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

Tips & Tricks

Manually Backing up your iOS device

With the release of iOS 6 scheduled for next week, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a current backup of your device before taking the update plunge. While most iOS updates install without any problems, preserving your existing data, making a backup is always a sensible precaution. iOS 5 devices can be configured to use either iTunes or iCloud for automatic backups, but not both. However, if you’re normally backing up to iCloud, you can still easily make a manual backup in iTunes any time you like; simply right-click on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch in the iTunes Devices list and select “Back Up” and iTunes will immediately make an on-demand backup of your device, even if you’re normally backing up to iCloud. Automatic backups to iCloud occur once every 24 hours provided your device is plugged in and on a Wi-Fi network, however you can also check the last backup time for your iCloud Backup and force a manual backup to iCloud as well by going into the Settings app on your device and choosing iCloud, Storage & Backup and scrolling down to the bottom.

Sorting and Filtering Apps in iTunes

If you have a lot of apps in your iTunes library, it can sometimes be a challenge to keep track of them all. While finding an individual app is easy enough simply by using the search box, sometimes you may not know the name of the app you’re looking for, or you may simply want to browse through your list of apps by genre or see which apps have recently been purchased or updated. iTunes actually makes this pretty simple since the Apps section can be viewed and organized in the same manner as any other part of your iTunes library. Simply switch to a “List” view from the View menu, and you can sort on any column, add more columns, and even call up the Browser view to quickly filter by device type and genre.

Hiding Categories in the iTunes Source List

The iTunes Source list on the left side of your iTunes window helps keep your content organized to make it easier to browse by content type, such as Music, Movies and TV Shows. However, not every uses every type of content, and there’s an easy way to hide those categories you don’t actually need to see.  Open your iTunes Preferences, and on the General tab you will see a list of checkboxes; simply uncheck the categories you don’t want to see in your iTunes Source list and they’ll vanish from view. These same settings can also be used to hide and display additional features such as Ping, iTunes DJ, Genius, and Shared Libraries.

Filtering Content Listings in iTunes sync settings

If you’re syncing your iPhone, iPad or iPod to an iTunes library with a large collection of apps or media content you may have grown weary of the seemingly endless scrolling required to find that one app, artist or movie that you’re looking to sync to your device. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to filter these long lists of content on at least some of the sync screens in iTunes. If you’re on the Music, Apps, Movies or Books tab, the standard iTunes Search field in the top-right corner of the iTunes window will become active allowing you to dynamically filter the list of content displayed in each of those sections; simply start typing in the search field and the list is filtered as you type, helping you quickly find the specific item(s) that you’re looking for. Sadly, this doesn’t work on all tabs—TV Shows, Podcasts and iTunes U seem to be left out—but it’s still a handy way to filter down long content lists in at least some categories.

Keeping older entries in your iOS Calendar

By default, the iOS Calendars app only synchronizes and retains the last months’ worth of events on your device, regardless of how much data is stored in whatever cloud or desktop calendar application you’re synchronizing with. This can easily be changed with a quick trip to the Settings app, however; under the Mail, Contacts, Calendars section there is an option near the bottom to set how much of your calendar data you want synchronized and retained on your device, with options for two weeks, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months or everything regardless of how old.

Setting Repeats in Reminders with Siri

The Reminders app in iOS 5 can be very handy for creating quick and simple task lists or reminders without having to resort to third-party apps, and with Mountain Lion these Reminders can be easily synced via iCloud and managed on your Mac as well. Unfortunately, its flexibility for repeating reminders is somewhat limited, at least on the surface. Users are given a choice of only five repeat intervals: Every Day, Every Week, Every 2 Weeks, Every Month or Every Year, and the Reminders app in OS X Mountain Lion isn’t any better in this regard. Fortunately, for iPhone 4S users looking for a bit more flexibility, Siri comes to the rescue by allowing custom intervals to be created using your voice; simply tell Siri something like “Remind me to take the garbage out every three days” and it will happily offer to create a Reminder with the specified repeat interval. The resulting task can even be edited in the Reminders app to adjust things like dates and times—as long as you don’t change the custom repeat setting, Reminders will leave it in place and continue to repeat your completed task at the specified interval.

For more information and some other options for setting custom repeat intervals, be sure to check out our Ask iLounge article on Setting Custom Repeat Intervals in the Reminders app.

Controlling Auto-Lock on iOS

iOS’ built-in Auto-Lock feature is great for saving battery life by killing the backlight on your screen, but there are times when it can be less than ideal. Luckily, there’s an easy way to take control of the feature—or turn it off altogether. Open up the Settings app, tap on General, tap on Auto-Lock, and set it to the time limit you’re comfortable with. Just remember if you turn it off completely that you’ll need to manually lock your phone every time you’re done with it—or face a battery that’s out of juice way before its time.

Using a 24-hour clock on your iOS device

While most civilians in the U.S. are perfectly happy measuring their time in 12-hour chunks, there are plenty of folks both here and abroad that prefer the more exact notation of the 24-hour clock. Luckily, iOS makes it easy to switch between the two. Simply fire up the Settings app, tap on General, tap on Date & Time, and turn on 24-Hour Time. To go back to your a.m. and p.m. ways, just repeat the process and turn the option off. [via OS X Daily]

Changing the amount of email preview shown in iOS Mail

iOS’ built-in Mail app for the iPhone and iPod touch has steadily improved over the years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the number of emails you can see at once—unless you’ve already followed this handy tip. Open up Settings, tap on Mail, Contacts, and Calendars, and under the Mail heading, tap on Preview. From there you can reduce the number of lines devoted to email previews from the default two down to one or even none, allowing for a far greater number of emails to appear on the same screen. Alternatively, if you’d rather sacrifice space for an expanded view of each correspondence, crank the same setting upwards—the top limit is 5—and enjoy a far greater one-screen look at your emails.

Resetting the Autocorrect dictionary on iOS

iOS’ built-in Autocorrect feature typically works pretty well, but sometimes it will learn misspellings or words that you simply don’t want to have reappear regularly. If your dictionary has gotten a way from you, there’s a simple way to get back to square one. Open up the Settings app, tap on General, scroll to the bottom, then tap on Reset. In the list of admittedly scary options on this page is one called Reset Keyboard Dictionary, which will rid your device of all the Autocorrect goodness it’s learned, letting you start from scratch. [via OS X Daily]

Cleaning up your bookmarks in Safari on iOS

Find yourself faced with a mess of unorganized bookmarks on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch? There’s an easy way to remedy the situation. Simply tap the Bookmarks button, then tap Edit. Doing so will bring up the familiar red deletion circles for bookmarks and folders you no longer need or use, the triple-line buttons for grabbing and rearranging bookmarks and folders, and a New Folder button, which lets you pile bookmarks you simply want to reorganize into their own folder, and out of your main Bookmarks menu.

Making iOS forget Bluetooth devices

Bluetooth can be super handy for short-range wireless communication, but with so many devices supporting it, you might sometimes find yourself in situations where the list of Bluetooth devices appearing in your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch’s list becomes unmanageable. Thankfully, Apple built in a way to get rid of listings for devices you don’t use. Simply fire up Settings, tap on Bluetooth, and tap on the blue circle next to the device you’d rather not see again. On the next page, tap on Forget this Device, and you won’t see it again. If you decide at some point in the future that you want to use a forgotten device again, just set it to pairing mode and it will reappear in your list. [via CoM]

Hiding text message previews on iOS

Sure, getting a preview of your incoming text messages without needing to unlock your device is handy—but there are some times when you might not want everyone in eyeshot of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to see what you’re discussing with the person on the other end. Luckily, iOS offers a super-easy way to stop this. Open the Settings app, tap on Notifications, and tap on Messages. Scroll down the screen a bit, and you’ll see an toggle for Show Preview. Set this to off, and you won’t see anything more than an alert telling you who your new message is from. [via CoM]

Manually adding images to Photo Stream

Apple’s Photo Stream service does a good job of automatically syncing your latest photos across all your Macs and iOS devices—but what happens when you need ubiquitous access to an older photo? Well, you can manually sync your device and transfer it over, or you can just use Photo Stream to your advantage to send it back out to your devices. To do so, just drag and drop any image or collection of images you want from iPhoto or Aperture on your Mac into your Photo Stream, and viola—all of those photos will now appear in your Photo Stream on your iOS devices, for the next 30 days, at which point they’ll “expire” to make room for new memories.

Showing/Hiding the Battery Percentage on iOS

Starting with the iPhone 3GS, Apple’s iOS devices have been able to provide users with a (relatively) precise measurement of their battery’s remaining charge. Some people like it, some don’t, but no matter which way you lean there’s an easy way to toggle it on and off. Open the Settings app, tap on General, tap on Usage, and find the switch named Battery Percentage. Set it to your preferred state and you’ll never have to worry about it (not) cluttering up your status bar again.

Rotating images from within the Photos app

While the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad generally do a good job of rotating images to their proper orientation, every once in a while an odd grip or shot will confound it, leaving you with some work to do before it’s ready to share or archive. Luckily, there’s an easy—and built-in—way to fix this. Simply select the photo you need to fix, tap the Edit button, and tap the rotate button—it’s the one that looks like an arrow pointing backwards. Do this as many times as necessary to get the look you want, then tap Save. iOS will automatically replace the original image with the new version, and you’ll be ready to use it however you please—and should you need to undo your changes, it’ll have the original waiting for you.

Taking control of iTunes’ visualizer from the keyboard

iTunes’ built-in visualizer has been improved and changed many times over the years, but one thing that’s been constant in recent versions is a series of undocumented keyboard shortcuts for controlling it once the action’s started. While you can see a brief rundown by hitting the /? key, here’s a quick list: Tap M to change the current mode, P to change the palette, I to display track info, C to toggle auto-cycle on and off—it’s on by default—F to toggle freeze mode, N to toggle the mysterious “nebula” mode, and L to toggle the camera lock on and off. Now there’s no excuse for staring at a particularly nauseating color combo for longer than it take to tap a key.

Saving an image in Safari on iOS

Run across an image you’d like to add to your collection while browsing on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch? There’s a dead-simple way to save any image you find online to your Camera Roll. Simply tap and hold on the image, and choose Save Image from the menu that pops up. Just don’t go posting it on Instagram—after all, no one likes a cheater.

Enabling Caps Lock on iOS

While it’s not nice to shout, there are times when the Caps Lock feature of standard keyboards can come in handy—when typing out a list of acronyms, for example. Luckily, Apple made it easy to access this same feature from your iOS virtual keyboard. First, open up the Settings app, tap on General, tap on Keyboard, and make sure that Enable Caps Lock is set to on. Once that’s done, all you need to do is double-tap the shift button—it will turn blue to let you know it’s enabled, and a single tap is all that’s required to shut it off. SEE? SO MUCH BETTER.

Sharing Reminders over iCloud

Have someone you need to share a list of Reminders with? You might not know it from looking at the app, but there’s an easy way to do so. Simply fire up your browser, visit iCloud.com, log in, and open up the Calendar app. Over to the left, you’ll see a list of your Reminder lists. Just choose which one you’d like to share—a grocery list, for example—and then click the broadcast button (the one on the right). A box will popup allowing you to invite iCloud members to the list, and giving you full control over whether they can simply see the list or edit it, as well.

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