Tips & Tricks
- December 10, 2013
- Apple TV,
Expecting a new Apple TV under the tree this Christmas? With the latest Apple TV software you can now set it up in a flash right form your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. All you need is to have a recent device running iOS 7 in close proximity. Plug in the new Apple TV and once the initial setup screen appears, simply unlock your device, enable Bluetooth, and place the iPhone within about a foot or so of your Apple TV.
You’ll see a prompt on the iOS side asking you to enter your Apple ID and password, at which point your iCloud and iTunes login information and Wi-Fi and Home Sharing passwords will be transferred from your iOS device to the Apple TV, saving you the trouble of entering information using the cumbersome on-screen keyboard and Apple Remote.
- December 5, 2013
Location-based alerts in the iOS Reminders app are great for letting you know to do something when you get to or leave a specific place, and now iOS 7 makes them even more useful by letting you manually set the distance at which you want to be alerted.
When setting a location-based reminder, a map will appear with your selected location, along with a circle representing how far away from the selected location that the reminder will be triggered—often referred to as a “geofence.” You can hold a finger on the dot at the edge of the circle to adjust this radius from as little as 100m up to around 2,400 km. The shading of the circle also illustrates whether your reminder is for arrival or departure, with the blue shading effectively representing the zone in which the alert will be triggered.
With the holiday season fast approaching, iTunes Gift Cards are likely going to be common gifts for many. One really nice feature introduced in iOS 7 is the ability to redeem iTunes Store Gift Cards simply by scanning them in with the camera on your iOS device. Although it’s been possible to do this on your Mac since last year’s release of iTunes 11, the ability to do it right from your iPhone means you can get to buying stuff with your Gift Cards much more quickly.
Tapping the “Redeem” button found at the bottom of the main iTunes Store or App Store screen will take you to a screen giving you the option to use your camera or enter your code manually. Only the newer gift cards with a box around the code are supported for redeeming via camera, so if you have an unsupported gift card or a promotional coupon, you’ll still have to enter your code in the old-fashioned way.
- November 28, 2013
- Apple TV,
If you’re setting up your Apple TV for AirPlay use in a business or school environment, or simply have a lot of different friends over connecting up to it with their iOS devices, there’s a useful new feature in Apple TV 6.0 that allows you to display AirPlay connection instructions overlaid on the screen saver.
The feature is called Conference Room Display, and can be found under Settings, AirPlay. By default it simply displays the Wi-Fi network name and Apple TV name, although you can also choose to add a custom message at the bottom of the AirPlay instruction window or choose your own a background photo to show up instead of the standard screen saver.
- November 26, 2013
iTunes 11 allows you to integrate your cloud-based music, movie, and TV show purchases directly into your iTunes library, where you can easily download or stream anything in your purchase history. While you can disable this feature entirely if you don’t want to see any of your cloud-based purchases at all, you can also easily hide items individually.
Simply select the item from your iTunes in the Cloud library that you would like to hide, and delete it as if you were removing it from your local iTunes library. You’ll see a dialog box asking you to confirm whether or not you want to hide the item in iCloud. Select the Hide option, and the item will vanish from your library as if you had actually deleted it. Keep in mind, however, that this will also hide the purchased item from all of your devices that share the same iTunes Store account; you can un-hide any hidden purchases by logging into the iTunes Store and selecting your “Account Information” and looking for the “Hidden Purchases” section.
- November 21, 2013
If you find that you frequently type the same text on a regular basis, there’s a handy feature hidden away in the iOS Settings app that can save you a lot of time. If you take a trip into Settings, General, Keyboard you’ll find a section labelled “Shortcuts” where you can add your own abbreviations that will automatically expand into any larger phrase that you would like. While it’s not without a few limitations—multi-line text isn’t supported, for example—it’s definitely a really useful feature, especially on the iPhone and iPod touch keyboard.
Once you’ve created your shortcuts, simply type in the abbreviation and it will be automatically expanded, auto-correct style, to the full phrase. Not only can this be used for common phrases like “On my way” but is also great for things like you’re email address or longer logon names used for online services, since this replacement feature works in just about any text field throughout iOS. It can also be used to override phrases and spellings that auto-correct frequently gets wrong—simply enter the exact same text in the “Phrase” and “Shortcut” fields and this will override the normal auto-correct lookup when typing that word in.
Not only does Google’s Maps app for iOS generally provide better mapping data, but it also includes some nifty UI features, including the ability to zoom in and out on a map with a single finger. This is a particularly great feature for one-handed operation on an iPhone or iPod touch, although it works in the iPad version too. Simply double-tap and hold your finger down anywhere on the map and then slide your finger up to zoom out or down to zoom back in. A single tap-and-hold gesture after releasing your finger returns you to normal panning mode. It can be a really cool way to navigate around your maps once you get the hang of it.
iOS 7 now allows you to set up a list of numbers that you do not wish to receive calls or messages from. Numbers can easily be added to this list simply by selecting a contact card from your recent calls, messages, or contacts and tapping the Block this Caller option at the bottom. A single block list is shared by the Messages, Phone, and FaceTime features, and adding a number to the list will block you from being contacted from that number by any of these methods.
You can view the list of blocked numbers from within the iOS Settings app by selecting Blocked from the Phone, Messages, or FaceTime sections; as noted above, however, the list is shared across all three of these services, so these are just three different ways of accessing the same list.
Messages and FaceTime calls from blocked numbers will be ignored entirely; Phone calls will be sent directly to voicemail, but any resulting voicemail messages will be stored in a separate “Blocked Messages” section that can be found at the bottom of your visual voicemail message list.
iOS 7 introduces a great new feature for users on limited data plans: You can now track how much cellular data is being used by each app on your iPhone or iPad and even disable access to cellular data for specific third-party apps. This is a big improvement over prior versions, where only an aggregate cellular data counter was provided and little to no control over which apps could cellular data.
You can access this feature form the Cellular section in the iOS Settings app; scrolling down will reveal a list of the third-party apps installed on your device. The amount of data used by each app is listed under the app’s name, and a switch to the right of the name allows you to disable cellular data for the app on an individual basis. A section at the bottom of the list provides information on any data used by apps that have been removed from your device as well as a detailed list of data usage by each built-in system service.
Note that this information only affects cellular data use; data used over Wi-Fi is not counted in any of these figures, and switching an app off from this screen will not prevent it from using data while on a Wi-FI connection. These counters will accumulate until manually reset; the “Reset Statistics” button at the very bottom of this screen can be used to reset all data counters—a good idea to do at the start of your monthly billing cycle if you’re trying to track data usage against your monthly allotment.
Last year, iTunes 11 introduced a new “Home Videos” category, providing a great way—in principle—to use iTunes for storing personal videos and syncing them with other Apple devices without cluttering up the main “Movies” category. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the release of Apple TV 6.0 and iOS 7 that the category become fully supported across all of Apple’s current hardware devices.
The “Home Videos’ category will remain hidden in iTunes and on other devices until you actually place something in it; to categorize a video as a “Home Video” simply import it into the main “Movies” section and then open the properties by selecting it and choosing File, Get Info, selecting the Options tab and setting the Media Kind field to “Home Video.”
You’ll need to sync the video to any iOS devices the old-fashioned way, since iCloud doesn’t support non-purchased video content, at which point a new “Home Videos’ button should appear in the iOS “Videos” app.
Sometimes it’s useful to have access to certain maps while away from an Internet connection, especially if you’re an iPod touch or Wi-Fi-only iPad user. If you’re using Google Maps—and with the sub-par performance of Apple’s own built-in Maps app you probably are—recently viewed information is cached automatically to some degree, but you can also actually tell Google Maps to pre-load a full detailed version of whatever map view is on your screen.
Simply focus on what you’d like to save, and then type the phrase “ok maps” in the search box. You’ll see a brief dialog indicating that Google Maps is pre-loading the map followed by a confirmation that the on-screen map area has been cached on your device. This is particularly useful for working with larger areas like whole cities, as the full detail will be stored on your device, allowing you to zoom in and see everything even while offline. Keep in mind, however, that this doesn’t work beyond a certain maximum area—about the size of an average city—so don’t expect to be able to store maps for your whole state or country.
- October 29, 2013
- Apple TV,
One of the more subtle new features in the Apple TV 6.0 Software Update is the ability to have future updates downloaded and applied automatically—a great feature if you don’t feel like waiting for an update to apply when you’re getting ready to watch your favourite show. You can find this option and switch it on or off under Settings, General, Software Updates from the Apple TV menu.
Note that this feature is enabled by default on new Apple TV units and disabled by default if you’re updating from an older version. If you leave it disabled you will still be prompted to apply updates manually whenever new Apple TV software is available, as in prior versions.
If you regularly flag messages in the iOS 7 Mail app, you may have noticed that the traditional flag icon has been replaced by an orange dot, similar to that used for unread messages, simply presented in a different colour. Fortunately, if you miss the more visually discernible flag icon used in prior iOS versions, there is in fact a way to put it back. Simply go into the iOS Settings, select Mail, Calendar, Contacts and look for the Flag Style option.
You can only change the style, so you’re stuck with orange as the colour; the multi-coloured flags found in Apple Mail on OS X remain absent from its iOS counterpart.
With iOS 7 you can now choose to display abbreviated names in apps like Mail and Messages, allowing you to fit more information on the screen. This is particularly useful for dealing with messages with multiple parties, but can also help when working with longer names as well.
By default, iOS 7 will show the user’s full first name and last initial, or a user’s nickname if you’ve set one. If you prefer to disable this, or use another form of abbreviation, this can be changed with a quick trip into Mail, Contacts, Calendars in the iOS Settings app, under the “Short Name” option.
Did you know that the iOS Messages app allows you to easily browse through the photos and videos in your iMessage or text message conversations? When you tap on a photo to view it in full-screen mode, you can swipe back and forth through all of the photos in the current conversation, much like you would in the Photos app. In addition, tapping on the button in the bottom right corner while viewing an item will bring up a list of all of the media in the current conversation, with the current item highlighted; you can tap on any item to go directly to that entry, and then continue swiping left and right from there.
Keep in mind that Messages only displays the last 50 messages, but all of your older messages remain stored on your device unless you’ve manually erased them; you can access these previous entries by scrolling up to the very top of a conversation and tapping Load Earlier Messages. Once loaded, any older photos and videos in the conversation will also be included in the media listing and browsing views.
iOS 7 introduces the ability to have your apps automatically updated in the background, saving you the trouble of going to the App Store to check for and download updates automatically. Your device tries to handle this intelligently to avoid draining too much power or consuming data needlessly, but if you don’t want to use this feature at all, you can easily turn it off. Simply go into Settings, iTunes & App Stores and look for the “Updates” option below automatic downloads. If you’re on an iPhone or cellular-capable iPad, a “Use Cellular Data” option can also be toggled off from here to force your updates to download only over Wi-Fi.
Keep in mind that even with automatic updates on, you’ll get a message in Notification Centre telling you what’s been updated, and you can open the App Store to check out what’s new in your latest app updates.
The new Parallax feature is one of the more interesting design changes in iOS 7, but many find it to be motion sickness inducing or just downright distracting. If you find yourself in that group of users, the good news is that you can easily turn it off. Simply go into Settings, General, Accessibility and you can the option listed as Reduce Motion; toggling this ON will disable the parallax effect throughout iOS 7. As an added bonus, turning this off may even help you conserve a bit of battery life by reducing the use of the accelerometer and gyroscope.
If you’ve ever tried to e-mail out some of your pictures from the iOS Photos app you’ve probably noticed that the e-mail option disappears if you select more than five photos. While this still hasn’t been addressed in iOS 7, the good news is there’s a quick and fairly easy way to work around this limitation: Simply use the iOS clipboard. Go into the Photos app, select as many photos as you would like to share, and then choose “Copy” from the sharing menu. You can then switch over to the iOS Mail app, start composing a new message, and paste your photos in by tapping and holding in an empty area of the message and selecting “Paste” from the pop-up menu that appears.
There doesn’t seem to be any practical limit to how many photos you can share via the clipboard, but keep in mind that just because you can select dozens of photos doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to send them out in a single e-mail message at full size—many mail servers will reject e-mails with excessively large attachments. The good news is that iOS Mail app will offer you to reduce the size of your attached photos for you before sending your message, so sending a large number of photos via e-mail is definitely an option if you’re willing to scale them down.
With the redesign of the music app in iOS 7, Apple also removed the ability to directly playback an entire track list from a specific genre. While Smart Playlists would still be one obvious workaround for this, this may not be practical if you have a lot of genres and are used to being able to easily select them.
The good news, however, is that you can still workaround this. Swipe downward to reveal the search field and type in your Genre name there. When it appears in the search results you can tap on it to view all of the tracks assigned to that particular genre, grouped by album. Tap on an individual track and your device will begin playback using the displayed list of tracks as your playlist.
If you’ve just upgraded from an older iPhone to a new iPhone 5c or iPhone 5s, chances are that you transferred your data over from your old device using a backup made by iCloud or iTunes. While this is a really easy way to get your new device up and running quickly, it’s important to remember that both iTunes and iCloud store your backup based on your specific hardware device, not simply your device’s name. This means that your old backup is left lying around taking up space after you switch to a new device, while your new device creates an entirely new backup.
Once you’re sure that you’ve restored everything properly to your new device, it’s really quite easy to get rid of these old backups. For iCloud backups, go into Settings, iCloud, Storage & Backup and tap the Manage Storage option on your new device. This will show a list of all of the backups shown in your iCloud account, with the one for the current device indicated. Tap on the other backup with the same name, and choose “Delete Backup” from the subsequent screen that appears.
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