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Tips & Tricks

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.

Setting a Sleep Timer on the iPhone

If you regularly like to fall asleep to music, you may find it handy to know that the iPhone and other iOS devices have a sleep timer feature hidden away in the Clock app’s Timer section. To find this, simply open up the Clock app and go to the “Timer” section. Set a duration for the timer, and instead of choosing a sound, scroll down to the bottom and select the “Stop Playing” option. To set this up even more quickly, you can open the Clock app from the Control Center, which will take you directly to the Timer screen.

This doesn’t just work in the built-in Music app either; this feature will stop any audio — or even video — that happens to be playing when the timer expires, so it can be used with everything from Spotify to YouTube.

Managing Saved Passwords and Credit Cards in Safari

If you’ve been using Safari for a while on your iPhone or iPad, you’ve probably had it offer to save passwords and credit numbers for you on more than one occasion. If you’re wondering where all of this information goes, look no further than the Safari section in your iOS Settings app. Under the “Passwords and Autofill” subsection, you’ll see categories for “Saved Passwords” and “Saved Credit Cards.”

If you’ve passcode-protected your device (and if you’re storing passwords and credit cards on it, we’re really hoping you have), you’ll need to enter your passcode to get into either of these sections, but once there, you can see a list of all of the passwords and credit card numbers that have been saved for autofilling on web sites, and you can even edit or delete any of them from here. If you’re using iCloud Keychain, these will also sync to your other iOS devices and your Mac, so any changes you make here will be reflected on your other devices. You can also toggle either category OFF from here if you no longer want to be prompted to save or automatically fill in passwords or credit cards when browsing in Safari. A “Use Contact Info” option is also here that allows you to fill in email, name, and address fields on web forms with information from a selected contact record.

As an additional tip, if you’re looking for a quick way to erase all of this data from your iPhone or iPad in one fell swoop, simply go to your “Passcode” section in the Settings app and turn off your passcode entirely — as a security precaution, you’ll be asked whether you want to erase all saved passwords and credit card data. If you’re using iCloud Keychain, this will also toggle that feature off before removing them from your device, leaving them in iCloud, but wiping them from local storage.

Accessing Recently Closed Tabs in Safari

Sometimes it’s almost too easy to accidentally close a tab in Safari on iOS, especially when you’re using an iPhone 6 Plus or iPad in landscape view. Of course, the normal browser history is okay if it’s something you’ve opened in the past little while, but many of us tend to leave tabs open in our browsers throughout the day, and sometimes even for days at a time, meaning it can be a challenge to figure out not only what you just accidentally closed, but when you first opened it.

While fans of Chrome will know that it provides an obvious way to get at your recently closed tabs via a list right in the history screen, the good news is that Apple hasn’t forgotten to include this feature in Safari either — they’ve just hidden it well. If you tap and hold on the “+” button normally used to open a new tab, a “Recently Closed Tabs” list will pop up. Tap on anything here to open it back up again in a new tab. Keep in mind that reopening an item from the “Recently Closed Tabs” list will remove it from there, but it will also be placed at the top of your browser history as if it were newly opened.

Applying and removing Filters in Camera + Photos

You probably already know that you can apply filters to a photo in iOS 8—either in the Camera app while you’re shooting or afterward by editing it in the Photos app – but what you may not realize is that these filters are applied non-destructively, even when you apply them before you take the photo in the Camera app.

If you apply a filter and then later decide that maybe you preferred a different one, or want to remove the filter altogether, you can simply go into the Photos app, edit the photo as you normally would, and change up the filter or set it back to “None.” If you’re using iCloud Photo Library, these non-destructive filters even transfer across to your other iOS devices or Photos on your Mac, so you can remove the filter even later on from your desktop – it’s applied in much the same way as any other edit, even when its added at the time of shooting the image.

Quickly reading and replying to Messages

One of the useful smaller features added in iOS 8 is the ability to quickly read and reply to your Messages directly from the new message notification that comes up.

When a new message comes in while you’re using your iPhone, the notification banner that appears can actually be “pulled down” to read the full message and quickly reply to it; simply tap on the banner and swipe downward to “pull” the banner down and the rest of the message text will appear (for longer messages), along with a reply field. Even if you don’t want to reply right away, this method has the advantage of allowing you to read the full text of longer messages. Be aware, however, that if you have Read Receipts enabled, doing this will mark the message as read, sending a “Read” notification back to the sender, even if you don’t open the Messages app.

This also works from the lock screen and Notification Center. Swipe right-to-left on the notification and a “Reply” button should appear that you can tap to bring up the reply view right away without the need to unlock your iPhone or go into the Messages app.

Note that if you have disabled Message previews, you won’t be able to reply from the lock screen, as this would reveal the content of the message. However, you can still use this quick reply feature from the Notification Center (once your iPhone is unlocked) or from the notification banner if a message comes in while you’re using your iPhone. Although the notification banner will still only say “iMessage,” pulling down on it will reveal the text of the message, saving you a trip into the Messages app if you’re curious to know what the sender has to say without having to interrupt what you’re doing.

Adjusting Siri’s volume

While adjusting the volume on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch is pretty obvious, you may not have known that Siri actually has its own, separate volume setting. This means that you can actually adjust Siri’s volume independently of the system volume, or the volume level used in other apps.

To do this, simply start up Siri by holding the Home button and then use the standard volume up and down buttons to adjust the volume. The standard volume adjustment overlay will appear, but you may notice that the number of bars shown will be different from whatever you’ve set on your iPhone home screen. Siri will remember this volume setting for you, allowing it to always respond at a fixed volume, regardless of wherever the system volume is set.

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.

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