tips & tricks

Have You Heard? It's Easy to Enable Caps Locks on Your iOS Device

 
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The Caps Lock key on Mac keyboards often feels extraneous, since it’s easy enough to hold the Shift key while typing multiple capital letters for acronyms like HIPPA or when you want to shout GET OFF MY LAWN! But if you need to do that on an iPhone or iPad, it’s annoying to keep tapping the Shift key to switch to the uppercase keyboard for each letter. Luckily, Apple has baked a time-saving trick into its onscreen keyboard. Tap the Shift key twice in a row to lock it on, type the letters you need, and tap it again to unlock it. Notice that when Shift is locked on, a horizontal line appears beneath the arrow on the Shift key.

 
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The Mystery of Hidden Messages

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A client got in touch recently with a maddening problem. When he received texts on his iPhone, Messages displayed notifications for messages from everyone…except his wife! Needless to say, this was a problem. Since notifications appeared correctly for other people, it wasn’t related to overall settings. It turned out that he—or someone else, or iOS gremlins—had inadvertently enabled the Hide Alerts switch for the Messages conversation with his wife. To fix it, all he had to do was display the conversation in Messages, tap the i button at the upper right, and disable Hide Alerts. (In the Mac version of Messages, click the Details button and look for the Do Not Disturb checkbox.) It’s a good feature designed to let you mute a chatty group conversation, but it can cause stress if applied to the wrong conversation accidentally.

 
 

Got a Frozen Mac?

The frozen Mac—it shouldn’t happen, but it does. If you should be so unlucky as to find your Mac completely locked up and unresponsive to the mouse or keyboard, you may wonder how you can restart it. The trick is to hold the power button down for 5 seconds, which will force your Mac to turn off. Wait another 5 or 10 seconds, and then press the power button again to restart the Mac. On a desktop Mac, look for the power button on the back of the computer. On a Mac laptop, the power button is near the top-right corner of the keyboard. On a 2016 MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, press down on the blank Touch ID button until you feel and hear a click. Remember that it is always better to restart your Mac gracefully by choosing Restart from the Apple menu—this technique is only for when the Mac is frozen.

 
 

How to Enter Emoji on the Mac

The only characters that are easier to type in iOS than on the Mac are emoji, those cartoon-like pictures that were created in Japan just before the turn of the century as a way of sharing pictures on mobile devices. They caught on in the United States in 2011, after Apple built an emoji keyboard into the iPhone with iOS 5 and added them to OS X 10.7 Lion. They’re most often used to pretty up chat messages, but since they’re actually font characters, you can also increase their size and use them like clip art in any Mac app.

Even though emoji have been readily accessible since 2011, many Mac users have never figured out how to enter them, since you can’t just type them on a keyboard. So, if you want to insert a 😀 in a post in Messages or a note in Mail, you need to use the Characters viewer. To bring it up in most Mac apps, choose Edit > Emoji & Symbols or use its keyboard shortcut: Command-Control-Space. When the Characters viewer first appears, it may be compressed (above left); click the square expansion icon to expand it to its full glory (above right).

The compressed view is fine, but the expanded view makes it easier to browse through the full set of emoji and search for particular emoji—you can also make the expanded version larger and see more emoji at once by dragging a corner. With Emoji chosen in the first column of the enlarged view, the second column lists emoji categories, such as Smileys & People, Animals & Nature, Food & Drink, and so on. In the compressed view, you can see the same categories by clicking the icons at the bottom. If you want a particular emoji, search for it by typing in the Search field—try “fruit” or “apple.”

You can insert an emoji from the Characters viewer in three main ways—if one method doesn’t work in a particular app, try another:

  • While the cursor is active in a text area, double-click a character in the viewer.
  • Drag a character out of the viewer and into a text area.
  • Drag a character out of the viewer to the Desktop to create a text clipping with it. Then drag that text clipping anywhere you can type.

Once you insert a character, it appears in the Frequently Used category; in the expanded version of the Characters viewer, you can also click the Add to Favorites button to add the current emoji to the Favorites category.

With many of the emoji of people, the first time you click the emoji, you’ll see a popover that lets you choose a skin tone other than the default, and macOS remembers your selection. If you wish to change an emoji’s skin tone later, click and hold until its popover appears (or use Force Touch, if you’re working with an appropriate trackpad).

One warning: If you send emoji from an Apple device to someone using a non-Apple device or operating system, they may see slightly different emoji than what you sent. The most notable example of this is Apple’s “pistol” emoji, which now looks like a green squirt gun 🔫; whereas, that emoji on other platforms generally looks like a more realistic handgun. The Unicode Consortium publishes a full list of what each emoji looks like on different platforms.

It’s easy to assume that emoji are a fad, or are used only by the young, but in reality, they’re having a profound effect on written communication. While an octogenarian may not understand that a line of dancers 💃💃💃💃💃 is meant to convey enthusiasm, a teen from China who speaks no English might get it. New York Magazine has covered the topic in depth, so give that article a read if you’re curious.

Raise to Wake with Recent iPhones in iOS 10

Wouldn’t it be nice if your iPhone woke up automatically when you pulled it out of your pocket? With iOS 10 running on an iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, SE, 7, or 7 Plus, it can do just that. If you have one of those iPhones, notice how the screen wakes up on its own when you lift it up. By default, Raise to Wake is enabled on these devices, but if you dislike this feature for some reason, you can turn it off in Settings > Display & Brightness. Older iPhones can’t wake up automatically like this, presumably because they lack the necessary hardware. Consider it another way that Apple gently encourages you to upgrade to a newer iPhone.

 
 

Reach Out and 3D Touch Something

Apple first unveiled 3D Touch in iOS 9 with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, giving users of those iPhones a new way of interacting with apps, but 3D Touch never really caught on. Now, with the release of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and broader support in iOS 10, 3D Touch is worth learning if you have one of the supported iPhones.

3D Touch works in two ways: “peek and pop” and “quick actions.” Apps use peek and pop to let you glance (peek) at an item by pressing down on it (not just a touch, but a press into the screen), and then jump to that item (pop) by pressing harder still. In Safari, for instance, you can preview a link by pressing it, and then either release to dismiss the preview or continue to load it in its own tab by pressing harder. Or move your finger up on the screen without letting go or pressing harder to get controls for opening the link, adding to your reading list, or copying the URL. This trick applies to links in other apps like Mail, Messages, and Notes, too.

You can also use peek and pop with email message summaries in Mail, headlines in News, thumbnails in Photos, people in Find My Friends, dates and events in Calendar, and even the previously taken photo box in Camera. Support for peek and pop in third-party apps isn’t as widespread as it is in Apple’s apps, but it’s still worth trying whenever you want to preview something.

More interesting are quick actions, which present a menu of common actions when you press down on an app’s icon on the Home screen, or on various controls and other items throughout iOS. Home screen quick actions are great, since they let you kickstart an app into doing something with just a hard press on its icon. If the app has a widget, a 3D Touch press shows that as well.

For instance, using 3D Touch on the Phone app shows its widget, which gives you buttons to call people in your Favorites list, along with actions to view the most recent call, search for a contact, create a new contact, or view the most recent voicemail. The Clock app lets you start a timer or the stopwatch, or create an alarm. Messages quick actions can create a new message or open a recent conversation. Use 3D Touch on Safari’s icon and you can create a new tab or see your bookmarks or reading list. You can even press on a folder to rename it quickly.

Quick actions and widgets are much more commonplace among third-party apps than peek and pop support, so be sure to try 3D Touch on all your favorite apps. If all you see is a Share item, the app has no quick actions or widget, but many apps provide both static actions that are always the same and dynamic actions that reflect your past usage.

iOS 10 brings 3D Touch to Control Center too. Press the Flashlight button to adjust the brightness of the light, the Timer button for some pre-canned times, the Calculator button to copy the last calculation result, or the Camera button to take a photo, slo-mo, video, or selfie.

On the Lock screen, press a Messages notification to expand it and reply directly from the notification. More notifications will become interactive in the future too. And in Notification Center, you can press a notification to expand it, or use 3D Touch on the X button for any day to reveal a Clear All Notifications option.

It’s too bad that there’s no way to know in advance if an app supports quick actions or peek and pop, but as the number of iPhone users who can use 3D Touch increases, developers will incorporate 3D Touch capabilities into their apps more and more. So give it a try!

Need Noise to Drift Off?

If you're like many people, the silence at night is deafening. It shouts with all its silent-ness, keeping you awake. Some have turned to the TV to help them drift off, but what about those who need it to be as dark as possible to fall asleep? What about those who are driven crazy by the sound of white noise? (Have you seen The Ring?)

There is a solution! iBooks in iOS has a built-in sleep timer that can automatically pause playback after a specified amount of time, which is great for listening to an audiobook as you go to sleep (tap the Moon button below the volume slider). What if you prefer listening to content that’s not in iBooks, like music or a college lecture? To set a sleep timer that works for Music, iTunes U, or any other app that plays audio, open the Clock app and tap the Timer button. Next, tap When Timer Ends (iPhone) or the selected sound (iPad), scroll to the end of the list of sounds, and select Stop Playing. When you’re ready to listen as you drift off to sleep, start the timer just before or right after you press Play in your audio app.