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Tips & Tricks

Quickly toggling the Predictive Text bar

The new Predictive Text feature in iOS 8 can be useful for helping you quickly peck out sentences when working with one finger, however, sometimes the extra space above the keyboard just gets in the way. The good news is that in those situations it can easily be hidden or turned off entirely without having to resort to a trip all the way into your keyboard settings.

If you place your finger on the Predictive Text bar above the keyboard, and swipe downward, the bar can be dragged down into a hidden position. You’ll see a small horizontal line representing the hidden bar, and reversing the gesture by tapping and swiping back upwards will return the bar into view. Alternatively, if you’d rather switch the Predictive Text bar off entirely instead of just hiding it, you can tap and hold on the Emoji or language button near the bottom left corner of the keyboard to bring up the keyboard selection options, at the top of which will be a “Predictive” toggle; this mirrors the “Predictive” option found in Settings, General Keyboard.

Showing full conversation threads in iOS Mail

Sometimes when you’re looking at a recent email it can be handy to be able to quickly refer back to earlier messages in the same conversation. While the “Organize by Thread” option (found in Settings under Mail, Contacts, Calendars) can be helpful if all of your messages are in the same folder, this is often not the case, particularly when it also involves messages you’ve sent, since these usually remain in the “Sent” folder for most users.

Fortunately, iOS 8 has a handy little feature that can be used to search out your Sent Messages and include them in the conversation thread. If you swipe right-to-left on an email message you’ve replied to (or an email that’s a reply to one of yours) and tap the “More” button, you’ll see a “Show Related Messages” button that appears with the rest of the additional options. Tap on this, and Mail will provide you with a conversation view of your correspondence with that person and anybody else in the thread. As an added bonus, it even notes which messages were replies or forwards, and who they were forwarded to.

Keep in mind that unlike the OS X Mail app, this doesn’t seem to work across your entire mailbox — it mostly seems designed to ferret out messages from your Sent folder.

Filtering iMessages from unknown senders in iOS 8.3

If you find yourself getting a lot of random iMessages from strangers, a new feature in iOS 8.3, released earlier today, allows you to easily filter these out of your main Messages list and block notifications from them.

You can enable or disable this feature with a quick trip into the Messages section of your iOS Settings app. Simply look for the “Filter Unknown Senders” option and toggle it on. Once enabled, go into your Messages app and swipe downward to see the selection buttons for “Contacts & SMS” and “Unknown Senders.”

Keep in mind that, as the button labels imply, this feature only works for iMessages from unknown senders — those not in your Contacts list. SMS messages will still be shown in the main “Contacts & SMS” view, regardless of whether they were sent by a known sender or not. Should you decide that you’d simply rather have everything back in one list, you can toggle this feature back off again by going back into Settings, Messages to return to the pre-iOS 8.3 behavior.

Going on 3D Flyover Tours in Apple Maps

Here’s a fun little feature you can find in the iOS 8 Maps app: 3D Flyover Tours. Available for select major cities, the 3D Flyover Tour feature takes advantage of Apple’s 3D imagery to provide an aerial tour of key landmarks in each city, from Toronto’s CN Tower and New York’s Statue of Liberty to London’s Buckingham Palace and Paris’ Eiffel Tower, it’s a fun way to see the sights right from the comfort of your iPhone, and a neat way to show off Apple’s aerial imagery views.

To access the feature, first specifically search for the city by name — simply being somewhere in the city won’t suffice — and then tap the “Start” button that appears beside the “3D Flyover Tour of City” banner at the top of the screen.

The tour will begin in a full-screen mode to give you the best view possible, and as you stop at each location, the name of the location will be shown and the camera will pan around the building or landmark before taking you off to the next one. To return to normal map mode, you can tap the screen once to bring up the menu and navigation bars, and then you can either tap the “End Flyover Tour” or tap in the search bar and enter a new location.

Using Thread Notifications in iOS Mail

If you find yourself regularly participating in ongoing email conversations, you may find it handy to get more proactive notifications when somebody sends a reply in an existing thread. iOS 6 introduced a “VIP List” feature that lets you get notifications when messages come in from specific people, but that’s not always useful if you only want to enable notifications on an ad-hoc basis, so the Mail app in iOS 8 takes this a step further with the ability to enable notifications for a specific thread.

Typically, this is done when sending a message, and is simply a matter of tapping the small bell icon that appears to the right of the subject line once you’ve placed the cursor in there. You’ll see a pop-up confirming that this is what you want to do, and then once you’ve sent the message, any replies to that message will automatically trigger the “Thread Notification” — a separate set of notifications, much like the VIP list, that can be configured in your Notification Center settings — this means that thread replies can trigger a different alert sound and bring up lock screen and banner notifications.

If you’ve forgotten to enable a Thread Notification for a message you’ve already sent, or want to add one to a message you’ve received (in case somebody else replies to a group discussion, for instance), you can do this by tapping on the flag button in the lower-left corner of the message window, and then choose the “Notify Me…” option.

Messages that have Thread Notifications enabled will show the small bell icon by the sender’s name in the message list, by the subject line in the message, and in the gray heading bar of a threaded conversation view. Should you decide you no longer want to receive these notifications, you can toggle them off in much the same way as turning them on: tap the flag button when viewing an individual message in the thread, and tap “Stop Notifying.”

Quickly Bookmark and Add to Reading List in Safari

If you’re a heavy Safari user on iOS, you may find yourself bookmarking pages or adding them to your Reading List — or even your Shared Links — on a fairly regular basis. iOS 8 offers a slightly streamlined way of doing this without having to go through the Share Sheet. Simply tap-and-hold on the Bookmark button while viewing a page, and a menu will pop up, offering options to Add Bookmark, Add to Reading List, and — if available — Add to Shared Links.

While this may not seem all that much more difficult than simply opening the Share Sheet and tapping the option you want, one of the big advantages is that with all of the new iOS 8 Action Extensions available, you can more easily prioritize other app extensions by putting them at the left side of your Share Sheet while still retaining quick and easy access to the built-in “Add” actions. While you can’t switch these actions off in your Share Sheet entirely, you can pull up the settings by tapping “More” at the right hand side of the action extensions. From there, simply drag the actions down to the bottom to keep them at the end and out of the way.

Adding RSS Feeds to Safari in iOS 8

When iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks debuted about two years ago, one of the smaller features that made its way into Safari was support for “Shared Links” — an aggregate of all of the links in the user’s Twitter feed that could be accessed from a third panel over from the Bookmarks and Reading List sections. While the feature received little fanfare even then compared to the overall UI design and other sweeping changes, when iOS 8 came along, Apple even more quietly snuck in support for adding RSS feeds into the Shared Links section. Although RSS — short for Really Simple Syndication — has gradually started to fall by the wayside with the advent of social media services such as Twitter, many people still find it to be an indispensable way to keep up with headlines from their favorite news sites, and iOS 8’s integration of RSS into Safari can provide a nice lightweight alternative for those who might not really need all of the features in a dedicated third-party newsreader app.

Adding an RSS feed into Safari’s Shared Links section is actually really simple, although it’s somewhat hidden as the button for this feature only appears when visiting sites where an RSS feed is actually available. When you’re on such a site, an “Add to Shared Links” button will appear as an action in the lower row of the iOS 8 Sharing Sheet; tapping this will add the RSS feed published by whatever site you’re on right into your Shared Links section, where articles will appear in stream with your Twitter feed, if enabled.

When viewing the Shared Links section, a “Subscribe” button in the bottom right corner will allow you to view the feeds that have been added along with your Twitter accounts, and from here you can either remove feeds or toggle on or off any Twitter accounts that you want included or excluded from your Shared Links.

One final note to keep in mind, though: Since the “Add to Shared Links” button needs to detect an RSS feed in order to appear, sometimes you’ll need to wait until the site completely finishes loading before it shows up. So if it’s not appearing, wait a few seconds and try again. Also keep in mind that many sites don’t publish their RSS feeds via the mobile versions of the site — in this case you may need to ask Safari to request the desktop version before the option will appear to add it to your Shared Links.

Browse your mailbox while composing a message

Although the iOS Mail app is great for its general simplicity in letting you view, manage, and send emails, the “single-window” design of iOS itself has traditionally created a workflow limitation that desktop mail users don’t normally encounter — the ability to flip back over to your mailbox to look things up while you’re in the middle of composing an email. Until recently, the only way to deal with this would be to save the current email in progress as a draft, go find what you want to in your mailbox, then bring up your drafts again and pick up where you left off. While there is a pretty fast way to access your drafts, this is more of a hassle than it needs to be.

The good news is that iOS 8 has added a nifty little feature to address this very issue. The New Message screen now opens up in what is basically a separate panel that you can move down and out of the way. To do this, simply tap and hold on the title of the new message panel and drag it down toward the bottom of the screen. You can either drag it part way down to “peek” at whatever was behind it — perhaps the e-mail you’re replying to or referencing — or drag it all the way to the bottom of the screen to park it down there, at which point you can browse your mailbox as you normally would, even changing folders or composing more new email messages. When you want to get the original message back, just tap on the title bar of the New Message panel where it’s resting at the bottom of the screen, and it pops back up, ready for you to continue right where you left off.

In fact, you can even open multiple New Message panels, and drag each one down to the bottom of the screen. If more than one has been hidden down there, tapping on them will bring up a Safari-like multi-panel view, allowing you to browse through each of your messages in progress, either bringing them to the forefront by tapping on them, or tapping the “X” to get rid of them in the same way as you’d dismiss a Safari window. There appears to be no practical upper limit to how many of these you can have open, either — we were able to open about 35 in our own testing before we got bored and simply gave up, idly wondering about the sort of person who might need to have so many messages in progress on an iOS device.

Seeing your Photos on a Map

You probably already know that the photos you take with your iPhone are automatically tagged with the location where you took them, and this information is pretty clearly displayed in the “Moments” section of the new iOS Photos app above each grouping of photos. What you may not have realized, however, is that you can easily view this information on a map simply by tapping any of these headings with a location name.

This will take you to a map view that will show you thumbnails of your photos based on the location information stored in each. You can even zoom in and out from here, allowing you to view groupings of photos in more specific locations, and tapping on a thumbnail will bring you to a view of only the grouping of photos taken at that specific location.

Improving password security in iOS

While some may argue about the importance of locking your iPhone or other iOS device with a passcode, in this day of identity thieves and other ne’er-do-wells, it’s generally something we here at iLounge strongly recommend users do. In fact, if you’ve got a device with Touch ID, there’s really little good reason to not have a passcode, which was Apple’s primary motivation for introducing the feature.

While you probably already know how to set a standard four-digit passcode, you may not realize that it’s possible to use more complex alphanumeric passwords as well — a good security feature considering the number of brute-force attacks that can defeat relatively simple four-digit PINs. While having to enter a complex password each time you unlock your device would have been more cumbersome in the days before Touch ID, it’s much more practical now, as this is a password that you’ll need to enter far less often — usually only when you restart your device.

To enable a complex passcode, simply go into your iOS Settings app, choose Touch ID & Passcode, enter your existing passcode (if you’ve set one), and then scroll down and toggle OFF “Simple Passcode.” You’ll be prompted to change your old passcode as soon as you toggle this option off so that you can pick a more secure alphanumeric password.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll see that the iPhone unlock screen now presents a standard keyboard when you swipe to unlock your device. However, using a complex password doesn’t change the way Touch ID works — you can still unlock simply by holding your finger on your home button, so you’ll rarely even see the full-keyboard unlock screen. A more secure password, however, will make your iPhone harder to get into for anybody who doesn’t have their fingerprint registered on your device.

Setting Different Calendar Alert Types in iOS 8

If you’re an active calendar user on iOS who relies on invitations and shared calendars, you may find it useful that iOS 8 now gives you more control over the notifications and alerts you see for different types of calendar activities. This means that you don’t need to have all of your normal event alerts, invitation alerts, and shared calendar changes notify you in the same way. While prior iOS versions gave you the ability to simply switch things like shared calendar alerts completely off, with iOS 8 you can now fully customize each of the different categories of calendar alerts.

Simply go into your Settings app and select Notifications and then Calendar. While the number of entries shown in the Notification Center is still set overall, you’ll see four subcategories for Upcoming Events, Invitations, Invitation Responses, and Shared Calendar Changes. Each of these allows you to customize whether they’re shown in the Notification Center or on the lock screen, as well as choose different notification sounds and alert styles — and whether that type of alert is represented by a badge count on the app icon. Keep in mind that the settings here will affect all of your calendars; if you’re looking for a way to turn off upcoming event alerts or shared calendar changes for only specific calendars, check out our other tip on Turning off alerts for individual Calendars in iOS 8.

Managing iTunes Wish Lists

While the rise of subscription music services has replaced traditional purchased music downloads for many users, there are still those who may prefer to build a collection of music that they can keep without any monthly expenses, and with every new iTunes Store and iOS iteration, Apple adds new features to make it even easier to discover and buy music (and other media content) from the iTunes Store. While you probably know about iTunes’ Wish List feature, which lets you save items that you may want to purchase later, you may not realize that iTunes and iOS 8 will automatically keep track of music you’ve listened to through other means — including songs you’ve previewed in the iTunes Store, songs you’ve listened to on iTunes Radio, and now with iOS 8, songs you’ve asked Siri to identify via Shazam.

All of this information is nicely collected in your iTunes Store account and can be viewed from iTunes on your Mac or PC, or the iTunes Store app on your iOS devices. On iOS, simply open the iTunes Store app and tap the lists button in the top right corner. Tabs across the top will allow you to choose between your Wish List, Siri, Previews, or iTunes Radio. From here you can preview or purchase any of the displayed tracks, or even play a track if you’ve already purchased it. If you want to clean the lists up, simply tapping the button in the top left corner will let you select and remove items from your Wish List, or
clear out your Siri, Preview, or iTunes Radio lists entirely.

If you’re on a Mac or PC, simply select your name near the top right corner of your iTunes window and choose “Wish List” from the drop down menu that appears. The main wish list is displayed across the majority of the window, as before, but new categories appear to show you items listened to or discovered via the other sources.

Turning off alerts for individual Calendars in iOS 8

If you share calendars among friends, family members, and co-workers, you may have sometimes found yourself in the annoying situation of having their reminders go off on your iPhone. Fortunately, the iOS 8 Calendar app now allows you to turn off notifications on a per-calendar basis. To do this, simply go into the Calendar app, tap the “Calendars” button in the bottom center to bring up your list of Calendars, and then tap the red “i” to the left of the calendar you’d like to change. Scrolling all the way to the bottom will reveal an “Event Alerts” option — simply toggle this OFF to prevent alarms in that calendar from showing up on the current device.

Note that this works not only for shared calendars, but even your own personal calendars, which can be useful if you have a calendar for which you might like to receive alerts on only specific devices; you can turn off alerts on your iPhone while still having them go off on your Mac or iPad, for instance. Keep in mind that this will only silence actual calendar alarms; notifications you receive when somebody changes a shared calendar are controlled by the “Show Changes” setting which appears further up above the color settings. Controlling both options separately means that you can still see when somebody changes an appointment in their calendar while not having their alarms go off on your device.

Quickly viewing your most recent Notifications

While Touch ID is a really great way to unlock your iPhone, sometimes it’s a little too fast, as anybody can attest to who has ever watched an important notification disappear from the Lock Screen before you could even identify what it was. The good news is that you can easily find these notifications by pulling down the Notification Center, but they may not always be easily seen if you’re not sorting them properly.

The good news is that you can control the sort order for your Notification Center by going into the iOS Settings app and choosing Notifications. While sorting manually can be handy for putting the important notifications at the top all the time, the “Sort By Time” option is a great way to ensure that the most recent notifications are always at the top, so that when you miss one while unlocking your iPhone, you can simply pull down Notification Center and see it right at the top of your screen.

Reordering Photos in iOS 8 Photo Albums

Although it’s been possible to create photo albums in the iOS Photos app for a while now, the feature becomes even more useful with iCloud Photo Library and the impending final release of Apple’s Photos for Mac app. Now all of your photo albums from iPhoto or Aperture can be synced via iCloud Photo Library onto your iPhone, eliminating the need for managing this data in two places. One thing you may notice, however, is that new photos added to your iOS Photo Albums are not sorted in any particular order — they’re simply added to the end of what’s already there.

The good news, however, is that you can actually reorder these photos manually. Apple doesn’t make this obvious at all, but if you tap on the “Select” button in the top right corner, you can then simply tap-and-hold on any one of your image thumbnails and then drag that image and release your finger to drop it anywhere else in the current album. Unfortunately, this only works in user-created Photo Albums; you won’t be able to reorder photos in any of the built-in albums such as “Favorites” nor can you reorder photos in iCloud Photo Sharing albums.

Muting Conversations in Messages

If you’ve ever participated in group message conversations on your iOS device, you may find that sometimes repeated notifications can begin to get annoying, particularly if there are a lot of people in the group and you’re not actively involved in the conversation. While leaving is always an option, perhaps you still want to be able to check back later as to what’s going on, but don’t need notifications coming up every few seconds as people are chatting away.

The good news is that in iOS 8, you can now enable a “Do Not Disturb” feature or any conversation in Messages. Simply tap on the Details button at the top of the screen, and you’ll see a toggle below the list of people in the conversation allowing you to mute the conversation. This works for one-on-one messaging conversations as well, making it useful for muting things like automated SMS notifications.

Enabling SMS Continuity in iOS 8

The ability to sync and carry on text message conversations regardless of whether you’re using an iPhone, iPad, or Mac has always been one of the slicker features of iMessage, but until recently, there always seemed to be a disconnect between doing this with actual iMessages as opposed to traditional SMS text messages. Since not all of us have friends who exclusively use Apple devices, it was always a bit of a juggling act to figure out which ones you could message from your Mac or iPad and which friends made you have to reach for your iPhone to communicate. Fortunately, iOS 8.1 introduced the welcome feature of bridging this gap with “SMS Continuity,” which allows SMS and MMS messages to be sent and received using any device registered to your Apple ID. The options to control this can be found by going into your the Settings app on your iPhone, and selecting Messages, Text Message Forwarding. Here you’ll see a list of all of the non-iPhone devices associated with your Apple ID, and you can simply toggle the option on or off for the devices you wish to have participate in your SMS conversations.

As a security precaution, toggling a device ON will display a numeric code on the remote device that you’ll need to enter into your iPhone to confirm the pairing.

Once you’ve done that, the feature should just start working in much the same way as it always has for iMessage. Unlike iMessage, you’ll still need your iPhone to act as the gateway for SMS/MMS messages, as it’s responsible for transferring the messages between your other devices and your cellular carrier’s network. This is done wirelessly over the Internet via iCloud, however, so as long as your iPhone is on and has an Internet connection, the feature will work regardless of whether your iPhone is in actual proximity to your Mac, iPad, or iPod touch.

Restoring Deleted Photos and Videos in iOS 8

If you’ve ever inadvertently deleted a photo from your Camera Roll, you’ll appreciate that iOS 8 now has your back. Among the list of enhancements added to the Photos app is a new “trash bin” in the form of a “Recently Deleted” album. In here, you can find any photo or video that you’ve removed from your iOS device in the last 30 days, sorted chronologically by the date the photo was removed.

A helpful indicator over each thumbnail tells you how many days each item has left to live before being permanently removed from your device. From here, you can view individual photos or select groups in the same way as in any other album, which you can then choose to either permanently delete or recover back into your normal photo library. If you have iCloud Photo Library enabled, your “Recently Deleted” album and photos also sync across all of your devices, so a deleted photo can be recovered (or removed) using any of your connected devices. Keep in mind that photos in the “Recently Deleted” album do still take up space, on your iPhone, so if you’ve just removed a batch of photos to try and free up space on your device, you’ll need to take a trip over here to permanently delete them before you get that space back.

Monitoring Battery Usage in iOS 8

We all strive to get as much battery life as we can out of our mobile devices, and while many users have mixed experiences with the iPhone’s battery life, there’s little doubt that it can sometimes be confusing trying to figure out exactly why some days are better than others. While this has been shrouded in mystery for years in the world of iOS devices, the good news is that iOS 8 can finally give you some insight in this area.

While it’s a bit hidden away – you’ll need to take a trip into the Settings app and then look under General, Usage, Battery Usage – once you get there you’ll find some useful tracking on which of your apps are the biggest power hogs, and you can choose to see stats over either the past 24 hours or the past 7 days, expressed as a percentage of the power used by each app when your device is not plugged in. Apps that have been using power in the background will also be annotated with notes like “Background Location” to help you clarify where your juice is going. If there are any obvious tips that can help to improve your battery life, you’ll also see a section for “Battery Life Suggestions” covering things like enabling automatic screen locking.

Customizing Mail swipe actions in iOS 8

If you deal with a lot of e-mail, you’ll probably appreciate the more advanced swipe gestures that iOS 8 adds to the Mail app. No longer limited to merely deleting or archiving messages, iOS 8 allows you to perform up to four different actions simply by swiping either left or right on an item in your inbox. By default, swiping right-to-left now displays a “Flag” option in addition to the Trash/Archive and More options, and you can also now swipe left to right to get an option to mark a message as read or unread. A long swipe in either direction will also automatically execute the appropriate actions, while a short swipe simply presents buttons that you can tap on to complete the action.

While the default options are somewhat useful, they may not match your normal way of working through your inbox, so the good news is that you can customize these settings even further. Simply take a trip into the iOS Settings app, and in the Mail, Contacts, Calendars section you’ll find a setting for “Swipe Options”; from here you can choose to have the swipe-left gesture show a Mark as Read/Unread or Flag button, and the swipe-right gesture can be customized to Mark Read/Unread, Flag, or Archive the message.

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