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

Tips & Tricks

Changing the iPad switch function

  • February 12, 2013
  • iPad,

The physical hardware switch located in the top-right corner of the iPad and iPad mini has had a somewhat checkered past; while it now defaults to being a mute button, when the original iPad was first released with iOS 3.2 the button was actually used only as an orientation lock, a behaviour that remained in place until iOS 4.2 permanently changed it back to a mute function and then iOS 4.3 gave users a choice. Out of the box, the button works in the same way as on the iPhone and iPod touch—muting all alert sounds such as mail and calendar notifications. Unlike the iPhone and iPod touch, however, you can actually reassign the function of this button to an orientation lock, useful for using your iPad to read or watch videos when lying on your side in bed, for example. To do this, simply go into the Settings app on your iPad, choose General and look for the section labelled “Use Side Switch to” and choose your preferred function. A button can also be found on the multitasking/widget bar that will automatically be set to the other option, so if you choose to reassign the Lock Rotation function to the switch, the widget bar will contain a Mute button.

Keep in mind as well that the “Mute” option—regardless of whether it’s assigned to the switch or the button bar—mutes alert sounds, which are separate from other sounds such as music and video playback. Similarly, turning down the volume using the buttons on the side of the iPad will not silence alerts such as push notifications, calendar alarms and new incoming mail messages.

Disabling Notifications for Individual Passbook Passes

Apple’s Passbook app is great for letting you store a digital wallet for everything from your Starbucks card to your airline boarding pass, and by default includes location- and time-based notifications, allowing passes to come up automatically when you’re near your favourite store or your event is about to start. While you can easily turn these notifications off globally via Settings, Notifications in the way as for any other iOS app, what happens if you prefer to receive notifications from certain important passes—such as your airline ticket—while preventing notifications from appearing when you happen to walk by a local movie theatre? The good news is that you can do this right on the pass itself—simply open Passbook, select the pass, and tap the small “i” button in the bottom right corner to virtually flip the pass around and display additional details. Among these will be a Show on Lock Screen option which you can toggle off to prevent that particular pass from displaying time- and location-based notifications.

Resetting the Advertising Identifier in iOS 6.1

Since the release of iOS 6.0 last fall, Apple has gradually begun changing the rules for in-app advertising and device identification, transitioning developers to a new “Advertising Identifier” in place of the older, permanent Universal Device Identifier (UDID). iOS 6.0 introduced the ability for users to opt out of this new form of tracking entirely via a rather obscure option tucked away at the bottom of the About screen in the Settings app. With iOS 6.1, users now have an additional option that can be found here—Reset Advertising Identifier—that can be used to generate a new, unique Advertising Identifier for your device. This can be useful for those users who may not mind targeted ads or other forms of device tracking but may wish to effectively “start over” with a new unique advertising ID.

Apple includes a “Learn More” link at the bottom to provide more information on this feature, explaining that advertising networks are not yet required to use the new iOS 6 Advertising Identifier feature, and hence the use of the word “Limit” rather than “Disable” or “Opt-out,” suggesting that it will not yet completely eliminate ad tracking, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction if you’re concerned about this. Apple has begun transitioning developers away from using the UDID, and is expected to prevent third-party access to it entirely at some point, requiring developers to use the new user-controlled Advertising Identifier if they still wish to identify specific devices in their apps.

Using a Bluetooth Keyboard with the Apple TV

This week’s Apple TV Software Update 5.2 now allows users to pair and use a Bluetooth keyboard with the second- and third-generation Apple TVs, providing support for navigating menus and entering text into username, password and search fields. Users can now pair a Bluetooth keyboard at the beginning of the initial setup process, making it much easier to enter their Wi-Fi password and Apple ID.

In addition to the obvious features, however, the Apple TV supports a few additional keyboard features. The Return and Escape keys act as the Select and Menu buttons on the Apple TV Remote, respectively, and you can hold down the Return key to access various options menus in the same way as you can do with the Select button on the Apple Remote.  Media playback and track navigation keys also work on the Apple Wireless Keyboard and most other Bluetooth keyboards in much the same way as they do with iOS devices and Macs, and if you have an iOS-specific keyboard with a Home key, this can be used to immediately return back to the main Apple TV menu. Even more useful, lists support a “find-as-you-type” feature whereby you can simply key in the letters of a song, artist, album, movie or TV show that you are looking for to navigate directly to it, saving you the trouble of holding down the “down” button to scroll through a long list of items.

For more information o how to pair and setup a Bluetooth keyboard with your Apple TV, be sure to check out our article, Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of Apple TV 5.2.

Removing downloaded iTunes Match tracks in iOS 6.1

If you’re an iTunes Match user, you may be happy to know that with yesterday’s release of iOS 6.1, Apple has returned the ability to not only download individual tracks from iCloud on-demand, but also to manually remove specific tracks or even entire albums and artists from your local device storage. Although this capability was present in iOS 5.x, it disappeared with the release of iOS 6.0 for unknown reasons.  Now in iOS 6.1, however, if you’re low on capacity and want to free up some additional space by removing your downloaded tracks, simply choose a track, album or artist from the appropriate listing and swipe left-to-right to bring up a “Delete” button.  The local copy of the track(s) will be removed from your device, but will remain available in your iCloud-based library for future access.  Note that the delete button is only available when accessing song listings from outside of a playlist.

Be sure to check out our article, Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 6.1 for all the details.

Turning off Read Receipts for iMessages

  • January 24, 2013

Unlike traditional text messages, iMessage makes it possible to see when your messages have been delivered to one of your recipient’s devices as well as when they’ve actually read your message. Although delivery notifications are always enabled, you can choose if you want people sending you iMessages to be able to see the date and time when you’ve actually read their messages. To access this option, simply go to Settings, Messages and toggle the Send Read Receipts option to whichever setting you prefer. Note that if you’re using multiple iOS devices or Messages on a Mac, you will need to disable this option on ALL of your devices individually if you don’t want read receipts to be sent out at all.

Making Siri work again when it’s “having a problem”

Siri can be a very useful virtual assistant, but unfortunately its reliance on Apple’s servers to translate your requests means that it doesn’t always work when you’re on the fringes of network coverage or moving between a Wi-Fi and cellular network—such as when you’re leaving the house. Further, Siri will generally only tell you that it’s “having a problem” without being particularly helpful at explaining what it’s problem actually is, but it’s most often related to an error communicating with Apple’s servers—due to either a poor network connection on your end, or a problem on Apple’s. It’s also not uncommon for Siri to get hung up on a bad connection and refuse to handle requests even after your device has returned to a good network connection and everything should otherwise be working fine. If you notice that Siri is repeatedly not responding to requests even though you have a good connection, you can easily give it a nudge simply by toggling Airplane Mode ON on your device, waiting a few seconds, and then toggling it back OFF to reset your network connection, toggling Siri itself off and back on again, or in a worst-case scenario, simply turning your device off and back on. We’ve had more luck flipping either Siri or the phone on and off than using Airplane Mode, as there is clearly a bug that’s specifically hanging the Siri app. While these are not ideal solutions, they can help get Siri up and running again in a minute as opposed to thinking that it simply isn’t working for an hour.

Archiving or Deleting Messages in Mail

If you’re using a Gmail or iCloud account in the iOS Mail app, you actually have the option of choosing to have the standard Trashcan button either delete messages or archive them. While the default behaviour for the button can be configured in the Mail account settings to archive instead of delete—in which case it will display as an archive bin rather than a trashcan—you can also override the behaviour on a per-use basis simply by tapping and holding your finger on the button for about a second; a pop-up menu will appear with both Delete and Archive options available. This works when viewing an individual message as well as when performing an archive or delete operation on multiple messages. Of course, this won’t work if the messages you’re working with are already in your iCloud Archive or Gmail All Mail folder, and sadly it also isn’t available for other types of Mail accounts—even if you have an Archive folder in your mailbox.

Quickly accessing Drafts in Mail

You’re probably already aware that you can save any partially-composed e-mail messages as drafts in the iOS Mail app—these messages go to a “Drafts” folder on your device and you can find them there simply by accessing it via your folder list.  However, iOS 6 adds a cool new hidden feature that allows you to access any of your draft messages more quickly, right when composing a new message. Simply tap and hold on the Compose button in the bottom right of the Mail app and a quick list of all available drafts in your mailbox will appear, along with a button at the top to create a new message should you choose to do that instead. You can even swipe-to-delete from here to remove any drafts that you no longer need.

Temporary Location Sharing in Find My Friends

Apple’s Find My Friends is a useful app for sharing your location with close friends and family members, but it can also be used for temporarily sharing your location with groups of people that you may not want tracking for on a normal basis, such as when travelling with friends or coordinating a meetup somewhere.

To share your location temporarily, simply download and install the Find My Friends app, sign in with your Apple ID and password and then choose the “Temporary” button from the bottom menu bar. From here you can add the addresses of your temporary sharing group and specify when you want location sharing with this group to end. You can even setup more than one temporary location sharing group, and as an added bonus, Find My Friends provides quick links for sending an iMessage to the entire group. When an event expires, it will simply disappear from the list, along with any users who were added as part of that group.

Showing Duplicate Items in iTunes 11

iTunes has long offered a basic feature for identifying duplicate tracks, however when iTunes 11 was initially released, many users were surprised to find the feature had gone missing. Regardless of whether this was intentional or an oversight on Apple’s part, it quickly returned the feature in an update to iTunes 11.0.1. If you’re missing the Show Duplicates feature, be sure you’ve upgraded to the latest version of iTunes, and then take a look on the View menu. The feature itself works in much the same way as in prior iTunes versions, filtering your list view down to only suspected duplicate tracks and then letting you deal with this information as you see fit. Keep in mind that for music tracks, however, this is based only on the track name and artist, so if you’re a collector who wants to keep multiple, complete albums you may find that you always have duplicates in your library as far as iTunes is concerned. When viewing duplicates, a status bar appears at the bottom of the iTunes window to remind you that you are in this mode, along with a “Display all” button that can be used to return to the full track view.

Turning off Location Data Collection in Google Maps

The long-awaited Google Maps has finally arrived for the iPhone and iPod touch. Like most of Google’s “free” apps, however, it comes with the price of encouraging you to offer up your location data to Google in exchange for access to the company’s excellent mapping service.  While Google Maps should prompt you on first run as to whether or not you want to participate, if you missed that screen in your rush to get right into the app and explore, you may have a hard time figuring out exactly where the option is afterward.  The good news is that the option is still in the app, however Google seems to have buried it in a pretty obscure location that most users may find challenging to locate. 

To turn off Location Data Collection in the new Google Maps app, first go into the application’s settings by selecting your user profile via the small person icon in the top-right corner of the main screen followed by the gear icon that appears in its place on the user profile screen. From here, you need to go into About, terms & privacy and then one more level down from there into Terms & privacy, where the Location data collection option will appear.

Disabling Live Search in iTunes 11

iTunes 11 introduces a new “Live Search” feature that is designed to allow you to search across your entire iTunes library when entering information in the Search field in the top-right corner of your iTunes window. As useful as this may be for some situations, not everybody will necessarily be a fan of the new search style, particularly as it can be somewhat slower with larger libraries.  The good news is that if you find the feature more annoying than useful, you can very easily turn it off: Simply click on the magnifying glass in the search field, and a drop-down menu will appear with an option, enabled by default, to Search entire library. Click on this option to turn it back off, and iTunes will return to the search behaviour found in previous versions, allowing you to filter only the displayed category rather than showing results from your entire library. As a bonus, you can easily tell which mode is enabled from reading the background text in the search field; the word Search will be followed by Library when the full “live search” is enabled or the current category name (e.g. “Music”) when using the older style filtered search.

Re-enabling the Sidebar in iTunes 11

iTunes 11 introduces a significantly new user interface design, with the long-standing left sidebar essentially replaced by a set of drop-down menus.  If you’re more comfortable with the classic sidebar, however, the good news is that you can very easily turn it back on simply by going to the View menu and choosing the Show Sidebar option. This returns you to a somewhat more traditional iTunes interface, along with the added bonus that the colourful pre-iTunes 10 icons have returned. Note that the UI in this mode is actually a hybrid of the standard iTunes sidebar with the newer iTunes 11 layouts in the main panel, so you won’t get everything back from the classic interface, but it should definitely be a big help for experienced users having difficulty finding their way around the new version.  Note that the status bar can also be toggled back on from the View menu if you’re wondering what’s happened to the totals previously found at the bottom of each screen.

Using a stronger passcode on your iOS device

By now most iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users are probably aware that you can configure a four-digit passcode on your device to protect it from unauthorized access. For more security-conscious users, however, iOS also provides the ability to use a longer, alphanumeric passcode. To set this up, simply go into the Settings app, and select General, Passcode Lock and toggle OFF the Simple Passcode option. When entering a new passcode, you will be presented with the standard iOS alphanumeric keyboard instead of the simple numeric PIN pad, both for setting your passcode and for unlocking it when you access your device.

Receiving Message Notifications from only your Contacts

For certain services iOS 6 now allows you to restrict your alerts to only users that are already in your contact list. By default, new Messages, Game Center requests and Shared Photo Stream alerts will appear whenever anybody sends you a request or invitation using any of those services, however if you find yourself getting bombarded with alerts from total strangers you can easily turn these off now with a quick trip over to the Notifications section in your Settings app. Simply choose the appropriate service—Messages, Photos and Game Center all support this feature—and scroll down and choose “My Contacts Only” under the Show ... Alerts from heading. Note that this will not prevent you from receiving messages from any other user—they’ll still be in the appropriate apps waiting for you—but you won’t receive an alert unless the sender is already in your iOS Contacts.

Using Do Not Disturb in iOS 6

The iPhone has generally taken a very straightforward approach to handling alerts, eschewing complicated schedule and profile setups in favour of a simple hardware Ring/Silent switch, a practice also somewhat followed with the iPad. The idea here is simple: Leave the switch in the “ring” position when you want to hear sounds and move it to the “silent” position when you want alerts to either vibrate or make no sound at all. Unfortunately, while easy this approach has had its limitations: Even in “silent’ mode your iPhone will vibrate in most cases, and the screen will light up when notifications and alerts come in. In iOS 6 Apple has addressed this by creating a true “Do Not Disturb” feature that can be toggled on demand and/or set to a daily schedule. At its most basic, turning on Do Not Disturb is simply a matter of going into your iPhone Settings app and toggling the option found there. When enabled, your device will suppress all alert notifications—sounds, vibrations and screen illumination—whenever the screen is already off; calls will be sent directly and quietly to voicemail and notification messages will stack up on the lock screen without waking up your device’s screen. By taking a quick trip into your Settings app and selecting Notifications, Do Not Disturb, you can also configure your iPhone to automatically enable this mode based on a daily schedule and determine which phone calls will still be permitted to ring through.

Note that alarms set in the Clock app will still sound even when Do Not Disturb is enabled. Also, notifications and phone calls are handled normally when you’re actually using your device (i.e. if the screen is on), regardless of the Do Not Disturb setting.

Enabling Parental Controls in iBooks

With the release of iOS 6, Apple has expanded its parental controls feature to encompass iBooks content, albeit in a more limited fashion than for other types of content. While a mandatory rating system does not exist for books, options can be found under Settings, General, Restrictions to disable access to the iBookstore entirely or simply prevent the downloading of books containing explicit sexual content. The first option allows access to the iBooks app for reading existing content while preventing users from purchasing or downloading any new iBooks directly on their device. Disabling explicit sexual content will disallow purchasing, previewing and sharing any books marked as containing explicitly sexual content—the buy and sample buttons will be disabled, no sharing link will appear, and a generic book image will be displayed in the iBookstore rather than the original book’s cover image. With iBooks 2.2 and higher these controls will also hide any explicit books already stored on the device.

Reordering iOS Calendars

Although iOS 6 still doesn’t allow you to reorder the individual calendars on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch directly, there is a handy workaround if you’re syncing with iCloud. Simply log into your account on the iCloud web site at http://www.icloud.com and select your Calendar from the list of options that appear. In the web-based calendar list you will be able to drag and drop calendars to reorder them and changes made here will propagate to your iOS devices. If you’re using OS X Mountain Lion you can do the same thing from the Calendars app, but OS X Lion users will likely find that changes to the calendar order in iCal don’t always sync to your device properly, so doing this from the iCloud.com web calendar is generally the more reliable option. Further, this is the only option available to Windows users, as the calendar ordering in Microsoft Outlook does not sync to iCloud at all.

Replying to Phone Calls via Messages

One of the handy new features for iPhone users in iOS 6 is the ability to decline an incoming phone call while replying to the caller with a text message or iMessage such as “I’ll call you later.”  When a call is coming in, simply swipe up from the bottom-right corner, tap Reply with Message and then choose from one of three pre-defined messages for a quick reply or tap “Custom” to write a custom message on the spot. You can also pre-define any of the three static messages yourself by going into your Settings app, and selecting Phone, Reply with Message. Three text entry fields are displayed with the defaults in faded text—simply tap on any of the fields to enter your own pre-defined message or tap on the “X” beside an existing entry that you’ve already customized to clear it and return to the default message.

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