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Tips & Tricks

Using Do Not Disturb in iOS 6

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

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

Enabling Parental Controls in iBooks

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

Reordering iOS Calendars

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

Limiting Cellular Data usage in iOS 6

Perhaps in part to save users from receiving frighteningly large bills for cellular data usage, Apple has traditionally limited many of iOS’ higher-bandwidth features to Wi-Fi connections only. Examples of such restrictions include iCloud Photo Stream, the 50MB download limit for the iTunes and App Stores and until recently, FaceTime. In iOS 6, Apple has started to loosen some of these restrictions, allowing users to choose to allow certain services to use a cellular connection. These include iCloud Documents, iTunes (for iTunes Match and automatic store downloads), FaceTime, Passbook and Safari Reading List, and the controls to toggle cellular data off or on for each can be found both in their respective sections in the Settings app (e.g. iCloud, Safari, FaceTime) as well as in a single list under General, Cellular. Toggling the option OFF for a given service will limit it to transferring data only when a Wi-Fi connection is available. FaceTime can only be used via a cellular data connection on the iPhone 4S/5 and the third-generation or later iPad models. Also, while the main iCloud Photo Stream is still limited to Wi-Fi, Shared Photo Streams will work over a cellular data connection and cellular use can’t be disabled without turning off the Shared Photo Streams feature entirely.

Note that the default setting for most of these services is ON, so you may want to double-check that they’re off if you have a more limited data plan.

Hiding Purchased Books in iBooks 3

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iBooks 3 introduces a new Purchased Books feature that gathers all of a user’s iBooks that have been purchased from the iBookstore into a single collection for quick and easy access, allowing books not already on the device to be easily downloaded from iCloud at the tap of a finger. For users who may not want to see some or all of their purchases right in the iBooks app, however, the good news is that you can either turn this feature off entirely, or selectively hide individually purchased items from the Purchased Books collection. To disable the collection entirely, simply go into the iBooks section in your iOS Settings app and toggle off the option to Show All Purchases; the Purchased Books collection will disappear entirely, although you can still download your purchases via the iBookstore as you could in prior versions of iBooks.

On the other hand, if you simply want to hide one or more specific items from your previous purchases, you can go into your iTunes Store account, using iTunes on your computer, and hide it from the Purchased section in there. This works in much the same way as it does for apps, described in our Ask iLounge article on Deleting unwanted apps from iCloud.

Be sure to check out Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iBooks 3 for more on this and what else is new in Apple’s latest iBooks update.

Viewing download progress for iTunes Match, Podcast + iTunes U content

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Apple tries to make things magically “just work” in the background, insulating users from trivial details such as download queues. When downloading content from iTunes Match or in the new standalone Podcasts and iTunes U apps, users are shown little more than basic download progress indicators which provide information on the status of individual items but not the order in which they’re downloading or anything else that may be queued up in front of them. However, all of these apps are still technically downloading their content via the iTunes Store, so you actually can view the download queue simply by opening up the iTunes app on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad and looking at the Downloads section. This will show all content being downloaded in any of these three apps, alongside any music, movies or TV shows you’re downloading in the iTunes app itself of course. From here you can also pause any download in progress by tapping the pause button or cancel/remove it from the download queue using a standard swipe-to-delete gesture.

Sharing Photo Streams as a Web Site

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The new Shared Photo Streams feature in iOS 6 is a great way of quickly and easily sharing photos directly with friends and family directly into the Photos app or into iPhoto or Aperture on OS X. For those who don’t own a Mac or iOS device, however, Apple also allows you to publish your Shared Photo Stream as a public web album directly from your device. When creating a Shared Photo Stream, simply toggle on the Public Website option—you can even leave the “To” field blank if you only want to share your Photo Stream on the web. Once the Shared Photo Stream has been given a name and saved, simply tap on the blue arrow beside the Shared Photo Stream name to return to the sharing screen where you will see the URL displayed along with a Share Link button to easily allow you to send the link out to friends and family via e-mail, Messages, Facebook or Twitter.  The web version of the Shared Photo Stream uses a fixed Apple template that cannot be customized, with photos presented in a tiled view in order by date added to the Shared Photo Stream with the most recent at the top. You can also toggle the Public Website option on for any of your existing Shared Photo Streams or turn it off at any time if you want to make your Shared Photo Stream private again.

Turning off Facebook Calendars and Contacts in iOS 6

Many Facebook power users will undoubtedly appreciate the new integration with the social network provided in iOS 6, which not only includes the ability to share items directly on Facebook, but also integrates your Facebook Contacts, Events and Birthdays into your iOS Contacts and Calendars app by default. However, what if you don’t want to see all of your Facebook friends in your iOS Contact list, or aren’t interested enough in upcoming Facebook Events to have them appearing in your calendar? Fortunately, it’s easy to turn them off: Simply go into the iOS Settings app, find the Facebook section, and toggle off Contacts and/or Calendar under “Allow These Apps to Use Your Account”—although this isn’t obvious with Calendars and Contacts mixed in with other built-in and third-party apps that simply post via Facebook, if these apps can’t access your Facebook account, then they won’t be able to access your Facebook Contacts or Facebook Events either, thereby disabling the Facebook integration in these two areas.

Disabling Ad Tracking in iOS 6

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As of iOS 6 Apple is gradually changing the rules for in-app advertising, forcing developers to replace the older Universal Device Identifier (UDID) tracking with a new “Advertising Identifier.”  The added bonus to this approach is that iOS 6 users now have the option of opting out of tracking for targeted ads, however Apple has made this feature less than obvious, hiding it away at the bottom of the About screen in the iOS 6 Settings app. To find the setting, simply open the Settings app, select General and About and then scroll down to the bottom and you should see an “Advertising” button right above “Diagnostics & Usage.” Tapping on this will take you to a page with a single ON/OFF toggle to Limit Ad Tracking. Apple includes a “Learn More” link at the bottom to provide more information on this feature, explaining that advertising networks are not yet required to use the new iOS 6 Advertising Identifier feature, and hence the use of the word “Limit” rather than “Disable” or “Opt-out,” suggesting that it will not yet completely eliminate ad tracking, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction if you’re concerned about this.

Be sure to check out Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 6.0 for more on what’s new in iOS 6.

Manually Backing up your iOS device

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With the release of iOS 6 scheduled for next week, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a current backup of your device before taking the update plunge. While most iOS updates install without any problems, preserving your existing data, making a backup is always a sensible precaution. iOS 5 devices can be configured to use either iTunes or iCloud for automatic backups, but not both. However, if you’re normally backing up to iCloud, you can still easily make a manual backup in iTunes any time you like; simply right-click on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch in the iTunes Devices list and select “Back Up” and iTunes will immediately make an on-demand backup of your device, even if you’re normally backing up to iCloud. Automatic backups to iCloud occur once every 24 hours provided your device is plugged in and on a Wi-Fi network, however you can also check the last backup time for your iCloud Backup and force a manual backup to iCloud as well by going into the Settings app on your device and choosing iCloud, Storage & Backup and scrolling down to the bottom.

Keeping older entries in your iOS Calendar

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By default, the iOS Calendars app only synchronizes and retains the last months’ worth of events on your device, regardless of how much data is stored in whatever cloud or desktop calendar application you’re synchronizing with. This can easily be changed with a quick trip to the Settings app, however; under the Mail, Contacts, Calendars section there is an option near the bottom to set how much of your calendar data you want synchronized and retained on your device, with options for two weeks, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months or everything regardless of how old.

Setting Repeats in Reminders with Siri

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The Reminders app in iOS 5 can be very handy for creating quick and simple task lists or reminders without having to resort to third-party apps, and with Mountain Lion these Reminders can be easily synced via iCloud and managed on your Mac as well. Unfortunately, its flexibility for repeating reminders is somewhat limited, at least on the surface. Users are given a choice of only five repeat intervals: Every Day, Every Week, Every 2 Weeks, Every Month or Every Year, and the Reminders app in OS X Mountain Lion isn’t any better in this regard. Fortunately, for iPhone 4S users looking for a bit more flexibility, Siri comes to the rescue by allowing custom intervals to be created using your voice; simply tell Siri something like “Remind me to take the garbage out every three days” and it will happily offer to create a Reminder with the specified repeat interval. The resulting task can even be edited in the Reminders app to adjust things like dates and times—as long as you don’t change the custom repeat setting, Reminders will leave it in place and continue to repeat your completed task at the specified interval.

For more information and some other options for setting custom repeat intervals, be sure to check out our Ask iLounge article on Setting Custom Repeat Intervals in the Reminders app.

Controlling Auto-Lock on iOS

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iOS’ built-in Auto-Lock feature is great for saving battery life by killing the backlight on your screen, but there are times when it can be less than ideal. Luckily, there’s an easy way to take control of the feature—or turn it off altogether. Open up the Settings app, tap on General, tap on Auto-Lock, and set it to the time limit you’re comfortable with. Just remember if you turn it off completely that you’ll need to manually lock your phone every time you’re done with it—or face a battery that’s out of juice way before its time.

Using a 24-hour clock on your iOS device

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While most civilians in the U.S. are perfectly happy measuring their time in 12-hour chunks, there are plenty of folks both here and abroad that prefer the more exact notation of the 24-hour clock. Luckily, iOS makes it easy to switch between the two. Simply fire up the Settings app, tap on General, tap on Date & Time, and turn on 24-Hour Time. To go back to your a.m. and p.m. ways, just repeat the process and turn the option off. [via OS X Daily]

Resetting the Autocorrect dictionary on iOS

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iOS’ built-in Autocorrect feature typically works pretty well, but sometimes it will learn misspellings or words that you simply don’t want to have reappear regularly. If your dictionary has gotten a way from you, there’s a simple way to get back to square one. Open up the Settings app, tap on General, scroll to the bottom, then tap on Reset. In the list of admittedly scary options on this page is one called Reset Keyboard Dictionary, which will rid your device of all the Autocorrect goodness it’s learned, letting you start from scratch. [via OS X Daily]

Cleaning up your bookmarks in Safari on iOS

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Find yourself faced with a mess of unorganized bookmarks on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch? There’s an easy way to remedy the situation. Simply tap the Bookmarks button, then tap Edit. Doing so will bring up the familiar red deletion circles for bookmarks and folders you no longer need or use, the triple-line buttons for grabbing and rearranging bookmarks and folders, and a New Folder button, which lets you pile bookmarks you simply want to reorganize into their own folder, and out of your main Bookmarks menu.

Making iOS forget Bluetooth devices

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Bluetooth can be super handy for short-range wireless communication, but with so many devices supporting it, you might sometimes find yourself in situations where the list of Bluetooth devices appearing in your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch’s list becomes unmanageable. Thankfully, Apple built in a way to get rid of listings for devices you don’t use. Simply fire up Settings, tap on Bluetooth, and tap on the blue circle next to the device you’d rather not see again. On the next page, tap on Forget this Device, and you won’t see it again. If you decide at some point in the future that you want to use a forgotten device again, just set it to pairing mode and it will reappear in your list. [via CoM]

Hiding text message previews on iOS

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Sure, getting a preview of your incoming text messages without needing to unlock your device is handy—but there are some times when you might not want everyone in eyeshot of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to see what you’re discussing with the person on the other end. Luckily, iOS offers a super-easy way to stop this. Open the Settings app, tap on Notifications, and tap on Messages. Scroll down the screen a bit, and you’ll see an toggle for Show Preview. Set this to off, and you won’t see anything more than an alert telling you who your new message is from. [via CoM]

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.

Showing/Hiding the Battery Percentage on iOS

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Starting with the iPhone 3GS, Apple’s iOS devices have been able to provide users with a (relatively) precise measurement of their battery’s remaining charge. Some people like it, some don’t, but no matter which way you lean there’s an easy way to toggle it on and off. Open the Settings app, tap on General, tap on Usage, and find the switch named Battery Percentage. Set it to your preferred state and you’ll never have to worry about it (not) cluttering up your status bar again.

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