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Tips & Tricks

Enabling iCloud Drive app in iOS 9

Although Apple first debuted iCloud Drive in iOS 8 last year, it was implemented merely as a hidden file system designed to be used only within apps specifically designed to support it; unlike on OS X Mavericks, there was no iOS-based option to directly browse through your iCloud drive, making it a completely impractical replacement for something like Dropbox or Google Drive. The good news is that Apple has opened this up with iOS 9 by adding a standalone, built-in iCloud Drive app, providing direct access to everything you have stored in iCloud Drive, along with some basic file organization and sharing features.

Going back to a four-digit passcode in iOS 9

One of the smaller security features touted by Apple in the iOS 9 update was the move to requiring six-digit passcodes, rather than the default four-digit option that’s been around since the iPhone first debuted. While complex alphanumeric passwords have been available in iOS for years, most users found them to be too much trouble, so Apple reasoned that going from a four to a six-digit passcode was a more sensible compromise for improving security, particularly in an era of Touch ID devices, where the passcode rarely needs to be entered anyway.

Engaging Low Power Mode in iOS 9

The new “Low Power Mode” in iOS 9 is a pretty handy way to extend your battery life when you’re on the go; by throttling down your device’s CPU and suspending all background activity it lets you gain two to three extra hours in a pinch. You can turn it on manually by going into Settings, Battery or your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch will offer you the option to turn it on as part of the warnings you get when your battery drains to 20 percent, and again when it hits 10 percent (assuming it’s not already on). When Low Power Mode is engaged, the standard battery icon will turn yellow to remind you that you’re in this mode.

You can also leave your device in Low Power Mode when charging it back up, however it gets shut off automatically once you reach an 80 percent charge. You’ll get a lock screen notification when this happens, and if you like, you can re-engage Low Power Mode right from the lock screen by swiping right to left and tapping “Enable Again.” This can be useful if you’re in a hurry for your iPhone to charge up, as leaving it in Low Power Mode will let your device charge faster by consuming less power while it’s charging.

Saving to PDF in iOS 9

One of the more subtle new features in iOS 9 is that you can now leverage Apple’s built-in iBooks app to save documents and web pages into PDF files. To access this, bring up the normal iOS 9 Share Sheet — the same one you would use to share something to Twitter or Facebook — and scroll over to the right side of the list and a “Save PDF to iBooks” option should appear.

Selecting the option will open iBooks and the document or web page you’re sharing should appear there as a PDF file in your iBooks library. From there you can organize it into a collection, print it, or send it out via email. Note that if you don’t see the “Save PDF to iBooks” option, tap “More” and ensure that it’s switched on in the list of sharing options. If it doesn’t appear in the “More” section, this means that the content type you’re sharing can’t be saved as a PDF.

Sending iMessages with Return in iOS 9 when using an external keyboard

A small but welcome enhancement in iOS 9 now allows you to use the “Return” key on an external keyboard to send messages, saving you the trouble of reaching for the screen to tap the “Send” button. Since most text messages don’t normally cross multiple paragraphs, this can help you keep a conversation going more fluidly, although OPT+ENTER can still be used to enter a new line if you want to do so. This also mirrors how the OS X version of the app works, providing more continuity when moving between your Mac and your iOS device. Best of all, even though the iPad got most of the new keyboard enhancements, this particular change works on the iPhone and iPod touch as well (thanks to Brad Joiner for the tip!)

Restoring Files, Contacts, and Calendars in iCloud

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.

Enabling Do Not Disturb while actively using your iPhone

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.

Showing only Downloaded Music in iOS 8.4

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.

Activating Siri by voice

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.”

Accessing a song’s album in the iOS 8.4 Music app

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.

Setting a custom playlist image

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.

Unsharing Playlists in Apple Music

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.

Disliking ‘For You’ suggestions in Apple Music

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]

Moving photos from main timeline into albums in iOS 8

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.

Sending locations from your desktop to your iPhone in Google Maps

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.

Bringing back shaped buttons in iOS 8

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.

Using Quick Website Search in Mobile Safari

Safari on iOS 8 adds a new feature, Quick Website Search, that lets you quickly search websites you’ve recently visited directly from the Safari address bar simply by prefixing the search with the website name, such as “imdb” or “wiki.” Unlike the corresponding feature in Safari on OS X, however, there are a couple of tricks to get it working properly.

On OS X, simply visiting a website’s home page in Safari will add it to your Quick Website Search, but for whatever reason, the iOS version of Safari is a little bit more picky in terms of how sites get added to the list. Firstly, you’ll have to actually perform a search on a given website for it to be added to the list, and secondly, not all websites are supported — sites with more complex search forms, for example, will not be detected by iOS Safari and not appear as Quick Website Search options.

You can view a list of sites that have been added by going into the Safari section in your iOS Settings app, and selecting Quick Website Search, and if you decide that there are some here that you don’t want included, you can easily remove them with the standard swipe-to-delete gestures.

Updating your Apple TV Screen Saver via iCloud

The screen saver on the Apple TV is a great way to show off your favorite photos, but the traditional way of updating it via iTunes can be a little cumbersome for many, and as a result, the photos can get stale. If you find yourself frequently wanting to add new photos to your screensaver, you’ll probably find it far easier to make use of iCloud’s Photo Sharing feature.

Since the Apple TV screen saver can be set to any of your shared photo albums in iCloud, all you need to do is setup an album for your screen saver and then select it on the Apple TV under Settings, Screen Saver. Once selected, you can add photos to this album from any of your iOS devices or your Mac in the same way as for any other iCloud shared album, and they’ll automatically appear in the mix on your Apple TV. As an added bonus, you can even share the photo album with other family members and give them publishing rights to let them contribute to the screen saver as well.

Sending to iCloud Shared Photo albums from other apps

Shared photo albums in iCloud can be a very handy way to pass photos around with friends and family members, since anybody with an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and an iCloud account already has everything they need to receive updates without needing to worry about chasing web links or installing other apps. The way Apple has set these up is especially handy if you’ve got an album you’re contributing to an an ongoing basis, as any new photos you add are pushed to everybody else the album is shared with.

Since iCloud Photo Sharing is part of the iOS Photos app, you may think that’s the only place you can share photos from, but that’s actually not the case—you can send a photo to iCloud Photo Sharing from any app that supports the iOS 8 sharing sheet. Just bring up the normal sharing options, and if “iCloud Photo Sharing” doesn’t already appear, scroll to the right, tap the “More” button and turn it on from the list of options. You can even reorder it by dragging it up higher on the list. Once enabled, you can easily share to an iCloud Shared Photo album from whatever photo app you’re in — even something like Dropbox, Google Photos, or Lightroom Mobile, making it easy to still take advantage of iCloud Photos even if your photos aren’t stored in the iOS Photos app.

Find My Friends: Consolidating friends from multiple accounts

Likely as a consequence of the tighter integration of location sharing in iOS 8, Apple made an interesting change to its Find My Friends app, basically tying it to the primary iCloud account configured on the iOS device’s settings, rather than allowing it to use its own, independent Apple ID. If you were using a separate Apple ID for Find My Friends from the one that you use for your other iCloud services such as Calendars and Contacts, you’ll be stuck in a situation with data in two different accounts, and you most likely had to leave your friends behind when you upgraded to iOS 8.

The good news is that while it’s not obvious, Apple has provided a way to move your friends from another account into the one currently being used by Find My Friends. You can do this by tapping on your own image where it says “Me” at the bottom of the main Find My Friends screen to bring up your settings, and then scrolling to the very bottom where it will show you which Apple ID you’re signed in with — there it should provide a link to “Move friends from a different Apple ID.” Simply tap on this and and the Find My Friends app will take you through the process of logging into another iCloud ID so that you can move your friends list from there into your current one. You can repeat this step as often as you like to consolidate your friends lists into a single account.

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