Moment Helps You Gauge Your iPhone Use and Offers Parental Oversight Option.

Smartphone addiction is real. Do you check your iPhone before you get out of bed? During family dinners? Right before you go to sleep? Constantly during the day even when you’re on vacation? If you—or your family members—feel that you’re disappearing into your phone too often or at inappropriate times, it may be time to do something about it.

To start, you might want to quantify the problem, and for that, you can turn to a free iPhone app called Moment. Written by developer Kevin Holesh, Moment is designed to track three key pieces of data:

 

  • How often you pick up your iPhone every day
  • How much time you spend on your iPhone
  • Which apps you use the most

 

It then uses that information to paint a picture (well, not literally) of your iPhone use. Most people underestimate how much time they spend on their iPhones by about 100% (the average Moment user uses their iPhone for nearly 4 hours per day!). Knowing how much time you spend is the first step toward using your phone intentionally, rather than as a conduit to a constant stream of social media updates (look at the stats shown below), email messages, and quick-hit entertainment.

Moment-social-stats

To get started, use the App Store app to install Moment, and then launch the app. It starts tracking your usage immediately, although once per week you’ll need to take screenshots of Settings > Battery so Moment can figure out how long you use each app. Then ignore Moment for a few days so it can gather some data.

On the main Screen Time screen, Moment shows how much time you’ve spent on your phone today, along with a scrolling bar graph of how much time you spent every day since you installed Moment. Don’t get too hung up on these raw numbers, though, since Moment tracks every second the screen is on. You probably aren’t concerned about time spent reading an ebook or working out with an app that talks you through a routine.

To view both a breakdown by app and a timestamp for each time you picked up your iPhone, tap any day’s entry, and to see how much you use a particular app on average, tap it in the day view. You can answer a Yes/No question about whether you’re happy with how much you use the app, which informs the Time Well Spent aggregate data about which apps people are and are not concerned about.

Moment-Screen-Time

All that is helpful, but for a more useful overview, tap Insights and then Week. You’ll see graphs of your usage patterns for screen time, waking life, pickups, most used app, and sleep (this depends on your first and last pickups of the day, so take its data with a grain of salt). Tap any graph to see more detail, but wait until you’ve used Moment for a while.

Moment-Insights-graphs

Everything we’ve described so far is free, but Moment offers additional features for a one-time $3.99 in-app purchase. They let you exclude certain apps from the app-use detection, if you don’t want to be dinged for using apps that are necessary or otherwise positive. You can receive quick reminders about your usage, and set daily time limits. There is even a 14-day Phone Bootcamp course that helps you rethink your relationship with your phone.

More interesting for parents is Moment Family, a subscription service ($26.99 for 6 months or $44.99 for 12 months) that allows you to monitor your entire family’s screen time with Moment, set phone-free dinner times, and enforce daily limits.

So if you’re perturbed by the amount of time you spend using your iPhone every day, give Moment a try. On its own, it won’t solve your problem but by showing you exactly how often you turn to your phone—and for what apps—it can help you regain control over your usage patterns. And if others in your family have trouble putting their iPhones down at dinner or to do homework, Moment Family could be the answer.

What Is The Best Hard Drive to Use for Your Backups?

Backing up your Mac is like flossing your teeth: everyone knows they should do it every night, but too many people never get around to it. Unlike flossing, once you set up backups, they don’t require daily attention. And turning on Apple’s Time Machine backup feature is easy—simply open System Preferences > Time Machine, click Select Backup Disk, and pick a hard drive to hold your backups.

backup-drive-Time-Machine

Ah, but there’s the rub. If you don’t have an appropriate hard drive, you need to get one, and there are tons of options. Here’s our rundown of what to look for, with recommendations.

How Much Space Do You Need?

The first question when looking for a backup drive is how much data it needs to hold. You could put a lot of effort into figuring this out, but for most people, the answer simple. Buy the largest drive you can reasonably afford, as long as it will hold at least two to three times as much data as you have or anticipate creating in the near future.

Say you use a MacBook Pro with a 512 GB SSD. You could get by with a 1 TB backup drive, which would be twice as large as your internal drive. But if a 1 TB drive costs $69.95 and a 2 TB drive costs $99.95, it’s worth the extra $30 to double the available space.

How Will You Connect It to Your Mac?

With external hard drives, you need to match the ports on your Mac with the ports on the drive. That might sound tricky, what with USB 3, FireWire, USB-C, and Thunderbolt. Luckily, for most people, the right choice is simple: a drive that supports USB 3. They’re inexpensive and plenty fast for backups.

Nearly every Mac sold since 2012 supports USB 3, either via the familiar USB-A port or the newer USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port. If your Mac has only USB-C ports—as would be the case if you have either a MacBook or a recent MacBook Pro—you may also need an adapter cable that’s USB-A on one end and USB-C on the other.

What Type of Drive Should You Buy?

Inside the case, an external hard drive contains either a 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch drive mechanism.

 

  • 5-inch drives are smaller, more portable, and usually bus-powered,meaning they get power from your computer instead of from a wall outlet, which makes them easier to hook up and use. They’re also designed to be more rugged. On the downside, they cost more per gigabyte, max out at 5 TB in size, and are often slower.
  • 5-inch drives usually need to be plugged into power, and they’re less appropriate to carry around. However, they cost less per gigabyte and can be bought easily in sizes up to 8 TB. Plus, they tend to support more connection types, making them more flexible.

 

If you work mostly on a notebook Mac and lead a mobile lifestyle, carrying a bus-powered 2.5-inch drive ensures you can back up while traveling. Such a drive might also be best for a MacBook-equipped college student. However, if your Mac mostly sits on a desk or you bring your laptop back to the same place every night, you’ll likely be better served by a 3.5-inch drive—they’re faster, cheaper, and store more data.

Putting It All Together

Since the hard drive mechanisms are made by a relatively small number companies, the differences between external drives mostly come down to the price, industrial design, and extra ports. We’ve generally had good luck with drives from G-Tech Drives and Glyph USB-C Drives. Feel free to ask us for specific recommendations for your setup.

Here’s How to Lock Down Your Facebook Privacy Settings—to the Extent Possible

Facebook has dominated the news headlines of late, but not for good reasons. There were the 50 million Facebook profiles gathered for Cambridge Analyticaand used in the 2016 presidential election. Facebook has long been scraping call and text message datafrom Android phones. And within the Facebook iOS app, the company pushes the Onavo Protect VPN, an app made by a subsidiary that literally collects all your mobile data traffic for Facebook.

We offer suggestions about how to keep your data private, both from other Facebook users and from Facebook itself.

We offer suggestions about how to keep your data private, both from other Facebook users and from Facebook itself

Because of this, many have encouraged Facebook users to delete their accounts. That even includes the billionaire co-founder of the WhatsApp messaging service, which Facebook bought in 2014. If you’re done with Facebook, you’re welcome to deactivate or even delete your account. Facebook provides instructionsfor both actions. Deactivating your account basically just makes you invisible on Facebook, whereas deleting your account may eventually (up to 3 months) result in most of the data being removed.

The problem is that Facebook is useful. It may be the only connection you have with certain friends or family members, and many informal groups use Facebook for meetup logistics. For many of us, losing access to Facebook would hurt our real-world relationships and activities. Plus, lots of companies have Facebook pages, and taking those down might result in a loss of business from customers who would find out about the firm only through Facebook. What to do?

If you’re a business, the most sensible tack is to keep your Facebook page but avoid relying on it. Remember, Facebook is not your friend. Earlier in 2018, Facebook announced that it would be prioritizing posts from friends and family over public content, which is a nice way of saying that Facebook is deprecating business-related posts. So make sure you have a Web site that you control, and make sure that customers can easily find it and contact you through it. It’s also a good idea to offer customers multiple ways to contact you, including via email.

On a personal level, there are two ways to think about privacy on Facebook: limiting the information you share with other people on Facebook, and limiting the information that you’re willing to provide to Facebook at all. If Facebook doesn’t have certain data about you, they can’t sell it to the highest bidder, let it be harvested by hackers, or use it in ways you might find creepy.

To control who on Facebook can see what you share, click the ? button on the Facebook Web site on your Mac, or tap the hamburger button in the bottom right corner of the Facebook iOS app and tap Privacy Shortcuts. Then click or tap Privacy Checkup and run through the steps to make sure you’re sharing the right info with the right people. Be sure to lock down or remove any apps that you don’t need, since they can leak all sorts of data.

Facebook-iOS-Privacy-Checkup

Also, go to Facebook’s Privacy Settings & Toolspage. Click the Edit button next to each item, and make it as specific as you can. You also might want to review the posts you’re tagged in and remove those that you don’t want on your timeline.

Facebook-Privacy-Settings

But what if you don’t want to give information to Facebook for it to use? Go to Facebook’s page for Uploading and Managing Your Contacts, and delete them all. You’re just giving away your contacts’ personal information without their permission otherwise.

Facebook-delete-contacts

To ensure that contact uploading doesn’t happen again, in the Facebook iOS app, tap the hamburger button, scroll to the bottom, and then tap Settings & Privacy > Account Settings > General > Upload Contacts and make sure the switch is off. (Some versions of the Facebook app just have Settings, not Settings & Privacy, and show a popover for Account Settings.)

Also, in the iPhone Facebook app, tap the hamburger button again and then Settings & Privacy > Account Settings > Location > Location, and make sure it’s set to Never. And whatever you do, keep Location History off—Facebook doesn’t need to know everywhere you’ve ever been.

Facebook-location-privacy

If you’re perturbed by the way Facebook’s iOS app is trying to capture your contacts and locations, you could delete it from your iOS devices and rely instead on the Facebook Web site, which can’t access nearly as much information about you. To make it easier to open, in Safari, visit facebook.com, tap the Share button, and then tap the Add to Home Screen button in the bottom row of the share sheet.

Let us leave you with one thought. Alwaysassume that anything you post to Facebook or allow Facebook to have access to could end up on the front page of your local newspaper… or the New York Times. Nothing on Facebook is ever completely private—Facebook has shown it isn’t trustworthy or reliable—and the best way to ensure confidential information doesn’t leak inadvertently is to avoid posting it to Facebook in the first place.

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).

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.