Tips & Tricks
- 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If you regularly flag messages in the iOS 7 Mail app, you may have noticed that the traditional flag icon has been replaced by an orange dot, similar to that used for unread messages, simply presented in a different colour.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.
If you’re an iPhone user already and have just upgraded to a new iPhone 5c or 5s, chances are that you want to move all of your data over from your previous device. iOS actually makes this process really easy simply by allowing you to restoring a current backup from either iTunes or iCloud. There is one small catch, however: For security purposes, passwords for services such as your Wi-Fi networks and e-mail accounts are stored in your backups in a way unique to your original device. This protects them should your backup fall into the wrong hands, but it also means that they can’t be transferred to a different iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch for the same reason. The good news, however, is that you can use an encrypted backup in iTunes in order to store your passwords for transfer to another device; since the backup is already encrypted, iTunes and iOS don’t need to encrypt the passwords inside any further.
To set this up, simply connect your original iPhone to your computer, open iTunes, and check the “Encrypt iPhone Backup” option. You’ll need to set a password that can be used to decrypt the backup, after which iTunes will immediately make an encrypted backup of your iPhone to your computer. You’ll simply need to supply this password when restoring your backup to your new iPhone, and not only will all of your applications, settings, and media content be restored, but your passwords will to, avoiding the nuisance of having to type them in all over again. Be sure to check out our Complete Guide to Transferring your Content to a new iPhone, iPad or iPod touch for a more detailed look at the entire process of moving your data over to your new device.
iOS 7 introduces to new convenient features that can now be accessed from the lock screen by default: The improved Notification Centre and the new Control Centre. These features give you quick and easy access to your pending notifications along with weather, calendar appointments, reminders, traffic information, as well as a new flashlight feature alongside the clock, calculator and camera apps. If you normally use a passcode to lock your iOS device, you may be concerned at the amount of information and number of features that can be accessed from here, but the good news is that you can turn almost all of it off entirely.
The Notification Center and Control Center sections in your iOS Settings app provide toggles to disable access to these features when your device is locked. Control Center provides a simple on/off toggle for disabling the feature entirely from the lock screen, while Notification Center allows you to individually restrict access to the Today View, Notifications View, or both. You can also simply disable individual sections in the Notification Center, such as the Calendar Day View, although this option will hide these sections entirely, not only when your device is locked. Note that you can’t disable the camera button in the bottom right corner, however the camera app in this mode only lets you to take new pictures, it doesn’t allow access to what’s already in your photo library.
If you’re only worried about specific notifications showing up, iOS can also hide notifications from specific apps in the lock screen Notification Centre. This is done in much the same way as it was in iOS 6: simply go into Notification Center, select an app for which you don’t want notifications appearing on your lock screen, and then scroll down and switch the Show on Lock Screen option OFF. This will hide any notifications from that app on both the main lock screen and the Notification Centre when it’s accessed from the Lock Screen; these notifications will only appear when you pull down Notification Centre after unlocking your device. Certain apps such as Messages and Mail take this one step further: the Show Preview option can be toggled off to hide the detailed text of a received message.
Early this week, Apple officially announced that iOS 7 is coming next Wednesday, September 18th. If you’ve got an existing iPhone and you’re concerned about what you need to do to prepare for the next iOS version, the good news is that despite the major user interface changes, the actual updating process is pretty straightforward, and won’t be any different from other recent iOS updates. Apple will likely make it available as an “over-the-air” (OTA) update, meaning you should be able to download it over your Wi-Fi connection and update without even connecting to your computer.
That said, it’s always a really good idea to ensure that you have a current backup to either iTunes or iCloud, and in fact it really doesn’t hurt to do both before attempting an update. While most iOS updates install “in-place” without any problems, making a backup is always a sensible precaution just in case. Even if you’re normally backing up to iCloud, you can easily make a manual backup in iTunes any time you like; simply select your device in iTunes 11 and click the “Back Up Now” button that appears on the summary screen and iTunes will immediately make an on-demand backup of your device. You can also check the date and time of the last backup to each service from the same page.
Be sure to check back next week for our comprehensive guides to what’s new in iOS 7 along with what to look for in the updating process and how to smoothly transition to the new iOS 7 user interface.
- September 3, 2013
- Apple TV,
Accessing your iCloud Photo Stream and other Shared Photo Streams from your Apple TV is a really handy way to view your photos and show them off to friends and family. You may not know that you can also delete photos or even entire Shared Photo Streams right from your Apple TV without having to return to your iOS device or computer. To do this, simply highlight a photo or Photo Stream and hold down the Select button on the Apple Remote until a pop-up menu appears with an option to “Delete Photo” or “Delete Photo Stream.” This also works with Photo Streams that have been shared with you by other users; “Unsubscribe” will appear on the menu in this case instead of the delete option, allowing you to remove only your copy of the Shared Photo Stream.
Keep in mind, however, that this doesn’t just remove these items from your Apple TV—as on iOS the items will be removed from your iCloud account and any other devices that sync with it.
- August 29, 2013
- Apple TV,
The Apple TV’s AirPlay feature makes it a great accessory to bring your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch content to the larger screen. By default, however, this feature is wide open; anybody running iOS or iTunes on the same network can freely broadcast content to your Apple TV at the tap of a button. For most home users this isn’t a huge problem, but if you have kids in the house, or you otherwise use your Apple TV on a network shared with other iOS users, you may find it useful to restrict AirPlay access to your Apple TV—particularly since starting AirPlay from another device will interrupt whatever you may currently be watching.
The good news is that Apple has provided a couple of options for this, both of which can be found in the AirPlay section under your Apple TV’s Settings menu. If you don’t want your Apple TV to be accessible via AirPlay at all, you can simply toggle it off from here. Alternatively, you can use an onscreen code or a password to prevent AirPlay access to your Apple TV from iOS devices or iTunes. The Onscreen Code option will display a one-time code on the Apple TV screen whenever a user attempts to select it for AirPlay, requiring the user to enter this code on their device before AirPlay streaming will begin; the password option will simply prompt the user for whatever password you choose to set here, again refusing to begin AirPlay streaming unless the proper password is supplied.
- August 27, 2013
Apple began offering HD content on the iTunes Store in 1080p a little over a year ago, and has been gradually increasing the amount of content available in the higher resolution. The good news is that Apple considers the 720p and 1080p versions of HD content to be the same purchase, so if you have older 720p content sitting around in your iTunes library, you can very easily upgrade it to the 1080p simply by downloading it from your iTunes Purchase history.
To do this, ensure that your “Preferred Video Version” is set to 1080p in your iTunes Preferences, and then simply go into the iTunes Store and select the “Purchases” link near the top-right corner. You can access a list of all of your previously purchased movies and TV shows from here, and any that are available for re-download in the higher resolution will show an iCloud download icon beside them instead of the word “Downloaded.” If you have a large library of purchased 720p content, it may even be worth checking back here from time to time to see if any new content has become available in the better format. Keep in mind, though, that downloading the 1080p version doesn’t remove the older 720p version from your library, so you’ll have to go and do that manually if you want to conserve disk space and don’t need to keep the other version around for syncing to older devices.
Although in many ways Apple’s iMessage service is a great alternative to traditional carrier SMS/MMS text messaging, it’s sadly no more immune from unsolicited or unwanted communications—“spam”—than any other messaging network. Fortunately, Apple recognizes this and has provided a method to allow users to report spam that they receive through the iMessage network back to Apple, so the offending user(s) can presumably be dealt with. If you’ve received unwanted iMessages, you can simply take a screenshot of the iMessage screen by pressing the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons simultaneously, and then send it to [email protected] with the date and time that you received the message and with the full e-mail address or phone number that you received the message from.
Note that Apple can only deal with spam received through the iMessage network, which will be labelled “iMessage” on the conversation screen. Conversations labelled “Text Messages” are still sent through your carrier’s network, so you should contact your cellular provider if you’re receiving unwanted text messages. See Reporting unwanted messages sent from iMessage on Apple’s Support Site for more information.
- August 20, 2013
- Apple TV,
With the Apple TV increasingly providing access to cloud-based iTunes content, it’s becoming less necessary to keep a computer on to serve up your iTunes library. If you have AirPlay speakers in your house, you may think that you still need to keep iTunes up and running to stream content to those, but you can actually do it all from your Apple TV. Last year’s 5.1 update brought back the ability to send audio to remote AirPlay speakers—a feature that ironically was available on the first Apple TV with AirTunes, but clearly didn’t make the cut for the revised second-generation model.
You can access and select AirPlay speakers from the Apple TV Settings menu, but there’s an even faster way to switch over to an external set of speakers when listening to audio: Simply hold down the centre “Select” key on your Apple Remote and a pop-up menu will appear with a “Speakers…” option. Selecting this option will list all of the AirPlay speakers available on your network to choose from. Simply select the speakers you want to direct your audio output to. As an added bonus, you’ll see an additional option to adjust the volume for the remote AirPlay speakers by using the left and right buttons on the remote.
- August 15, 2013
- Apple TV,
If you have an Apple TV in your household and share multiple iTunes Store accounts in your family, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to tie your Apple TV into only a single account. Since last year’s Apple TV 5.1 update you can easily configure and save more than one iTunes Store account on the Apple TV and easily switch between them. Not only does this allow you to use a different account for purchasing or renting content, but it also provides quick and easy way to switch cloud-based movie and TV show libraries; switching to a different account immediately provides access to browse and stream all of the content that was purchased with that account. Note that the accounts specified here are completely separate from the account you use for Home Sharing, so there’s no need to worry about losing access to your local library when switching to a different iTunes Store account.
This even works with accounts in different countries. You will initially need to change your country setting to match each account when first logging into it, however once the credentials have been saved, the Apple TV will automatically switch to the appropriate country when switching accounts. As with iTunes on the desktop, switching accounts will turn iTunes Match off, requiring it to be re-enabled when returning to your primary iTunes Store account. Unlike iTunes and iOS devices, however, there is no 90-day restriction on using content from different accounts, presumably since content can only be streamed to the Apple TV and not downloaded and saved for use on other devices.
One of the more subtle new features that Apple bundled into its Maps app in iOS 6 was the ability to display detailed traffic information, not only with indicators of traffic volume, but actual on-screen icons showing major traffic-related events such as road work. You can enable the traffic view simply by tapping on the curled page in the bottom-right corner of the Maps app and choosing “Show Traffic” at which point new icons will appear on the screen to indicate road closures, road work, and other pertinent details. You can even tap on these to see a description and then tap on the arrow to view a more detailed information screen. Note that you must have “Traffic” turned on under Privacy, Location Services, System Services in the iOS Settings app and be in a supported country to use the Traffic feature in Apple Maps.
- August 8, 2013
- Apple TV,
Earlier this year Netflix began gradually been rolling out a new, higher-resolution “Super HD” streaming option, providing higher-quality 1080p HD content for at least some subscribers. The catch? You must be using a supported device and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) must be part of Netflix Open Connect and provide you with a sufficiently fast Internet connection—at least 5Mbps.
The good news is that the third-generation Apple TV is in fact fully supported, but whether this will work with your ISP is another story entirely. You can easily check if your ISP is supported by visiting Netflix’s Super HD page, and if so you should see a “Super HD” logo appear on your Apple TV on any content available in the higher quality form. Many U.S. Netflix users on Time Warner, Comcast, and Verizon briefly saw the option appear last night, but it has since disappeared. This may be an indication that some of the major U.S. ISPs are beginning to roll the service out, however.
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