Tips & Tricks
- August 19, 2015
- Apple Watch,
The Apple Watch can be a great tool for keeping up with your messages on the go, but if talking into your wrist like a modern day Dick Tracy feels weird, you’re going to be limited to choosing from a list of canned responses. Fortunately, there are quite a few available and you can customize any of them to your liking by visiting the iPhone’s Apple Watch app.
To do this, go into the Messages section and tap on any of the replies listed under “Default Replies” and you can type in your own to replace the default. Entries you’ve added are shown in normal text, while default replies are grayed out. If you want to erase a custom reply and revert back to the default for that slot, you can tap to edit the entry and then hit the “X” button that appears at the right of the field to clear it out.
- August 18, 2015
- Apple Watch,
Although the Apple Watch doesn’t have a built-in Reminders app, you can still receive — and action — reminder notifications on your wrist, and can even set Reminders using Siri in much the same way as you would on your iPhone.
Activate Siri either by holding down the Digital Crown or raising the Watch to your wrist and starting with “Hey Siri” and then continue with a statement like “Remind me to…” You can even create location alerts (“when I get home”) or use more generic times (“tonight”). Siri will confirm the reminder, and when it’s time for it to go off, you’ll be alerted on your wrist and can choose to complete the task or snooze it for later.
Anybody who has ever lost contact or calendar items will appreciate a new feature that Apple has quietly added to iCloud. You can now restore individual iCloud Drive files or roll back to a previous set of contact or calendar data by logging into the iCloud web portal at www.icloud.com, selecting Settings and scrolling down to the “Advanced” section at the bottom.
The “Restore Files” option will allow you to restore any file deleted from iCloud Drive in the past 30 days. Each file is shown individually with the number of days remaining before it is permanently deleted. “Restore Contacts” and “Restore Calendars,” on the other hand, allow you to simply roll back entirely to a previous data set — there unfortunately isn’t any way to retrieve a specific individual contact record or calendar event. In fact, as the warnings on the “Restore Calendars” screen indicates, restoring to a previous calendar set will remove all sharing information, and cancel and re-send all shared appointment invitations, so the setting should be used with some caution. Mac users are likely far better off using Time Machine to restore lost Calendar or Contact dates. However, the iCloud options are useful as a last resort if no other backups are available.
If you’re looking for a single lost contact record, calendar event, or reminder, and have no other backups available, one workaround is to export your current contact or calendar data using the appropriate app. The iCloud Contacts web app allows vCards to be exported from its Settings menu (the gear icon in the bottom right), and you can export a single VCF file containing all of your contacts by selecting all of them before using the export option. For Calendar export, Mac users can use the native OS X Calendar app, while Windows users will have to resort to syncing data via Outlook or Windows Calendar. Once you’ve backed up your current data, you can then use the iCloud rollback to restore the previous data set and then reimport your contact and calendar data to merge it with the restored information.
- August 13, 2015
- Apple Watch,
The Apple Watch is a somewhat private device by its very nature, since it sits on your wrist, so having Messages and other notifications appear with full detail is probably not going to be a problem for most users, particularly since notifications are only received when you’re actually wearing the device. If you’re looking for a bit more privacy, however, Apple does provide the option of suppressing notification details until you actually tap on the Apple Watch screen.
To do this, simply go into the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, select Notifications from the main menu screen, and toggle “Notification Privacy” ON. With this setting enabled, you’ll still get notifications for things like Messages and emails on your wrist, but the text and other details won’t be shown until you actually tap on the screen, shielding them from curious onlookers.
- August 12, 2015
- Apple Watch,
By default, the Apple Watch is setup to sync Do Not Disturb status with your iPhone, meaning that when it’s enabled on either device — whether you do it manually or it kicks in on an automatic schedule — it’s enabled on both. While this can be handy if you find yourself toggling it on and off frequently, some users may prefer to maintain separate Do Not Disturb settings for each device, particularly when you consider that the Apple Watch doesn’t display notifications anyway once you’ve taken it off your wrist to go to bed.
Fortunately, it’s easy to unlink the two settings. Just go into your Apple Watch app on your iPhone, select General, Do Not Disturb and turn the “Mirror iPhone” option OFF. Once you’ve done this, the Do Not Disturb setting will need to be enabled on each device individually, and the Apple Watch will never go into Do Not Disturb mode on any kind of a schedule, even if one has been set on the iPhone. If you later decide you want to go back to keeping the settings mirrored, you can return to this same screen to re-enable the setting.
- August 11, 2015
- Apple Watch,
The Apple Watch is a pretty cool device, but much like other iOS devices and even your Mac, there may be times when apps misbehave or aren’t working quite the way you expect them to. While Apple has made the process of forcibly terminating apps pretty straightforward on the iPhone and iPad — just open up the app switcher and swipe the offending app away — when you want to forcibly quit something on the Apple Watch, the process is a bit more obscure, involving button presses that hearken back to the days before the iOS App Switcher.
If you find an app on your Apple Watch becomes unresponsive, or doesn’t open properly, simply hold down the side button while the app is running until the Power/Lock options screen appears, and then release the side button and hold it down again until you return to the home screen — you should see the last view of your app briefly appear before zooming back out to the sea of home screen icons. You should then be able to simply restart the app again from the home screen as you normally would.
- August 7, 2015
- Apple Watch,
Although Apple’s expected to release a new Apple TV this fall that will likely include a touchpad remote, if you have an Apple Watch, you can get a similar effect with your Apple TV right now. The Apple Watch includes a built-in Remote app that’s similar in concept to the one you can put on your iPhone or iPad, although like most Apple Watch apps, it’s somewhat more limited in scope.
The pairing experience isn’t entirely consistent yet either, with some users requiring the old-school four-digit code pairing technique, while others have all of their Home Sharing devices magically show up just as they do in the iOS Remote app. If you’re in the latter category, you’re pretty much good to and there’s not much more to the process, but if you find your Apple Watch wants you to add a new device manually, you’ll need to take that four-digit code and pay a visit to Settings, General, Remotes on your Apple TV, where your Apple Watch should appear. Select it from there, enter the code, and your Apple TV should show up on your Apple Watch. Keep in mind that you’ll still need to have your iPhone handy and joined to the same Wi-Fi network as your Apple TV—the Apple Watch doesn’t have Wi-Fi so it uses the iPhone as a gateway.
Once you’re paired and connected, your Apple Watch effectively becomes a touchpad for your Apple TV, allowing you to navigate menus and play and pause content right from your wrist. It doesn’t do much more than the Apple Remote does, but it’s kind of cool to be able to do use it as a touchpad and can be a quick way to pause a movie if you can’t quite remember where you left the remote and don’t feel like digging through the sofa cushions.
- August 6, 2015
- Apple Watch,
While Apple promises that most users should be able to get at least a day of usage out of the Apple Watch, real world mileage may vary. Fortunately, Apple had the foresight to include a “Power Reserve” mode to prevent you from being completely stranded without a watch—you’ll at least be able to tell what time it is, even if you can’t use the other features of your Apple Watch.
Your Apple Watch will start offering to put itself into Power Reserve mode when your battery drops below about ten percent, and will kick into this mode automatically if the battery drops to a level where it can no longer sustain the Apple Watch in full power mode. However, if you know you’re not going to need the more advanced features of the Apple Watch for a while and want to save power for later, you can kick in Power Reserve mode manually either by enabling it from the Battery Glance that can be found by swiping up on the clock face, or by holding down the side button and dragging the Power Reserve slider to the right. In Power Reserve mode, your Apple Watch is basically powered down, but like an old-school LED watch it will still display the time for six seconds if you press the side button. To get out of Power Reserve mode—assuming you have enough battery—simply hold down the side button for a few seconds until the Apple logo appears indicating the Apple Watch is powering up again.
- August 5, 2015
- Apple Watch,
You likely already know how to capture screenshots on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, but did you know you can also grab a shot of whatever is on your Apple Watch screen? The same two-button idea applies as on Apple’s larger iOS devices: Simply press down both the Digital Crown and the side button simultaneously and the screen will briefly flash white and you should hear a shutter sound effect. The screenshot itself gets transferred directly into the Photos app of your paired iPhone, where it will also be synced to any other devices sharing the same Photo Stream or iCloud Photo Library, if those features are enabled.
The “Do Not Disturb” feature in iOS can be very useful for keeping your iPhone from bothering you with notifications at inappropriate times, such as when you’re in a meeting or while you’re sleeping. By default, however, notifications are only suppressed when you’re not actively using your device – that is, when the screen is off and the device is basically in sleep mode.
However, if you’d prefer to keep your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch silent at all times when Do Not Disturb is enabled, you can find a setting tucked away at the bottom of the Do Not Disturb section in the Settings app that will suppress all notifications. Simply select “Always” in the “Silence” section and all alerts will be suppressed, even the banners and pop-ups that come up while you’re using your device. You can still find these hidden alerts in your Notification Centre, but you won’t have them getting in your way or making your device vibrate or make noise. This can be handy when you’re using your device in a very quiet environment, or even if you simply want to play a game without risking alert banners popping in from the top and distracting you.
The introduction of Apple Music and iCloud Music Library in iOS 8.4, like iTunes Match before it, effectively places your entire iTunes music library and more at your fingertips, rather than only the music you’ve chosen to sync to your device directly from iTunes. You can still explicitly download tracks simply by tapping on the option button beside a song, album, or playlist and choosing “Make available offline,” however anything that hasn’t been downloaded and stored on your device will be streamed from Apple’s servers. If you find this selection to be a bit overwhelming, or simply want to stick to locally stored music to save on cellular data bandwidth, you can easily filter your “My Music” section to only show music that’s actually been downloaded to your device.
From the “My Music” screen, tap on the header above your album, track, or playlist listing, and down at the bottom you’ll see a toggle to Show Music Available Offline. Turning this on will immediately filter your library to show only those tracks that are stored on your device. This also happens automatically if you put your iPhone in Airplane Mode or are otherwise away from a cellular or Wi-Fi data connection. Unfortunately, this doesn’t affect playlists – you’ll still see all of them listed, even those that don’t contain any downloaded tracks.
Did you know that you can now activate Siri by simply saying “Hey Siri” while your iPhone is plugged in? To enable this feature, just go into Settings, General, Siri and ensure “Allow Hey Siri” is toggled on. The feature was first introduced in iOS 8 last fall but has been improved through each update, and with recent versions you can now even simply state your whole request without pausing after the opening line – for example, “Hey Siri wake me up in 15 minutes.”
The only catch is that your iPhone has to be connected to power for this to work, which is probably a reasonable compromise both in terms of preserving battery life (since your iPhone has to keep the mic on and listening for the phrase all the time), and also limiting instances of accidental activation. Should Siri ever wake up accidentally, or if you change your mind, you can also dismiss Siri with a phrase such as “never mind” or “go away.”
One of the features that may appear to be conspicuously absent in the newly redesigned Music app in iOS 8.4 is that ability to find the associated album or artist when looking at a given track. The menus provide a wealth of options for adding tracks to up next or starting stations, but the way to see a list of other tracks on that album is less obvious.
In reality, the option is there, but it’s hidden behind the album cover, which is kind of an “a-ha” moment once you discover it. Tapping on the album cover that appears at the top of the menu will take you directly to the album containing that track. From there, if you want to access the the entire artist’s catalog, it’s only one more tap away — simply tap on the artist name below the album title.
- July 16, 2015
Despite Apple having already released iTunes 12.2.1 to fix some of the problems reported with Apple Music and iCloud Music Library, you may find that tracks sometimes remain stuck in a “Waiting” state, particularly if you were an iTunes Match user before subscribing to and enabling Apple Music. These tracks not only end up being unplayable in your iTunes library, but the process may in fact block the syncing of playlists and other data to iCloud Music Library, resulting in an inconsistent experience on your iOS devices and other Macs or PCs running iTunes.
In many cases this happens because the iCloud Music Library updating process in iTunes effectively stops, but the good news is that you can force an update of the iCloud Music Library. While the equivalent options for iTunes Match and Genius were previously found on the iTunes Advanced menu, in the case of iCloud Music Library, Apple has hidden this option on the File, Library menu – simply look for Update iCloud Music Library to resume the process.
Selecting this option will begin the updating process and hopefully fix at least some of your stuck tracks, but in our experience it can sometimes take a few attempts before they all get cleared up. If this doesn’t work, other tricks you can try are disabling iCloud Music Library entirely from your iTunes Preferences, and then reloading iTunes and re-enabling it, or signing out of your iTunes Store account, restarting iTunes, and then signing back in. Unfortunately, none of these solutions seem to work in all cases – clearly there are still some bugs in the underlying iCloud Music Library system – but they’ve helped in some cases and are definitely worth a try if you’re having problems.
One of the new features introduced alongside Apple Music and the iCloud Music Library in the latest versions of iTunes and iOS is the ability to now specify an image of your choice to represent any of your playlists. By default, iTunes and iOS will simply use a collage of the album artwork from the tracks in your playlist, but you can actually add any photo you want instead.
In iOS 8.4, this is done by opening the playlist, tapping the “Edit” button, and then tapping the artwork, at which point you’ll be prompted to either choose an image from your photo library or take a photo with your device’s camera.
You can also do this in iTunes while editing a playlist by clicking on the artwork image. On OS X you’ll get the same image picker used for contact photos, allowing you to choose one of the stock photos, browse for an image on your Mac, or use your Mac’s camera to take a picture. In either case, the image you’ve chosen will sync with the playlist between your devices — but be aware that once you’ve done this, there doesn’t appear to be any way to get back to the default album artwork collage, as there’s no “remove image” option to be found anywhere.
The process of sharing playlists in Apple Music is generally pretty straightforward: You tap on the share button and a standard iOS Sharing Sheet comes up that allows you to copy a playlist link to your clipboard or send it out via text, email, or social media. Anybody with the link and iTunes 12.2 or iOS 8.4 or later can then simply click on it to see the content of the playlist in iTunes or the iOS Music app, and even save a reference to it in his or her own library. Playlists that you’ve shared are indicated by the word “Shared” when viewing them in the iOS Music app, although this distinction is less clear in iTunes.
However, what if you decide that you no longer want to share a playlist? While the option for sharing is pretty easy, the option to stop sharing is a little more hidden, but it’s still there. In the iOS Music app, you need to go into the playlist and tap the “Edit” button as you normally would to add, remove, or reorder tracks. If you then scroll up to the very top, you should see a switch labeled “Shared Playlist” — toggling this off and saving your changes will disable sharing for that playlist. Note that while the Music app shows this as a toggle switch option, it’s really not — once you turn it off, it disappears entirely, so it’s a rather odd use of that particular UI control.
iTunes 12.2 takes a slightly more intuitive approach, with a “Stop Sharing” option on the playlist menu that can be accessed from the ellipsis button to the right of the playlist title. Note that while this will disable sharing for the playlist, Apple Music doesn’t regenerate the sharing URL should you later decide to share the playlist again — so anybody who had the original link would still be able to access your playlist if you turn sharing back on. If you want to reshare the playlist and ensure former users can’t access it, your only option is to copy the tracks to a new playlist, delete the original playlist, and share the new one.
Apple’s new music service makes it pretty obvious how to indicate that you’ve liked a particular song or playlist with a conspicuous heart button that you can tap on to indicate that you “love” a particular song. What’s not so obvious, however, is what to do if something comes up that you don’t particularly like. Perhaps Apple’s just that confident in its new curated music service, but if you find stuff creeping into your “For You” section that’s most definitely not for you, the good news is you can easily filter it out and let Apple know that you didn’t particularly care for it.
To do this, tap and hold on a suggestion in the “For You” list in the iOS Music app, and among the options that will appear on the menu is one labeled “I Don’t Like This Suggestion.” While this won’t necessarily banish the album or playlist from view, it should in theory let Apple know to tone down suggestions related to that in the future. Sadly, as of this writing, the option only works on iOS — not in iTunes — and only works directly from the “For You” screen; individual tracks still only provide for binary love. [via The Loop]
The main Photos timeline view in iOS 8 is a nice way to display all of your photos, but if you’re often taking special purpose photos — such as screenshots — it can sometimes get a bit cluttered. As we discussed in our previous tip, you can hide photos so that they disappear from the timeline, which will place them in a default hidden album. But you can also effectively move photos from your timeline into specific photo albums.
To do this, simply take the photos you want to remove from your timeline, and first add them to an album — this can be a brand new album or an existing album. Once you’ve done this, hide them by tapping-and-holding and choose the “Hide” option from the popup menu that appears.
The photos will disappear from your timeline, but will still be shown in any albums that you’ve manually placed them into, which you can find from the “Albums” view. Despite being hidden, you can also still remove them from this album, find them in the “hidden” album and “All Photos” views, and assign them to different albums — they still work like normal photos, but simply don’t appear in the main “Photos” timeline. As an added bonus, if you’re using iCloud Photo Library, these changes all sync to your Mac and your other iOS devices as well.
One of the useful features Apple introduced in its Maps app for OS X was the ability to easily send a location or set of directions from your Mac to your iPhone, making it easy to look up information on your computer and then easily take it with you. The good news is that those who prefer Google’s mapping app can now join in on the fun with the latest update to Google Maps adding similar capabilities.
As long as you’re logged in to your Google Account on both your desktop browser and Google Maps on your iPhone, when you look up a location in Google Maps, you should now see a “Send to Device” link. Clicking on this will show you a list of your mobile devices that are running Google Maps, and clicking on one of these will send the currently selected information to that device as a Google Maps Push Notification.
You can even take advantage of interactive notifications to open Google Maps and get directions or start navigation straight from the lock screen. To take advantage of this you’ll need to ensure that you’ve updated to the latest version of Google Maps and that you’ve enabled Push Notifications for the Google Maps app.
The completely new design in iOS 7 left some users feeling a bit lost, and as time went by, Apple began to bring back some of the old UI components that had previously made navigation more intuitive, although most were left as optional items buried in the Accessibility settings.
One example of this is “Button Shapes,” an enhancement (or regression, depending on how you look at it), designed to make the buttons that appear in the upper corners of most apps more obvious by bringing back the colored background shapes to things like “back” buttons. While some may feel it looks out of place in iOS’ new design, if you miss the obvious buttons from iOS 6 and prior, you can turn this feature on by going into Settings, General, Accessibility and toggling “Button Shapes” on. The effect will be immediate, with “back” buttons showing an arrow shape, and other buttons getting a shaded box around them to make them more readily apparent.
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