enter your passcode to get into either of these sections, but once there, you can see a list of all of the passwords and credit card numbers that have been saved for autofilling on web sites, and you can even edit or delete any of them from here. If you’re using iCloud Keychain, these will also sync to your other iOS devices and your Mac, so any changes you make here will be reflected on your other devices. You can also toggle either category OFF from here if you no longer want to be prompted to save or automatically fill in passwords or credit cards when browsing in Safari. A “Use Contact Info” option is also here that allows you to fill in email, name, and address fields on web forms with information from a selected contact record.

As an additional tip, if you’re looking for a quick way to erase all of this data from your iPhone or iPad in one fell swoop, simply go to your “Passcode” section in the Settings app and turn off your passcode entirely — as a security precaution, you’ll be asked whether you want to erase all saved passwords and credit card data. If you’re using iCloud Keychain, this will also toggle that feature off before removing them from your device, leaving them in iCloud, but wiping them from local storage.

Accessing Recently Closed Tabs in Safari

Sometimes it’s almost too easy to accidentally close a tab in Safari on iOS, especially when you’re using an iPhone 6 Plus or iPad in landscape view. Of course, the normal browser history is okay if it’s something you’ve opened in the past little while, but many of us tend to leave tabs open in our browsers throughout the day, and sometimes even for days at a time, meaning it can be a challenge to figure out not only what you just accidentally closed, but when you first opened it.

While fans of Chrome will know that it provides an obvious way to get at your recently closed tabs via a list right in the history screen, the good news is that Apple hasn’t forgotten to include this feature in Safari either — they’ve just hidden it well. If you tap and hold on the “+” button normally used to open a new tab, a “Recently Closed Tabs” list will pop up. Tap on anything here to open it back up again in a new tab. Keep in mind that reopening an item from the “Recently Closed Tabs” list will remove it from there, but it will also be placed at the top of your browser history as if it were newly opened.

Applying and removing Filters in Camera + Photos

You probably already know that you can apply filters to a photo in iOS 8—either in the Camera app while you’re shooting or afterward by editing it in the Photos app – but what you may not realize is that these filters are applied non-destructively, even when you apply them before you take the photo in the Camera app.

If you apply a filter and then later decide that maybe you preferred a different one, or want to remove the filter altogether, you can simply go into the Photos app, edit the photo as you normally would, and change up the filter or set it back to “None.” If you’re using iCloud Photo Library, these non-destructive filters even transfer across to your other iOS devices or Photos on your Mac, so you can remove the filter even later on from your desktop – it’s applied in much the same way as any other edit, even when its added at the time of shooting the image.

Quickly reading and replying to Messages

One of the useful smaller features added in iOS 8 is the ability to quickly read and reply to your Messages directly from the new message notification that comes up.

When a new message comes in while you’re using your iPhone, the notification banner that appears can actually be “pulled down” to read the full message and quickly reply to it; simply tap on the banner and swipe downward to “pull” the banner down and the rest of the message text will appear (for longer messages), along with a reply field. Even if you don’t want to reply right away, this method has the advantage of allowing you to read the full text of longer messages. Be aware, however, that if you have Read Receipts enabled, doing this will mark the message as read, sending a “Read” notification back to the sender, even if you don’t open the Messages app.

This also works from the lock screen and Notification Center. Swipe right-to-left on the notification and a “Reply” button should appear that you can tap to bring up the reply view right away without the need to unlock your iPhone or go into the Messages app.

Note that if you have disabled Message previews, you won’t be able to reply from the lock screen, as this would reveal the content of the message. However, you can still use this quick reply feature from the Notification Center (once your iPhone is unlocked) or from the notification banner if a message comes in while you’re using your iPhone. Although the notification banner will still only say “iMessage,” pulling down on it will reveal the text of the message, saving you a trip into the Messages app if you’re curious to know what the sender has to say without having to interrupt what you’re doing.

Adjusting Siri’s volume

While adjusting the volume on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch is pretty obvious, you may not have known that Siri actually has its own, separate volume setting. This means that you can actually adjust Siri’s volume independently of the system volume, or the volume level used in other apps.

To do this, simply start up Siri by holding the Home button and then use the standard volume up and down buttons to adjust the volume. The standard volume adjustment overlay will appear, but you may notice that the number of bars shown will be different from whatever you’ve set on your iPhone home screen. Siri will remember this volume setting for you, allowing it to always respond at a fixed volume, regardless of wherever the system volume is set.

Naming your Fingerprints for Touch ID

Did you know you can give you stored Touch ID fingerprints names? This can be helpful to keep track of which fingerprints have been assigned to which slots — especially useful as well if you’ve temporarily added somebody else’s fingerprint and want to keep track of it, or even if you just need to know which finger to delete so you can re-train it.

While Touch ID doesn’t really give you a way to do this while adding fingerprints, you can do it later simply by going into Settings, Touch ID & Passcode and then tapping on the fingerprint you want to assign a name to. Type in your name, tap “Back” and you’re done. On the other hand, if you want to simply delete the fingerprint entirely instead, you can just tap the “Delete Fingerprint” button that appears below the name field.


Quickly toggling the Predictive Text bar

The new Predictive Text feature in iOS 8 can be useful for helping you quickly peck out sentences when working with one finger, however, sometimes the extra space above the keyboard just gets in the way. The good news is that in those situations it can easily be hidden or turned off entirely without having to resort to a trip all the way into your keyboard settings.

If you place your finger on the Predictive Text bar above the keyboard, and swipe downward, the bar can be dragged down into a hidden position. You’ll see a small horizontal line representing the hidden bar, and reversing the gesture by tapping and swiping back upwards will return the bar into view. Alternatively, if you’d rather switch the Predictive Text bar off entirely instead of just hiding it, you can tap and hold on the Emoji or language button near the bottom left corner of the keyboard to bring up the keyboard selection options, at the top of which will be a “Predictive” toggle; this mirrors the “Predictive” option found in Settings, General Keyboard.

Showing full conversation threads in iOS Mail

Sometimes when you’re looking at a recent email it can be handy to be able to quickly refer back to earlier messages in the same conversation. While the “Organize by Thread” option (found in Settings under Mail, Contacts, Calendars) can be helpful if all of your messages are in the same folder, this is often not the case, particularly when it also involves messages you’ve sent, since these usually remain in the “Sent” folder for most users.

Fortunately, iOS 8 has a handy little feature that can be used to search out your Sent Messages and include them in the conversation thread. If you swipe right-to-left on an email message you’ve replied to (or an email that’s a reply to one of yours) and tap the “More” button, you’ll see a “Show Related Messages” button that appears with the rest of the additional options. Tap on this, and Mail will provide you with a conversation view of your correspondence with that person and anybody else in the thread. As an added bonus, it even notes which messages were replies or forwards, and who they were forwarded to.

Keep in mind that unlike the OS X Mail app, this doesn’t seem to work across your entire mailbox — it mostly seems designed to ferret out messages from your Sent folder.

Getting haptic feedback for walking directions in Google Maps

If you want to use your iPhone for getting walking directions around town, both Apple’s and Google’s Maps apps have you covered, although traditionally you’ve pretty much had to either wear earphones or pay close attention to your iPhone to know when and where to turn if you’re traveling through an unfamiliar neighborhood. The good news is that Google Maps has quietly added a haptic feedback feature to its iPhone Maps app that will provide vibrations to let you know not only when to turn, but which direction to turn in: three vibrations for a left turn, two vibrations for a right turn. There are no specific settings in the Google Maps app for this — it’s automatically enabled when you’ve started walking directions — however you will need to ensure that your ringer switch is set to silent and that the in-app “Mute” option is disabled (simply turn down your volume if you don’t want to hear the spoken directions going off in your pocket).

Of course, if you’re planning on getting an Apple Watch, you’ll be able to take advantage of haptic feedback on your wrist from Apple Maps to notify you of upcoming turns. However, Apple hasn’t (yet) seen fit to add this feature to the iPhone itself. For those who either may not be interested in Apple’s wearable, or are simply stuck waiting until later this year for their Apple Watch to arrive, Google Maps can definitely fill in that gap for now.

Filtering iMessages from unknown senders in iOS 8.3

If you find yourself getting a lot of random iMessages from strangers, a new feature in iOS 8.3, released earlier today, allows you to easily filter these out of your main Messages list and block notifications from them.

You can enable or disable this feature with a quick trip into the Messages section of your iOS Settings app. Simply look for the “Filter Unknown Senders” option and toggle it on. Once enabled, go into your Messages app and swipe downward to see the selection buttons for “Contacts & SMS” and “Unknown Senders.”

Keep in mind that, as the button labels imply, this feature only works for iMessages from unknown senders — those not in your Contacts list. SMS messages will still be shown in the main “Contacts & SMS” view, regardless of whether they were sent by a known sender or not. Should you decide that you’d simply rather have everything back in one list, you can toggle this feature back off again by going back into Settings, Messages to return to the pre-iOS 8.3 behavior.

Going on 3D Flyover Tours in Apple Maps

Here’s a fun little feature you can find in the iOS 8 Maps app: 3D Flyover Tours. Available for select major cities, the 3D Flyover Tour feature takes advantage of Apple’s 3D imagery to provide an aerial tour of key landmarks in each city, from Toronto’s CN Tower and New York’s Statue of Liberty to London’s Buckingham Palace and Paris’ Eiffel Tower, it’s a fun way to see the sights right from the comfort of your iPhone, and a neat way to show off Apple’s aerial imagery views.

To access the feature, first specifically search for the city by name — simply being somewhere in the city won’t suffice — and then tap the “Start” button that appears beside the “3D Flyover Tour of City” banner at the top of the screen.

The tour will begin in a full-screen mode to give you the best view possible, and as you stop at each location, the name of the location will be shown and the camera will pan around the building or landmark before taking you off to the next one. To return to normal map mode, you can tap the screen once to bring up the menu and navigation bars, and then you can either tap the “End Flyover Tour” or tap in the search bar and enter a new location.

Using Thread Notifications in iOS Mail

If you find yourself regularly participating in ongoing email conversations, you may find it handy to get more proactive notifications when somebody sends a reply in an existing thread. iOS 6 introduced a “VIP List” feature that lets you get notifications when messages come in from specific people, but that’s not always useful if you only want to enable notifications on an ad-hoc basis, so the Mail app in iOS 8 takes this a step further with the ability to enable notifications for a specific thread.

Typically, this is done when sending a message, and is simply a matter of tapping the small bell icon that appears to the right of the subject line once you’ve placed the cursor in there. You’ll see a pop-up confirming that this is what you want to do, and then once you’ve sent the message, any replies to that message will automatically trigger the “Thread Notification” — a separate set of notifications, much like the VIP list, that can be configured in your Notification Center settings — this means that thread replies can trigger a different alert sound and bring up lock screen and banner notifications.

If you’ve forgotten to enable a Thread Notification for a message you’ve already sent, or want to add one to a message you’ve received (in case somebody else replies to a group discussion, for instance), you can do this by tapping on the flag button in the lower-left corner of the message window, and then choose the “Notify Me…” option.

Messages that have Thread Notifications enabled will show the small bell icon by the sender’s name in the message list, by the subject line in the message, and in the gray heading bar of a threaded conversation view. Should you decide you no longer want to receive these notifications, you can toggle them off in much the same way as turning them on: tap the flag button when viewing an individual message in the thread, and tap “Stop Notifying.”

Displaying Emergency Contact Info in iOS 8

While the trick of using a custom lock screen image to display emergency contact info has been around since even before the iPhone existed, not everybody necessarily wants to clutter their lock screen with this information. The good news is that Apple now provides support for doing this in a slightly more usable way as part of the new Health app in iOS 8. Opening up the Health app will show a “Medical ID” button in the bottom right corner, in which you can fill in vital statistics such as name, photo, birthdate, medical conditions, notes, allergies and reactions, medications, blood type, weight, height, and several emergency contact names and phone numbers.

A “Show When Locked” option at the top of the screen allows you to ensure that this information is accessible when your iPhone is locked. Swiping to the passcode entry screen and tapping “Emergency” will show a “Medical ID” button in the bottom left corner below the keypad that can be used to bring up this information even when your iPhone is locked, and calls can also be placed directly to the emergency contacts by tapping on them, even when the iPhone is otherwise locked. Note that the “Medical ID” button isn’t the most discoverable, so if you have any serious medical conditions or are concerned about this information being accessible, it might still be a good idea to customize a wallpaper to at least tell users how to find the “Medical ID” section in the event of an emergency.

Manually adjusting camera exposure in iOS 8

While being able to make exposure adjustments on your iPhone camera has been around since iOS 5, this option was limited to relying on the iPhone’s automated sensors for judging the optimal exposure; you could tap on a location to make the iPhone meter exposure based on that spot, but that was about as far as your adjustments went. Even third-party apps that provided exposure control had to use workarounds to accomplish this, instead of being able to adjust the exposure directly at the camera sensor level.

The good news is that iOS 8 introduced the ability for a whole bunch of camera settings to be manually controlled, although most of these are only available through developer APIs, allowing third-party apps to let you take over and do things in an almost “full-manual” mode. While the built-in Camera app doesn’t provide all of this functionality, Apple has hidden away a manual exposure control option, allowing you to adjust the exposure to your preferences.

To do this, tap on the camera window in much the same way as you would to set the exposure metering point, and then release your finger and tap again in the exposure metering frame that appears. You can then slide your finger up and down to set the exposure value manually — you should see a small starburst to the left of the exposure frame that will slide up and down a vertical line illustrating your exposure settings as you slide. In this case, much like the normal exposure metering feature, the setting will only be maintained for as long as lighting doesn’t dramatically shift, so if you move the iPhone to another scene, the camera will return to the default automatic weighted exposure mode. If you want to lock in your manual exposure settings, however, you can also do this in much the same way as before: tap-and-hold on the camera window until you see “AE/AF Lock” appear at the top of the screen, then release your finger and tap-hold-and-slide to adjust the locked exposure setting.

Quickly Bookmark and Add to Reading List in Safari

If you’re a heavy Safari user on iOS, you may find yourself bookmarking pages or adding them to your Reading List — or even your Shared Links — on a fairly regular basis. iOS 8 offers a slightly streamlined way of doing this without having to go through the Share Sheet. Simply tap-and-hold on the Bookmark button while viewing a page, and a menu will pop up, offering options to Add Bookmark, Add to Reading List, and — if available — Add to Shared Links.

While this may not seem all that much more difficult than simply opening the Share Sheet and tapping the option you want, one of the big advantages is that with all of the new iOS 8 Action Extensions available, you can more easily prioritize other app extensions by putting them at the left side of your Share Sheet while still retaining quick and easy access to the built-in “Add” actions. While you can’t switch these actions off in your Share Sheet entirely, you can pull up the settings by tapping “More” at the right hand side of the action extensions. From there, simply drag the actions down to the bottom to keep them at the end and out of the way.

Adding RSS Feeds to Safari in iOS 8

When iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks debuted about two years ago, one of the smaller features that made its way into Safari was support for “Shared Links” — an aggregate of all of the links in the user’s Twitter feed that could be accessed from a third panel over from the Bookmarks and Reading List sections. While the feature received little fanfare even then compared to the overall UI design and other sweeping changes, when iOS 8 came along, Apple even more quietly snuck in support for adding RSS feeds into the Shared Links section. Although RSS — short for Really Simple Syndication — has gradually started to fall by the wayside with the advent of social media services such as Twitter, many people still find it to be an indispensable way to keep up with headlines from their favorite news sites, and iOS 8’s integration of RSS into Safari can provide a nice lightweight alternative for those who might not really need all of the features in a dedicated third-party newsreader app.

Adding an RSS feed into Safari’s Shared Links section is actually really simple, although it’s somewhat hidden as the button for this feature only appears when visiting sites where an RSS feed is actually available. When you’re on such a site, an “Add to Shared Links” button will appear as an action in the lower row of the iOS 8 Sharing Sheet; tapping this will add the RSS feed published by whatever site you’re on right into your Shared Links section, where articles will appear in stream with your Twitter feed, if enabled.

When viewing the Shared Links section, a “Subscribe” button in the bottom right corner will allow you to view the feeds that have been added along with your Twitter accounts, and from here you can either remove feeds or toggle on or off any Twitter accounts that you want included or excluded from your Shared Links.

One final note to keep in mind, though: Since the “Add to Shared Links” button needs to detect an RSS feed in order to appear, sometimes you’ll need to wait until the site completely finishes loading before it shows up. So if it’s not appearing, wait a few seconds and try again. Also keep in mind that many sites don’t publish their RSS feeds via the mobile versions of the site — in this case you may need to ask Safari to request the desktop version before the option will appear to add it to your Shared Links.

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