MacTLC: Tip of the week

So What Are All Those Stacks of Notifications in iOS 12?

It can be easy to become overwhelmed by iOS notifications, particularly if you have chatty friends or apps. In iOS 12, Apple corralled notifications by grouping them into stacks so you no longer see an endless screen of alerts. To expand a stack of notifications on either the Lock screen or in Notification Center (swipe down from the top of the screen), tap the stack. Once you’ve expanded a stack, you can tap Show Less to restack it, tap the X button to remove the entire stack, or tap any individual notification to open it. By default, iOS 12 groups notifications intelligently, which might entail separate stacks for different Messages conversations, for instance. If that’s still too much, you can go to Settings > Notifications > App Name> Notification Grouping and tap By App to collect every notification from the app into the same stack.

Grouped-Notifications

The Best Apple-Related Gifts for 2018

Black Friday and the start of the holiday shopping seasons are nearly upon us. If you’re looking for gift ideas for your Apple-using loved ones, we have a few suggestions that are guaranteed to be popular.

Apple Watch

The new Apple Watch Series 4 may be the gift hit of the season as adult gift-guide-Apple-Watch-Series-4-fallchildren buy it for aging parents. That’s happening due to the Apple Watch’s health monitoring capabilities, which include fall detection, atrial fibrillation detection, and (soon) the capability to record electrocardiograms. It may seem expensive at $399 for the Wi-Fi version or $499 for the cellular version that can call emergency services even if its companion iPhone isn’t nearby, but the cost pales in comparison with the price of any medical event.

For those who are more interested in the Apple Watch’s fitness and communication features, last year’s Apple Watch Series 3 now starts at just $279 for Wi-Fi and $379 for cellular. It lacks the health monitoring features of the Series 4, but those are overkill for most young, healthy people. The cellular version is worthwhile only if you’re certain the recipient will make use of the watch while out and about without the iPhone, since its data plan costs $10 extra per month.

And, if someone on your gift list already has an Apple Watch, a new band would make a great present—Apple offers a wide variety of attractive and comfortable bands.

HomePod

Apple’s smart speaker may not be as popular as the Amazon Echo and gift-guide-HomePod-blackGoogle Home, but it sounds way better than its cheaper competition. Apple designed it to work with the $9.99 per month Apple Music service so if your recipient doesn’t already subscribe to Apple Music, you could include a subscription as part of the gift. The HomePod is available in black or white, and it’s super simple to set up and use via Siri for music, podcasts, speakerphone calls, kitchen timers, and a whole lot more.

Stocking Stuffer Accessories

You might not get the same “Wow!” factor with these gifts, but Apple’s gift-guide-USB-C-AV-adapterfocus on minimalist design has created a situation where many users find themselves frustrated by the lack of the right cable or adapter.

iPhone users might appreciate an extra Lightning charging cable or a Lightning-to-headphone adapter to take advantage of inexpensive earbuds. And those who rely on a MacBook with USB-C or a MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 3 are usually desperate for USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 cables and adapters. Some of the most popular convert USB-C to USB-A for many devices, USB-C to HDMI for large-screen displays, and Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 for older Thunderbolt hard drives. Ask first to find out what they find most annoying!

Plus, a second iPhone, Mac, or Apple Watch charger can help reduce battery anxiety and make it easier to pack one for trips.

AirPods

One of the most popular Apple products of late has been the AirPods, gift-guide-AirPodssvelte wireless earbuds that pair quickly and seamlessly to all Apple devices logged in to the same iCloud account. They’re light, stay in the ear well, and are comfortable even for many people who can’t wear the wired EarPods. At $159, they’re not cheap, but they’re less expensive than many competing wireless earbuds.

Apple TV

Despite its age, the $149 fourth-generation Apple TV still makes a good present for anyone who watches TV shows and movies from Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, and other Internet streaming video services. It’s also great for sharing photos or videos from an iPhone or iPad on the big screen via AirPlay.

Unless your recipient has or is likely to get a compatible 4K HDR TV, gift-guide-Apple-TVskip the $179 Apple TV 4K since it provides no benefits on older TV screens.

For the friend or family member who already has an Apple TV, search for silicone cases that protect the brittle Siri Remote and make it easier to orient in the dark.

iPad

Last, but far from least, if someone in your family has never tried an iPad or is limping along with an early model, the current sixth-generation iPad combines good performance and a gorgeous screen starting at just $329.

gift-guide-iPad-Pencil

It’s also compatible with the original $99 Apple Pencil, so if your recipient has an artistic bent, consider adding Apple’s stylus and maybe a painting app.

Of course, particularly if you’re buying an iPad for a child, a protective case is a must, and even for adults, a good case can provide peace of mind and hold the iPad in convenient positions for reading books or watching movies.

iOS 12’s Screen Time Feature Helps You Manage Your iPhone Usage

Do you frequently reach for your iPhone for a quick check of Facebook or Messages? It’s all too easy to let social media, the latest hot game, or even your work email intrude on your real life. If you’re uncomfortable with how much—and when—you use your iPhone or iPad, iOS 12’s new Screen Time feature can help you limit your usage in two ways, by time of day and by time spent in an app.

(Screen Time can help you monitor and limit your children’s iOS usage too. This article focuses on setting it up for yourself; we’ll examine Screen Time parental controls another time.)

Get Started with Screen Time

To enable Screen Time, go to Settings > Screen Time and tap Turn On Screen Time. After you see an introductory splash screen, tap This Is My iPhone to go to the main Screen Time screen.

Screen-Time-setup-basics

Two options on the lower portion of this screen help you customize Screen Time overall. Tap Use Screen Time Passcode to create another passcode that controls access to Screen Time settings and lets you extend time limits. It’s designed for parents who let their children use their devices, but you could use it as a speed bump when overriding your self-defined limits.

If you use both an iPhone and an iPad, enable Share Across Devices to aggregate your usage. This syncs settings between your devices, so if you want different setups, keep this option off.

Downtime

To limit your usage according to a schedule, perhaps so you don’t get caught up in a game before bed, tap Downtime, turn on the Downtime switch, and set start and end times. Unfortunately, you can’t create multiple schedules for different portions of the day.

App Limits

When you tap App Limits and then Add Limit, Screen Time presents you with a list of categories and examples of your apps in each one. Select one or more—say Social Networking and Games—and then tap Add. Then set the amount of time you want to allow yourself overall for apps in that category. You can create multiple category limits with different amounts of allotted time.

Screen-Time-App-Limits

If an app category is too broad, you can limit a particular app. Tap the Screen Time graph at the top of the screen, scroll down to the Most Used section, and tap an app in the list. At the bottom of that screen, tap Add Limit and specify a time limit.

There are a few exceptions to the apps limited by both Downtime and App Limits, regardless of your settings. The Phone app is always available, and Clock, Find My iPhone, Safari, and Settings appear to be exempt. For other apps you never want limited, tap Allowed Apps on the main Screen Time screen, and then tap the green plus button next to any app you want to allow. Apple adds FaceTime, Maps, and Messages to the Allowed Apps list by default, but you can remove them if desired.

Screen-Time-Always-Allowed

Living with Screen Time

Screen Time alerts you 5 minutes before a time limit expires and displays a Time Limit screen when time runs out. Although the point of Downtime and App Limits is to help you stop playing the latest addictive game or reflexively checking Facebook, you can tap Ignore Limit to keep using the app, either for 15 minutes or the rest of the day.

Screen-Time-limit-warnings

Screen Time also dims the icon for any affected app on the Home screen and puts a tiny timer icon next to the name. You can still open such apps, but you’ll go right to the Time Limit screen.

Screen-Time-dimmed-icons

Equally as helpful is the way Screen Time reports on your usage so you realize how much you’re using different apps. It provides a weekly report, but you can always go into Settings > Screen Time to see your daily usage.

Screen-Time-daily-usage

Tap that graph, and Screen Time lets you dive into the details, for example, by revealing your most-used apps, how often you pick up your device, and how many interrupting notifications you receive. Much of the information in this screen is interactive—tap various items to see more details or adjust settings.

Screen-Time-weekly-usage

Only you can decide if you’re using your iPhone or iPad more than you like, and only you can exercise the self-control to restrict your usage. But Screen Time highlights how you’re actually spending time, both as you’re doing it and after the fact. Give it a try!

 

MacTLC: Tip of the week

Apple Moved Control Center in iOS 12 on the iPad—Here’s Where to Find It

Although most of what’s new in iOS 12 are new features, one change for change’s sake may throw you. In iOS 11 on an iPad, you would bring up Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, just like on all iPhones other than the iPhone X. With iOS 12, however, Apple brought the iPad in line with the iPhone X and the recently released iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen on the iPad now reveals the Dock, and if you continue swiping, the App Switcher. But no Control Center! To bring up Control Center, swipe down from the upper-right corner of the screen—use the Wi-Fi and battery icons as a reminder.

Control-Center-iOS-12-iPad

Use Continuity Camera to Scan Documents and Take Photos Right into Mac Documents

Have you found yourself composing an email message on your Mac while staring glumly at the receipt or document you need to scan and attach to the message? Adding that scan to the message isn’t impossible, but until macOS 10.14 Mojave, it hasn’t necessarily been easy.

It’s super simple now, thanks to a new Mojave feature called Continuity Camera. It lets you take pictures or scan documents with an iPhone or iPad running iOS 12 and have those images show up immediately on the Mac, either in a document or on the Desktop.

Continuity Camera Basics

Apart from Mojave and iOS 12, Continuity Camera requires that the devices be on the same Wi-Fi network, have Bluetooth turned on, and be logged in to the same Apple ID, which must use two-factor authentication. Continuity Camera also requires explicit support in apps, which means for the moment that it works only in Apple’s apps, including the Finder, Mail, Messages, Notes, TextEdit, Pages, Keynote, and Numbers. We aren’t aware of any third-party apps that support it yet.

How you access Continuity Camera can vary by app, but the most common approach is to Control- or right-click where you want the scan or photo to go. Look either for commands for Take Photo and Scan Documents, or for an Import from iPhone or iPad submenu, under which those commands will be replicated for each device.

Continuity-Camera-on-Desktop

The Take Photo and Scan Documents commands may also appear in the File menu or in an Insert menu. Plus, Mail composition windows have a drop-down menu on the right side of the toolbar that includes those commands.

Should you import directly into an app, or onto the Desktop? It’s up to you, of course, but adding a file to the Desktop that you can then drag to its eventual destination gives you more options for reuse or modification, along with backup. That could be important since the photos and scans aren’t stored on the iPhone or iPad.

Using Continuity Camera

Follow these steps to use Continuity Camera to take a photo or scan a document to your Mac. Because it’s the most likely scenario, we’ll describe importing to the Desktop from an iPhone, but the steps are the same for importing into any supported app or from an iPad.

First, Control-click the Desktop and choose either Import from iPhone > Take Photo or Import from iPhone > Scan Documents. A dialog appears on the Mac screen, telling you to use the iPhone to take the photo or scan the document. The iPhone displays a variant of the Camera app automatically.

Continuity-Camera-dialogs

If you’re taking a photo, you can switch between the rear- and front-facing cameras, pinch out to zoom, or enable the flash with the flash button. All you need to do is tap the shutter button. If the photo is blurry or otherwise unusable, tape Retake to try again, but if you like it, tap Use Photo. The picture shows up immediately on your Mac as a JPEG file.

Continuity-Camera-Take-Photo

If you’re instead scanning a document, you also get a Filters button that lets you set the scan type: color (the default), grayscale, black-and-white, or photo. By default, the scanning interface takes a picture automatically when it detects a document. If it moves too fast for you, tap Auto (at the upper right) to switch to Manual. Then tap the shutter button to capture the image, after which you may drag the circles to identify the document corners better. Then tap Retake or Keep Scan. If it’s a multi-page document, flip the page and continue scanning to add more pages. When you’re done, tap Save to send the document to your Mac as a PDF.

Continuity-Camera-Scan-Documents

That’s it! The first time or two might seem a little awkward, but once you get the hang of Continuity Camera, it’s a wonderfully quick way to get a scan or photo onto your Mac.

Top Features of iOS 12 to Take Advantage of Right Away

Feeling left behind because you don’t have the latest iPhone or iPad? Don’t, because Apple has a present for you in the form of iOS 12. The new operating system promises to increase performance, particularly for older devices as far back as the iPhone 5s and iPad Air.

But iOS 12 offers more than just a speed boost. Apart from adding fripperies like new animoji, text effects, and camera effects in Messages and FaceTime, iOS 12 helps you use your device less. That’s important, as it becomes increasingly obvious that many people spend more time than they’d like on addictive social media apps, games, and cat videos.

Screen Time

The marquee feature for helping you control device usage is Screen Time. Found in the Settings app, Screen Time reports on how much time you spend using different apps, how often you pick up your device, and how many notifications interrupt you. You can check it anytime and get weekly reports, and use this information to help you reduce undesirable usage.

iOS-12-Screen-Time

Screen Time has two helpful options, Downtime and App Limits. With Downtime, you can specify a time period when you can only receive phone calls and use specific apps you set in Always Allowed. App Limits let you set how long you may use certain categories of apps. You can ignore the limit, extending it for 15 minutes or for the rest of the day, but that’s cheating, right?

iOS-12-App-Limits

Even better, you can set Downtime and App Limits for a child’s iPhone or iPad, ensuring that they can’t play games after bedtime or text their friends during dinner.

Notification Management

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with notifications, especially if you have chatty friends in messaging apps. iOS 12 can reduce the impact of non-stop notifications. On the Lock screen, iOS 12 now groups message threads and multiple notifications from the same app. Tapping a group expands it so you can see the details.

iOS-12-Notifications

Plus, with a feature called Instant Tuning, you can change notification settings for an app right from a notification. Swipe left on a notification and tap Manage. Instant Tuning also lets you send notifications to Notification Center silently so they don’t interrupt you but are available later.

Do Not Disturb

In the “it’s about time” department, iOS 12 beefs up Do Not Disturb so it iOS-12-DNDworks more the way people do. When you bring up Control Center and force-touch the Do Not Disturb button, it expands to let you turn on Do Not Disturb for 1 hour, for the rest of the day, or until you leave your current location. The beauty of these new options is that they disable Do Not Disturb automatically so you don’t have to remember—and potentially miss important notifications. Plus, a new Bedtime option in Settings > Do Not Disturb dims the display and silences overnight notifications until you unlock your device in the morning.

Siri Shortcuts

Another new feature, Siri Shortcuts, aims to help you use your device more effectively. As Siri learns your routines, it will start suggesting shortcuts for common actions, either on the Lock screen or when you pull down on the Home screen to search. You can see its suggestions in Settings > Siri & Search > All Shortcuts, and for those that seem useful, record a custom phrase that will invoke the shortcut. Plus, a new Shortcuts app lets you create more complex shortcuts that can run multiple steps at once.

Smaller Changes

Those may be the most significant changes in iOS 12, but they’re far from the only ones. Here’s a sampling of other refinements you’ll notice:

  • Apple has redesigned the iBooks app and renamed it Books.
  • The News, Stocks, and Voice Memos apps also received redesigns, Stocks and Voice Memos are now available on the iPad, and all three have made the jump to the Mac in Mojave, with their data synced via iCloud.
  • A new Measure app uses augmented reality to help you measure objects in the real world.
  • In Settings > Battery, iOS 12 shows graphs of battery usage and activity for the last 24 hours or the last 10 days.

iOS-12-Screen-Time

iOS 12 has even more minor improvements that we’ll be sharing in the coming months, so watch this space!

MacTLC: Tip of the week

Update AirPort Express Base Stations to Add AirPlay 2

Apple may have discontinued its AirPort Wi-Fi base stations, but in a surprise parting gift, the company has released a firmware update to the AirPort Express that gives it AirPlay 2 capabilities like multi-room audio. If you have an AirPort Express connected to speakers through its audio jack, first use AirPort Utility on the Mac or iPhone to update its firmware to version 7.8. Once you do that, you’ll be able to play audio simultaneously through the AirPort Express and to other AirPlay 2–enabled devices, such as the HomePod and Apple TV.

AirPort-Utility-Mac-firmware

MacTLC: Tip of the week

Here’s How to Load the Desktop Version of a Web Site on an iPhone or iPad.

Some Web sites have separate desktop and mobile versions, each theoretically providing the best browsing experience for its platform. Unfortunately, mobile Web sites sometimes leave out necessary features or hide content. That’s especially annoying if you’re browsing on an iPad, where the desktop site would work fine. If you run across such a site while browsing in Safari on the iPhone or iPad, you can ask for its desktop version. Press and hold the Reload button at the right side of the address bar, and then tap Request Desktop Site. If the site allows such a request, as do Wikipedia and the New York Times, the desktop version loads (to read the small text, you may need to pinch out to zoom the page).

Desktop-site-Wikipedia

How to Make the Most of Apple’s New AirPlay 2

For many years now, Apple’s AirPlay feature has made it possible to stream audio from an iOS device or Mac to an AirPlay-enabled speaker, AirPort Express base station, or most recently, a HomePod. Because AirPlay transfers sound over a Wi-Fi network, it eliminates the need for stereo wires and lets you put your speakers where you want them.

In June 2017, Apple threw back the curtains onAirPlay 2, saying it would play the same song on multiple speakers (with AirPlay 1, this is possible only in iTunes) or play different songs on different speakers. Subsequently, Apple released the HomePod, promising to add multi-room audio and stereo sound with linked HomePods in the future.

Apple recently released three updates—iOS 11.4, tvOS 11.4, and HomePod 11.4—with an eye toward delivering AirPlay 2 and these promised features. Once you’ve installed these updates, here’s how to start enjoying AirPlay 2’s improvements.

AirPlay 2 in iOS

To take advantage of the multi-room audio capabilities in iOS, start playing some audio. Then open Control Center, press the audio card to expand it, and tap the AirPlay  button in the upper right. You see a list of available output devices; those that support AirPlay 2 have a circle to the right of the name. Tap one or more of those circles to send the audio to that speaker. If an app has its own AirPlay button, you can also tap that to access the same controls.

AirPlay-2-in-iOS

The iPhone can’t play audio simultaneously with an AirPlay 2 speaker, which is why there’s no circle next to iPhonein the image above. Although AirPlay 1 devices—such as the AirPort Express base station (Speaker Expressabove)—still work singly, they can’t be included in a multi-room set.

AirPlay 2 in tvOS

Once your Apple TV is running tvOS 11.4, it can become an AirPlay 2 speaker, sending audio through your TV, soundbar, or home theater system. It can also broadcast its own audio to other AirPlay 2 speakers.

To enable an Apple TV for AirPlay 2, go to Settings > AirPlay > Room, and bring your iPhone or iPad close to the Apple TV. Accept the prompt that appears on the iPhone or iPad, and the Apple TV joins other AirPlay 2 devices associated with your Apple ID.

AirPlay-2-tvOS-setup

Once it’s set up, you can send audio from the Apple TV to different speakers. In a video app, swipe down from the top of the Siri Remote, select Audio, and then select one or more speakers (not all video apps offer this feature).

AirPlay-2-tvOS-video

For music, the steps are a little different. Start playing some music and then, from the Music app’s Now Playing screen, swipe up and to the left to highlight the AirPlay ios10-airplay-icon  button (if no icons are showing at the top of the screen, press the Menu button to display them). Or—this is much easier!—just press and hold the Play/Pause  play-pause-icon button on the Siri Remote. Then, as in iOS, select the desired AirPlay 2 speakers with circles to the right of their names by swiping down and clicking the touchpad.

AirPlay-2-tvOS-speakers

You can also send all Apple TV audio to AirPlay 2 speakers by going to Settings > Video and Audio > Audio Output and selecting the desired speakers.

Other AirPlay 2 Improvements

AirPlay 2 includes a few welcome performance improvements. A larger streaming buffer makes for fewer audio drops, and tighter device syncing provides a faster response when you play or pause the music. Another plus for iOS users is that taking a phone call or playing a game won’t interrupt playback.

Siri works better with streaming audio as well. You can specify which speaker Siri should play through, as in “play David Bowie’s Hunky Dory on Dining Room,” and play the same music through all your speakers with a command like “play the Brandenburg Concertos everywhere.” You can even move audio from one speaker to another—try asking your HomePod to “move the music to the Apple TV.”

AirPlay 2 speakers are now HomeKit accessories, so you can start and stop them in the Home app. That’s about it for now, but we hope a future update will let us integrate audio into HomeKit scenes and automations, so your HomePod could automatically start playing soft jazz when you walk in the door from work.

Finally, although it’s unclear whether this feature is part of AirPlay 2, a pair of HomePods can now act as stereo speakers. Once each HomePod is running 11.4, a new option to pair them appears in the HomePod settings in the Home app. Select the HomePods, assign them to the left and right sides, and you can enjoy true stereo music.

HomePod-pairing

It may sound as though all AirPlay 2-compatible speakers come from Apple, but in fact, a wide range of speaker manufacturers—including names like Bang & Olufsen, Bose, Denon, Marantz, Polk, and Sonos—have committed to supporting AirPlay 2, either with updates to existing products or in new speakers. Look for such products later in 2018, and, in the meantime, we hope you enjoy using AirPlay 2 with HomePods and Apple TVs.

What OS Version Are You Running? Here’s How to Find Out.

In Troubleshooting 101, one of the first questions is always, “What version of the operating system are you running?” There’s a big difference between Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and macOS 10.13 High Sierra, and the solution to any particular problem will likely revolve around knowing what operating system is in play.

The same is true of Apple’s other operating systems: iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. And, although they aren’t quite in the same category, Apple’s AirPods and HomePod both have system software that can be updated as well.

For the next time you’re experiencing a problem, here’s how to find the version of each of Apple’s operating systems.

macOS

On the Mac, click the Apple menu in the upper-left corner of the screen and choose About This Mac. A window opens, displaying the name (macOS High Sierra shown here) and version (10.13.4) of the running version of macOS.

Which-OS-Mac

Every now and then, it can be important to learn the build number too—it’s one step more specific than the version number. A new Mac may have a different build number of the same version of macOS, for instance, or Apple may push out a silent security update that changes the build number. To find the build number, simply click the version number—the six-character build number (17E202) appears in parentheses, as above.

 

iOS

On an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you find the version number in Settings > General > About. Scan down the screen until you see the Version line, which tells you both the version of iOS and the build number.

Which-OS-iPhone

watchOS

There are two ways to find the version of watchOS running on an Apple Watch:

  • On the watch, open the Settings app, scroll down to and tap General, tap About, and then scroll down until you see Version.

Which-OS-Apple-Watch

  • On your iPhone, open the Watch app and make sure My Watch is selected in the bottom button bar. Then go to General > About to see a screen that displays much the same information as the Settings app on the watch, including the version number.

 

Which-OS-Watch-app

tvOS

By now, you can probably guess that on an Apple TV you go to Settings > General > About to find the tvOS version. Apple is nicely consistent in this regard. That said, only the fourth-generation Apple TV and Apple TV 4K run tvOS. The obsolete second- and third-generation Apple TVs are instead based on a stripped-down version of iOS, and the first-generation Apple TV is an entirely different beast yet, with its large white case and internal hard drive.

Which-OS-Apple-TV

AirPods

You’re unlikely to need to check the version of your AirPods, but if it ever comes up, make sure the AirPods are either connected to their host iOS device or in their case with the top open. Then, on the host iOS device, go to Settings > General > About > AirPods and look for the Firmware Version line.

Which-OS-AirPods

 

HomePod

Although the HomePod shipped only recently, Apple has promised software updates that will allow two HomePods in a room to provide true stereo sound and support multi-room audio if you’ve sprinkled HomePods around your house. To check the version of the HomePod software, open Apple’s Home app, make sure Home is selected in the bottom toolbar, and then press and hold on the HomePod’s tile until it opens. Then tap the Details button in the lower right and scroll down until you see the Version line.

Which-OS-HomePod