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

Tips & Tricks

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 your iPhone as a level

The iPhone’s built-in Compass app is probably one of those apps that most people simply tuck away into a folder and generally forget about, but it’s actually got a pretty handy feature hidden inside, allowing you to essentially use your iPhone’s built-in accelerometer as a level.

While third-party apps have existed for this purpose pretty much since the iPhone came out, the built-in Compass app actually eliminates the need to bother with other apps. Simply open the Compass app and swipe from right to left and you’ll be presented with one of two different leveling views, depending on how you’re holding your iPhone.

Lay the iPhone relatively flat, and you get two circles that will move farther apart or closer together along two axes depending on how perfectly horizontal the iPhone is laying – useful for leveling a table, for example. On the other hand, if you hold the iPhone at more than a 45 degree angle, you’ll get a horizon indicator instead to help illustrate how much your iPhone is tilted to either the left or right.

The app defaults to true level, however you can also match an existing slope by holding the iPhone against the surface you want to match and then tapping the screen to capture that as the current slope. In this mode, deviation will be shown in red instead of green, and the desired slope will be illustrated in black. Tapping again returns you to standard level mode.

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.

Showing badge count for only important messages in iOS Mail

Sometimes dealing with email can be an overwhelming task, and the default settings in the iOS Mail app — showing every unread message on your icon badge — doesn’t make things any easier in that regard. Especially if you’re the sort of person who feels that every red indicator on your home screen has to be dealt with as soon as possible. While alternative email applications and services often do a better job of filtering out and only notifying you of important email messages, you can actually accomplish this to some degree with Apple’s own built-in Mail app with a little bit of tweaking.

If you visit the Notifications section in the main iOS Settings app and select Mail, you’ll see that you can not only set up notifications on a per-account basis, but can also do this for entries on your VIP list or for Thread Notifications. If you’re finding yourself inundated by low priority emails, simply turn off ALL notifications — including the badge count — in the upper section, and adjust the VIP list and Thread Notifications to your preference. If you then setup your VIP list with all of your important personal and work related contacts, and enable Thread Notifications for any other important messages for which you might be expecting a response, you can then rely on these settings to ensure that the little red numeric badge on the Mail app icon only lights up when there’s actually something important for you to look at, rather than the latest random newsletter or discount offer.

Lower-priority messages will still land in your inbox of course, and remain unread in Mail, but you can get to them at your leisure rather than having an unread count demanding your attention on your home screen. Further, you can even make use of Smart Mailboxes to create folders that will filter out only messages in your Inbox that are from your VIPs or are part of a thread notification.

Navigating through songs and videos at finer intervals

While it’s been around since iOS 3.0, you may not realize that you can actually vary the speed at which you adjust the position – known as “scrubbing” – through a song or video to allow you to navigate to a specific position with greater precision. This works in most of the built-in iOS apps such as Video, Music, and Podcasts, although it may not be available in third-party apps depending on the playback methods they use.

When you’re playing a video or listening to a song or podcast, you can of course adjust the position by placing your finger on the playhead within the scrubber bar that appears to show you your relative listening/viewing position. However, if you slide your finger down after you place it on the playhead, the scrubbing speed will be reduced, first to half-speed, then quarter-speed, then “fine” scrubbing as you continue downward; text below the scrubbing bar will indicate the current speed at which you’re scrubbing, and you can then move your finger left or right from that position to scrub with much more granular control.

Suspending or removing Apple Pay via iCloud

Apple takes security pretty seriously, particularly when it comes to Apple Pay, and authentication features like Touch ID and Wrist Detection help to ensure that only you can use your device to make payments. However, if you’ve misplaced your iPhone or Apple Watch, you may not be entirely confident in relying solely on these features to protect your credit cards or bank accounts, so Apple provides several ways to remove your Apple Pay information from these devices even when they’re not in your hands.

If you’ve lost your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, and you’re concerned that it may be in somebody else’s hands, the best thing to do is to immediately put it into Lost Mode by logging into your iCloud account at iCloud.com, selecting Find My iPhone from any web browser, and then clicking on your iPhone and choosing the “Lost Mode” option. This will not only immediately suspend all Apple Pay credit and debit cards associated with that device, but will also disable Touch ID entirely, and allow you to enter a message that can be displayed on the home screen along with a phone number that whoever finds your iPhone can call you at by tapping on a link. When your iPhone or other iOS device is back in your hands, you can unlock it with your normal passcode or password and then enter your Apple ID password when prompted to turn off Lost Mode and re-enable your Apple Pay cards. Note that this does not affect your ability to use your actual physical credit or debit cards; only the virtual cards associated with Apple Pay on that specific iOS device are suspended.

If you’d rather permanently deactivate any Apple Pay cards associated with your device, or you’re dealing with an Apple Watch, where “Lost Mode” isn’t currently supported, then you can remove your Apple Pay cards entirely from the Settings section in your iCloud account. In here you should see a list of all of your devices, with those enabled for Apple Pay showing the Pay logo beside them. Click on a device, and you’ll see the list of Apple Pay cards associated with that device, with “Remove” links beside each. Simply click on these and they’re removed. The Apple Pay virtual card number will be deactivated on the back-end processing systems, so this even works with the Apple Watch or an iPhone that’s offline, and as with suspending cards in Lost Mode, this only affects the virtual cards associated with that iOS devices; your physical credit and debit cards will remain active and usable.

Manually refreshing Passbook passes

Have you ever wondered why some of your Passbook passes don’t show correct balances for your accounts? While passes in Passbook are supposed to update automatically, for whatever reason this doesn’t always seem to be the case. Fortunately, if you find that your balances are out of date on some of your passes, the good news is that you can refresh them manually.

Simply bring up the pass in Passbook and tap on the “i” in the lower right corner to view the “back” of the pass. At the top you should see a date or time when the pass was last updated; if it looks like it’s been a while, simply pull down on the pass to force a refresh. Passbook will go out and update the pass information, along with your balance — and the screen should show “Updated Just Now” at the top. Note that while all passes will show an “updated” date at the top, “static” passes that don’t include a refresh option will simply show the date that they were first installed, and pulling down won’t have any effect.

Previewing Link URLs in Safari

When you’re wandering around the web, sometimes it’s a good idea to check where a link goes before simply tapping on it. To do this on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, it’s actually as simple as tapping and holding your finger on the link, instead of quickly tapping and releasing.

A menu will slide up from the bottom with the URL of the link shown right at the top. From here you can also open the linked page in the background (or in a new tab if you’re on an iPad or iPhone 6 Plus in landscape mode), add it to your reading list, or copy it to your clipboard.

Showing only downloaded books in iBooks

By default, the iBooks app on iOS will show you not only content on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, but also anything that exists in your purchased library. While this is a handy way of making your entire library readily available to you without having to sort through your iBookstore purchase history, it can sometimes get a little overwhelming.

The good news is that it’s easy enough to filter out this content to show only iBooks that have actually been downloaded to your device, rather than including everything from the cloud. While older versions of iBooks hid this away in the iOS Settings app, it’s closer to access in iOS 8, although not as obvious — you need to tap on the name of the current collection at the top of the screen, which will bring down a pull down menu with a toggle to “Hide iCloud Books.” Simply turn this ON, and everything that hasn’t already been downloaded to your iOS device will vanish from your library, leaving you with a more focused view of your library.

Resetting your Home Screen Layout

If you keep a lot of apps on your iPhone and are always moving icons around, you may sometimes find that you’ve hit a point where things are just too overwhelming and you can’t really find anything anymore. Sometimes it’s nice just to start with a clean layout. The good news is that iOS makes this pretty easy, with a one-tap setting that lets you easily reset your home screen icon layout back to its factory defaults – without affecting any other data or settings on your device.

To do this, simply go into the iOS Settings app, and choose General, Reset, Reset Home Screen Layout. You’ll be prompted to confirm you want to do this (and keep in mind, it’s irreversible if you proceed), after which your icons will all be nicely organized with the built-in apps in their original, out-of-the-box configuration, and everything else sorted alphabetically after that. Note that this will also remove all of your folders, placing your app icons at the home screen level, but if you feel inundated by apps, this can be a great way to do a spring cleaning and get rid of apps you no longer need that may have otherwise been hidden away in folders.

Inserting Pauses when Dialing a Phone Number

Although dial-up touchtone services like voicemail and calling cards have started to be replaced by modern technologies like Visual Voicemail and voice-over-IP, sometimes they’re still useful and necessary. If you find yourself frequently dialing into a voicemail system that requires a password, making long distance calls using a calling card service, or even dialing somebody’s office extension, the iPhone still provides the ability to automatically insert pauses into your dialing sequence to help you automate the process.

When dialing from the iPhone keypad, you can do this by holding down the * key to insert a timed two-second pause, or holding down the # key to insert a manual pause — causing the iPhone to wait to send additional touch tones until you tap the “Dial” button again. These pauses are represented by a comma and semi-colon, respectively, and you can enter these characters directly into an iOS Contact record if you want to save the number that way — useful for when you need to reach somebody through an automated switchboard, for example.

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