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Try Using a Magic Trackpad 2 with Your iPad Running iPadOS 13.4

When Apple released iPadOS 13.4 recently, it came with an unexpected feature: trackpad and mouse support. Apple plans to release a Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro that has a built-in trackpad in May as well, but in the meantime, you can control an iPad entirely via a Magic Trackpad 2 (the wedge-like one that recharges via a Lightning port). Pair it in Settings > Bluetooth, and look for settings in Settings > General > Trackpad. Apple did an impressive job with integrating a cursor into the iPadOS experience: the small, circular cursor shifts colors subtly depending on the background, becomes a highlighted selection rectangle when over objects, expands icons on the Home screen, and morphs into a thin insertion point when in text. Plus, Apple built in oodles of two- and three-finger gestures to mimic what you can do directly on the iPad screen—see the full list at TidBITS.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Upgrade to iOS 13.4 to Fix Mail’s Lousy Toolbar Interface

In iOS 13, in what can only have been a prank gone wrong, Apple simplified the message toolbar in Mail, putting the Delete button where the Reply button had been in iOS 12 and leaving a lot of blank space in the toolbar. As millions of users accidentally deleted messages instead of replying, hilarity ensued. (Not really.) In iOS 13.4, Apple has seemingly acknowledged the error of its ways, returning to a four-button toolbar similar to iOS 12’s five-button toolbar and moving the Delete button to the far left of the toolbar where it will be much harder to tap by accident. Upgrade to iOS 13.4 to take advantage of this change.

(Featured image by Torsten Dettlaff from Pexels)

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.

Unsubscribe from Marketing Email to Lighten Your Inbox Load

Are you overwhelmed by email? Is your Inbox filled with promotions, special offers, and the like? These messages aren’t spam—you almost always bought something from the company or have some sort of relationship with the sender—but that doesn’t mean you want to hear from them repeatedly. Luckily, it’s easy to get off the lists of legitimate senders. Just scroll to the bottom of each message and look for an unsubscribe link. Often it will be the word “Unsubscribe” or an instruction to “click here to remove yourself.” Click the link and, if necessary, click an Unsubscribe button on the resulting Web page. Then delete the message and move on to the next one. After a week or so of doing this regularly, you should start to notice a marked decrease in unwanted messages.

(Featured image by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash)

Invoke Split View More Easily in Catalina

Split View on the Mac helps you focus on your work in one app—perhaps a word processor—while providing access to one other app, like a Web browser. (Make sure “Displays have separate Spaces” is selected in System Preferences > Mission Control.) Before macOS 10.15 Catalina, you had to click and hold on the green full-screen button in the upper-left corner of any window, drag that window to one side of the screen, and click a window on the other side to put them side by side. Catalina makes this easier to discover: hover over the green full-screen button briefly and then choose Tile Window to Left of Screen or Tile Window to Right of Screen before selecting a window on the other side of the screen. If you don’t want a 50-50 split, drag the black divider bar between the windows to adjust the proportions. To leave Split View, move your pointer to the top of the screen to reveal the menu bar and then click the green full-screen button.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Make Your Own Keyboard Shortcuts on the Mac

Power users like keyboard shortcuts because it’s faster to press a couple of keys than to navigate lengthy menus. If you have trouble remembering shortcuts, check out KeyCue, which displays a concise table of all currently available shortcuts. But what about menu items that lack shortcuts? Make your own in System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > App Shortcuts. Click the + button, choose an app from the Application menu, fill in the Menu Title field, click the Keyboard Shortcut field, press your desired key combination, and click Add. You can even make shortcuts for Safari bookmarks, since they appear in the Bookmarks menu. If a shortcut doesn’t work, make sure you typed its menu title exactly right, including any punctuation like three periods for an ellipsis. To edit an item, double-click its title or shortcut in the list. If you no longer want an item, select it and click the – button.

(Featured image by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash)

Make Your Mac More Useful by Managing Menu Bar Icons

If your Mac is anything like ours, it’s suffering from an infestation of menu bar icons. Sure, the Wi-Fi menu is essential, and many others can be helpful. But if you have too many, or they’re in random order, finding one when you need it can be frustrating. You can employ two techniques to increase the accessibility of your menu bar icons:

  • Delete any Apple-provided status icon you don’t use by holding down the Command key and dragging it off the menu bar. (To put it back, select the “Show icon-name status in menu bar” checkbox in the associated System Preference pane.) Command-dragging to delete won’t work for most apps with a menu bar icon; for them, look for a preference in the app itself.
  • Rearrange the menu bar icons in an order that makes sense to you by Command-dragging them around. You can’t move the Notification Center icon or put anything to its right, but every other icon is movable.

(Featured image based on an original by Patrick Ward on Unsplash)

The Fastest Way to Change Wi-Fi Networks in iOS 13

Historically, picking a new Wi-Fi network has required you to open the Settings app and tap Wi-Fi, forcing you to unlock your iPhone or switch away from what you were doing. In iOS 13, however, Apple added a better way to connect to a new Wi-Fi network. Open Control Center (swipe down from the upper-right corner on an iPhone X or later or an iPad; or up from the bottom on an earlier iPhone), press and hold on the network settings card in the upper-left corner to expand it, and then press and hold on the Wi-Fi icon to reveal a list of Wi-Fi networks. Tap one to switch to it.

(Featured image by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash)

Did You Know You Can Save and Share Voicemail Files from Your iPhone?

For many of us, voicemail replaced answering machines, so we don’t think of voicemail messages as being something we can save or share. But on the iPhone, every voicemail message is just an audio file. If you want to retain a message for posterity or share one with a friend or colleague, you can do that easily. While viewing a voicemail message, tap the share icon to bring up an activity sheet. In it, you can save the file to any app that can handle audio files, or share the file with AirDrop, Messages, Mail, or the like.

(Featured image by Travis Zimmerman from Pixabay)

Use Your Apple Watch to Unlock Your Mac, and Apps in Catalina

If you’ve resisted requiring a password on your Mac after it wakes up or comes out of the screen saver because it’s too much work to enter repeatedly, an Apple Watch can make authentication much easier. In previous versions of macOS, just wearing an unlocked Apple Watch is enough to enter your Mac’s password; in Catalina, the Apple Watch can also enter your password when prompted by apps. First, make sure your Apple Watch has a passcode (in Watch > Passcode), is on your wrist, and is unlocked. Then, in System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General, select “Use your Apple Watch to unlock apps and your Mac.” From then on, most of the time your Mac or an app wants your password, your Apple Watch will provide it automatically. (This feature requires that the Mac dates from mid-2013 or later, that all devices use the same iCloud account, and that the Apple ID uses two-factor authentication instead of two-step verification.)

(Featured image based on an original by Christin Hume on Unsplash)