Tips & Tricks
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While the iPhone and other mobile devices have resulted in (mostly) great strides in the creation of mobile-friendly web sites, sometimes the mobile version of a site just doesn’t cut it for whatever reason — maybe it’s hard to read or it’s missing functionality that the full version of the site offers. The good news is that if you find yourself stranded on a second-rate mobile-optimized version of a site, you actually can ask Safari to try and go out and fetch the “desktop” version for you.
Simply tap on the Safari address bar, and when the list of bookmarks comes up, swipe downward to reveal a hidden options menu lurking above the fold. Tap “Request Desktop Site” and Safari will go out and reload the page, pretending to be a desktop browser. While it doesn’t always work due to the variety of mobile web site code out there, it’s a great way to get the full-sized version, which can actually be even more handy if you’re working with a larger screen anyway, such as on an iPhone 6 Plus.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Traditionally, iOS has retained your entire conversation history in the Messages database,so if you send a lot of pictures and videos via iMessage, this can eat up quite a bit of space on your iPhone over time. Prior to iOS 8, the only real way to deal with this was to remove an entire conversation, basically starting over, or to manually scroll back through your Messages history and remove individual items one-by-one. Fortunately, in iOS 8 there’s a slightly easier way.
If you go into the Messages section in your Settings app, you’ll see a new option, “Keep Messages.” This setting allows you to tell to iOS to automatically purge anything in your Messages conversations older than the specified time frame. Unfortunately, the options are limited to either “Forever” (the behavior in past iOS versions), 30 days, or 1 year, but even 30 days is still far better than having to go through and delete an entire conversation if you’re running low on space. Keep in mind that enabling this option will immediately purge everything older than the specified time frame, and continue to do so as a rolling thirty-day or one-year window, so if you want to keep your old conversations backed up somewhere you’ll want to look at archiving them using a third-party Mac or PC app before you take the plunge.
Although Apple’s new iCloud Photo Library feature remains in beta at this point, iOS 8 still packs in a few nice little photo management features. One of the lesser-known of these is that you can now actually hide photos from showing up in your main timeline in the Photos app. To do this, simply tap-and-hold on a photo — either in the thumbnail or full-screen views — and a context menu will appear with a “Hide” option. Tapping “Hide” brings up a confirmation, explaining that the photo will be hidden from the “Moments, Collections, and Years” views, but still be shown in any albums that it’s been explicitly placed into, as well as the Camera Roll. If you’re using iCloud Photo Library, the hidden status will also sync across all of your iOS devices, removing the photo from your timeline on all of them.
Once you’ve hidden at least one photo, a new “Hidden” smart album will also appear in the Albums list, giving you quick access to any photos you’ve hidden. Unhiding a photo is done in the same manner as hiding a photo — tap and hold on the photo you want to unhide, and the context menu will show the “Unhide” option. This is a handy way to keep photos on your iPhone without having them clutter up your timeline, and it’s especially useful if you’re using iCloud Photo Library to store your entire photo collection in the cloud.
Controlling web access on iOS devices has traditionally been somewhat tricky, requiring that you not only disable Safari entirely but also avoid installing apps with their own web browsing capability—a loophole that had Apple requiring even the most innocuous apps to carry a “17+” rating anytime a web browser was included within.
The good news is that iOS 7 significantly improves this, allowing you to permit the use of Safari while still controlling access to specific web sites; you can choose to limit access to common adult sites, block specific sites by address, or block everything that’s not on a specific list of permitted sites.
To enable this feature, go into your iOS Settings app and choose General, Restrictions and look for the Websites section. From here, you can choose one of three restriction levels; choosing “Specific Websites Only” also helpfully provides a predefined list of kid-friendly sites that you can customize further. This list will also automatically be included in Safari’s bookmarks for faster access.
It’s especially worth noting that this works not only with the built-in Safari browser, but any other iOS Browser or app that includes a built-in browser, so you also no longer need to worry about whether something seemingly harmless like a reference app may suddenly provide a backdoor to unfettered Internet access.
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