I know, I know: I missed two Five Tip Fridays in a row. The first one was both Good Friday and my birthday so I took the day off, and the second I was overseas with terrible internet.
So I’m making up for it today.
1/ Lock your iPhone camera’s exposure — You can force the Camera app to ‘keep’ an exposure setting, say if you want a certain part of the picture to be perfectly exposed but then you want to move your composition without the camera auto-refocusing/exposing. Hold your fingertip down on whatever object you’d like to focus on instead of tapping on it (tapping sets your exposure/focus point). If you hold for a couple of seconds,’AE/AF Lock’ appear at the top of your camera window in yellow.
No matter where you move your device, the app will keep the same exposure and focus that you set (and won’t attempt to adjust for, say, changing light conditions) until you tap the screen again to turn the lock off.
2/ Set recurring alarms on iPad and iPhone — Open the Clock app on your iOS device, and then make sure you’re on the Alarm tab at the bottom. Now tap Edit at the top and touch an existing alarm, or select the plus button to configure a new one.
Here you can make changes as you see fit: rewrite the label to something that makes sense to you, switch up what sound (or song) plays when the alarm goes off and so on. But for this tip, tap Repeat. Here you can pick as many days as you want, and the app is smart enough to spell out what days you’ve chosen properly.
Now when your alarm goes off and you slide on your device’s screen to shut it up, it’ll wake you again the next time it’s configured to (rather than turning the alarm off completely, as will happen when it’s not set as recurring). So you shouldn’t have to turn on your alarm each day, but if you’re paranoid, a quick swipe down on your screen to access Notification Center will confirm that it’s ready to go.
3/ Disable password requirements for free Apps — One of the new settings in iOS 8.3 is the option to not require a password for the “purchase” of free apps in the App Store. This means even with a passcode set you don’t have to bother with a password in iTunes for updates or free apps, only if it will actually cost you money. This is another convenience of the App Store that makes it easier to use, once you turn it on.
If you have Touch ID enabled, none of the settings will show up at all, so you need to go to Settings>Touch ID & Passcode to disable Touch ID. This is only temporary. Once Touch ID is off, go to Settings>iTunes & App Store>Password Settings (it’s right under your Apple ID) and you’ll see a new section on that page called Free Downloads. If you haven’t walked through these steps already, the option is likely green (for on) but also faded since you don’t have access to change it.
There’s a toggle there that says ‘Require Password’ and the text below it points out what the setting does. If you have it on, it says your free downloads will use the same password restrictions as purchases and In-App purchases (usually that means a password is required). If you turn that off, it says you won’t be asked for your password when you are downloading a free item. Yes!
4/ iOS Action buttons — When you’ve shared a web page you’re reading on your iPad with your Facebook friends, or zapped out an iPhone snapshot via iMessage, your first tap has probably been that little square button with the upward-pointing arrow – this is the Action button, and it comes in handy whenever you want to share, print, save, or otherwise interact with something on your iPhone or iPad, from photos to Notes to PDFs or click-worthy articles.
You can also choose which sharing and “actionable” buttons you want to appear. If you’re not interested in, say, Reading List you can easily tuck the Add to Reading List button out of sight.
Scroll a bit further on either row, though, and you’ll see an additional button: More. Tap it, and a new window will slide into view, displaying each Action button in a list.
To the right of each button, you’ll see a handle (it’s the button with two short horizontal lines). Tap and hold a handle, then slide it up or down to rearrange the buttons in the list—perfect for, say, scooting the “Add to Reading List” button to the very end of the row.
5/ Turn Action buttons on or off — Also under the More button, look for Action buttons with little switches next to them. Flip off a switch and that button disappears from the Action menu. Or flip on the switch for a button you haven’t discovered yet – for example, Save to Dropbox in the Photos app. (Not all Action buttons have switches, unfortunately.)
6/ Context-Sensitive Action buttons — The more apps you have, the more Action buttons are added to your Share Sheet. Dropbox users, for example, won’t see a Dropbox button when they tap the Action button in Safari because that’s irrelevant to Dropbox.
7/ Assign photos to contacts — When you receive a phone call from a friend or relative, why not see at a glance who is who’s calling? In your Photos app, tap the Share button at bottom left, and select Assign to Contact. Your contact list appears – just tap the name of the person you want to assign the contact to. Not you can spread your fingers apart to zoom in to some extent and, which your fingers, ‘move around’ in images to pick individual faces out of group shots.
You can change this in the Contacts app at any time: tap the Edit button at upper right, and tap Edit Link just below the image.
(By the way, any images you assign to contacts will also be picked up and displayed by your Apple Watch, should you end up with one.)
8/ For OS X: Get the size of Mailboxes — One of the downsides of email is that, if you’re not diligent about keeping your mailboxes tidy, you end up with a lot of old stuff. Those emails take up space both on your computer if you’re using Mail, and on the server (at your Internet Service Provider) that your messages are passing through. However, Mail has a pretty handy way to see which mailboxes are using up the most space.
Open Mail and then click the gear icon in the lower-left corner. Choose Get Account Info from the menu that appears.
In the subsequent window, you’ll see a drop-down menu at the top. By default, the account chosen will be from whatever server-side mailbox you had selected in the sidebar in Mail before clicking the gear icon. I find it’s easier to just choose the correct one from this dialog box, so swap that drop-down to the account you’d like to get the sizes for, then select the Quota Limits tab (or Messages on Server if you’re using Exchange).
You’ll get a neat list of the mailboxes associated with that account and their sizes. You can click the headers at the top of the list to sort by name, size, or number of messages, too.
9/ See OS X Messages delivery times — As you may know, you can tap, hold, and pull to the left within Messages under iOS 7 and iOS 8 to see what time any specific text was sent. If you also use the Messages app on your Mac, though, there’s a way to get your dates and times there, too: simply hover your cursor over any text within Messages and a tiny tooltip appears with the info.
10/ Sort Messages conversations manually — Choose Sort Conversations from the View menu and you can change it to Manually instead of By Time. Once chosen, you can just drag the conversations up and down in the left Conversations pane of Mac OS Messages. Now you can keep your Messages threads from jumping around and arranging themselves by date, and keep the most important conversations at the top.
11/ Numbers — A great Numbers feature (apart from that it can both open and write Excel files) is being able to select cells and see stats on my selection at the bottom of the window. Numbers, in case you didn’t know, is Apple’s spreadsheet app and it’s already on every new Mac produced in the last year.
You can customise what functions appear by clicking on the gear icon at the bottom of the window and choosing from the menu that’ll appear.
You have to have more than one cell selected to see this option, so if the bottom of your window appears blank, click-and-drag to select a few cells first. One thing you can do with those quick calculations is pick them up and drop them into cells to add the chosen formula there.
12/ Customise your Finder icons — Icons in OS X can be anything you want. Do you want famous race cars to represent all your folders? No problem. Have a research project where each file should be represented by celebrities? OK. Once you’ve found an icon you’d like to use, here’s how to use it on your Mac. These instructions work in all recent versions of OS X, including Yosemite, Mavericks, Mountain Lion, Lion, and even earlier.
First, find the image you want to use and open it in Preview. Go to Edit>Select All (the shortcut is Command-A), then Edit>Copy (or Command-C). Now that image is on the clipboard (you can also choose part of the image by ragging, then choose Command C to copy).
Next, switch to the Finder and click once on the folder/app/file you want to change. Go to File>Get Info and the info panel will pop up, displaying the icon in the top left corner of the panel.
Click on the small icon at top left, and then go to Edit>Paste. Your icon will be updated. This works on folders, files and even drives.
But where to find those icons? Actually there are a lot of sources. Notable is the icon section of Iconfactory.
13/Colourise folders really easily — This is more a cheat than a tip, as it requires buying an app, but I really like the little, cheap, easy-to-use Folderol app (NZ$4.99) which lets you colourise folders behind the limited Finder Tag selection. You just drag-and-drop a colour onto a folder, and you can customise the colours.
14/ Apply filters in the new Photo app — Open Photos, double-click on an image, and tap on Edit button at top right. Amongst the tools that appear you’ll see the Filters option. Click the filter form the list at right that appears and click Done. Done.
15/ Previewing Safari links — If you’re using a trackpad on your Mac and you have System Preferences>Trackpad>Point & Click>Look Up toggled on, you can use a three-finger tap on a link to preview it in Safari. This is handy in Google searches, as you can preview the site results to figure out how relevant they are before you navigate away from the search page.
After you check out the preview window, just click it to open the page in a new tab, or click away to dismiss it and move on to something else.