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Need to Schedule a Group Meeting or Sign Up Volunteers? Try Doodle!

Have you ever set up a group meeting, whether in person or via videoconferencing, but found it cumbersome to find a time that works for everyone? Or maybe you want to solicit volunteers for an event? There’s a neat online tool that makes such logistics easy: Doodle. You can use it for free (with ads)—even without setting up an account. Or, if you want to eliminate the ads and get support for calendar syncing, deadlines, reminders, multiple users, and more, there are paid Premium plans. You can use Doodle in a Web browser or download the Doodle iOS app.

Determine Your Poll Type

Setting up a Doodle poll is easy. The first step is to figure out what sort of poll you want—a time poll or a text poll. A time poll is best if you want to let your respondents vote for specific dates and times. Use it when you’re trying to determine if the club Zoom call should be Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, and at 11 AM, 3 PM, or 5 PM on one of those days.

In contrast, a text poll lets your respondents vote on anything. For example, you could use a text poll to see where a large group would like to have a party (your house, the park, a favorite restaurant), or what sort of food people want for lunch (Thai, Mexican, Ethiopian). You could even use a Doodle text poll to see who among a large group of volunteers can help at a series of 5K races.

Set the Poll Options

After you click the big red Create a Doodle button at the top of the Doodle Web page, you work your way through a four-step wizard. The first step merely asks for the title of your poll and an optional location and note.

The second step is where all the magic happens. You have three choices here: Month, Week, and Text. In Month view, you get a calendar from which you can pick days and optionally add times. Month view is best for picking the best day for a picnic, for instance, and the time would be the same regardless of which day is chosen.

Week view is the most common way that people use Doodle, because it’s how you choose times for a meeting. Just drag a box out for each proposed time period. If you make the box too big or small, you can resize it from the bottom, and you can also drag boxes to different times. To delete a box, hover over it and click the X that appears in its upper-right corner. Note that if you’re creating a poll for an event you need to attend, it’s not worth including dates or times when you can’t make it.

With a text poll, you can enter anything you want for the poll options. In the screenshot, we’re using Doodle as a volunteer signup sheet.

Once you click Continue, you move on to the Poll Settings screen, which provides four useful settings:

  • Yes, no, if need be: Select this option if you want to allow your participants to have a “maybe” or “if it’s absolutely necessary” or “you can twist my arm” option. We’re fond of this option because many scheduling questions don’t have a simple Yes/No answer.
  • Limit the number of votes per option: An example of where this option is helpful is if you want only so many people to bring a main course, salad, or dessert to a picnic—otherwise, the menu can get out of balance.
  • Limit participants to a single vote: Employ this option to prevent people from signing up for multiple options.
  • Hidden poll: By default, the results of Doodle polls are visible to everyone who has the link, which is usually good. Select this option to keep people from seeing each other’s votes.

The final step just asks for your name and email address, after which Doodle displays your poll so you can share it and vote in it. Before you do anything else, click the Copy button in the Invite Participants box and paste it somewhere for later reference. If you have a Doodle account—free or paid—you can also have it send email, but we recommend sending the email yourself instead so you have complete control over the message.

Now it’s your turn to vote. For each option, click once for Yes (a green checkmark) or twice for Maybe (a yellow checkmark). Leave a box blank to vote No. If you need to edit your votes afterward, you can do so (click the blue pencil icon that appears next to your name) if you were logged in to an account when you voted or if the Web page remembers you.

Solicit Votes

Remember that link you copied a minute ago? Now’s the time to send it out. The beauty of Doodle is that you can send it to as few or as many people as you want, in any way you want. You could message it to a group of friends, send it to the office email exploder, post it in your company’s Slack, publish it to a public mailing list, or even post it on Facebook or Twitter. Other people can share it as well, if you’re trying to cast a wide net.

Doodle polls don’t have any security beyond the obscurity of their URLs, so if your poll is at all confidential,  make sure to tell people not to share it further.

Pick a Winner

If you’ve set up an account, you’ll receive a notification whenever anyone votes in your poll. You can also load the link you shared at any time to see how the votes are progressing. In our Month poll, three people have voted, and you can see that June 13th and June 27th are the most popular work, so you get to choose.

In the Week poll, it’s obvious that there’s only one option that works well for everyone, June 12th at 9 AM. However, you can see that June 12th at 2 PM is possible, in case something changes and you need a backup time.

Finally, in our text poll looking for volunteers, there’s no “winning.” The poll results merely tell you who can work at which races, and if you only need three volunteers for each race, you’re all set. However, you can also see that you may need to line up another person in case Rashid Cookie ends up bailing on you.

Although the results are usually perfectly obvious, you can click a red Choose Final Option button if you’re the poll creator and are logged in or remembered. That identifies the best choice, although you can override it with a click, and closes the poll so no one else can vote. If you’re logged in and have connected your calendar, you can add it directly from the results page. We usually announce the final choice however we shared the poll link, and anyone who wants to see the voting results can load the poll again.

As you can imagine, Doodle’s Premium plans add quite a few more features, and they may be worthwhile if you end up using it regularly. However, for quick scheduling of group meetings or lightweight polling, you can stick with either the free account or use it without even logging in. Give it a try next time you need to poll a group!

(Featured image by Doodle)


Social Media: Do you schedule group events like meetings, picnics, or volunteer activities? If you’re not already using Doodle to simplify these tasks, we suggest you give it a try. Our easy tutorial gets you started.

How to Ask for Tech Support So You Get Good Answers Quickly

Need help with something? On occasion, we all need tech support. Speaking as the people who are sometimes on the other end of those requests for help, we have some suggestions on how to get the support you need as quickly as possible.

For instance, think about what we have to do if we receive an email message along the lines of “I keep getting a note that my backups aren’t working.” All we can tell from that message is that something may be wrong with the user’s backups. But without knowing what app they’re using and what the specific error is, we can’t even begin to recommend a solution. We’ll have to go back and forth to figure out what we need to learn to address the problem. By the end of the (possibly lengthy) process, the user and we may be quite frustrated.

So here’s a simple set of steps you can use to get to the heart of a troubleshooting problem whenever you’re communicating with tech support.

  1. Describe your setup as it relates to the problem. Whenever possible, be specific about what apps you’re using and include screenshots or videos. In our example above, this might involve saying, “I back up with Time Machine to an external hard drive. It has been working fine, but now I’m getting this error.” (Obviously, if you’re talking on the phone, it might not be possible to share a screenshot, but you can read it to the support rep.)
  2. Next, explain how you’ve tried to resolve the problem so tech support doesn’t automatically tell you to repeat the same actions. (They may anyway, just to confirm that you did everything properly, but it’s still a help.) You might say, “I clicked OK and let Time Machine try again, but I got the error on the next backup too. Then I launched Disk Utility, selected my Time Machine drive, and clicked First Aid.”
  3. Finally, explain what happened (or failed to happen) when you took the actions in the previous step. For instance, “First Aid also reported an error.”
  4. At this point, you may need to repeat Step 2 and 3 for each thing you tried, but you’ve given the support person enough for them to start recommending other courses of action. (In this case, we’d have you erase the drive using Disk Utility and see if that eliminated the error. Even if it did, we’d recommend that you get a new backup drive since you don’t want to depend on a potentially flaky drive for important backup data.)

The steps are a little different if you’re trying and failing to figure out how to accomplish some task. Try this script:

  1. I want to _____. State what you’re trying to achieve, and as before, make sure to say what apps you’re using. For instance, “I’m using Preview to read a PDF, and I want to print it with four pages per sheet of paper to avoid wasting hundreds of pieces of paper.”
  2. I tried ____. As before, explain what you’ve already attempted, as in: “In Preview’s Print dialog, I tried choosing 4 from the Copies Per Page menu.”
  3. What happened was _____. Finally, explain what happened after what you tried, and why it was wrong. “That caused me to get four copies of the same page in the preview, rather than four different pages.”
  4. Again, you may need to repeat Steps 2 and 3 for everything you tried, but in this case, we have all we need to explain that you need to click the Preview menu in the middle of the Print dialog, choose Layout, and then choose 4 from the Pages Per Sheet menu.

One last thing. It’s always important to explain your overall goal, rather than just ask a specific question. In the example above, for instance, saying that your goal was to reduce paper usage was helpful because we could then suggest that you select the Two-Sided checkbox near the top to print on both sides of the paper, cutting your paper usage in half.

So next time you need to contact tech support, make sure to use these tips, and you’ll likely get better support and a faster resolution to your problem.

(Featured image by Christina Morillo from Pexels)


Social Media: Do you have frustrating interactions with tech support? Follow our advice on how to talk to a support rep to get better support and a faster resolution to your problem.

Tips for Setting Up a Comfortable and Effective Home Work Space

Vast numbers of people who previously reported for work at an office every day are now working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s sensible, and if you’re included in that group, there was probably even a little thrill of “I get to work from home!” at first. But as those who have telecommuted for years know, it’s not as simple as settling down on the couch with your laptop. Here are a few tips.

Make a Dedicated Work Space, If Possible

Particularly if you’re not home alone, you’ll want to create a space that’s dedicated to working. Otherwise, it’s difficult to focus on work instead of what’s happening in your home. A spare bedroom with a door is ideal, of course, because it lets you avoid the fridge, the TV, and your family, who may also be trying to work or do schoolwork at home.

But if you don’t have an extra room, or if you need to share it with your spouse and kids, think about ways you can create individual spaces, perhaps with bookcases or makeshift curtains.

Either way, your goal is to avoid seeing and hearing others. Your partner’s activities can be distracting, and listening to your kids discussing a school project will make focusing on your work all the harder. Sound isolation can be difficult to achieve in an open room, but that’s what earbuds are for. Those with noise-canceling capabilities, like the AirPods Pro, would be best.

Pay attention to lighting as well. Putting your monitor against a window probably won’t work well during the day, and overhead lighting can cause glare.

Set Up an Ergonomic Working Environment

It’s unlikely that your home office furniture is equivalent to what you have at work, but if you’re going to be putting in full workdays at home, you need to pay attention to ergonomics.

Many tables are slightly too high to sit at comfortably with your feet flat, your hips at a 90-degree angle, and your hands floating comfortably above the keyboard, with your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Do what you can to achieve that position; if necessary, raise the chair and add a footstool.

Good, inexpensive chairs with height adjustments can be hard to find, though the IKEA Flintan is well-reviewed and only about $80. A small pillow can provide lumbar support if necessary. Try to make sure the arms, if present, are low—you should use them only when not typing.

It’s difficult to achieve good ergonomics while working on a laptop, or, even worse, an iPad because you’re almost always looking down too far. With a MacBook, you can achieve the ideal sightline either by attaching a large monitor that you can position at the right height or by raising the MacBook and using a separate keyboard and mouse or trackpad at the proper typing height.

Potentially Upgrade Your Internet Connection

Even beyond whatever apps you need to do your work, it’s likely that you’ll end up doing a fair amount of videoconferencing. You may need to increase the throughput of your Internet connection, and it’s important to remember that upload and download speeds are separate. You usually have much higher download speeds, so focus on the upload speed when evaluating your plan.

Apps vary in their bandwidth requirements, but you can consider a 1 megabit per second (Mbps) upload speed a safe minimum, with 3 Mbps being sufficient for nearly any video calls you’ll need to make. The download speed should be at least equivalent to the upload speed, but that will almost always be true.

If your current connection isn’t fast enough, contact your Internet service provider. More throughput will usually cost more, but ideally, your ISP can just change some settings to upgrade you. In some cases, a new cable modem or similar network hardware may be necessary, and in the worst case, you may need a new cable from the street. Whatever you do, try to avoid any plan that comes with a bandwidth cap!

Don’t be afraid to compare prices if you have multiple providers, and even if you have sufficient bandwidth now, it may be worth calling to see if plan prices have dropped since you subscribed.

Upgrade Wi-Fi Hardware

Finally, if the only place in your home that you can work isn’t well served by your current Wi-Fi router, it might be time to upgrade. That’s particularly true if you’re working on old AirPort base stations from Apple.

For creating a Wi-Fi network that has the most coverage, look into mesh networking gear like Eero and AmpliFi. The beauty of mesh networking is that you can add another router or beacon to extend the network without complicated setup.

That said, contact us before ripping your network apart, because on-site visits to fix problems may be difficult or impossible for a while.

(Featured image by Gabriel Beaudry on Unsplash)


Social Media: Working from home like the rest of us? Here’s our advice on setting up a comfortable and effective workspace.

Use Guided Access to Let Kids and Others Use Your iPhone Temporarily

Let’s get one thing straight. You know that you should never, ever share your iPhone or iPad passcode with anyone you don’t trust implicitly, like a spouse or adult child, right? That’s because, with your iOS passcode, someone could change your Apple ID password, and if you use iCloud for email, completely steal or otherwise abuse your online identity. (Scared? Good. If you’ve given anyone your passcode, go change it right now. We’ll wait.)

So if sharing your passcode is such a terrible idea, how do you let someone else use your iPhone or iPad temporarily? Perhaps you want to let your kid play a game in the car while you focus on tricky winter driving. Or maybe you time running races with an iPhone app and want someone to do the timing without giving them full access to your iPhone. Whatever the reason you want to give someone limited access to a single app in iOS 13, the solution is Guided Access.

Enabling and Configuring Guided Access

To turn Guided Access on, navigate to Settings > Accessibility > Guided Access (it’s near the bottom), and flick the switch. While you’re here, check out the remaining settings:

  • Passcode Settings: Create a passcode for getting out of Guided Access here (it can be different than your normal one), and choose whether you can use Touch ID or Face ID to exit as well.
  • Time Limits: You don’t set time limits here, but you can set audio and spoken warnings before the time runs out.
  • Accessibility Shortcut: Enable this if you also use triple-click for another Accessibility Shortcut like Magnifier.
  • Display Auto-Lock: Choose how long the device can be inactive before the screen turns off. If the Guided Access user wakes up the device, they’ll still be in Guided Access.

With those settings configured, switch to the desired app and triple-click the side or Home button, and if necessary, tap Guided Access in the Accessibility Shortcut list. You can do five things:

  • Set session-specific options: Tap Options in the lower-right corner to access various switches. If they’re disabled:
    • Side Button or Sleep/Wake Button: The user can’t put the device to sleep.
    • Volume Buttons: The user can’t change the volume.
    • Motion: The screen doesn’t change from the orientation (portrait or landscape) it was in when you started Guided Access.
    • Touch: The user can’t do anything with the screen at all—probably most appropriate for letting a young child watch a video.
    • Dictionary Lookup: Prevents word lookups in some apps.
  • Set time limits: At the bottom of the Options list, tap Time Limit and set an amount of time after which the device can’t be used until you enter the Guided Access passcode.
  • Disable specific areas on the screen: Draw circles around parts of the screen you want to make off-limits to the user. After making a circle, you can move it by dragging it, resize it by dragging any of its handles, or remove it by tapping its X button.
  • Start/Resume Guided Access: In the upper-right corner, tap Start. If you haven’t yet set a passcode, you’ll be prompted to do that.
  • Exit the setup screen: In the upper-left corner, tap End.

Using Guided Access

Once you tap Start, iOS tells you it’s entering Guided Access and lets you use the current app with the restrictions you’ve applied. If you decide that the restrictions aren’t right, triple-click the side or Home button to return to the setup screen. When you’re done, tap Resume in the upper-right corner.

To leave Guided Access, triple-click the side or Home button, enter the passcode, and in the setup screen, tap End in the upper-left corner.

That’s it! Once you understand the various limitations of Guided Access, you’ll be able to turn it on and off quickly whenever you need to let someone use your iPhone or iPad for a while.

(Featured image by mohamed Abdelgaffar from Pexels)


Social Media: Never, ever share your iPhone or iPad passcode with anyone who you don’t trust implicitly. Instead, you can give people limited access to a single app with Guided Access. Learn more here:

iOS 13 Makes Editing Text Easier

Let’s be honest—text editing in iOS has never been anywhere near as good as it is on the Mac. We may be more accustomed to our mice and keyboards, but the Multi-Touch interface has always been clumsy when it comes to text. Apple keeps trying to improve iOS’s text editing features, and iOS 13 (and iPadOS 13) brings some welcome changes in how we go about positioning the text insertion point, selecting text, and performing the familiar options in the Mac’s Edit menu: Cut, Copy, Paste, and Undo/Redo. Has it caught up with the Mac yet? You’ll have to decide that for yourself, once you’ve learned the new techniques.

Note that these changes apply only to spots in iOS where you’re entering and editing text, not selecting and copying static, read-only text such as a Web page in Safari. And even when you are working on a Web page where you can enter and edit text, the site may override iOS’s text handling.

Insertion Point Positioning

Positioning the insertion point on the Mac is easy—you move the cursor to the right spot and click. In previous versions of iOS, you could tap to put the insertion point at the start or end of a word, or press and hold briefly to bring up a magnifying glass that let you put the insertion point anywhere, including within a word. It was slow and awkward, and made better mostly by trackpad mode, which you could invoke by long-pressing the Space bar.

iOS 13 improves positioning by letting you press and hold the insertion point to pick it up and then drag it to where you want it. This approach is much easier and more sensible than the previous method.

Selecting Text

On the Mac, you can select text with multiple clicks, by clicking and dragging, or by using the keyboard. In iOS, however, text selection has always been tough—you could double-tap to select a word, but anything else required subsequent moving of start and end markers. (On an iPad with a keyboard, you could hold Shift and use the arrow keys too.)

Happily, iOS 13 improves text selection. To start, you can still double-tap to select a word, but you can also triple-tap to select a sentence (shown below) and even tap four times in quick succession to select an entire paragraph. Unfortunately, these selection shortcuts may not work in all apps, but you can always fall back on the previous approach.

For selections of an arbitrary length, just press, pause ever so briefly to start selecting, and then drag to extend the selection. In other words, it’s as close to the Mac approach as is possible with the Multi-Touch interface. If the selection isn’t quite right, you can adjust the start and end markers.

Cut, Copy, Paste, and Undo Gestures

Everyone knows Command-X for Cut, Command-C for Copy, Command-V for Paste, and Command-Z for Undo on the Mac. In previous versions of iOS, those commands were available only from a popover that appeared when text was selected, or (for Paste) when you pressed and held in a text area. The only command with a gesture, so to speak, was Undo. At the risk of dropping it, you could shake your iOS device to undo your last action. Not good.

iOS 13 introduces a variety of three-finger gestures to make these commands quick and easy to invoke. Note that you can use the entire screen for these gestures—it’s OK to make them with one finger over the keyboard.

  • Copy: To copy selected text, pinch in with three fingers, or, more likely, your thumb, index finger, and middle finger.
  • Cut: To cut (copy and then delete) selected text, perform the copy gesture twice in quick succession.
  • Paste: To paste the text you’ve copied at the insertion point, reverse the action—pinching out (spreading) with three fingers.
  • Undo: To undo a mistake, immediately swipe left or tap twice with three fingers. You can keep swiping or double-tapping to undo more actions.
  • Redo: To redo the action that you just undid, swipe right with three fingers.

Whenever you use one of these gestures, a little feedback badge appears at the top of the screen to reinforce what you just did.

If you can’t remember which direction to pinch or swipe, press and hold with three fingers anywhere for a second to see a shortcut bar at the top of the screen with icons for Undo, Cut, Copy, Paste, and Redo.

Finally, instead of using Cut and Paste to move a swath of selected text, try dragging it to the new position.

Slide to Type

Various third-party keyboards have provided “slide-to-type” over the years, letting you type a word by sliding your finger from letter to letter on the keyboard without lifting it up in between. But switching to a third-party keyboard meant that you often gave up useful other features, like Siri dictation, so most people stuck with Apple’s default keyboard.

On the iPhone, iOS 13 now lets you slide to type on its default keyboard, and it works surprisingly well. In iPadOS 13, slide-to-type works only on the new floating keyboard you can get by pinching with two fingers on the default keyboard (pinch out with two fingers to restore the default keyboard). When you get to the end of a word, lift your finger to insert it, and then start sliding again for the next word. If you make a mistake, the suggestions above the keyboard often provide the word you want. You can switch between tapping (best for unusual words) and sliding on a word-by-word basis.

Make a mistake with sliding? By default, tap Delete after inserting a slide-to-type word to delete the whole word, not just the final letter. If you don’t like that behavior, turn off Delete Slide-to-Type by Word in Settings > General > Keyboard.

(Featured image by Lorenzo Cafaro from Pixabay)


Social Media: Today’s article will make text editing in iOS 13 faster and more fun. Read about important new and improved techniques for selecting, copying, and moving text, plus a new slide-to-type option.

What Can You Store in Apple’s Wallet App? Credit Cards, Boarding Passes, Tickets, and More!

Have you wondered what you can do with the Wallet app on your iPhone? Although it started out life called Passbook, Apple soon realized that the only sensible name was Wallet. That’s because it stores digital versions of roughly the same sort of things you might put in a physical wallet: credit and debit cards, store cards, membership cards, and even cash (well, Apple Pay Cash, anyway).

Nearly all airlines can put your boarding passes in Wallet, too, and if you buy something like a concert ticket online, you may be able to add it to Wallet by tapping the “Add to Apple Wallet” button in the confirmation page or email. Having a boarding pass or ticket, which Apple calls a pass, in Wallet makes it easy to scan for a gate attendant.

Here’s how to use cards and passes in Wallet.

Display Your Cards and Passes

The main Wallet screen shows your cards and passes in a scrollable list, with credit/debit cards at the top. (If you’ve set up Apple Pay Cash, it’s treated as a debit card.)

To view more details about a card or pass, tap it.

In the case of a credit/debit card, you see the face of the card and a list of its recent Apple Pay transactions.

For boarding passes for multi-flight trips, you see a single pass in the main list, but after you tap it, you can swipe horizontally to display the pass for each leg of the trip.

Membership cards, such as the ChargePoint card, may work like credit/debit cards in that you need to hold them near a reader to sign in.

In each case, to access settings related to the card or pass, tap the black ••• button at the upper right.

Adding and Using Credit and Debit Cards

Adding a credit/debit card so it can work with Apple Pay starts with tapping the black + button at the upper right of the Wallet screen. From there, follow the prompts—you can scan your card with the camera instead of keying in the data.

If you add more than one card, you’ll want to specify which should be the default for Apple Pay. Go to Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay. Scroll down to Transaction Defaults, and tap Default Card. Tap the desired card. In Wallet, the default card appears with its full face showing, below your other credit/debit cards.

To pay for a purchase with a stored credit/debit card at a payment terminal, put your iPhone right next to the terminal. The iPhone may automatically prompt you to authenticate Apple Pay, but if not, double-click the Home button or, with the iPhone X, XR, XS, or XS Max, double-click the side button. Wallet displays your default card. To authenticate, rest your finger on the Home button or, with the iPhone X models, authenticate with Face ID. To use a non-default card, tap the card pile at the bottom of the screen and then tap the desired card.

Adding and Using Airplane Boarding Passes and Event Tickets

For flights, when you check in and get boarding passes using the airline’s iPhone app, you’ll be given the opportunity to tap an Add to Apple Wallet button. Do that and the boarding pass appears in Wallet, which will also display a notification for it on the Lock screen in the hours before your flight. When you need to show the boarding pass to security or the gate attendant, tap that notification to display the boarding pass with its QR code.

For events, the ticket-seller may display the Add to Apple Wallet button on the confirmation page of the checkout process or attach the tickets to your email receipt. In the latter case, open the message in Mail and tap the attachment to open it, and then tap Add to put it into Wallet. Later, when you arrive at the venue, open Wallet and display the ticket—again with a QR code—to gain entry.

Deleting Cards and Passes

Although you may want to keep some digital tickets for nostalgic reasons, it’s best to clean out old items:

  • To delete a credit/debit card, tap the card to view it and then tap the black ••• button. Scroll down and tap Remove This Card.
  • To remove a pass, go to the bottom of the main Wallet screen and tap Edit Passes. Tap the red delete button for that item, tap the next Delete or Delete All button, and then tap Done at the upper right.

Using Wallet makes it easier to keep your physical wallet slimmer. It can take a few minutes to add your cards and passes initially, but it’s worth the effort.

(Featured image by Two Paddles Axe and Leatherwork on Unsplash)


Social Media: Want to reduce the thickness of your wallet? Try offloading some cards to the Wallet app on your iPhone! Here are the basics:

Ever Wanted to Get a Custom Email Address? Here’s How (and Why)

Some facts about ourselves are difficult or impossible to change, but your email address doesn’t have to be one of them. Switching to a custom email address might seem overwhelming, and it will take some time, but it’s not that hard or expensive (and we’re always happy to help if you get stuck).

Why Consider Switching to a Custom Address?

Why would you want to take on such a task? Independence. If you’re using the email address that came from your Internet service provider, you could end up in an awkward situation if you have to move and switch ISPs. Any address that ends in @comcast.net, @anything.rr.com, @verizon.net, @earthlink.net, or the like could be problematic. You also don’t want to rely entirely on a work email address—there’s no guarantee that your employer will forward email for you indefinitely if you take a different job.

Also, an email address says something about you, much as a postal address does—there’s a difference between an address on Central Park versus one in the Bronx. If you’re not happy with what your email address implies, you might want to switch.

What can an email address reveal? Those with a free Juno, Hotmail, or Yahoo account likely signed up years ago and don’t take email very seriously. People who use an @icloud.com, @me.com, or @mac.com address are clearly Apple users, and those with an address ending in @live.com, @msn.com, or @outlook.com are probably Windows users. .edu addresses identify students, teachers, and school employees—but if you’re not one anymore, your email looks like you’re wearing a varsity jacket in your 40s. The big kahuna of email is Gmail, which boasts about 1.5 billion users worldwide now—as a result, using a Gmail address is fairly generic.

The ultimate in independence comes when you register your own domain name, which usually costs less than $20 per year at sites like 1&1 Ionos, Domain.com, easyDNS, Directnic, and Register.com. Then your address can be anything you want at your new custom domain, and you never again have to worry about being tied to your ISP or associated with a free email host.

How to Change to a Custom Address

Step 1: Register a new domain name. The hard part here is thinking of a name that hasn’t already been taken. It’s best to stick with the traditional top-level domains like .com, .net, and .org—if you get into the new ones like .beer (yes, that’s available), your email is a bit more likely to be marked as spam. Most domain registrars will also host your email for you, and if you go this route, you can skip Step 2.

Step 2: If you’re already using Gmail or another independent email provider that isn’t tied to your ISP, log in to your account at your domain registrar and configure it to forward all email to your existing email address. In this case, you can skip Steps 3 and 4.

However, if you aren’t happy with your current email provider, you’ll need to set up an account with a new one. There are lots, but many people use a paid email provider like FastMail or easyMail that usually charges less than $50 per year and supports multiple mailboxes. When you set up the account, you’ll need to create one or more new email addresses at the provider and configure MX (mail exchange) records with your domain registrar—the service will provide instructions for this.

Step 3: If you’re changing email providers as part of this process, you’ll need to configure Mail—or whatever email client you’re using—to connect to your new email account with the login credentials you set up. That’s not hard, but being able to send email that comes from your custom address can require some effort with the free email providers. Gmail provides instructions, and others that support this feature will as well. Unfortunately, iCloud won’t let you send email using a custom address.

Step 4: If you’re moving to a new email provider, you’ll need to forward your mail from your old provider to your new custom address. Most email providers and ISPs have a screen somewhere in the account settings of their Web sites that lets you enter a forwarding address.

Step 5: Tell your family, friends, and colleagues about your new email address, and update mailing lists and accounts at sites like Amazon that send you email. The forwarding you set up in the previous step will ensure you don’t miss anything during the transition, but remember that if you cancel your old ISP account, that forwarding may end immediately, so it’s important to start the process well in advance.

The details will vary depending on your choice of domain registrar and email provider, so again, if you would like additional recommendations or assistance in setting all this up, just let us know.


Social Media: Setting up a custom email address with your own domain isn’t that hard or expensive, and it gives you independence from your ISP, employer, or the sketchy email provider you signed up with after college. Here’s how you can switch.

Getting Rid of an Old Mac? Follow These Steps to Prep It for Its Next Life

If a new Mac has recently arrived in your life, it may be time to hand your old Mac down to a friend or family member, pass it on to a coworker, or send it back to Apple for recycling. Here’s what to do.

Backup

Before anything else, make a backup, just in case. Do this even if you’ve already migrated your data to your new Mac, since it’s possible that data could have been corrupted during the transfer without you realizing. At minimum, update your old Mac’s Time Machine backup by clicking the Time Machine icon in the menu bar, and choosing Back Up Now. For extra safety, consider using an app like Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper to make a bootable duplicate that will be easier to navigate if you need to recover a file.

Deauthorize iTunes and Other Apps

It’s uncommon for apps to have licensing schemes that are tied to your Mac’s hardware these days, but if you have any, such as those from Adobe, be sure to deauthorize or deactivate them.

However, there is one app that most people will need to deauthorize: iTunes. That’s because Apple allows you to play content purchased from iTunes only on up to five computers associated with your Apple ID, so be sure to deauthorize Macs that you won’t use again before passing them on.

To do this, open iTunes and choose Account > Authorizations > Deauthorize This Computer. Enter your Apple ID credentials when prompted.

If you’ve forgotten to do this, you can deauthorize all your computers once per year (and then add back those you still have). To do this in iTunes, choose Account > View My Account, and in the Apple ID Summary next to Computer Authorizations, click Deauthorize All.

Sign Out of iCloud

Next, you should sign out of iCloud to remove any connection between your iCloud account and the old Mac. Doing so disconnects the Mac from synchronization of your iCloud data.

To do this, open System Preferences > iCloud, and click the Sign Out button. If you’ve been syncing via iCloud Drive, Calendar, Contacts, Reminders, and so on, the Mac will ask if you want to keep the data on the Mac or delete it. Don’t bother deleting it since you’ll erase the Mac’s drive in a future step.

Sign Out of iMessage

Much as with iCloud, you should sign out of your iMessage account, at least if your Mac is running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion or later. To do this, open Messages and choose Messages > Preferences > Accounts. Select your iMessage account and click Sign Out. (In 10.14 Mojave, instead of clicking Accounts in the toolbar, click iMessage.)

Unpair Bluetooth Devices

If you’re giving your Mac to another user along with its Bluetooth devices, such as a wireless keyboard and trackpad, you don’t need to do anything with them. However, if you plan to hang on to your Bluetooth devices and use them with another Mac, you should unpair them. That’s especially true if someone else in your home or office will be using the old Mac, since the device might end up working on multiple Macs, which could cause confusion.

Before you unpair a wireless keyboard and mouse or trackpad, however, make sure you have a wired keyboard and pointing device available, since you won’t be able to erase the drive and reinstall macOS without them. If you lack wired alternatives, don’t unpair your keyboard and pointing device.

To unpair Bluetooth devices, open System Preferences > Bluetooth, and in the list of devices either hover over a device or select it. Then click the X button to the right. When prompted, click Remove.

Erase the Drive and Reinstall macOS

Here’s the most important step—erasing the Mac’s drive. After all, you don’t want the next user to be able to access all your photos, documents, email, and more. Luckily, this is easy to do.

First, start up from macOS Recovery by holding down Command-R while the Mac boots. In the macOS Utilities window that appears, select Disk Utility and click Continue.

In Disk Utility, select the internal drive, click Erase in the toolbar, and in the dialog that appears, enter a new name, choose a format, and choose GUID Partition Map for the scheme. For the format, stick with the default, since the macOS installer will convert it later if necessary. Quit Disk Utility when you’re done.

Once the drive is erased, you’ll be returned to the macOS Utilities window, where you can select Reinstall macOS (or Reinstall OS X, if it’s an older Mac) and click Continue. Obviously, if you’re sending it back to Apple for recycling, there’s no reason to do this.

The installation process takes time, and when it’s done, the Mac will restart into the setup assistant. Press Command-Q at the Welcome screen to shut down. When the new user starts the Mac up again, they’ll be able to continue with the setup process. That’s it—now you’re ready to give the Mac to its next user.


Social Media: If you’re passing an old Mac on to a colleague, friend, or family member—or returning it to Apple for recycling—follow these steps to prepare it for its next stage in life and ensure that no one will be able to access your data.

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.

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.

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.
  • 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.

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.

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.

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.


Social Media: Quick! Can you find the current operating system version for all your Apple devices? Learn how to carry out this essential troubleshooting task—it’s easy!