Tips & Tricks
- June 25, 2013
Apple has made it pretty straightforward to make a conference call with your iPhone, but you may not know that you can also easily drop a party individually without ending the call entirely or put other calls on hold to have a sidebar conversation. Tap the arrow button that appears to the right of the names when you’re on a conference call and you’ll see a list of all of the parties in the call. From here you can tap the red hangup button to drop an individual party and return to your original call or tap on the green “Private” button to place the other parties on hold and speak to only one person; when you’re in a private conversation the “Merge Calls” button will reappear to bring everybody back together.
These features are particularly handy when you consider that the iPhone isn’t limited to just three-way calls; barring any limitations your carrier may impose, the iPhone actually lets you have up to five other parties in a conference call. Be careful, however, as most carriers will charge you any applicable airtime and long distance for each party in a conference call.
- June 20, 2013
- Apple TV,
This week Apple released another Apple TV Software Update adding five more content providers for users in the U.S., including HBO GO, WatchESPN, Sky News, Qello, and Crunchyroll. However, if you’re not already an HBO or ESPN cable subscriber or a fan of music videos or Japanese Anime, you may find these new icons do little more than clutter up the nice Apple TV main screen. The good news is that you can reorganize these icons to move them farther down or even hide them from the main screen entirely. To reorganize the icons, simply highlight the icon you want to move and hold down the center button on your Apple Remote until they all start jiggling; you can then simply use the direction arrows to move the icon almost anywhere else you want, although the first row is fixed—you can’t move icons into or out of this area. Hiding icons uses a different method, requiring a quick visit into your device’s Parental Controls. Simply go into Settings, General, Parental Controls, scroll down to the list of items at the bottom and set each one to “Hide” to make them disappear from your Main Menu entirely. You don’t even need to actually enable the parental controls simply to hide items from here, although doing so will allow you to set rating restrictions for iTunes content and leave certain items visible but passcode-protected. Note that the Movies, TV Shows, Computers and Settings items in the first row cannot be hidden.
Be sure to check out Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of Apple TV 5.3 for more information on what’s new in the latest Apple TV update.
- June 18, 2013
The search field in the top-right corner of the iTunes window is a handy way to find content in your own library, but did you know that you can also quickly search the iTunes Store directly from this field? Simply enter your text in the search field and hold down the OPT key (Mac) or SHIFT key (Windows) when pressing RETURN and you’ll be automatically taken to a results page in the iTunes Store. This can be particularly useful when you’re trying to determine if you already have something in your library, as you can search for it locally first, and then use the OPT/SHIFT trick to continue your search in the iTunes Store. The best part is that this works regardless of whether you’re using the newer Live Search feature or have opted to disable Live Search and use the older style iTunes search filtering.
Apple provides each iCloud user with 5GB of free storage for iOS device backups, application documents and data, and iCloud e-mail, but if you have multiple iOS devices, or keep a lot of photos and videos in your camera roll, this can quickly fill up. Further, if you’ve recently upgraded to a new iOS device, the backup from your old device may still be laying around in your iCloud account, taking up additional space. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to see what’s taking up space in there and clear it out. Simply go into your iOS Settings app, select iCloud and then Storage & Backup, and then Manage Storage. This will show you first a list of all of the backups stored in your iCloud account for each of your devices, along with the device name, followed by a list of apps storing data in iCloud. You can tap on any of these items to see more information; backups provide a button to delete the entire backup, while application data will provide a list of items that can be deleted individually by using a swipe gesture or tapping the “Edit” button in the top-right corner.
While iTunes Match is a great way to have access to your entire music library from anywhere with an Internet connection, some users with large libraries may be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of content displayed in the iOS Music app. If you find that even with iTunes Match you still confine your listening to a specific set of playlists, you can easily download that content onto your device for offline listening and then go into your iOS Settings app and switch OFF the option to “Show All Music” found under iTunes & App Stores or Music. This will limit the content displayed in the Music app to only those tracks that have actually been downloaded onto your device, providing you with a much more manageable library to navigate through. Should you want to download additional tracks or browse your entire cloud-based library in the future, you can bring your full iTunes Match library back simply by going back into the Settings to toggle this option ON again.
- May 30, 2013
Although iOS tries to turn phone numbers in many apps into clickable links, this doesn’t work everywhere, and can be especially troublesome for “vanity” phone numbers such as 1-800-MY-APPLE. In these cases, however, you can take advantage of a hidden feature in iOS and simply paste your number right into the Phone app from the iOS clipboard.
Simply copy the number to the clipboard as you normally would, and then open the Phone app to the “Keypad” section and tap and hold on the blue phone number display section above the keypad and the standard “Paste” option should appear. As an added bonus, when pasting in a vanity phone number, it will be converted to its numeric form with the original alphanumeric version displayed in a smaller font below. Note that this also works in the other direction—a phone number already displayed in the Phone app can be copied TO the clipboard using the same standard tap-and-hold gesture.
If you’ve been thinking of using FaceTime over a cellular data connection, you may find it useful to keep an eye on how much data a given FaceTime call actually consumes. When Apple added the ability to use FaceTime over Cellular in iOS 6, it also quietly introduced data usage indicators to the Recent Calls list in the Phone and FaceTime apps. To see how much data a FaceTime call has used, simply go into the Phone app on your iPhone or the FaceTime app on your iPad or iPod touch and tap the blue arrow beside the recent call entry to open the detail view; the amount of data used by the FaceTime call will be shown in parentheses beside the call duration.
If you’ve been using your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch for a while, you’ve probably had an “autocorrect moment” where your device repeatedly insists on mistakenly “correcting” something you’re trying to type into some other obscure word. Most often this is the result of the device learning a word from past usage, and while iOS doesn’t offer any way to directly edit the autocorrect dictionary, there are a couple of ways to deal with this problem. If you’re dealing with only one or two words that iOS is always getting wrong, you can override the autocorrect feature by defining keyboard shortcuts set to the correct word. To do this, simply go into your Settings app, select General, Keyboard and then scroll down to the “Shorcuts” section and use the “Add New Shortcut” button to create a new entry with the word that you do not want autocorrected. This also works to override the built-in autocorrect dictionary for less common words that you may find yourself using often but that your iPhone hasn’t yet learned properly.
On the other hand, if your autocorrect situation is a complete mess, you can simply reset the entire keyboard dictionary by choosing the “Reset Keyboard Dictionary” option found under General, Reset in the iOS Settings app. This will erase all of the learned autocorrect entries from your device, effectively allowing you to start from scratch.
- May 21, 2013
If you’ve updated to the latest version of iTunes, you may have noticed a change in the way app updates are now handled. In place of the update button traditionally found in the bottom right corner of the apps listing, an “Updates” tab now appears along the top navigation bar, taking you to an iTunes view of apps with available updates, rather than an iTunes Store page. An “Update All Apps” button appears in the bottom right corner here, and clicking on an app icon from here will open details on what’s changed in the update, along with a button to update that individual app. You can also select one or more apps and right-click to update only those individual apps.
While Apple still allows you to purchase alert tones directly from the iTunes Store, many users may already have their own sound effects or songs that they already own that they’d like to use as ringtones or alert tones. Unfortunately, while iTunes doesn’t provide any way to do this directly, if you already have a short sound file in the AAC format you can actually import it straight into the “Tones” section in iTunes simply by renaming the file, changing the extension from M4A to M4R before importing it.
If your file is longer than about 30 seconds and/or in a format other than AAC, however, you’ll need to take some additional steps. See this week’s Ask iLounge article Setting up a ringtone in iTunes for more information.
If you backup your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch using iTunes, you may find it useful to be able to check the status of these backups and when the last one was made for each of your devices. You can easily find this out by going into your iTunes Preferences and selecting the Devices section. A list of all of your device backups will be shown here by device name, with the date and time of the last backup for each. If you have multiple backups under the same name, which can often happen if you’ve upgraded to a new device, you can easily tell which is which simply by hovering over them with your mouse pointer; a popup will appear displaying the serial number of the device from which that backup was made, along with the phone number and IMEI number in the case of an iPhone or cellular-capable iPad.
If you want to remove any old backups, simply select the one you want to remove and click the “Delete Backup” button. Although deleting a backup is ultimately irreversible, the good news is that it isn’t actually removed until you click “OK” to close the iTunes preferences dialog, so if you make a mistake, simply click “Cancel” instead, and the backup will be left alone.
- May 9, 2013
- Apple TV,
If you have an Apple TV, chances are good that you have at least some movies and TV shows in your library. If you’re a heavy iTunes user with a lot of video content, you may already know that you can organize these into playlists within iTunes, but you may have noticed that by default, there appears to be no way to access these playlists directly on the Apple TV. The good news, however, is that this capability actually does exist on the Apple TV—it’s just turned OFF by default. If you take a quick trip to the Audio & Video section in your Apple TV Settings menu you will see a “Show Playlists” option that is set to “Music Only” by default; simply toggle this to “All” and a new “Playlists” entry will appear at the top of your movie and TV show listings. Keep in mind that this is only for content in your iTunes library, however—unlike music playlists for iTunes Match subscribers, video playlists are not synced to the cloud.
- May 7, 2013
Sometimes you may find yourself needing to copy a set of music tracks or other media files out of iTunes into a folder on your computer, such as if you’re using a non-Apple media player or simply want to transfer some content to another computer. While the traditional way of doing this is to dig down into the file system and locate each of the files through Finder or Windows Explorer, this can be a somewhat involved process if you’re dealing with something like a playlist, where items may be spread out across several different locations in your iTunes Media folder. Fortunately, there’s actually a much easier way to do this: Simply highlight the tracks in your iTunes application and drag and drop them to an open Windows Explorer or Finder window in the same way as you would move or copy files between two folders. iTunes will copy the selected tracks directly to the selected location, saving you the trouble of having to go into the file system and track them down individually. This can be particularly useful if you have a USB flash drive media player as you can drag and drop an entire playlist right onto the removable drive icon in Finder or Explorer to load up the files onto your media player.
As you probably already know, turning on “Airplane Mode” on your iPhone or iPad automatically disables all wireless communications features in a single step—cellular voice and data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. This is a handy—and almost necessary—feature when you’re in a situation where you’re required to turn off all transmitting devices, such as aboard an aircraft. However, you may not know that you can turn Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth back on after entering Airplane Mode, allowing you to access an Internet connection or connect with a Bluetooth keyboard or audio device. This can be useful when aboard a flight that includes in-flight Wi-Fi, but can also be used in those situations where you may want to turn off cellular voice and data while still accessing the Internet via Wi-Fi, such as to avoid potential roaming charges when travelling abroad. Keep in mind as well that unlike traditional SMS, services like iMessage and FaceTime will work fine over a Wi-Fi Internet connection and don’t require the cellular radios to be on.
If you’re not a fan of the default “Marker Felt” font in the Notes app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you’ll be happy to know that you can easily choose from two alternate fonts. While Marker Felt was the only font available for the first four years of the iPhone’s life, Apple quietly snuck in the ability to change it in iOS 4.2. Simply go into the iOS Settings app and select Notes and you’ll see an option to choose Noteworthy of Helvetica as your default font instead. This will change the displayed font for all of your notes—both existing ones and any future notes you create.
If you want to setup calendar alarms to be notified of upcoming birthdays on your iPhone or iPad, or you’re simply tired of entering alarms individually when creating events, you’ll be happy to know that you can actually set default reminders for all new events in the iOS Settings app. Simply go into Mail, Contacts, Calendars and scroll down to the “Calendars” section and tap Default Alert Times. You’ll see options here to set default alerts separately for birthdays, normal events, and all-day events. Your Birthdays calendar is populated from your Contacts app, so whatever setting is chosen here will apply to ALL of your Contacts’ birthdays; settings for events will simply provide a default that you can still customize when creating a new event or editing an existing one.
If you’ve ever held off on purchasing a movie or TV show directly on your iOS device because you’d rather download it directly in iTunes, then you’ll be happy to know that Apple has recently added a “Download Later” feature for iOS 6 users. Now, when purchasing a movies, TV shows, or music box sets, you’ll be prompted as to whether you want to download your items immediately, or complete the purchase and save them for later downloading from iTunes in the Cloud. Simply tap the “Later” button and your purchase transaction will be completed, and as an added bonus, if you’ve enabled the options in iTunes to “Always check for new downloads” and “Download pre-orders when available” the purchased content will be automatically downloaded to your iTunes library. Whether you’re out and about or sitting on your couch, this can be a great way to browse for and purchase new movies and TV shows from the comfort of your iPhone or iPad without having to worry about bandwidth or storage space.
Note that Apple does indicate that this feature requires iTunes in the Cloud support and may not yet be available in all countries. If it’s not available in your particular iTunes Store, the purchased item will simply download as it normally would.
- April 18, 2013
If you’re an iPhone 5 user, you get an additional small feature in the Camera app that you may not have noticed before—the ability to snap still photos while you’re also recording video. To use this feature, simply start recording video as you normally would and you’ll see a camera button appear near the video recording button. While recording, simply tap on this button to capture a still photo, and repeat as necessary; there is no specific limit to the number of photos you can capture while recording, but keep in mind that they will be taken at the same resolution and aspect ratio as your video—1080p for the rear camera or 720p when using the front camera. That’s basically 2 MP (1920 x 1080) or 0.9 MP (1280 x 720), depending on which camera you’re using; not all that big of a difference for the front camera, but considerably less than the full 8 MP quality that the iPhone 5’s rear camera is normally capable of. Still, it’s a great way to capture that cute moment that comes up while you’re recording video of your kids.
- April 16, 2013
Apple provides the ability to rent movies from the iTunes Store directly on any iOS device or the Apple TV, but you may not realize that not only can you rent a movie directly using iTunes on your computer, but that doing so actually gives you more options on where to watch it. On any recent model iOS device, renting a movie directly on your device forces you to watch it only on that device—it can’t be moved or transferred elsewhere, although you can stream it to an Apple TV via AirPlay; similarly, renting a movie directly on your Apple TV will allow you to watch it on any Apple TV connected to the same iTunes Store account, but it can’t be transferred to an iPad or iPhone if you decide you want to watch it while travelling instead. By comparison, renting a movie directly on your computer in iTunes bypasses these limitations—you can easily stream a rented movie to an Apple TV or move it to an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.
You can rent movies in iTunes the same way that you would purchase content, and the same time restrictions apply. If you have any rented movies in your iTunes library, a new “Rentals” section will appear under Movies both in iTunes and on your Apple TV, and new options will show up in your device sync settings to allow you to transfer those movies to or from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
While the iPhone doesn’t offer the sophisticated widget system of the Android platform, there are three pre-defined widgets available in the Notification Center for weather, stocks, and Facebook/Twitter posting. The Weather and Stocks widgets will display information from the corresponding built-in apps, which you can open with a tap. The “Share Widget” includes options for posting directly to Twitter and Facebook and will only appear if you are signed into either or both of these accounts from the options in your Settings app—note that these have no connection to the individual Facebook and Twitter apps, but are instead tied into the integration built directly into iOS.
You can disable these widgets or change the order of them with a quick trip into the Notifications section in the Settings app. If you’re sorting apps “By Time” the widgets will always appear at the top, but you can re-order them in relation to each other; if you’re sorting manually, you can place them anywhere, even below any active notifications.
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