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

Tips & Tricks

Preparing for an iOS device/software upgrade

Whether you’re planning to purchase a new iOS device or are simply chomping at the bit to install the latest version on your current device, there are some simple steps you should take to ensure that the transition goes smoothly. You’ll want to connect your device to your Mac or PC and do a complete backup and sync, making sure that you’ve got a copy of all your content, apps, and settings on your computer. You might also want to make sure you’ve written down or otherwise stored away any app-specific passwords you need, and if you’re thinking about signing up for iTunes Match, making a complete second copy of your music library couldn’t hurt, just on the off chance things go awry and iTunes decides that you don’t need those silly music files anymore.

Deleting or Forwarding Texts in Messages

Ever get a funny text you’d like to share with more friends, or a potentially distasteful message that you’d rather not have hanging out on your device? Messages will let you handle either situation quickly and easily. Simply navigate to the conversation where the message you want to share/delete is located, then tap the Edit button. You’ll see selection circles appear to the left of each message, letting you pick and choose which ones to send to your friends or send to the digital dump. The same Edit interface also provides you with a Clear All button in the upper left corner, in case you want to get rid of an entire conversation thread instead of just a message or two.

Taking control of Spotlight on iOS devices

Built-in Spotlight search is one of the more powerful—yet widely overlooked—features of iOS. Sometimes, though, it can be a little too powerful—odds are you don’t really want to be search for Voice Memos at the same time you’re searching for an app that’s buried in a folder somewhere. That’s where today’s tip comes in. By opening the Settings app, tapping on General, and then tapping on Spotlight Search, you’ll be given a full list of everything Spotlight can search, with check marks beside everything it will search. Simply go through and tap on the stuff you don’t want it searching—Voice Memos, for example—to ensure that it’s unchecked, and use the “handles” on the right-hand side to change the order in which the results appear—by moving Applications to the top, for instance. In no time you’ll have a device-wide search that’s as tailored to your needs as the stuff you’re searching for.

Opening links in new pages in Safari

If you’re anything like us, odds are you’re constantly using the “open in new tab” functionality of your desktop browser—but did you know you can do the same on your iOS device? In Safari, simply tap and hold on any link you’d like to open elsewhere, and tap the “Open in New Page” button on the slide-up that appears. Just be careful not to get too crazy, as you can only have so many open at once.

Pausing an iOS app download

iOS typically does a pretty good job of handling multiple app downloads—but did you know that you can help the process along by picking a choosing which apps to download first? Simply tap on any downloading app to switch its status from “Waiting” or “Loading” to “Paused.” When you’re ready for its download to start, simply tap it again to add it back to the download queue. Now you never have to let a 100MB+ game download get in the way of a simple Facebook update again.

Migrating between iOS devices

As our iOS devices become more and more powerful, they also end up holding more and more of our information — making it an even bigger pain to move from one to another. Thankfully, there’s a super simple way to make sure your newest device has all the info from your old one. As long as you’ve backed up prior your device to iTunes and your new device is running the same or later version of iOS, you simply plug in your new iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad into your main computer, select your prior device’s backup, and hit restore from backup—after it’s done syncing, you should have all the same preferences, settings, apps, and media as you had on your old device without needing to do a thing. For more information on migrating between iOS devices, see our August 26 Ask iLounge article.

Charging your iOS devices on a Mac or PC

While Apple’s pack-in chargers for the iPhone and iPad provide just the right amount of power for each device, charging iOS devices on desktops and laptops can be more of a crapshoot. Luckily, it’s not too hard to take control of the situation and ensure that your device is getting the juice it needs. If you’re having problems charging or upgrading your device on a PC, you’ll want to make sure it’s plugged in to a port on the machine—not a hub—and try to unplug any other unnecessary USB devices while you’re at it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, users of Apple’s Mac computers have things a little easier.

On Macs newer than 2007, all your USB ports should supply at least 1100 mA of charging power to any device—such as an iPhone or iPad—that needs it. The extra power is doled out on a first come, first served basis, so the first device you plug in is virtually guaranteed to receive the maximum amount of power, while later devices are less likely. If you have a Mac that was built this year, it might even support full 2.1 Amp fast charging of the iPad. Mac users also have a very simple way to check how much juice each device is receiving. Simply go the the Apple menu, select About This Mac, and hit the More Info… button, which launches System Profiler. From there you can select USB from the sidebar under Hardware, and select the device you want to check on. It’ll show you the Current Available, the Current Required, and the Extra Operating Current—by adding the Available and Extra Current together, you’ll get the current power output for that port. For more info, see this Apple Support document.

Adding PDFs directly to iBooks via Safari

When Apple added PDF support in iBooks, it was a huge boon to users who hadn’t yet sprung for a standalone, third-party reader. But did you know that you can add files directly to this PDF library from Safari on the iPad? Simply open a PDF in Safari and tap the page - at the top you’ll see a button to “Open in iBooks,” which will automatically add the document to your library. Starting in iOS 5, you’ll also be able to take advantage of this feature on your iPhone or iPod touch, making the process of adding a PDF to your iBooks library far more streamlined.

Scrolling inside boxes in Safari

If you’ve ever come across a box containing text, a map, or some other interactive element on a webpage in Safari on your iOS device, you may have noticed that when trying to scroll inside it with a single finger, you end up moving the entire page instead. As it turns out, Safari on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch does offer a way to do so: simply scroll inside the box as you’d normally do, but use two fingers instead one. Problem solved.

Enabling Find My iPhone in iOS

If you’ve had the need to use Find My iPhone to locate your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad even a single time, you know the outstanding utility of this feature. Once limited to paying MobileMe customers, it’s now free for all iPhone 4, fourth-generation iPod touch, and iPad users, and will continue to be when Apple makes the transition over to iCloud. If you haven’t yet set it up on your device, here’s how to do so.

Open up the Settings app, then tap on Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and tap Add Account. Choose MobileMe, then use your Apple ID—it can be the same one you use for the iTunes Store, or a separate ID, if you have one—to sign up. Don’t worry if you’re not a MobileMe subscriber—logging in with a non-MobileMe ID will still give you access to the following screen, on which you can toggle the feature on and off. Turn it on, and you’ll be able to login on the web or from another iOS device using the same login and track, lock, remotely wipe, or just display a message or play a sound on your device.

Setting up AutoFill in Safari on iOS

Over the years, Safari on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch has become more capable, incrementally gaining features from its desktop counterpart. One of those features—AutoFill—can come in extremely handy, but doesn’t necessarily get used a lot because it’s not turned on by default. To add this trick to your mobile web browsing arsenal, open the Settings app, tap on Safari, and then tap on AutoFill. On the screen that appears, you’ll need to turn Use Contact Info on, Names & Passwords on—if you want—and tap the My Info area to select your own entry from your list of contacts, letting Safari in on specifics like your address, phone number, and other details it can use to automatically populate forms, saving you time and frustration.

Tracking packages directly from Mail in iOS

If you’ve ordered something online, odds are you’ll get a shipment notification via email—and that means it’s likely to show up in Mail on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Luckily, Apple’s latest versions of iOS can automatically parse UPS and FedEx tracking numbers, giving you fast access to the whereabouts of your latest arrival. To take advantage of this feature, simply find the tracking number in the email, and tap and hold until an option to Track Shipment appears, and tap on that to be taken to the courier’s tracking page. It’s a lot easier for the anxious than trying to copy and paste the number every time. Trust us.

Erasing your iOS device without a computer

The ability to take your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad into an Apple Store for service is great—but handing over all of your personal info? Not so much. If you’re getting your iOS device replaced, selling it, or simply handing an older model over to a family member, you’ll want to get all your contacts, calendars, and other personal data off the device—and luckily, there’s an easy, built-in feature in iOS for doing exactly that. Open the Settings app, tap on General, and scroll to the bottom of the screen until you see the button for Reset. Tap on that, and then tap Erase All Content and Settings. The device will have you verify that this is what you want to do—you are erasing everything, after all—and will then do its thing, rebooting afterwards into the same state it was in when you first took it out of the box.

Putting an iOS device in DFU mode

Whether it’s an unresponsive device, an upgrade gone bad, or some other sort of software-based gremlin, sometimes you literally have to force iTunes to recognize and restore your iOS device. Short for Device Firmware Update, DFU mode is a last resort for bringing misbehaving units back to working order—and here’s how to trigger it.

To start, you need to have the device plugged into your computer via USB, and then turn it off. Once it’s completely powered down, press and hold both the sleep/wake and Home buttons for ten seconds. After ten seconds, release the sleep/wake button but continue to hold the Home button down until you see a pop-up alert from iTunes telling you that it has “detected an iPhone/iPad/iPod touch in recovery mode,” and that it needs to restore the device before it can be used. If your device starts up normally without seeing this pop-up, simply try the process again—sometimes it takes a couple tries. And if that doesn’t work, well, there’s always the Genius Bar!

Navigating the Music app with one hand

For those of you with smaller hands, you may have noticed that it’s not always easy to reach the back button on iPhone and iPod touch Music app’s Now Playing screen when you’re holding the device one-handed. Luckily, Apple has built-in another form of navigation: simply swipe to the right on this screen and the app will return to the menu you were last looking at, letting you easily choose another song. It’s not the most complicated tip, but if you ever need it, it sure comes in handy.

Getting rid of Wi-Fi network pop-ups on iOS

Today’s tips is aimed at the urban dwellers. Do you frequently notice that your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad is asking you to join random, unknown networks while you’re walking, riding, or even just sitting at a nearby cafĂ©? Unless you like these interruptions, there’s an easy way to rid yourself of these annoying notifications. Simply open the Settings app, tap Wi-Fi, and set the “Ask to Join Networks” slider to off. Now your device will only connect to networks that it’s previously connected to—like the ones at your home and work—unless you open that same Wi-Fi menu and manually look for a new connection. It can be a little less handy, but it’s also a lot less aggravating.

Quickly add apps, content to iOS devices

More than likely you’re accustomed to using iTunes’ tabbed device management interface for handling what apps, music, videos, and other media you want on your devices. But did you know that you can add just a few items quickly and easily without ever having to change those settings? Simply drag-and-drop any app or content you want from your iTunes library to the iOS device’s listing in the sidebar. iTunes will automatically add it to the device—assuming there’s enough available space—even if you’ve got automatic syncing turned on.

Setting up Automatic Downloads in iOS and iTunes

Announced this week as part of Apple’s new iCloud service, you can now set your iOS devices and iTunes to automatically download new purchases made on other devices. On your iOS device running 4.3.3, go in to the Settings apps and tap on Store. Right at the top, you’ll see slider toggles for turning Automatic Downloads of Music, Apps, and Books on and off. In addition, there’s a separate option below that on 3G-enabled devices that lets you decide whether you’d like them to download purchases over the cellular network when you’re away from Wi-Fi.

In iTunes 10.3, the process is just as simple. Open the iTunes > Preferences… menu, click the Store tab, and then click the three check boxes for the Automatic Downloads of Music, Apps, and Books as you’d like. From now on, whenever you purchase a song, app, or book on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or home computer, you’ll find it waiting for you the next time you use one of your other devices.

Downloading past iTunes purchases to your iOS device

As you might have heard, Apple has announced iTunes in the Cloud, allowing users to download past iTunes Store music and music video purchases directly to their iPhones, iPads, or iPod touches, free of charge. If your device is running iOS 4.3.3, simply open the iTunes Store app and look at the bottom row of tabs. You should see a new tab called Purchased, from which you can access and download all your past iTunes Store music purchases. You can look for specific songs by searching, browse past purchases via Recent Purchases or Not On This iPhone automatically-populated lists, or browse by artist. When you’ve found the song or album you were looking for, simply tap the cloud download button to the right of the listing. Just remember that if you’re on 3G, these downloads will count against your data limit, so try to stay away from grabbing up album after album until you’re back on Wi-Fi.

Grabbing screenshots on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

Whether you’re a designer trying to get a mobile layout pixel-perfect, a frustrated customer needing to document some strange behavior for the folks at the Genius Bar, or a wordsmith wanting to memorialize your latest Words With Friends achievement, you’re going to need a screenshot. Luckily, every portable iOS device has a super-simple way to capture whatever’s happening on your screen. Simply push the sleep/wake and Home buttons simultaneously, and you should see the screen flash, accompanied by the familiar camera snap sound—provided your device has a built-in speaker. This trick works anywhere in the OS—including when an app is running—and you’ll find the resulting image in your Camera Roll, where you can access and share it just like any other photo you’ve snapped.

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