Here’s Why You Should Always Keep the Find My iPhone Feature Enabled

On the face of it, Apple’s Find My iPhone feature does what it says. If you lose your iPhone, you can identify its last known location by looking in the Find iPhone app or on the iCloud Web site, and you can make it play a sound. It’s great for tracking down a missing iPhone, whether you misplaced it in the house or left it behind at a restaurant.

But Find My iPhone does much more! For starters, it works with nearly any Apple device. You can use it to locate a missing Mac, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, and even AirPods. Find My iPhone also helps protect your data if a device is stolen. It even works with Family Sharing to locate devices owned by anyone in your family—a boon to any parent with a forgetful teenager.

You must turn on Find My iPhone beforeyour device goes missing!

  • In iOS, tap Settings > Your Name> iCloud > Find My iPhone and enable Find My iPhone. (On the iPad, it’s called Find My iPad.) Also on that screen, turn on Send Last Location. Finally, go back to the main level of Settings, tap Privacy > Location Services, and make sure Location Services is turned on.
  • On the Mac, open System Preferences > iCloud and select the Find My Mac checkbox—if you see a Details button beside Find My Mac, click it and follow its instructions for setting necessary preferences.

Be sure to practice viewing where your devices are located and playing tones on them so you’ll know what to do if a device goes missing.

Find-My-iPhone-AirPods

Find My iPhone has a few tricks up its sleeve for when you want a device to show a message or if you think it was stolen:

  • Lost Mode:When invoking this mode for an iOS device or Apple Watch, you’ll be asked to enter a phone number where you can be reached and a message. After that, Lost Mode will kick in as soon as the device is awake and has an Internet connection. Anyone who tries to use the device will see your message along with a place to enter the device’s passcode. If you get it back, you can enter the passcode to dismiss the message and use it normally.

Find-My-iPhone-Lost-Mode

  • Lock:Available only for the Mac, the Lock feature enables you to protect an entire Mac with a 4-digit custom passcode. You can also enter a message that will appear on the Lock screen. This is a good choice if you think you’ll get your Mac back but would prefer that nobody mess with it in the meantime. Note that if you lock a Mac, you can’t erase it, as discussed next, so lock it only if you think it can be recovered.

Find-My-iPhone-Mac

  • Erase:Even if your device has an excellent passcode or password, you might worry that a thief will access your data. Fortunately, you can erase your device. Erasing a device makes it impossible for you to see its location in Find My iPhone, so it’s a last-ditch effort.
  • Activation Lock:If the stolen device is an iOS device or an Apple Watch, when you turn on Find My iPhone, you also enable Activation Lock. This feature prevents someone who has your passcode but doesn’t know your Apple ID and password from turning off Find My iPhone, erasing the device, or setting it up for a new user. In other words, Activation Lock makes it so there’s little reason to steal an iOS device or Apple Watch, since the stolen device can’t ever be used by anyone else. If you get the device back, you can restore your backup—you do have a backup, right?

Find My iPhone works only while the device has power, so if you think you’ve mislaid a device, try locating it right away, before the battery runs out. But even if you are unable to retrieve a lost device, you can prevent others from accessing your data or taking over the device.

What’s the Deal with Apple’s New Messages in iCloud Feature?

When Apple first announced macOS 10.13 High Sierra and iOS 11, one of the promised features was Messages in iCloud, a way of syncing your conversations in Messages via your iCloud account. Despite the fact that Messages already tries to sync its conversations between your devices, this feature proved difficult for Apple to deliver, and it didn’t appear until the recently released macOS 10.3.5 and iOS 11.4.

The idea behind Messages in iCloud is that it, as the name suggests, stores your conversations and their attachments in your iCloud account, rather than on each device individually. That’s a win because it can offload non-trivial amounts of data to iCloud, freeing up more space on that 16 GB iPhone.

Because the primary source of Messages data is in iCloud, the conversations should also sync perfectly and more quickly than in the past, something that was often frustrating when conversations didn’t quite match up across device. (iOS 11.4 also fixes a bug that could cause some messages to appear out of order.) Even better, deleting a conversation or attachment on one of your devices deletes it from all of them.

The main thing to be aware of before enabling Messages in iCloud is that it does count against your iCloud storage space. That said, if you back up your iOS devices to iCloud, removing Messages data from each device—such as your iPad and iPhone—and storing a single copy in iCloud should result in less overall iCloud usage. (And, realistically, if Messages in iCloud would make you need a higher tier of iCloud storage, you were probably going to need to upgrade soon for other reasons anyway.)

Enabling Messages in iCloud is simple.

  • On the Mac, open Messages > Preferences > Accounts and select the Enable Messages in iCloud checkbox.Messages-iCloud-Mac
  • In iOS, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud, and turn on Messages.

There are three quirks to be aware of:

  • You won’t be able to enable Messages in iCloud unless you’ve enabled two-factor authentication for the Apple ID associated with your iCloud account. It’s a good idea for security reasons anyway!
  • On the Mac, in the Messages account preferences, there’s a Sync Now button you can click if, for some reason, Messages hasn’t synced automatically. We don’t yet know if or when that will be necessary.
  • When you first enable Messages in iCloud in iOS, you may see a note at the bottom of the screen saying that uploading to iCloud requires the device to be plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi. That’s necessary only for the first big upload.
    Messages-iCloud-paused

Should you wish to turn off Messages in iCloud, be aware that it may take some time for each device to download all the messages.

For most people, Messages in iCloud is a no-brainer. Its syncing works the way you’d expect, complete with quick updates and universal removal of deleted conversations. The main reason you might not want to enable the feature is if you have only the free 5 GB of iCloud storage and aren’t interested in paying for more space.

 

Have Your Online Passwords Been Stolen? Here’s How to Find Out.

 

Data breaches have become commonplace, with online thieves constantly breaking into corporate and government servers and making off with millions—or even hundreds of millions!—of email addresses, often along with other personal information like names, physical address, and passwords.

Pwned-Breach-list

It would be nice to think that all companies properly encrypt their password databases, but the sad reality is that many have poor data security practices. As a result, passwords gathered in a breach are often easily cracked, enabling the bad guys to log in to your accounts. That may not seem like a big deal—who cares if someone reads the local newspaper under your name? But since many people reuse passwords across multiple sites, once one password associated with an email address is known, attackers use automated software to test that combination against many other sites.

This is why we keep beating the drum for password managers like 1Passwordand LastPass. They make it easy to create and enter a different random password for every Web site, which protects you in two ways.

  • Because password managers can create passwords of any length, you don’t have to rely on short passwords that you can remember and type easily. The longer the password, the harder it is to crack. A password of 16–20 characters is generally considered safe; never use anything shorter than 13 characters.
  • Even if one of your passwords was compromised, having a different password for every site ensures that the attackers can’t break into any of your other accounts.

But password security hasn’t always been a big deal on the Internet, and many people reused passwords regularly in the past.Wouldn’t it be nice to know if any of your information was included in a data breach, so you’d know which passwords to change?

A free service called Have I Been Pwneddoes just this (“pwned” is hacker-speak for “owned” or “dominated by”—it rhymes with “owned”). Run by Troy Hunt, Have I Been Pwned gathers the email addresses associated with data breaches and lets you search to see if your address was stolen in any of the archived data breaches. Even better, you can subscribe to have the service notify you if your address shows up in any future breaches.

Pwned-list

Needless to say, you’ll want to change your password on any site that has suffered a data breach, and if you reused that password on any other sites, give them new, unique passwords as well. That may seem like a daunting task, and we won’t pretend that it isn’t a fair amount of work, but both 1Password and LastPass offer features to help.

In 1Password, look in the sidebar for Watchtower, which provides several lists, including accounts where the password may have been compromised in a known breach, passwords that are known to have been compromised, passwords that you reused across sites, and weak passwords.

Pwned-1Password-Watchtower

LastPass provide essentially the same information through its Security Challenge and rates your overall security in comparison with other LastPass users. It suggests a series of steps for improving your passwords; the only problem is that you need to restart the Security Challenge if you don’t have time to fix all the passwords at once.

Pwned-LastPass-Security-Challenge

Regardless of which password manager you use, take some time to check for and update compromised, vulnerable, and weak passwords. Start with more important sites, and, as time permits, move on to accounts that don’t contain confidential information.

New MacBook Pros Provide More Speed and RAM, plus a Quieter Keyboard and Hey Siri

As students prepare to head off to college, Apple has updated the Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro line to provide even more powerful options for students and professionals alike. The changes are primarily under the hood, focusing on faster performance, more RAM, and larger SSD-based storage, but there are a few modest physical changes too, including a quieter keyboard and a True Tone display.

MacBook-Pro-2018-13-15

Despite these improvements, pricing remains the same as for last year’s models.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro that has function keys instead of a Touch Bar remains the same, as do the 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Air.

Performance Boosts

The new MacBook Pros move to Intel’s 8th-generation Core i7 and Core i9 processors. Previously, the 13-inch MacBook Pro used dual-core CPUs, but they now get quad-core chips. And the 15-inch models jump from quad-core chips to processors sporting 6 cores. More cores are better because more tasks can be split up between them, preventing one processor-intensive task from bogging down others.

MacBook-Pro-2018-performance

Processing power is just one aspect of overall performance. If your Mac doesn’t have enough RAM for the apps you’re using, it has to fall back on much slower virtual memory. For those who use memory-intensive apps, the new 15-inch MacBook can now take up to 32 GB of RAM, up from a maximum of 16 GB. RAM in the 15-inch models is also DDR4, which is faster and uses less power than the DDR3 RAM used before.

Finally, if you don’t have enough fast SSD storage in a MacBook Pro, you may be forced to store large items like your Photos library and Parallels Desktop virtual machines on a slow external hard disk. The new MacBook Pros can have a lot more built-in SSD storage, but it’s pricey. The 13-inch models max out at 2 TB, which will add $1400 to your bill, and the 15-inch models can go to 4 TB, assuming you have $3400 to spare. The 512 GB ($200) and 1 TB ($600) upgrades are more reasonably priced.

Physical Changes

Apple continues to tweak the controversial butterfly-switch keyboard. Some people haven’t liked the shallow key travel and how much noise it makes, and its keys have a tendency to stick. The new MacBook Pros feature a keyboard that’s quieter and hopefully more reliable.

You’ll also notice the new Retina displays with True Tone. First introduced with the iPad Pro and added to the iPhone in 2017, True Tone adjusts the white balance of the screen based on ambient light to make the screen more comfortable to view. It should be particularly appreciated by students working late into the night.

MacBook-Pro-2018-True-Tone

Other Improvements

You know how you can issue commands to Apple’s virtual assistant on your iPhone or iPad by saying “Hey Siri”? That’s possible in the new MacBook Pros also, thanks to the inclusion of Apple’s new T2 chip. The T2 also manages the Touch Bar, facilitates a secure boot feature, and encrypts files on the fly to increase security.

These MacBook Pros are the first to support Bluetooth 5.0, which is backward compatible with Bluetooth 4.2. As Bluetooth 5.0 peripherals become more widespread, they’ll be able to communicate with the MacBook Pro at higher data rates and longer ranges—think of Bluetooth working across your entire house, rather than being limited to a single room.

Price and Availability

The entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1799, and the 15-inch model at $2399. With both models, you can choose between silver and space gray, and they’re available now.

Our take is that, like most of Apple’s speed-bump upgrades, these new MacBook Pros are simply better than the previous models—who turns down better performance for the same price? The True Tone display is also welcome, as is the quieter keyboard. And it’s nice that we can finally talk to Siri without having to hold down a key or click a button.

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

 

 

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.)

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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.

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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!

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