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Tips & Tricks

Taking photos with your headphones

If you’re into photography, odds are you know that lots of pros use cable releases as a way to eliminate vibrations and thus take sharper photos — but you might not know that as of iOS 5, your iPhone comes with a cable release packed right into the box. Since Apple added the ability to snap a photo in the Camera app using nothing but the volume up button, it also made it possible to do the same using the volume up button on most remote-laden sets of headphones, letting you mount your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad on a tripod or in some other secure fashion and make your picture from afar. [via Lifehacker | Mac OS X Hints]

Creating custom vibration alerts in iOS 5

Sure, it’s great that all you have to do to silent your iPhone is flip the switch on the side, but then you’re at a loss for telling the difference between an important business call and your neighbor who’s looking for someone to watch his dog. Fortunately, iOS 5 offers a relatively simple way to set up custom vibration patterns for different contacts, so you’ll know when you really need to pick up.

First, open up Settings, tap General, tap on Accessibility, and turn Custom Vibrations on. Next, open Contacts, choose the contact you’d like to have a special vibration, and tap Edit. You’ll see a new field next to ringtone called vibration. Tap it, and you’ll be on a page where you can select from a handful of preset vibration patterns, with an option for creating a custom vibration at the bottom. When you’re finished, simply tap Done, and the next time that person calls when your phone is in your pocket, you’ll know who’s calling before you even see the screen.

Setting call Reminders with Siri

While no one predicted it before the launch, one of the more interesting aspects of being an iPhone 4S owner is finding new ways to use Siri. Today’s tip is one such example: how to set up a reminder to call someone using the virtual assistant. When you ask Siri to remind you to call a contact, it will ask you to specify which number to call—somewhat odd, considering that this information doesn’t actually appear anywhere. But when you actually get the reminder and tap on it in notifications, the Reminders app will open and prompt you to call the contact with a simple “Call” button, saving you the trouble of digging through your contacts for the number. Interestingly, this only happens after you receive the notification, and only when tapping on the notification directly - but still, a handy time saver for those who have a lot of contacts.

Locking in Camera focus and exposure in iOS 5

While third-party camera apps have allowed users to lock the focus and exposure of their shots for some time, the feature is a new one for users who prefer Apple’s built-in Camera app. Thankfully, the steps to enable it couldn’t be simpler. Once you’ve decided on a subject you want to be in focus and properly exposed, simply tap and hold on its image in the viewfinder until the blue focus box pulses a few times. Once you let go, you’ll see “AE/AF Lock” on the screen, letting you know that your settings are locked in. Disabling it is just as easy: simply tap anywhere in the viewfinder.

Sharing an iCloud account for multi-device access

iCloud is already proving to be incredibly handy for syncing personal information, documents, and media across devices, but what if you’ve got someone—a spouse, roommate, or child, for example—with whom you’d like to be able to share some of your information? Luckily, there’s an easy way to do so. If the information you’re wanting to share includes Contacts, Calendars, Reminders—such as a shared shopping list—Bookmarks, or Notes, you can simply add your iCloud account as a secondary account on the other person’s device. Simply open Settings, tap on Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and then tap on Add Account…. Choose iCloud from the list, enter your account information, and when prompted, turn on the options you want to share.

If you’d like to share Documents or have a joint Photo Stream with the person, you can do that too—simply setup the shared account as the main iCloud account on the both devices, then add personal accounts as secondary accounts using the steps above. Notably, this method will require you to share iCloud backups, but for families that need additional storage space anyway, this may save them from having to pay for additional storage for two separate accounts. For more specific information on iCloud, see our Instant Expert article. [Thanks, Allen Mazie]

Creating undated reminders with Siri

Siri is proving to be an indispensable tool for some iPhone 4S owners, providing a powerful spoken interface for common tasks—but sometimes to utilize that power, you have to watch what you say. Like, for instance, when you’re trying to create an undated reminder with Siri. If you ask it to remind you of something, the entry will have a date, and possibly a place or time—since it’s commonly used with phrases like “when I get home”. To keep this from happening, simply ask Siri to “remember to”—it’ll notice the difference and create an undated listing in your Reminders app.

Enabling Private Browsing in Mobile Safari

While it’s not a feature you’re likely to use every day, the new version of Safari on iOS 5 does have a handy new trick up its sleeve: Private Browsing. If you need to turn it on—for instance, you’re using someone else’s phone to check your bank information, or otherwise simply don’t want to leave a trace of what you’re looking at—simply open the Settings app, tap on Safari, and turn Private Browsing on. You’ll see a prompt asking if you want to keep the currently open tabs open—if there are any—and will see a similar prompt when turning the feature off. Once it’s enabled, Safari won’t remember the pages you visit, your search history, or your AutoFill information, allowing you to browse in (relative) anonymity.

See full track information in the Music app

Ever find yourself going through your music only to find an artist or track name that’s too long to display fully on the screen of your iPhone or iPod touch? Well, if you’re running iOS 5, there’s a simple and easy way to see the track information without leaving the screen you’re on. Simply tap and hold on the song you’d like to know about, and a popup will appear showing you the full track name, album title, and artist. You can even move your finger up and down while continuing to hold to see the info for the songs around it.

Renaming your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch in iOS 5

Giving a name to an iPod, iPhone, or iPad is one of the first things owners do to personalize their devices, but what do you do if you’ve taken advantage of iOS 5’s PC-free setup, only to decide that you’d rather your digital pal carry a different moniker? Thankfully, Apple has thought of this exact situation, and has built-in a way to change it without ever plugging the device in. Simply open Settings, tap General, tap About, and tap into the Name field—it will become editable, letting you rename you device anything you want. When you’re finished, simply tap Done, and enjoy the fact that “Charles’ iPhone” is now the “White Knight,” “Grover Cleveland’s Wallet,” or anything else you can come up with.

Making Siri work with Facebook + Twitter

Siri is incredibly handy for finding places to eat and sending text messages, but wouldn’t it be great if it could update your Facebook status or post to your Twitter feed for you? As it turns out, it—or is it she?—can, thanks to these clever workarounds. Since both Facebook and Twitter offer SMS integration, all you need to do is setup the service and then add the correct number to your contacts list under “Facebook” or “Twitter,” and you’ll be good to go.

For Facebook, you need to text “Hello” to 32665 in the US, then follow the instructions in the reply to finish setting it up, and add that number to your contacts. The process is very similar with Twitter, only you send “START” to 40404 to get the ball rolling. Once you’re done, all it takes to post is a quick “Tell Facebook (or Twitter)...” and your post will appear without touching a single key. [via Time]

Updating software wirelessly in iOS 5

Apple hasn’t yet released its first point update to iOS 5, but when it does, you’ll be prepared to grab it without having to plug your device into your computer. When word drops that an update has been released, all you need to do is open Settings, tap on General, and tap Software Update. This causes your device to ping Apple’s servers, responding with a graphic showing the new update’s version number and brief release notes if one is available, along with an App Store-like install button. Tap it, and voila—you’ll have the latest update installed on your device before you know, all without plugging in a cord.

Setting up Notification Center on iOS 5

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.

Using text shortcuts in iOS 5

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.

Choosing the right capacity for your iOS device

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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.

Preparing for an iOS device/software upgrade

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.

Deleting or Forwarding Texts in Messages

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.

Opening a second window in iTunes

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.

Taking control of Spotlight on iOS devices

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.

Opening links in new pages in Safari

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.

Pausing an iOS app download

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.

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