MacTLC: Tip of the week

Make Safari Tabs Easier to Identify by Adding Icons

Do you end up with so many tabs in Safari that it becomes impossible to read the truncated tab titles? There’s no shame in that, and Safari 12—which comes with macOS 10.14 Mojave and is a free update for 10.12 Sierra and 10.13 High Sierra—now offers an option to add an icon representing the Web site to each open tab. Called a favicon,this tiny image is usually carefully designed to identify its site and makes it easier to pick out the tab. To enable the feature, open Safari > Preferences > Tabs and select “Show website icons in tabs.” Unlike other Web browsers, Safari never shrinks a regular tab to just the icon, so you’ll always see the icon and some text.

Safari-favicons

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.

MacTLC: Tip of the week

Have You Noticed That Mojave’s Dock Shows Recent Applications?

The Mac’s Dock gives you quick access to frequently used apps, documents, and folders, and makes it easy to switch to a running app. In macOS 10.14 Mojave, the Dock has another feature: a list of apps you’ve used recently that aren’t on your default Dock. Icons for these apps appear between your Dock’s default apps and any documents or folders that you’ve added—look closely and you’ll notice subtle lines in the Dock that delineate this area. It always holds at least three apps, but expands to hold as many launched apps (note the subtle dot under the icon) as necessary; as you quit apps, their icons disappear until you’re back down to three. If you don’t like this change, turn off “Show recent applications in Dock” in System Preferences > Dock.

Mojave-Dock

Understanding Dark Mode in macOS 10.14 Mojave

The feature Apple is promoting most heavily with macOS 10.14 Mojave is Dark mode, which the company advertises as “a dramatic new look that helps you focus on your work… as toolbars and menus recede into the background.” Let’s look at what Apple has done with Dark mode, after which you’ll have a better idea of what to think about while trying it.

Enable Dark Mode

First, to turn Dark mode on, go to System Preferences > General and click the Dark thumbnail to the right of Appearance. Mojave immediately switches to Dark mode, turning light backgrounds dark and swapping the text color from dark to light.

Dark-mode-General-prefs

While you’re in System Preferences, click over to the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane. If you scroll down in the Desktop Pictures list, you’ll discover a bunch of new wallpapers that blend well with Dark mode.

Dark-mode-Desktops

Dark Mode Support and Controls

You’ll notice that the color change takes place instantly not just in the Finder, but also in any apps that support Dark mode. Most of Apple’s apps support Dark mode and third-party developers are rapidly adding support to their apps as well. However, Dark mode requires explicit support from apps, so older apps that aren’t being updated will maintain their standard dark-on-light color schemes.

Some apps, such as Maps and Mail, give you additional options that change just how dark they get. In Maps, choose View > Use Dark Map to toggle between a dark map style and the familiar map style that mimics a paper map. Similarly, in Mail, go to Mail > Preferences > Viewing and deselect “Use dark backgrounds for messages” to return to a white background.

Dark-mode-Maps

If you generally like Dark mode but have trouble reading light text on a dark background due to the reduced contrast, you may be able to choose a different font or style in the app’s preferences that makes the text more readable. Apps like Mail give you a fair amount of that sort of control.

For even more control over contrast, open System Preferences > Accessibility > Display. There you’ll find a Display Contrast slider that lets you make text lighter and backgrounds darker. You can also select Reduce Transparency to make it so

items like the Dock and menu bar are solid colors, rather than allowing the background to bleed through. To separate dark and light further, select Increase Contrast, which increases the brightness of divider lines as well.

Dark-mode-Accessibility

The Dark Side of Dark Mode

Contrast is necessary for pulling out fine details, but too much contrast can be uncomfortable or even painful—think about how you feel when someone turns on a bright light in a previously dark room. For visual comfort, it’s usually best to match your screen with the lighting of your surroundings. That’s why people who often work at night or with the window blinds down like dark modes—a bright screen seems brighter in a dimly lit room. That’s the theory behind the traditional dark text on a light background too, since the room will be quite light during the day.

So Dark mode can run into two problems. First is that using it during the day or in a brightly lit room may create an uncomfortable contrast between the screen and its surroundings. Controlling your room lighting can eliminate this as an issue. Second and more troubling, even apps that support Dark mode may have large content areas that are bright white, creating a strong contrast between the content area and the rest of the app. Many Web sites in Safari have this effect, as do documents in apps like Pages and Numbers. There’s no way around this scenario.

Dark-mode-Numbers

Even if Dark mode isn’t perfect, it’s worth a try if you have trouble looking at bright screens. Regardless, if it goes too far for you, one of the new dark wallpapers may be easier on your eyes. While most people aren’t overly light sensitive, a non-trivial percentage of the population is, particularly those who suffer from migraines or who have endured concussions, and those with a variety of ocular conditions. And if you’re on the other end of the spectrum—if Dark mode looks dirty and is hard to read—just stick with the traditional Light mode.

Back Up Before Upgrading to Mojave or iOS 12!

Poll a room of Apple experts about the one topic they can’t stop talking about and many will launch into frustrated rants about how too few people back up. Backups are always important, since you can never predict when your Mac or iPhone will be lost or stolen, melt in a fire, or just break. But one time when backups are especially important is before you upgrade to a major new operating system. If you’re thinking “What could go wrong?” the answer is, “Lots, and wouldn’t you like to be able to revert instantly if something does?”

Mac Backups

On the Mac side, there are plenty of ways to back up, and a bootable duplicate made with SuperDuperor Carbon Copy Cloneris the best insurance right before you upgrade to macOS 10.14 Mojave. More generally, backing up with Time Machine ensures that you can not only restore your entire drive if necessary, but also easily recover a previous version of a corrupted file. Finally, since a fire or flood would likely destroy your backup drive along with your Mac, we always recommend an offsite backup made via an Internet backup service like Backblaze.

Time-Machine-prefs

What happens if you don’t back up and your Mac gets damaged such that you can’t access important data? That’s when things get expensive, and if you have a 2018 MacBook Pro, you have even fewer options.

Historically, it was relatively easy to remove a drive from a broken Mac and recover the data from it. Data recovery got harder with solid-state storage, and even more so with the introduction of the first MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, thanks to Apple’s new T2 encryption chip, which encrypts data on the drive. To simplify last-ditch data recovery, Apple put a special port on the MacBook Pro’s logic board and provided a custom recovery tool for Apple Authorized Service Providers. With the 2018 MacBook Pro, however, Apple removed that port, so only data recovery specialists like DriveSaverscan recover data from such damaged machines, and only then if they have the user’s password.

So please,back up your Mac before something goes wrong. It’s fast, easy, and inexpensive to get started, and we’re happy to help.

iOS Backups

We’ve all seen, if not experienced, a broken iPhone or iPad. They’re durable little devices, but they won’t necessarily survive a drop onto a sidewalk or into a toilet (yeah, it happens). And it’s way too easy to forget your iPhone at the gym or in a restaurant. So a backup is necessary if you don’t want to risk losing precious photos or having to set up a new device from scratch. Plus, just as with a Mac, things can go wrong during major iOS upgrades.

With iOS, though, you don’t need extra software or hardware. Apple provides two ways of backing up your iPhone or iPad, iTunes and iCloud. Neither is necessarily better or worse, and you can—and should!—use both for added safety. We’ve seen situations where an iPhone would refuse to restore its files from iTunes but would from iCloud.

To back up to iCloud, go to Settings > Your Name> iCloud > iCloud Backup, turn the switch on, and tap Back Up Now. For backups to happen automatically in the future, you must have sufficient space in your iCloud account (you get 5 GB for free and can buy more), and your device must be on a Wi-Fi network, connected to power, and have its screen locked.

iCloud-Backup

To back up to iTunes, connect your device to your Mac via a Lightning-to-USB cable, launch iTunes, and click the device icon to the right of the media menu.

iTunes-device-button

Then, in the Backups section, click Back Up Now. If you’re prompted to encrypt your backups, we encourage you to agree since otherwise your backup won’t include passwords, Health information, or HomeKit data. For automatic backups via iTunes, select This Computer. After that, every time you plug into your Mac, it will back up.

iTunes-Backups-section

If you have sufficient iCloud storage, we recommend backing up automatically to iCloud because its automatic backups work well at night when you’re charging your devices. Then, make extra backups to iTunes whenever you think you might need to restore, such as when you’re getting a new iPhone or iPad, or when you’re about to upgrade to a new version of iOS.

Being an Apple User Means You’re Not the Product

There’s an Internet saying: “If you’re not the customer, you’re the product.” The point is that, if you’re getting a service for free, the company providing it sees you not as a customer, but as a product to sell, generally to advertisers.

This is how Google, Facebook, and Twitter operate. They provide services for free, collect data about you, and make money by showing you ads. In theory, the more that advertisers know about you, the better they can target ads to you, and the more likely you’ll be to buy. Personalized advertising can seem creepy (or clueless, when it fails), but it isn’t inherently evil, and we’re not suggesting that you stop using ad-supported services.

This ad-driven approach stands in stark contrast to how Apple does business. Apple makes most of its money by selling hardware—iPhones, Macs, and iPads, primarily. Another big chunk of Apple’s revenue comes from App Store and iTunes Store sales, iCloud subscriptions, and Apple Pay fees. Knowing more about you, what Web pages you visit, what you buy, and who you’re friends with doesn’t help Apple’s business, and on its Privacypage, Apple says bluntly, “We believe privacy is a fundamental human right.”

Of course, once your data is out there, it can be lost or stolen—in June 2018, a security researcher discovered that the online data broker Exactis was exposing a database containing 340 million records of dataon hundreds of millions of American adults. Ouch!

Let’s look at a few of the ways that Apple protects your privacy.

Siri and Dictation

The longer you use Siri and Dictation, the better they work,Siri-icon
thanks to your devices transmitting data back to Apple for analysis. However, Apple creates a random identifier for your data rather than associating the information with your Apple ID, and if you reset Siri by turning it off and back on, you’ll get a new random identifier. Whenever possible, Apple keeps Siri functionality on your device, so if you search for a photo by location or get suggestions after a search, those results come from local data only.

Touch ID and Face ID

When you register your fingerprints with Touch ID or train Face ID to recognize your face, it’s reasonable to worry Touch-ID-iconabout that information being stored where attackers—or some government agency—could access it and use it for nefarious purposes. Apple was concerned about that too, so these systems don’t store images of your fingerprints or face, but instead mathematical signatures based on them. Those signatures are kept only locally, in the Secure Enclave security coprocessor that’s part of the CPU of the iPhone and iPad—and on Touch ID-equipped laptops—in such a way that the images can’t be reverse engineered from the signatures.

And, of course, a major goal of Touch ID and Face ID is to prevent someone from violating your privacy by accessing your device directly.

Health and Fitness

People with medical conditions can be concerned about health information impacting health insurance bills or a Health-iconpotential employer’s hiring decision. To assuage that worry, Apple lets you choose what information ends up in Health app, and once it’s there, encrypts it whenever your iPhone is locked. Plus, any Health data that’s backed up to iCloud is encrypted both in transit and when it’s stored on Apple’s servers.

App Store Guidelines

A linchpin in Apple’s approach to privacy is its control over the App Store. Since developers must submit apps to Apple for approval, Apple can enforce stringent guidelines that specify how apps can ask for access to your data (location, photos, contacts, etc). This isn’t a blanket protection—for instance, if you allow a social media app <cough>Facebook<cough> to access your contacts and location, the company behind that app will get lots of data on your whereabouts and can even cross-reference that with the locations of everyone in your contact list who also uses the service.

In the end, only you can decide how much information you App-Store-iconwant to share with the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter, and only you can determine if or when their use of your details feels like an invasion of privacy. But by using Apple products and services, you can be certain that the company that could know more about you than any other is actively trying to protect your privacy.

Apple Is Discontinuing Its Photo Printing Services—Here Are 7 Alternatives

Sad news: Apple is discontinuing its photo printing services, which enabled you to create and order physical prints, cards, calendars, and books from within Photos on the Mac. If you’re building such a project right now, be sure to place your order before September 30th, 2018. After that, Apple is directing users to download a Photos Project Extension from the Mac App Store. You’ll see this dialog whenever you click a project in Photos.

Print-projects-dialog

When you click the Open App Store button, Photos opens the App Store app and shows available Photos Project Extensions. (If you need to open this Mac App Store screen manually, search on appex:com.apple.photo-project.) Most of these extensions are free, since they’ll make their money when you order projects.

Print-projects-App-Store

These extensions aren’t exact replacements for Apple’s projects, so let’s look briefly at what they provide.

Mimeo Photos

The extension that comes closest to providing the same products and features as Apple’s print projects is Mimeo Photos, which can create cards, calendars, and books. It offers a wide array of themes.

Print-projects-Mimeo

Motif

Motiflooks quite similar to Mimeo Photos, also enabling you to create cards, calendars, and books with selected photos, and it comes from RR Donnelley, the company that was previously Apple’s partner for print projects. It doesn’t offer as many themes or options as Mimeo Photos, but it has a better interface.

Print-projects-Motif

Shutterfly

Even though the popular Shutterflyphoto service’s Web site lets you go beyond the basics to put your photos on a vast number of objects, such as pillows, candles, and trivets, the company’s Photos extension is limited to photo books. Happily, it provides quite a few different sizes and bindings, and numerous themes for each.

Print-projects-Shutterfly

Fujifilm Prints & Gifts

The Fujifilm Prints & Giftsextension lets you order prints, cards, wall art, mugs and drinkware, magnets, T-shirts, puzzles, iPhone cases, and much more. However, it has a non-standard interface (basically the company’s Web site), and every time we switched out of the extension, it crashed and forgot which photo we’d had selected.

Print-projects-Fujfilm

Mpix

Although Mpixseems to focus on prints, if you scroll down in the project list, the final option is Browse Mpix, which provides more possibilities, including photo books, calendars, collages, foil art prints, posters, keychains, magnets, playing cards, and business cards. Confusingly, with some of these items, Photos acts as nothing more than a window onto Mpix’s Web site, with no awareness of the photos you’ve selected.

Print-projects-Mpix

WhiteWall

WhiteWallfocuses entirely on prints, with high-end choices for exotic papers and options for mounting and framing. Supported sizes range from 8″ x 6″ up to 48″ x 36″. Unfortunately, the WhiteWall prices seemed high (a framed photo was between $130 and $530, depending on size), and once you select a particular paper or frame choice, there is no way to try another with the same photo without starting another project.

Print-projects-WhiteWall

Wix

Unlike all the others, the Wix extension doesn’t put photos on physical products at all. Instead, it’s designed to create on-screen photo albums for Web sites designed with the Wixservice. As such, it’s potentially extremely useful for Wix users, but not at all for everyone else.

Print-projects-Wix

It’s too bad that Apple is getting out of the print project business since the interfaces from these extensions tend not to be as good as what we’re used to from Apple. But if you like making yourself a calendar every year, you’ll probably do fine with Mimeo Photos or Motif, and the rest of the extensions do extend Photos’ printing capabilities in a big way.

MacTLC: Tip of the week

Did You Know This Hidden Trick for Opening System Preferences Panes Directly?

The System Preferences app on the Mac contains about 30 icons, each leading to additional settings panes. Rather than opening System Preferences, scanning the collection of icons, and clicking the one you want, you can jump directly to the desired pane. Just click and hold on the System Preferences icon in the Dock, and choose a pane from the pop-up menu.

System-Preferences-menu

Let Your Fingers Do the Walking: 13 Essential Trackpad Tricks for Mac Users

A trackpad is not a mouse. In some ways, that’s obvious—you swipe your fingers on it, rather than dragging it around. Less obvious, however, are the many gestures that make using a trackpad on your Mac faster and more fun. These gestures aren’t limited to laptop users, thanks to Apple’s Magic Trackpad 2, which brings gesturing goodness to any desktop Mac. Here’s how to put your fingers to work.

Four Fingers on the Trackpad

The four-fingers-down gestures are dramatic and an easy way to appreciate the power of trackpad gestures, so we’ll start with them.

Say you have a lot of windows open, and you want to move them all aside quickly so you can open a file on the Desktop. Place your thumb and three fingers together on your trackpad and then spread them outward. Your windows scurry to the edges of the screen. To bring the windows back, reverse the gesture, pinching your fingers in toward your palm.

Trackpad-Tricks-Desktop

If you haven’t moved windows aside, pinching your thumb and three fingers together instead opens Launchpad, which shows icons for installed apps. Click an icon to open that app, or use the spreading four-fingered gesture to exit Launchpad.

Three Fingers on the Trackpad

Move three fingers horizontally on your trackpad and either nothing will happen, or you’ll switch to a different “desktop space.” This state of affairs is most easily seen by making an app full-screen. For instance, open Safari and click the green full-screen button at the upper left of the window. Safari takes over the entire screen, including the menu bar (to put it back, hover the pointer at the very top of the screen to see and click the green button again).

Now swipe left and right horizontally to switch in and out of the Safari space. As you make more apps full-screen, they’ll each create their own space. (If you’ve enabled Apple’s Dashboard, you may see it at the far left.)

What if you swipe vertically with three fingers? Swipe up to enter the All Windows view of Mission Control, which shows all open windows as thumbnails, plus desktop spaces in the top bar. Click any thumbnail to switch to it, or jump to any space by clicking it. You can also click the plus button at the upper right or drag any window into the top bar to create a new space. To move a space’s apps back to the current space, hover over a space on the top bar and click the close close-space-button-inline button that appears. To exit All Windows view, swipe down with three fingers.

Trackpad-Tricks-All-Windows

If you haven’t invoked All Windows view, swiping down with three fingers instead invokes App Exposé view, which displays thumbnails of all open windows in the current app. Click any one to switch to it. Swipe right or left with three fingers while in App Exposé to switch between apps.

Finally, on older MacBooks that don’t have Force Touch-capable trackpads, tap with three fingers on words to look them up, on files to preview them with Quick Look, and more. With newer MacBooks, if you have “Force Click and haptic feedback” enabled in System Preferences > Trackpad > Point & Click, you can instead “force click” with one finger for these features. That involves clicking on something and then pressing firmly without letting up.

Two Fingers on the Trackpad

The two-fingered gestures are easy to get your head around:

  • In Safari, swipe left on a page to go back in that tab’s page history or right to go forward.
  • Also in Safari, tap two fingers on the trackpad to zoom in on the content. Another two-fingered tap zooms back out.
  • In Photos, and some graphics apps, zoom in and out by pinching with two fingers, and rotate selected objects by putting two fingers on the trackpad and turning them. A two-finger pinch also zooms the page in Safari.
  • To open Notification Center quickly, swipe left from off the right-hand edge of your trackpad. Swipe back to the right to close Notification Center.

Changing Your Preferences

If you need a refresher on all these gestures, open System Preferences > Trackpad. Look in the Point & Click, Scroll & Zoom, and More Gestures panes to see a video for each gesture. You can also adjust which ones are active and how many fingers they require.

Trackpad-Tricks-new-preferences

With so many gestures on offer, it’s worth your time to explore everything you can do with your trackpad.

MacTLC: Tip of the week

A Simple Technique for Decluttering Your Reminders List.

Productivity experts recommend offloading things you have to remember to a task-management app like Apple’s Reminders, which syncs your to-dos among your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. That’s particularly helpful for tasks you want to be reminded of in a few months or next year, but then those far-in-the-future tasks—especially repeating ones!—clutter your main Reminders list. The solution? Create a Far Future Reminders list, and move reminders to it that aren’t relevant within the next month or so. Just make sure everything in Far Future Reminders is set to alert you on the appropriate day.

Declutter-Reminders-example