The Top Features You’ll Want to Try in iOS 11

Even if you’re not buying a new iPhone this year, you can still enjoy a hefty dose of “New and Improved!” with Apple’s iOS 11, which provides a host of new capabilities. Hold on tight, there’s a lot to cover, and we have another article coming about the iPad-specific changes in iOS 11.

Getting Started

After you install iOS 11, you’ll notice a few things right off. Dock icons no longer have names, and many Apple apps now have the bold text design Apple brought to the Music and News apps in iOS 10.

Although the new Automatic Setup feature won’t help you today, when you next get a new iOS device, it can transfer many settings from an older iOS 11 device automatically. Similarly, the new Share Your Wi-Fi feature lets you send your Wi-Fi network’s password to another iOS 11 device that tries to connect.

You may not need a new iPhone or iPad anyway, since iOS 11 can help you recover precious space. Choose Settings > General > iPhone/iPad Storage and you can offload unused apps (while keeping their settings and data), delete old Messages conversations automatically, and see how much space each app consumes. Deleting music from the Music sub-screen (tap Edit) will help too.

iOS11-iPhone-Storage

Special Screens

Apple redesigned Control Center, which most people still get to by swiping up from the bottom of the screen (iPad users keep swiping up after the Dock appears, and iPhone X users will have to swipe down from the right-hand top of the screen). It’s back to a single page of icons, and you can access additional options by pressing and holding on any set of controls. Even better, you can add (and remove) controls in Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls.

iOS11-Control-Center

The Lock screen is all you’ll see while in the car by default now, thanks to the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature. It blocks notifications and prevents you from using your iPhone while at the wheel, all while auto-replying to people who text you. Calls still come through to your car’s Bluetooth system, and texts from people designated as favorites can break through the texting cone of silence. Passengers can disable Do Not Disturb While Driving easily from a notification on the Lock screen.

iOS11-DNDWD

Smaller Changes and App Updates

A few smaller changes that you’ll appreciate include:

  • Siri sounds more natural, can do translations, and uses on-device learning to understand you better and provide more useful results.
  • On an iPhone, a new Emergency SOS feature will call 911 and notify your emergency contacts of your location after you press the Sleep/Wake button five times quickly and swipe the Emergency SOS button. Tap Settings > Emergency SOS to set this up.
  • The password auto-fill feature now suggests stored login information for many apps right from the QuickType bar above the keyboard—manage this in Settings > Accounts & Passwords > App & Website Passwords.

Many of iOS 11’s built-in apps receive significant changes as well:

  • Camera: New file formats will make your videos and photos take up less space. There are a few new filters, and Camera can finally scan QR codes, which simplify loading Web sites, getting contact info, and connecting to Wi-Fi networks.
  • Photos: You can now edit the video in a Live Photo and apply looping, bouncing, and long exposure effects. Photos can at long last play animated GIFs and has a new Animated smart album to hold them.
  • Files: This major new app replaces the iCloud Drive app. Look in Files for access not just to iCloud Drive, but also to files on your device and in other cloud sharing services like Dropbox and Google Drive.
  • Messages: A new app drawer at the bottom of the screen tries to entice you to use iMessage apps. Most are just stickers, but some are useful and Apple provides a new Apple Pay app here that lets you make person-to-person payments.

iOS11-Messages-apps

  • Maps: Apple has added indoor maps of some airports and malls to Maps. Maps also now provides lane guidance on more complicated roads.
  • Notes: The new Instant Notes feature make starting a note as simple as tapping the Lock screen of an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil, or the optional Notes button in Control Center. A note can now look like lined paper or graph paper (tap the Share button, then tap Lines & Grids). You can also now scan a document. The idea is that you then sign it with the Apple Pencil and send it on its way. Notes can also now find text in Apple Pencil handwriting.

 

Take some time to explore—we’re liking these new features and we think you will too! It’s likely safe to upgrade to iOS 11 now, but check our upgrade advice first.

Apple Introduces iPhone 8, iPhone X, Apple Watch Series 3, and Apple TV 4K

by | September 14, 2017

At its highly anticipated product announcement event at the new Steve Jobs Theater, Apple didn’t disappoint.

The big news was the revolutionary iPhone X, which eliminates the Home button and unlocks by recognizing your face. Apple also announced the evolutionary iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus; a cellular-capable Apple Watch Series 3; and the Apple TV 4K, which supports 4K HDR video. The company said that iOS 11 and watchOS 4 would ship on September 19th, and later noted that macOS 10.13 High Sierra would arrive September 25th.

 

iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus Add Wireless Charging

Rather than calling the new model the iPhone 7s, Apple jumped to the iPhone 8 name to acknowledge significant hardware changes, notably a mostly glass case designed to allow wireless charging. Otherwise, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus largely follow in the footsteps of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, featuring the same 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens, respectively. They’re almost the same size as the previous models, varying only by fractions of a millimeter in different dimensions, and are water and dust resistant too.

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Although the iPhone 8 models still sport a Lightning port (and come with a headphone jack adapter), you’ll charge them by setting them on a charging pad based on the Qi wireless charging standard (Qi is pronounced “chee”). Furniture retailer IKEA has even September-12th-AirPowerbuilt such chargers into some of its tables. In 2018, Apple plans to release an AirPower charging mat that will charge an iPhone 8 or iPhone X, Apple Watch Series 3, and AirPods with a new charging case—all with no cables.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus screens now support Apple’s True Tone technology, which changes brightness and color based on the ambient light. Plus, their stereo speakers are 25% louder than in the iPhone 7 and have deeper bass.

Under the hood, the iPhone 8 models include a new A11 Bionic chip that Apple claims is the most powerful chip ever in a smartphone. The chip’s performance will particularly benefit games; apps that rely on machine learning; and apps using augmented reality, which can seamlessly place virtual objects in live video of the real world.

Although the basic rear-facing camera in the iPhone 8 is still 12 megapixels, it uses an all-new sensor that captures 83% more light and provides deeper pixels, a new color filter, and optical image stabilization, all while using less power. That adds up to pictures with better color saturation, a wider dynamic range, and lower noise.

Like the iPhone 7 Plus, the iPhone 8 Plus sports dual 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras, one with an ƒ/1.8 aperture and the other at ƒ/2.8. Those cameras have the same new sensor, and iPhone 8 Plus owners will be able to try a beta of Apple’s new Portrait Lighting feature, which lets you apply studio-quality lighting to your scene as you compose the shot. You can even change the lighting afterward.

Both iPhone models boast improved video capture as well, in part due to a new image signal processor that provides faster autofocus in low light conditions. You can now shoot 4K video at 24, 30, or 60 frames per second, up from just 24 fps in the iPhone 7. And, you can capture slo-mo video in 1080p resolution at 120 or 240 fps, whereas the iPhone 7 was limited to 120 fps.

The iPhone 8 costs $699 for a 64 GB model and $849 for a 256 GB model. Available colors are gold, silver, and space gray. Add $100 to either price for the iPhone 8 Plus. Apple will begin taking pre-orders on September 15th, with general availability a week later.

If those prices are a bit steep for you, Apple continues to sell the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and the iPhone SE starting at $349.

 

iPhone X Introduces Face ID and Super Retina Display

The iPhone 8 may be a small step up from the iPhone 7, but the new iPhone X is a giant leap into the future, setting the standard for the smartphone of tomorrow. Pronounced “iPhone Ten,” Apple’s new flagship iPhone boasts a stunning, edge-to-edge screen that fills almost the entire front face and eliminates the Home button. It shares the iPhone 8’s glass back and support for wireless charging.

September-12th-iPhone-X

Although the iPhone X’s 5.8-inch screen is physically larger than the iPhone 8 Plus’s 5.5-inch screen, losing the bezel means that the iPhone X is just a few millimeters larger than the iPhone 8 and just a bit heavier. The extra size must have given Apple more room for the battery, since the iPhone X is supposed to last 2 hours longer than the iPhone 7 or 8.

You’ll see more on the iPhone X’s OLED display, which Apple dubbed “Super Retina,” since it has more pixels—2436-by-1125 at 458 pixels per inch—than any previous iPhone. In comparison, the iPhone 8 Plus is only 1920-by-1080 at 401 ppi.

With no Home button, you’ll interact with the iPhone X in different ways. You can wake an iPhone X with the Raise to Wake setting or by tapping on its screen. You invoke Siri with “Hey, Siri” or by pressing the new side button. To unlock the iPhone X, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen while looking at the iPhone X, and it uses Apple’s new Face ID technology to recognize your face, much like Touch ID did with your fingerprint in the past. Swiping up from the bottom of the iPhone X screen works across the system for jumping back to the Home screen or (if you pause briefly) opening the app switcher.

Face ID seems like magic, but it relies on the TrueDepth front-facing camera system—that notch on the top of the screen—which includes a 7-megapixel camera, infrared camera, flood illuminator, dot projector, and more. Face ID can recognize your face even in the dark, and it continually adapts to your changing look, so it can handle glasses, hats, beards, and more, all without being fooled by a photo of your face.

September-12th-TrueDepth

Like the iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X sports a pair of rear-facing cameras, but with slightly different specs. One has an ƒ/1.8 aperture, but the other is ƒ/2.4, as opposed to f/2.8 on the iPhone 8 Plus, and lets in 36 percent more light. The iPhone X also offers dual optical stabilization (on both lenses) for better low-light photos and videos.

All this technology doesn’t come cheap—a 64 GB model costs $999, and a 256 GB model is $1149. You can choose between silver and space gray. Regardless, you’ll have to wait a bit longer for the iPhone X because Apple plans to start taking orders on October 27th, with general availability on November 3rd.

 

Apple Watch Series 3 Adds Cellular

The original Apple Watch couldn’t do much more than tell time when separated from its companion iPhone. The Apple Watch Series 2 gained a GPS to track your location on its own when you were running or biking. But now the Apple Watch Series 3 includes a cellular chip that allows it to make phone calls, get messages, use Siri, stream tunes from Apple Music to AirPods, and more all while your iPhone sits safely at home. It uses the same phone number but will cost an extra $10 per month from your carrier.

September-12th-Apple-Watch-Series-3

To make untethered communication possible, Apple built the cellular antenna into the display and developed a special electronic SIM that’s about one-hundredth the size of an iPhone’s nano SIM. The Series 3 also boasts a faster processor that speeds up app performance and allows Siri to talk back you, along with a barometric altimeter to measure relative elevation.

Amazingly, the Series 3 case is the same size as the Series 2, although the back crystal is a hair thicker. Battery life in mixed use remains at up to 18 hours, though you’ll get only an hour of battery life when making phone calls.

The Apple Watch Series 3 has an aluminum body in three finishes: gold, silver, and space gray. For a different look (and potentially a lot more money), you can get Nike+ aluminum models, Hermès stainless steel models, and Apple Watch Edition ceramic models. Apple is also now offering a new Sport Loop band that’s meant to be light, stretchable, and breathable.

September-12th-new-bands

You can pick from two Series 3 models: one with just a GPS chip like the Series 2 for $329 and one with both GPS and cellular capabilities for $399. Pre-orders start September 15th, with general availability on September 22nd. Apple no longer sells the Series 2 but has dropped the price of a Series 1 to $249.

 

Apple TV Adds Support for 4K Video

Apple’s set-top box hasn’t seen many changes of late, which makes the new Apple TV 4K all the more welcome for video buffs. The new device now supports two key video technologies: 4K and HDR. 4K video provides about four times as many pixels as are in 1080p video, and HDR (High Dynamic Range) supports more colors. The result is video that looks fabulous, with more detail, deeper colors, and better contrast than ever before.

September-12th-Apple-TV-4K-HDR

To see all that goodness, you’ll need a 4K TV that supports either the Dolby Vision or HDR10 standard—in other words, unless you’ve bought a TV in the last year or two, you’ll probably need a new one. Check the specs carefully!

The third part of the puzzle, after you have a 4K TV and an Apple TV 4K, is 4K HDR content. Apple is working with major movie studios to bring 4K HDR video content to iTunes at the same price as HD movies. You’ll even get an automatic upgrade to 4K HDR versions of iTunes HD movies you’ve purchased, when they become available. Netflix 4K HDR streaming is expected immediately, and Amazon Prime Video should offer 4K HDR video on the Apple TV later this year.

Dealing with all the 4K HDR video requires beefier hardware. The A10 Fusion chip doubles overall performance and quadruples the graphics processing speed over the fourth-generation Apple TV. The Apple TV 4K also sports faster and more modern networking connections: Gigabit Ethernet, simultaneous dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0.

A 32 GB model of the Apple TV 4K costs $179, and a 64 GB model is $199 (stick with the smaller model unless you play large Apple TV games). You can pre-order it on September 15, and it will be generally available a week later. The fourth-generation Apple TV remains on sale for $149. Although Apple said nothing about when tvOS 11 would be available, it seems likely to ship with iOS 11 and watchOS 4 on September 19th.

Whew! That’s a lot of new hardware from Apple in one day. If you’re considering buying an iPhone, Apple Watch, or Apple TV, you can now choose from new models with tempting features or time-tested older models at reduced prices. And if you’re confused by all the possibilities, feel free to contact us for advice!

How to Use Siri to Set iOS Alarms

by | August 21, 2017

Has your iPhone replaced your alarm clock? Would you like it to? Using an iPhone as an alarm clock has a lot of benefits. You can choose from a wide variety of non-obnoxious sounds or even pick your favorite song. It’s easy to set an alarm—no more holding down buttons and letting up at just the right moment! And it’s simple to verify an alarm so you don’t run afoul of AM/PM confusions. iOS alarms can repeat on specific days of the week, which helps college students get up for 9:05 AM classes on Monday/Wednesday/Friday but sleep in for 10:10 classes on Tuesday/Thursday. Plus, you can even choose whether to allow a snooze option.

But you probably knew all that, more or less. (And if you’re on the “less” side, check out the Repeat, Sound, and Snooze options when you set up or edit an alarm in the Clock app.)

What we want to show you today is how to set your alarm with Siri, a useful technique that makes us feel as though we’re living in the future. We prefer this method for setting one-off alarms, like getting up early to catch a flight or sleeping in on the weekend but making sure we don’t miss brunch.

However, there’s a catch when using Siri. You can say, “Hey Siri, set an alarm for 7 AM” or even “Hey Siri, wake me up tomorrow at 8:45 AM.” When you do that, though, Siri creates a new alarm each time with whatever sound you last chose. Make a habit of that command, and you’ll end up with hundreds of alarms in Clock > Alarm, all of which will have been used only once. (Delete one by swiping over it from right to left and then tapping Delete.) There’s a better way—follow these steps:

  1.  In Clock > Alarm, tap the + button in the upper-right corner to create a new alarm.
  2. Tap Label, and enter a name for your alarm, like Wake Me Up, Floating, or even Paddington. Avoid words like alarm or clock in the name, since they tend to confuse Siri.Siri-alarms-name
  3. Tap Sound and pick your desired sound, and enable the Snooze button if you wish.
  4. Tap Save in the upper-right corner.

Notice that we didn’t bother to set the time. That’s what we’ll get Siri to do, now and in the future! Use this magic phrase exactly, but replace Wake Me Up with whatever you’ve named your alarm:

“Hey Siri, change Wake Me Up to 8 AM.”

If everything works right, Siri responds politely, “I changed your ‘Wake Me Up’ alarm to 8 AM tomorrow.” And if you go into Clock > Alarm, you’ll see that it’s so.

Siri-alarms-set-alarm

On occasion, Siri doesn’t hear you right and will ask you to pick which alarm you mean. Or Siri may get confused—that happens to even the best assistants sometimes. Just try again, making sure to speak clearly, and it should work. If all else fails, you can always just set the alarm by hand.

 But if you remember to refer to your alarm by name, Siri will do your bidding faithfully, and you’ll get to bask in the glow of living in the future.

Get to Work More Quickly with the Right Mac Login Items

by | August 14, 2017

There’s a French culinary phrase—mise en place—that means “everything in its place.” The idea is that, before you start cooking, you organize and arrange all the ingredients for the dish so they’re right at hand when you need them. In essence, mise en place is about being well-prepared for the task at hand.

You can, and we’d suggest, should do exactly the same thing on your Mac. After all, you probably switch back and forth between the same set of apps—perhaps Mail, Safari, and Messages, plus apps like Pages and Numbers—as you work. Most modern Macs have plenty of RAM to keep all those apps running at the same time. But when you restart your Mac or turn it on, do you launch every one of your standard apps by hand? There’s no need.

That’s because macOS has long had the concept of “login items,” apps that you’ve set to launch automatically whenever the Mac starts up.

 Meet Your Login Items

You’ll find the login items in System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items.

Login-Items-Users-Groups-pref-pane

You may already have some login items listed. These can be any apps that you want to have available right after starting up, and some utility apps may have added themselves to the Login Items list automatically because they need to be running at all times. For instance, your list might include iTunesHelper, which launches iTunes whenever you attach an iOS device.

 If you’re not sure which app a login item goes with, Control-click the login item and choose Show in Finder. Then in the Finder window that appears, look at the path bar at the bottom (choose View > Show Path Bar if it’s not visible). That will usually give you the necessary clue to find the parent app.

Login-Items-iTunes-Helper

Manage Your Login Items

Every so often, it’s a good idea to look through your login items and make sure they’re doing what you want. You can add new items for apps you’ve starting using regularly and remove items for apps that you no longer need running all the time. And you do want to remove unnecessary login items because they could be slowing your Mac down.

Here’s what you need to know about managing your login items:

  •  Add a login item. An easy way to add an app to the Login Items list is to drag its icon from the Finder into the list. But you can also click the + button beneath the Login Items list and choose the app from the Applications folder. Or, make sure the app is running, Control-click its icon on the Dock, and then choose Options > Open at Login from the shortcut menu. Also, some utility apps will ask whether you want to launch them at startup and add themselves to the Login Items list if you agree.
  • Remove a login item. To prevent an app from launching at startup in the future, select it in the Login Items list and click the – button under the Login Items list.
  • Hide a login item’s windows after startup. Some apps, like Adobe Photoshop and InDesign, fill your screen with their windows immediately at launch. If you don’t want to use an app right after restarting your Mac, you can reduce screen clutter by selecting its Hide checkbox in the Login Items list. That’s the equivalent of launching an app and hiding its windows by Option-clicking on another app.

 

It takes only a minute to put your Mac ingredients in place, and the next time you boot your Mac, everything will be ready to go!

 

Uncovering the Mac’s Hidden Menus

by | August 4, 2017

It’s easy to find and open the Mac’s standard menus—all you do is click a word or icon. But did you know about the Mac’s hidden menus? They contain many useful commands, but the Mac’s user interface provides no clue to their existence. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s in a Name?

Contextual-menus-Finder-icon

These menus go by a few different names. Long-time geeks call them contextual menus,but nowadays Apple prefers to call them secondary menus or shortcut menus. We’ll call them shortcut menus here because they generally provide shortcuts to commands that are also available elsewhere

Can I Just Click?

Sorry, no. You have to invoke these shortcut menus in a special way. The most foolproof method is via a Control-click—hold down the Control key on your keyboard while you click the correct spot. Try it by Control-clicking an icon in the Finder.

Before the Mighty Mouse appeared in 2005, all Apple mice had just one button, so the Control-click technique was the only way to go. Since 2005, however, all Apple mice have provided multiple buttons and since then, you’ve also been able to right-click to invoke a shortcut menu. Windows users who switch to the Mac are particularly accustomed to right-clicking, since Windows relies on it heavily. To right-click, click the target spot with the right-hand button on your mouse, or click the equivalent area on your trackpad.

 If that doesn’t work, open System Preferences > Mouse/Trackpad > Point & Click and make sure the “Secondary click” checkbox is selected. Also, note whether “Click in bottom right corner” or “Click in bottom left corner” (or similar) is selected. (When changing the settings for a non-Apple mouse or trackpad, you may see different options or need to use software that came with the device.)

Contextual-menus-system-preferences-two-fingers

Right-clicking is great, but trackpad users can avail themselves of another technique, the two-finger click. If “Click with two fingers” is selected in the Trackpad preference pane, you can invoke a shortcut menu with a two-fingered click anywhere on your trackpad. We prefer this two-finger-click method because, with either click-in-a-corner method, we sometimes click in the corner when we want a regular click, not a menu.

 

What Can Shortcut Menus Do, and Where Do I Find Them?

We already mentioned the shortcut menu that comes up from a Finder icon. Most of its commands also appear in the Finder’s File menu, but the shortcut menu saves you a trip across the screen. A few favorites from that menu are:

  •  Say you want to trash a file on your Desktop. You could drag the file to the Trash icon on the Dock, of course, but that can be a lot of mousing on a large screen! It’s easier to Control-click the file’s icon and choose Move to Trash from the shortcut menu.
  •  Another command on this shortcut menu, Open With, is perfect for opening a file in an application other than the default app. That’s handy if you want to open a text file in Pages instead of TextEdit.
  •  There’s also a Share command that lets you quickly add a photo to your Photos library, post it to Facebook, and more.

Shortcut menus abound in the Finder: Control-click the toolbar of a Finder window to get commands for customizing it. Control-click a sidebar item in a Finder window to get info about it or remove it, among other possibilities. For a Finder window in List view, you can add and remove columns by Control-clicking the column header bar. And of course, you can Control-click icons in the Dock.

Contextual-menu-toolbar

Most apps also offer shortcut menus, but the hard part is finding them. The trick is to Control-click any object or interface control you could conceivably customize or work on in some other way. To see what we’re talking about, Control-click a photo you’ve received in Messages, a message summary in Mail, or a graphic in Safari. Those examples are just the tip of the iceberg—try Control-clicking words, graphics, songs, icons, toolbars, sidebars, you name it!

Contextual-menu-Messages

Did You Know Apple Hid Huge Reference Books in Your Mac?

by | July 27, 2017

You’re probably used to Mac apps using red underlines to mark misspelled words, but did you know that macOS has long included a fully featured Dictionary app as well? It provides quick access to definitions and synonyms in the New Oxford American Dictionary and the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, along with definitions of Apple-specific words like AppleCare and MacTCP. But that’s far from all it can do.

First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. Launch the Dictionary app from your Applications folder and then type a word or phrase into the Search field. As you type, Dictionary starts looking up words that match what you’ve typed so far—you don’t even have to press Return. If more than one word matches what you’ve typed, click the desired word in the sidebar.

Dictionary-Mac-lookup

Notice the lozenges below the toolbar, representing the references that Dictionary can consult, and no, your eyes aren’t deceiving you—Dictionary can look things up in Wikipedia if your Mac has an Internet connection. In short, Dictionary gives you instant access to a dictionary, a thesaurus, and an encyclopedia containing over 5.4 million articles in English alone! You can click a reference’s lozenge to limit your search, or select All to scan all of them.

Dictionary-Wikipedia

If you want to look up words in another language, or even just British English, Dictionary has you covered, with a long list of other reference works. Choose Dictionary > Preferences and select those you’d like to use. You can drag the selected entries into the order you want their lozenges to appear below the toolbar.

Dictionary-prefs

Once you’re in a definition, note that you can copy text for use in other apps—always helpful when wading into grammar and usage arguments on the Internet. More generally, you can click any word in Dictionary’s main pane to look it up instantly. If dictionaries had been this much fun in school, we’d have larger vocabularies! Use the Back and Forward arrow buttons to navigate among your recently looked-up words.

 

As helpful as the Dictionary app is, you probably don’t want to leave it running all the time. Happily, Apple has provided quite a few shortcut methods for looking up words

  • Press Command-Space to invoke Spotlight, and enter your search term.

Dictionary-Spotlight

  • Select a word, and then choose AppName > Services > Look Up in Dictionary to launch Dictionary and search for that word. This trick should work in most apps, but won’t work in all. If the Look Up in Dictionary command doesn’t appear, make sure it’s enabled in System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Services, in the Searching category.

Dictionary-Lookup-Service

  • Last but best, hover over a word or phrase with the mouse pointer and either press Command-Control-D or Control-click the word and choose Look Up “word.” If the app supports it, macOS displays a popover with the definition or Wikipedia article. If you have a trackpad, you can also do a force-click or three-finger tap on the selected word—make sure the “Look up & data detectors” checkbox is selected in System Preferences > Trackpad > Point & Click.

Dictionary-inline-lookup

Now that you know how to take full advantage of the reference works that Apple has built into macOS, it’s time to get in touch with your inner logophile (feel free to look that one up).

Try This Quick Shortcut for Turning Off iPhone Alarms

by | July 13, 2017

If you’re like us, your iPhone has replaced that old digital alarm clock by your bedside. But one way that the iPhone doesn’t match up is the ease of thwacking a big Off button to stop the annoying wake-up noise. Happily, you don’t have to open your eyes and find the Stop button to silence the alarm—instead, just reach out and press the Home button.

iPhone-alarm

Finder Secrets: Navigating Your Folder Hierarchy with the Path Bar

by | July 3, 2017

Apple is known for creating clever little features that do a lot more than most people realize. Learn these, and you’ll be the master of your Mac. And more important, you’ll get your work done more quickly!

Have you ever noticed the Path Bar at the bottom of Finder windows? It may or may not be showing—if not, choose View > Show Path Bar to reveal it. The Path Bar has two basic goals in life:

 

  1. It wants to show where you are in your drive’s folder hierarchy. As you navigate into nested folders, it’s easy to get lost and not realize where you are. If you accidentally drag a file into a deeply nested folder, you might have trouble finding that folder later.
  2. It wants to help you navigate to and work with all the folders higher up in the folder hierarchy, so you don’t have to open a new window and laboriously navigate to the folder you want.

 

To make sure we’re all on the same page, here’s a quick look at how the Finder is organized. The top level of your folder hierarchy is your drive—call it Macintosh HD for the moment. Inside Macintosh HD are macOS’s standard folders: Applications, Library, System, and Users. Your home folder is inside Users, and inside your home folder are more built-in folders: Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Movies, Music, Pictures, and Public. All the files and folders you create go inside those folders in your home folder. The screenshot below shows this in Column view.

Path-Bar-folder-hierarchy

But what if you aren’t working in Column view, or your window isn’t wide enough to show the full hierarchy? Look at the bottom of the window, where you see the Path Bar. It shows the same folder hierarchy: Macintosh HD/Users/Guest (paths are always written with slashes between the folders). Now check out this next window, which shows a folder of flower photos inside the Pictures folder.

Path-Bar-flowers

Now that we’re in Icon view, it’s impossible to tell where in the folder hierarchy we are, or rather, it would be if the Path Bar wasn’t showing our exact location. It even identifies the selected file.

Here’s the thing even people who know about the Path Bar seldom realize: every item in it is live. Say you have another folder of photos sitting on your Desktop that you want to move into the Pictures folder. To make the move, simply drag that folder onto the Pictures folder in the Path Bar. Next, assume you want to open that other folder. Just double-click it in the Path Bar to open it. You can open any folder in the Path Bar this way.

There are three other things you can do with any folder in the Path Bar: open it in a new Finder window tab, show it in its enclosing folder, and get info about it. To carry out any of these actions, Control-click or right-click a folder in the Path Bar to get a contextual menu with those commands. (Similar commands appear if you Control-click a selected file at the end of the Path Bar, but it’s better to Control-click a file directly because the Mac offers more choices that way.)

Path-Bar-contextual-menu

 

Knowing how to use the Path Bar may not be necessary for managing files and folders on your Mac, but turn it on and keep it in mind—you’ll appreciate its convenient time-savers.

 

Kaboom! How to Take Awesome Fireworks Photos with Your iPhone

by | June 29, 2017

It’s the time of year when fireworks fill the sky above celebrations of all sorts. As the crowds ooh and aah at glittering chrysanthemum and willow effects, you may be wishing you could capture some of those moments with your iPhone. With these tips, you won’t need a fancy DSLR camera!

1: Pick a Good Location

Consider your position before it gets dark. If you’re too close, you might not be able to capture the full glory of a massive burst. Too far away, and the fireworks will be little spots of light. Make sure there aren’t any power lines or lamp posts between you and the fireworks. If there’s nearby water, you might be able to take some interesting reflection shots.

2: Turn Off the Flash

The iPhone’s flash works only at short distances, so turn it off to avoid annoying people around you. In the Camera app, tap the lightning bolt and then Off.

Fireworks-photos-flash

3: Disable HDR or Enable Keep Normal Photo

You probably want to disable HDR by tapping HDR on the Camera screen and then tapping Off. HDR, or High Dynamic Range, combines three exposures into one photo, which works well when some parts of a scene are dark and others are light.

Fireworks-photos-HDR

The problem with HDR is that fireworks will move slightly between the exposures, which may introduce blur. That could be an interesting effect in its own right, so if you want to try leaving HDR on, be sure to enable Keep Normal Photo in Settings > Photos & Camera. That way, you can see whether you prefer the normal image or the HDR version.

 

4: Hold Still or Use a Tripod or Monopod

To reduce the chance of your fireworks photos coming out blurry, keep the iPhone as still as possible—try holding it with both hands and pressing your elbows into your sides.

Alternatively, use a tripod, although a monopod or selfie stick can offer stability while letting you more easily move the iPhone around to frame different portions of the sky.

5. Try the iPhone’s Special Modes

With fireworks, it’s nearly impossible to predict the exact moment when a blast of color will be at its most impressive. So don’t! Instead, use one of the iPhone’s special modes:

 

  • Burst Mode: Press and hold the shutter button or one of the volume buttons to take ten shots per second. You’ll have to sort through the burst afterward to find the best pictures, but you’re almost certain to get good ones.
  • Live Photos: Fireworks are all about motion: the slow climb, the pregnant pause, and then the explosion of light and sound. If you enable Live Photos by tapping its bullseye icon in the Camera app (it turns yellow), tapping the shutter button will take a mini-movie of the action.
    Fireworks-photos-Live-Photos

 

  • Slo-Mo Video: If you plan to share your photos on social media, why not share a video instead? A regular video works, but try Slo-Mo mode in the Camera app to slow down the frenetic pace of a grand finale. Hold still while recording!
  • Time-Lapse Video: Or, go in the other direction, and record the entire show as a time-lapse video, which compresses everything into a much shorter video. Just flip to Time-Lapse in the Camera app.

You need a tripod for a time-lapse video.
Fireworks-photos-videos

6: Use an App for Longer Exposures

Apple’s built-in Camera app doesn’t let you increase the length of exposures, which can provide striking light trails of fireworks. Lots of independent apps do offer that capability, including LongExpo (free), Shutter (free), Slow Shutter Cam ($0.99), and Manual ($5.49). Regardless of which you try, play with different exposure times to get the effect you want.

 One last thing. As much fun as it can be to photograph fireworks, don’t let the iPhone get in the way of enjoying the show with family and friends!

 

 

How to Unlock Your Mac with a Wave of Your Hand (well, Apple Watch)

by | June 12, 2017

It’s magic. You walk up to your Mac, touch a key to wake it up, and upon noticing that you’re wearing your Apple Watch, it unlocks without making you enter a password. Brilliant! For some of us, it’s almost a reason alone to get an Apple Watch.

Auto Unlock, as Apple calls this feature, lets you protect your Mac with a strong password—recommended for international spies and teenage girls alike—without forcing you to type your password repeatedly. (You will have to type it the first time after you turn on, restart, or log out of your Mac.)

To enable this protection and keep people out of your Mac when you’re away, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General and select “Require password after sleep or screen saver begins.” Since your Apple Watch will be doing all the heavy lifting, feel free to set a short time span. Then select “Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac.” If the stars are smiling on you, that’s all you’ll need to do.

 

Auto-Unlock-Security-pref-pane

However, it’s likely that something won’t be quite right for Auto Unlock to function properly, since it has a bunch of requirements.

First, make sure your hardware is new enough and sufficiently up-to-date. Your Mac must be from mid-2013 or later, and it must be running macOS 10.12 Sierra or later. (If you aren’t sure about your Mac, see if that checkbox labeled “Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac” is present. If not, your Mac is too old.) Any model of Apple Watch will work, but it needs to be using at least watchOS 3.

Next, you need to turn on two-factor authentication. If you were using Apple’s previous two-step verification, you must switch to two-factor authentication. It adds an extra layer of security to your Apple devices and accounts, including iCloud, and is well worth doing in this day and age of password thefts. Plus, it ensures you don’t have to remember those inscrutable security questions about your favorite elementary school teacher! The links earlier in this paragraph have more details, but you enable two-factor authentication in System Preferences > iCloud > Account Details > Security.

Now for the checklist. For Auto Unlock to work:

  • Your Mac must have Bluetooth turned on. Click the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar or look in System Preferences > Bluetooth.
  • Your Mac must have Wi-Fi turned on, even if you’re using Ethernet. Click the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar and choose Turn Wi-Fi On if necessary.

Auto-Unlock-Bluetooth+Wi-Fi

  • Your Mac and your Apple Watch must be signed in to iCloud using the same Apple ID. Verify that in System Preferences > iCloud on the Mac, and on your iPhone in the Apple Watch app, in General > Apple ID.
  • Your Apple Watch must have a passcode enabled. On your iPhone, in the Apple Watch app, tap Passcode and then Turn Passcode On. So you don’t have to enter your passcode, enable Unlock with iPhone.

Auto-Unlock-Passcode

  • Your Mac must not be using Internet Sharing. Verify that in System Preferences > Sharing.

Auto-Unlock-Internet-Sharing

It’s a lot to check, we know, but you only have to do it once. After that, go back to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General and select “Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac.” It may prompt for your password, and Bob’s your uncle. (Unless he’s not. We’ve never understood that expression.)

After that, every time you wake your Mac or stop the screensaver, it will unlock automatically with your Apple Watch. If you’re not wearing the Apple Watch, or if your watch is locked (hence our recommendation of Unlock with iPhone), you can still type your password at the Mac’s login screen.

There is one small gotcha. Every time you install a macOS update, Apple disables that checkbox, presumably for some security reason. Just go back into the Security & Privacy preference pane and turn it back on. Happily, that’s nothing for the win of not having to unlock your Mac with your password multiple times per day.

 

Twitter: If you have an Apple Watch and a recent Mac, turn on Auto Unlock and (almost) never type your login password again!

Facebook: Let your Apple Watch unlock your Mac and you won’t have to type your password nearly as often