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

Quickly setting up a new Apple TV using your iPhone

Expecting a new Apple TV under the tree this Christmas? With the latest Apple TV software you can now set it up in a flash right form your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. All you need is to have a recent device running iOS 7 in close proximity. Plug in the new Apple TV and once the initial setup screen appears, simply unlock your device, enable Bluetooth, and place the iPhone within about a foot or so of your Apple TV.

You’ll see a prompt on the iOS side asking you to enter your Apple ID and password, at which point your iCloud and iTunes login information and Wi-Fi and Home Sharing passwords will be transferred from your iOS device to the Apple TV, saving you the trouble of entering information using the cumbersome on-screen keyboard and Apple Remote.

Enabling Conference Room Display on the Apple TV

If you’re setting up your Apple TV for AirPlay use in a business or school environment, or simply have a lot of different friends over connecting up to it with their iOS devices, there’s a useful new feature in Apple TV 6.0 that allows you to display AirPlay connection instructions overlaid on the screen saver.

The feature is called Conference Room Display, and can be found under Settings, AirPlay. By default it simply displays the Wi-Fi network name and Apple TV name, although you can also choose to add a custom message at the bottom of the AirPlay instruction window or choose your own a background photo to show up instead of the standard screen saver.

Organizing Home Videos in iTunes

Last year, iTunes 11 introduced a new “Home Videos” category, providing a great way—in principle—to use iTunes for storing personal videos and syncing them with other Apple devices without cluttering up the main “Movies” category. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the release of Apple TV 6.0 and iOS 7 that the category become fully supported across all of Apple’s current hardware devices.

The “Home Videos’ category will remain hidden in iTunes and on other devices until you actually place something in it; to categorize a video as a “Home Video” simply import it into the main “Movies” section and then open the properties by selecting it and choosing File, Get Info, selecting the Options tab and setting the Media Kind field to “Home Video.”

You’ll need to sync the video to any iOS devices the old-fashioned way, since iCloud doesn’t support non-purchased video content, at which point a new “Home Videos’ button should appear in the iOS “Videos” app.

Enabling automatic Apple TV Software Updates

One of the more subtle new features in the Apple TV 6.0 Software Update is the ability to have future updates downloaded and applied automatically—a great feature if you don’t feel like waiting for an update to apply when you’re getting ready to watch your favourite show. You can find this option and switch it on or off under Settings, General, Software Updates from the Apple TV menu.

Note that this feature is enabled by default on new Apple TV units and disabled by default if you’re updating from an older version. If you leave it disabled you will still be prompted to apply updates manually whenever new Apple TV software is available, as in prior versions.

Deleting Photo Stream content from your Apple TV

Accessing your iCloud Photo Stream and other Shared Photo Streams from your Apple TV is a really handy way to view your photos and show them off to friends and family. You may not know that you can also delete photos or even entire Shared Photo Streams right from your Apple TV without having to return to your iOS device or computer. To do this, simply highlight a photo or Photo Stream and hold down the Select button on the Apple Remote until a pop-up menu appears with an option to “Delete Photo” or “Delete Photo Stream.” This also works with Photo Streams that have been shared with you by other users;  “Unsubscribe” will appear on the menu in this case instead of the delete option, allowing you to remove only your copy of the Shared Photo Stream.

Keep in mind, however, that this doesn’t just remove these items from your Apple TV—as on iOS the items will be removed from your iCloud account and any other devices that sync with it.

Controlling who can AirPlay to your Apple TV

The Apple TV’s AirPlay feature makes it a great accessory to bring your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch content to the larger screen. By default, however, this feature is wide open; anybody running iOS or iTunes on the same network can freely broadcast content to your Apple TV at the tap of a button. For most home users this isn’t a huge problem, but if you have kids in the house, or you otherwise use your Apple TV on a network shared with other iOS users, you may find it useful to restrict AirPlay access to your Apple TV—particularly since starting AirPlay from another device will interrupt whatever you may currently be watching.

The good news is that Apple has provided a couple of options for this, both of which can be found in the AirPlay section under your Apple TV’s Settings menu. If you don’t want your Apple TV to be accessible via AirPlay at all, you can simply toggle it off from here. Alternatively, you can use an onscreen code or a password to prevent AirPlay access to your Apple TV from iOS devices or iTunes. The Onscreen Code option will display a one-time code on the Apple TV screen whenever a user attempts to select it for AirPlay, requiring the user to enter this code on their device before AirPlay streaming will begin; the password option will simply prompt the user for whatever password you choose to set here, again refusing to begin AirPlay streaming unless the proper password is supplied.

Sending audio to AirPlay speakers from an Apple TV

With the Apple TV increasingly providing access to cloud-based iTunes content, it’s becoming less necessary to keep a computer on to serve up your iTunes library. If you have AirPlay speakers in your house, you may think that you still need to keep iTunes up and running to stream content to those, but you can actually do it all from your Apple TV. Last year’s 5.1 update brought back the ability to send audio to remote AirPlay speakers—a feature that ironically was available on the first Apple TV with AirTunes, but clearly didn’t make the cut for the revised second-generation model.

You can access and select AirPlay speakers from the Apple TV Settings menu, but there’s an even faster way to switch over to an external set of speakers when listening to audio: Simply hold down the centre “Select” key on your Apple Remote and a pop-up menu will appear with a “Speakers…” option. Selecting this option will list all of the AirPlay speakers available on your network to choose from. Simply select the speakers you want to direct your audio output to. As an added bonus, you’ll see an additional option to adjust the volume for the remote AirPlay speakers by using the left and right buttons on the remote.

Using multiple iTunes accounts on an Apple TV

If you have an Apple TV in your household and share multiple iTunes Store accounts in your family, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to tie your Apple TV into only a single account. Since last year’s Apple TV 5.1 update you can easily configure and save more than one iTunes Store account on the Apple TV and easily switch between them. Not only does this allow you to use a different account for purchasing or renting content, but it also provides quick and easy way to switch cloud-based movie and TV show libraries; switching to a different account immediately provides access to browse and stream all of the content that was purchased with that account. Note that the accounts specified here are completely separate from the account you use for Home Sharing, so there’s no need to worry about losing access to your local library when switching to a different iTunes Store account.

This even works with accounts in different countries. You will initially need to change your country setting to match each account when first logging into it, however once the credentials have been saved, the Apple TV will automatically switch to the appropriate country when switching accounts. As with iTunes on the desktop, switching accounts will turn iTunes Match off, requiring it to be re-enabled when returning to your primary iTunes Store account. Unlike iTunes and iOS devices, however, there is no 90-day restriction on using content from different accounts, presumably since content can only be streamed to the Apple TV and not downloaded and saved for use on other devices.

Improved Netflix Video Quality

Earlier this year Netflix began gradually been rolling out a new, higher-resolution “Super HD” streaming option, providing higher-quality 1080p HD content for at least some subscribers. The catch? You must be using a supported device and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) must be part of Netflix Open Connect and provide you with a sufficiently fast Internet connection—at least 5Mbps.

The good news is that the third-generation Apple TV is in fact fully supported, but whether this will work with your ISP is another story entirely. You can easily check if your ISP is supported by visiting Netflix’s Super HD page, and if so you should see a “Super HD” logo appear on your Apple TV on any content available in the higher quality form. Many U.S. Netflix users on Time Warner, Comcast, and Verizon briefly saw the option appear last night, but it has since disappeared. This may be an indication that some of the major U.S. ISPs are beginning to roll the service out, however.

Reorganizing or Hiding Main Menu icons on the Apple TV

This week Apple released another Apple TV Software Update adding five more content providers for users in the U.S., including HBO GO, WatchESPN, Sky News, Qello, and Crunchyroll. However, if you’re not already an HBO or ESPN cable subscriber or a fan of music videos or Japanese Anime, you may find these new icons do little more than clutter up the nice Apple TV main screen. The good news is that you can reorganize these icons to move them farther down or even hide them from the main screen entirely. To reorganize the icons, simply highlight the icon you want to move and hold down the center button on your Apple Remote until they all start jiggling; you can then simply use the direction arrows to move the icon almost anywhere else you want, although the first row is fixed—you can’t move icons into or out of this area. Hiding icons uses a different method, requiring a quick visit into your device’s Parental Controls. Simply go into Settings, General, Parental Controls, scroll down to the list of items at the bottom and set each one to “Hide” to make them disappear from your Main Menu entirely. You don’t even need to actually enable the parental controls simply to hide items from here, although doing so will allow you to set rating restrictions for iTunes content and leave certain items visible but passcode-protected. Note that the Movies, TV Shows, Computers and Settings items in the first row cannot be hidden.

Be sure to check out Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of Apple TV 5.3 for more information on what’s new in the latest Apple TV update.

Enabling Video Playlists on Apple TV

If you have an Apple TV, chances are good that you have at least some movies and TV shows in your library. If you’re a heavy iTunes user with a lot of video content, you may already know that you can organize these into playlists within iTunes, but you may have noticed that by default, there appears to be no way to access these playlists directly on the Apple TV. The good news, however, is that this capability actually does exist on the Apple TV—it’s just turned OFF by default. If you take a quick trip to the Audio & Video section in your Apple TV Settings menu you will see a “Show Playlists” option that is set to “Music Only” by default; simply toggle this to “All” and a new “Playlists” entry will appear at the top of your movie and TV show listings. Keep in mind that this is only for content in your iTunes library, however—unlike music playlists for iTunes Match subscribers, video playlists are not synced to the cloud.

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.

Hiding Main Menu icons on the Apple TV

Apple has regularly added some great new categories of content to the Apple TV over the past two years, ranging from MLB, NHL and NBA sports options to Netflix and Hulu Plus. If you’re not a sports fan or subscriber to any of these services, however, you may find that the additional icons do little more than clutter up your Apple TV main menu screen. While the new Apple TV 5.1 Software Update now allows you to reorder these icons, you can’t easily remove them while reordering them. However, there is a useful trick to get rid of almost any item you don’t want to see on your main Apple TV menu screen by using the Parental Controls feature. Simply go into Settings, General, Parental Controls, scroll down to the list of items at the bottom and set each one to “Hide” to make them disappear from your Main Menu entirely. You don’t even need to actually turn on parental controls simply to hide items from here, although doing so will allow you to set rating restrictions for iTunes content and leave certain items visible but passcode-protected. Note that the Movies, TV Shows, Computers and Settings items cannot be hidden.

Be sure to check out Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of Apple TV 5.1 for more information on what’s new in the latest Apple TV update.

Manually adding images to Photo Stream

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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.

Marking media watched or unwatched from Apple TV

iTunes and Apple’s media devices typically do a good job of keeping track of what media you have or haven’t yet watched—but for those times when you don’t want a TV show, season, or movie marked the way it is, there’s a simple way to change it—right from the Apple TV. When browsing through your TV shows or movies, simply select the episode or movie you’d like to mark as watched or unwatched, and hold down the select button on the Apple Remote to bring up a menu. From there, you can mark the video as you see fit, and in the case of TV shows, will also have the option to mark the entire season however you want it.

Enabling Closed Captioning on iOS and iTunes

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Most folks are familiar with Closed Captioning (CC)—the system for displaying text during a TV or video to help those with hearing disabilities follow along. But the system isn’t useful solely to them—if you’d like to watch a movie or TV show silently, for instance. Luckily, there’s lots of CC-enabled content available from the iTunes Store, and enabling the service on Apple’s devices is fairly simple. In iTunes on a Mac or PC, open up the Preferences, select Playback, and turn on the “Show closed captioning when available” option. On an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, open the Settings app, tap on Video, and turn Closed Captioning on. Last but not least, you can access the same option on the Apple TV by visiting the Settings menu, selecting Audio & Video, and then turning Closed Captioning on. Now you can enjoy your content—and some peace and quiet. [via OS X Daily]

Manually updating your Apple TV’s software

The Apple TV is pretty good about giving you on-screen reminders when it needs updated—but if you want to make sure your unit is running the latest and greatest software, it’s easy to do. Open up the device’s Settings menu, select General, and select Update Software. It there’s an update available, it will prompt you to download and install it—and if not, you’ll get a reassuring message that your software is up to date.

Changing your Apple TV slideshow settings

(Most) everyone likes plants and animals, but may not want to watch them repeatedly dance across their screen. Luckily, the Apple TV provides you with a number of ways to access other photo content for your screensaver. To change things up, roll over to the Apple TV’s Settings menu, then down to Screen Saver. On this screen you can decide how long you want the little black box to wait before taking over, choose whether you want the ‘saver to show up during music playback, choose what style of screen saver you want—there’s plenty to choose from, or you can even have it pick one at random—and choose what photos you want to appear.

Using an iOS device as an Apple TV remote camera

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When Apple added AirPlay video mirroring to the Apple TV with the launch of the iPad 2, it opened up a world of new possibilities for developers and users alike—including one possibility that, while somewhat silly, might someday come in handy someday. If you own both an Apple TV and an iPad 2 or iPhone 4S, you can use one of the latter devices as a remote camera, which you can view from the Apple TV. Simply double-tap the Home button, swipe over to the media controls hidden in the multitasking tray, tap the AirPlay button, select the Apple TV you wish to use, and turn on Mirroring. Once that’s done, all you need to do is open a camera app on the portable device, and whatever it’s looking at should appear on the screen. This is great for static surveillance jobs, but what if your subject—say, a child—is on the move? Simply strap one of the devices to a remote-controlled vehicle and you’ll be able to keep an eye on the entire house—or at least that floor. [via TUAW]

Top Tips of 2011

Continuing our end-of-year roundup, we’ve decided to use today’s Tip to give you a list of links to our top tips of the past year. Below, you’ll find links to tips for iTunes, iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Apple TV users, with a little something for both new users and experienced pros.

Sharing Multiple Photos on iOS
Taking control of your iTunes Library with Smart Playlists
Getting the most out of iOS’ software keyboard
Setting up Automatic Downloads in iOS and iTunes
Getting rid of Wi-Fi network pop-ups on iOS
Navigating the Music app with one hand
Mastering the Apple TV remote
Setting up an iTunes Store Allowance account
Setting up Notification Center on iOS 5
Making Siri work with Facebook + Twitter
Sharing an iCloud account for multi-device access
Customizing your Mail signature on iOS

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