Tips & Tricks
Among all the features and improvements in iOS 5, the revamped Notifications system—dubbed Notification Center—is one of the most anticipated and welcome. Like a lot of things, while it’s good out of the box, it can be even better if you take a little time to configure it to match your priorities and preferences. To do so, simply open the Settings app and tap on Notifications. You’ll be taken to a view that lets you choose how you’d like the apps to be sorted, and shows you which apps are in Notification Center and which aren’t. Tapping on any of the apps brings up a view with even more options, letting you decide whether it appears in Notification Center, how many updates to show if it does, what type of on-screen alert you’d like the app to present—you can choose between old-school, screen-blocking alerts, sleek, top-of-the-screen banners, or none at all—whether or not you want the red, numbered update badge to appear on the app’s icon, and whether or not its notifications appear on the lock screen. It might take a few minutes to get everything set up to your liking, but the first time a relatively minor notification comes in, appears briefly at the top of the screen—you can even swipe to the left on the banners to make them disappear more quickly—and leaves you, uninterrupted, right where you were, it’ll all be worth it.
If you’re a user of TextExpander on the Mac or iOS, you should be well-acquainted with the idea of typing a brief shortcut to get a large mass of text. For everyone else, iOS 5 now offers something similar, baked right into the OS and ready for use in any application. To get started, simply open the Settings app, tap on General, then scroll down and tap on Keyboard. At the bottom of that page you’ll see a section labeled “Shortcuts”, with the built in “omw” for “On my way!” shortcut listed, and an option to add new shortcuts. Tap this option and make as many as you’d like—just remember to use letter combinations that aren’t all that common. Once you’re finished, you can use the shortcuts in any app, anywhere you can type—the completed phrase will appear just like a spelling suggestion, meaning it takes only a tap of the space bar to complete, and can therefore save a lot of time and frustration.
Back in the early days of Apple’s media players—more specifically the iPod—choosing which capacity to buy was easy: if you had enough stuff to fill the smaller one, get the biggest one, and if not, perhaps the smaller one would do. In fact, that advice worked pretty well all the way up to the fifth-generation iPod, which added video—and therefore some very large new files—to the mix. Now, with everything from books, magazines, photos, videos, and apps taking up space alongside your music, choosing the right capacity is more confusing than ever—but we’re here to help.
Whether you’re planning to purchase a new iOS device or are simply chomping at the bit to install the latest version on your current device, there are some simple steps you should take to ensure that the transition goes smoothly. You’ll want to connect your device to your Mac or PC and do a complete backup and sync, making sure that you’ve got a copy of all your content, apps, and settings on your computer. You might also want to make sure you’ve written down or otherwise stored away any app-specific passwords you need, and if you’re thinking about signing up for iTunes Match, making a complete second copy of your music library couldn’t hurt, just on the off chance things go awry and iTunes decides that you don’t need those silly music files anymore.
Ever get a funny text you’d like to share with more friends, or a potentially distasteful message that you’d rather not have hanging out on your device? Messages will let you handle either situation quickly and easily. Simply navigate to the conversation where the message you want to share/delete is located, then tap the Edit button. You’ll see selection circles appear to the left of each message, letting you pick and choose which ones to send to your friends or send to the digital dump. The same Edit interface also provides you with a Clear All button in the upper left corner, in case you want to get rid of an entire conversation thread instead of just a message or two.
- September 22, 2011
For all its power and wide range of features, iTunes sure does like to keep everything in the same, arguably cluttered window. Luckily, there’s a super-easy way around this limitation. Next time you’ve got music playing and want to check out the iTunes Store, your library of media, or another playlist, simple double click on the sidebar item of whatever you’d like to see. iTunes will graciously open it in a new window on top of your first one, leaving your currently-playing selection undisturbed.
Built-in Spotlight search is one of the more powerful—yet widely overlooked—features of iOS. Sometimes, though, it can be a little too powerful—odds are you don’t really want to be search for Voice Memos at the same time you’re searching for an app that’s buried in a folder somewhere. That’s where today’s tip comes in. By opening the Settings app, tapping on General, and then tapping on Spotlight Search, you’ll be given a full list of everything Spotlight can search, with check marks beside everything it will search. Simply go through and tap on the stuff you don’t want it searching—Voice Memos, for example—to ensure that it’s unchecked, and use the “handles” on the right-hand side to change the order in which the results appear—by moving Applications to the top, for instance. In no time you’ll have a device-wide search that’s as tailored to your needs as the stuff you’re searching for.
If you’re anything like us, odds are you’re constantly using the “open in new tab” functionality of your desktop browser—but did you know you can do the same on your iOS device? In Safari, simply tap and hold on any link you’d like to open elsewhere, and tap the “Open in New Page” button on the slide-up that appears. Just be careful not to get too crazy, as you can only have so many open at once.
iOS typically does a pretty good job of handling multiple app downloads—but did you know that you can help the process along by picking a choosing which apps to download first? Simply tap on any downloading app to switch its status from “Waiting” or “Loading” to “Paused.” When you’re ready for its download to start, simply tap it again to add it back to the download queue. Now you never have to let a 100MB+ game download get in the way of a simple Facebook update again.
- September 8, 2011
Making purchases on the iTunes Store is simple—a little too simple, if you ask some parents. If you’d like to give a child or loved one an account of their own while keeping their spending in check, an iTunes Store Allowance account is the way to go. Here’s how to set one up.
First, make sure you’re logged into the store with your own account, then click on the “Buy iTunes Gifts” link on the front page of the store. From there, scroll down to the “Allowances” section and follow along with the instructions, making sure to take advantage of the option to create a new Apple Account for the recipient. Once all the necessary info is entered, the recipient will get an email explaining how to access their account and information on the allowance itself. Once it’s setup, you can manage the allowance from the main iTunes Store account management screen. For more information on iTunes Store Allowance accounts, see our Complete Guide to Using the iTunes Store.
As our iOS devices become more and more powerful, they also end up holding more and more of our information — making it an even bigger pain to move from one to another. Thankfully, there’s a super simple way to make sure your newest device has all the info from your old one. As long as you’ve backed up prior your device to iTunes and your new device is running the same or later version of iOS, you simply plug in your new iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad into your main computer, select your prior device’s backup, and hit restore from backup—after it’s done syncing, you should have all the same preferences, settings, apps, and media as you had on your old device without needing to do a thing. For more information on migrating between iOS devices, see our August 26 Ask iLounge article.
While Apple’s pack-in chargers for the iPhone and iPad provide just the right amount of power for each device, charging iOS devices on desktops and laptops can be more of a crapshoot. Luckily, it’s not too hard to take control of the situation and ensure that your device is getting the juice it needs. If you’re having problems charging or upgrading your device on a PC, you’ll want to make sure it’s plugged in to a port on the machine—not a hub—and try to unplug any other unnecessary USB devices while you’re at it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, users of Apple’s Mac computers have things a little easier.
On Macs newer than 2007, all your USB ports should supply at least 1100 mA of charging power to any device—such as an iPhone or iPad—that needs it. The extra power is doled out on a first come, first served basis, so the first device you plug in is virtually guaranteed to receive the maximum amount of power, while later devices are less likely. If you have a Mac that was built this year, it might even support full 2.1 Amp fast charging of the iPad. Mac users also have a very simple way to check how much juice each device is receiving. Simply go the the Apple menu, select About This Mac, and hit the More Info… button, which launches System Profiler. From there you can select USB from the sidebar under Hardware, and select the device you want to check on. It’ll show you the Current Available, the Current Required, and the Extra Operating Current—by adding the Available and Extra Current together, you’ll get the current power output for that port. For more info, see this Apple Support document.
When Apple added PDF support in iBooks, it was a huge boon to users who hadn’t yet sprung for a standalone, third-party reader. But did you know that you can add files directly to this PDF library from Safari on the iPad? Simply open a PDF in Safari and tap the page - at the top you’ll see a button to “Open in iBooks,” which will automatically add the document to your library. Starting in iOS 5, you’ll also be able to take advantage of this feature on your iPhone or iPod touch, making the process of adding a PDF to your iBooks library far more streamlined.
If you’ve ever come across a box containing text, a map, or some other interactive element on a webpage in Safari on your iOS device, you may have noticed that when trying to scroll inside it with a single finger, you end up moving the entire page instead. As it turns out, Safari on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch does offer a way to do so: simply scroll inside the box as you’d normally do, but use two fingers instead one. Problem solved.
- August 23, 2011
Sure, with its built-in search and global reach, iOS’ Maps application is a wonderful digital replacement for the traditional atlas—but it’s also so much more than that. Thanks to that search bar, Maps is often the simplest way to find the address and phone number of nearby businesses, restaurants, and points of interest—just start typing, and the result you’re looking for often appears after only one or two words. It works just as well for out-of-town searches—just search for the city, then the name. Hybrid view—hidden behind the folded-up corner in the bottom right hand of the interface—can provide you with a lot more detail than the standard view, and for an even more detailed look at where you’re going—or want to go—simply tap the little person icon (if available) next to an address or business to launch Street View.
If you’ve had the need to use Find My iPhone to locate your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad even a single time, you know the outstanding utility of this feature. Once limited to paying MobileMe customers, it’s now free for all iPhone 4, fourth-generation iPod touch, and iPad users, and will continue to be when Apple makes the transition over to iCloud. If you haven’t yet set it up on your device, here’s how to do so.
Open up the Settings app, then tap on Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and tap Add Account. Choose MobileMe, then use your Apple ID—it can be the same one you use for the iTunes Store, or a separate ID, if you have one—to sign up. Don’t worry if you’re not a MobileMe subscriber—logging in with a non-MobileMe ID will still give you access to the following screen, on which you can toggle the feature on and off. Turn it on, and you’ll be able to login on the web or from another iOS device using the same login and track, lock, remotely wipe, or just display a message or play a sound on your device.
- August 16, 2011
This week’s tip may be simple, but if you’re frequently searching the iTunes Store for new music, movies, books, and apps, it can be a big time saver. Normally, you need to click on the iTunes Store in your sidebar to search the Store—but this isn’t the only way to do it. Simply hold down option when you hit return after typing something in iTunes’ built-in search field and it will automatically route your query to the iTunes Store instead of searching locally.
- August 11, 2011
Ever wonder why your iPhone vibrates whether or not it’s set to silent mode? The answer lies in a simple setting that—depending on the number of calls you have coming in—might be able to eke out a little extra battery life throughout the day. To change this, open up the Settings app, then tap on Sounds. On that page you’ll see two on/off toggles labeled “Vibrate”—one under Silent, and one under Ringer and Alerts. Simply go down to the latter one and make sure it’s set to off, and from then on your phone won’t vibrate unless it’s set to silent mode, saving you an extra bit of battery life and potentially saving it from rattling around and falling on the floor.
- August 9, 2011
Have any tracks hanging out in your library that were ripped from CD, and therefore include one song, a few minutes of silence, and then a bonus track afterward? Well, this tip—an oldie but a goodie—will show you how to split the two using nothing but iTunes.
Simply find out the time code for when the hidden song starts, make sure you have the track selected, go to File > Get Info or hit Command-I on the keyboard, go to the Options tab, and then set the Start Time to the start of the hidden track. Hit OK, and then with the song still selected, go to Advanced > Create AAC Version, or select the same option by right-clicking on the track. After a short conversion process, you’ll have two copies of the track, one of which is complete, and one of which contains only the hidden track. You can then go back in, set the Start Time on the original to 0:00 and the Stop Time to the end of the first track, leaving you with both songs intact but none of the silence.
- August 4, 2011
- Apple TV,
The aluminum remote that comes with the second-generation Apple TV has been praised for its sleek form and intentionally minimalist array of buttons, and while most of its functions are self-explanatory, there are a few tricks you should know if you want to get the most out of it.
For example, you can get to the main menu from anywhere just by holding down the “Menu” button. If you’re playing music and would like to start a Genius playlist based on the song you’re listening to, hold down the select button. When you’re watching video, you can tap the down button and then use the left or right buttons to skip through chapters. We could go on, but to be honest, there aren’t any tricks for the aluminum wand that will make it better than Apple’s excellent—and free—Remote app for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, so if you have an iOS device around the house, be sure to download and install Remote to take full advantage of your Apple TV.
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