Dragging files and folders around is core to the Mac experience—drag a file from one folder to another to move it, drag a folder from one drive to another to copy it. But did you know that if you hold down the Option key while dragging a file in the Finder, you’ll get a green + pointer and it will make a copy in the destination? That’s easier than duplicating, moving, and renaming the file. Similarly, if you want to move a large folder from one drive to another, hold down the Command key during the drag to do in one step what would otherwise require copying, trashing, and emptying the Trash. Finally, if you want an alias, hold down the Command and Option keys while dragging, and presto, the original stays put and an alias appears in the destination.
If you’re working on an iPad with a physical keyboard—either a Bluetooth keyboard or an iPad Pro with Apple’s Smart Keyboard—there are quite a few keyboard shortcuts you can use to work faster. Many are what you’d guess if you have Mac experience; for instance, Command-F generally maps to Find. But to see a list of supported keyboard shortcuts in an app, simply press and hold the Command key on the keyboard until an information panel appears. Some apps, like Calendar (shown below), even have multiple pages of shortcuts; swipe to see them all. Not all apps will display the cheat sheet, but most of Apple’s productivity apps do.
When it comes to calendars, we’re mostly concerned with the future. But sometimes you want to travel back in time too, to see when you had that doctor appointment or last went to the gym. If you scroll back in the Calendar app in iOS, you might discover, to your consternation, that after 2 weeks back, the only items in your calendar are old repeating events. What gives? Weirdly, since calendar events consume almost no storage space, iOS lets you select how far back to sync events from your master calendar. Choose a time period in Settings > Calendar > Sync, or to eliminate any possibility of confusion, just select All Events.
At the end of March, Apple released updates to all four of its operating systems, but iOS 11.3 was the most notable. It boasts a variety of new features and other changes—you can think of it as the midpoint update between iOS 11’s first release and iOS 12, probably coming next September. All remaining updates to iOS 11 are likely to be minor maintenance updates. Here’s what’s new.
iPhone Battery Health
The most anticipated change is the Battery Health feature that Apple promised to add in the wake of revelations that the company was quietly reducing the performance of older iPhone models (starting with the iPhone 6) to lessen the chance of unexpected shutdowns with weak batteries. You find the new Battery Health screen in Settings > Battery > Battery Health, and Apple explains it in detail here.
If your iPhone battery is aging, you may see a lower maximum capacity, and if your iPhone has shut down because of a weak battery, the screen will tell you that performance management has been applied. You can disable performance management, if you prefer the iPhone shutting down to degraded performance, but it will turn on again the next time your iPhone shuts down. Finally, if your battery is bad enough, the screen will recommend replacement.
Also note that iPads running iOS 11.3 can better maintain battery health when they’re plugged into power for long periods of time. Be sure to upgrade if you have an iPad that stays plugged in all the time.
New in both iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4 High Sierra is Business Chat, an Apple service that lets you chat with participating companies directly within Messages. If you look up one of these companies in Maps, Safari, or Search/Spotlight and see a Messages button, just use it to start a conversation. Only you can start conversations, and Business Chat can be a fast way to ask questions, get support, schedule appointments, and even make purchases using Apple Pay.
Apple’s launch partners are 1-800-Flowers, Ameritrade, Discover, Hilton, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Marriott, Newegg, and Wells Fargo, although not all of them seemed to be active out of the gate. And, of course, you can use Business Chat with Apple itself.
Most people won’t be able to take advantage of iOS 11.3’s next new feature—medical records in the Health app—right away, but we have high hopes for it. Apple has partnered with over 40 healthcare systems to bring your medical records into the Health app, centralizing them and making them easier for both you and healthcare professionals to access. The records include lab results, medications, conditions, and more. Health Records data is encrypted and protected with a passcode so it remains private.
Data & Privacy
We haven’t yet seen this, but Apple says that iOS 11.3 (and macOS 10.13.4) will display a new privacy icon whenever Apple asks for access to personal information, as it might do to “enable features, secure Apple services or personalize an iOS experience.” The icon should be accompanied by detailed privacy information explaining the situation. In an era when every company seems hell-bent on collecting and exploiting our personal data, it’s nice to see Apple increasing the transparency of its data collection practices.
iOS 11.3 tweaks Safari in several small ways that make it easier to use and more secure:
- Autofill now inserts usernames and passwords only after you select them on Web pages.
- Autofill now works in Web views within other iOS apps.
- Safari warns you when you interact with password or credit card forms on non-encrypted pages.
- Safari now formats shared articles sent via Mail as though they were in Reader mode.
- Favorites folders now show icons for the contained bookmarks.
Apple made lots of other minor improvements in iOS 11.3. You can see a full list in the release notes, but those that we find most noteworthy include:
- iPhone X users get access to four new animoji: a lion, dragon, skull, and bear.
- iOS 11.3 adds support for the Advanced Mobile Location (AML) standard, which provides more accurate location data to emergency responders when Emergency SOS is triggered.
- Podcasts now plays episodes with a single tap, and you can tap Details to learn more about episodes.
- Apple Music now streams music videos uninterrupted by ads.
- Apple News has improved its Top Stories feature and includes a new Video group in the For You collection.
iOS 11.3’s improvements may not change the way you use your iPhone or iPad, but they’re welcome nonetheless, and Business Chat and Health Records should become more interesting as additional institutions sign on. And, of course, anyone with an older iPhone should check the Battery Health screen right away.
At a special education event on March 27th, Apple introduced a new 9.7-inch iPad that offers faster performance, support for the Apple Pencil, and a few new camera-related features. The company also released new versions of the iWork apps—Pages, Numbers, and Keynote—that let users draw, sketch, and write with the Apple Pencil.
For the most part, the new sixth-generation iPad is the same as the fifth-generation model it replaces. Its physical dimensions are unchanged, so existing cases and accessories should continue to work. It comes in the same three colors: silver, gold, and space gray. Even the pricing and options remain the same, with a 32 GB model starting at $329—the jump to 128 GB adds $100, and cellular capabilities add $130.
What sets the sixth-generation iPad apart from its predecessor is its support for the Apple Pencil stylus, which was previously restricted to the iPad Pro line, which started at $649. Thanks to a high-resolution touch sensor in the iPad’s Retina screen and palm-rejection technology, you can now use the $99 Apple Pencil in compatible apps. As with the iPad Pro, the Apple Pencil is sensitive to pressure and tilt so you can vary line weight and shading, much as with a traditional pencil.
Also new in the sixth-generation iPad is Apple’s A10 Fusion chip, with its embedded M10 coprocessor. The company claims that the new processors provide up to 40-percent faster CPU and 50-percent faster graphics performance.
The extra performance may also be related to the iPad’s new camera capabilities. Unlike the previous iPad, the sixth-generation iPad can take Live Photos and supports body detection in images along with the previously supported face detection. Also new is support for the Retina Flash feature that turns the screen into a giant flash when taking selfies.
iWork with Apple Pencil Support
If you haven’t been using Pages, Numbers, and Keynote on the iPad, the latest updates may encourage you to try Apple’s iWork apps—remember, they’re available for free in the App Store. Notably, the three apps allow you to draw, sketch, and write directly within documents. Even more interesting, though, is Apple’s Smart Annotations feature, currently in beta. With it, your comments and proofing marks anchor dynamically to text, and stay with the text they were attached to even as the document changes.
Smart Annotations are particularly welcome for those who take advantage of the real-time collaboration features built into the iWork apps. This was an education event, and it’s clear that Apple is building tools that will allow teachers to mark up and comment on student documents. But the same capabilities are equally as useful in the business world. For business users, Apple also announced that the real-time collaboration features in the iWork apps now work on documents stored in the Box file sharing service. Previously they were available only for documents stored in iCloud, which has little adoption in the enterprise.
Finally, the iPad version of Pages gains features that help users create ebooks in EPUB format. And Apple added a new Presenter mode to Pages, which lets you turn your iPhone or iPad into a teleprompter for distraction-free reading.
In the end, if you’re interested in using the Apple Pencil, the combination of the sixth-generation iPad and the updated iWork apps will let you do more for over $300 less than before.
File this warning under “unless it’s absolutely necessary.” If you use iCloud Photo Library on your Mac, don’t sign out from iCloud. Also, don’t deselect the iCloud Photo Library checkbox in either the Photos options of the iCloud pane of System Preferences or in the iCloud preferences in Photos itself. Why not? Because, when you re-enable iCloud or iCloud Photo Library, Photos will re-upload all your photos, which could take days. (It’s not really re-uploading all of them, but even just resyncing will take a long time.) Worse, if you don’t have enough space in iCloud for your entire Photos library again, you’ll have to upgrade to a larger plan temporarily, resync, and then downgrade to your previous plan. Apple will refund you the cost of the upgrade, but you’ll have to work with support to get reimbursed.
Here’s one for those who use Apple’s Notes app for storing bits of information. By default, Notes in macOS gives you a single window, with each note listed in a sidebar. But what if you want to see two notes at once? Or keep one always available no matter what else you’re doing? Select the desired notes in the sidebar by Command-clicking them, and then choose Window > Float Selected Notes to open them in their own windows. Or, just double-click them in the sidebar! Then, to make sure one or more of those windows is never obscured by another app, make it active and then choose Window > Float on Top. It’s still a normal window that you can move and resize and close, but no other app will appear over it. See how Safari is the frontmost app below, but the Notes window is on top?
If you’re reading this, chances are good that you’re not in elementary school, but it’s still easy to end up with a bunch of numbers you need to calculate. Perhaps you’re trying to total receipts for an expense report, average your kid’s report card grades, or split a restaurant bill. Either way, instead of launching the Calculator app on your iPhone (it’s oddly missing from the iPad), get Siri to do the math for you. For each the above examples, try the following, making sure to speak the decimal point as “point” or “dot.” “What is 113.25 plus 67.29 plus 89.16?” “What is the average of 92 and 96 and 82 and 91?” “What is 235.79 divided by 6?” Siri always shows you the calculation, so you can verify that it heard you correctly, just in case you’re doing this in a loud restaurant.
Snazzy shadowed text probably isn’t appropriate for your company’s annual report, but if you’re whipping up a flyer for a birthday party, you might want to jazz up the text. You can do that in most Mac apps that support macOS’s system-level Fonts palette. Select your text, and then bring up the Fonts palette. Generally speaking, such as in Pages and TextEdit, you do that by choosing Format > Font > Show Fonts, though the exact location may vary by app. Then click the shadowed T button toward the right of the toolbar, which activates the next four controls: Shadow Opacity, Shadow Blur, Shadow Offset, and Shadow Angle. Play with each slider and the rotating angle control until you have an effect you like.
After months of anticipation, Apple’s new HomePod smart speaker finally shipped in mid-February. Reviews of its audio quality have been positive, and for the most part, it works both as advertised and as you’d expect. However, there were some surprises, most good but some bad. Whether you have a HomePod on your credenza (which may be a bad spot for it!) or you’re still deciding if you want to buy one, here are ten things you should know:
- Furniture rings. Let’s get this one out of the way. The HomePod can leave rings on oil-finished wood furniture because the silicone base can react with certain wooden surfaces. That has to be embarrassing for a company that prides itself on materials expertise like Apple. The solution is easy—just put something under it.
- Single user. Anyone in the room can give Siri commands, but when it comes to account-based connections, the HomePod is a single-user device. So if you set it up, which is astonishingly easy, it will connect to your Apple Music account, your iMessage account, your iCloud account for Reminders, and so on. That’s fine for you, but your family members won’t be able to access their Apple Music playlists, for instance.
- Speakerphone. The HomePod may be the best speakerphone you’ve ever used. Alas, you can’t initiate a call on it, but once you start one on your iPhone, you can transfer the call by tapping the new Audio button that replaced the Speaker button in iOS 11.2.5 and selecting the HomePod.
- Apple Music. The HomePod can act as an AirPlay speaker, and can thus play audio from your other Apple devices. But when you control it via Siri, the music must come from Apple Music, your iTunes Store purchases, or be matched in your iCloud Music Library. To send Mac audio from apps other than iTunes to the HomePod, get Rogue Amoeba’s Airfoil.
- Audio power. It may be small, but the HomePod has plenty of power. At 6 feet, we measured the sound output at 100% volume at 80 decibels, which is louder than is comfortable.
- Volume control. Speaking of volume, you control it by percentages, as in “Hey Siri, set the volume to 15 percent.” You can also tap the + and – buttons on the top of the HomePod to adjust the volume in 5% increments.
- Electrical usage. The HomePod may be turned on all the time—it has no power switch—but it uses very little electricity. In our testing, it used 2.5 to 3 watts when it was idle but has been used recently, and 4 to 7 watts when playing. Leave it alone in a quiet room for a while, and its power usage drops to 0 watts with just an occasional 1.5-watt spike.
- Good listener. The HomePod hears your commands remarkably well, even when it’s playing music at a high volume. You shouldn’t have to shout at it.
- Hey Siri. If you’re within earshot of a HomePod and want to give Siri a command on your iPhone or Apple Watch, don’t say “Hey Siri” right away. Instead, to use your iPhone, unlock it first. Or, to use your Apple Watch, raise your wrist. Apple has an explanation of how Hey Siri works with multiple devices.
- Apple TV. You can play audio from your Apple TV through your HomePod. On the main screen of the Apple TV, press and hold the Play/Pause button on the Siri Remote, and then select the HomePod before playing a show. Or, while playing video, swipe down on the Siri Remote, swipe right to select Audio, and then select your HomePod in the Speaker list.
Once you’ve transferred audio to the HomePod, you can use Hey Siri commands to pause and play the Apple TV content, change volume, and even rewind and fast-forward by a certain amount of time (“Hey Siri, rewind 10 seconds”). However, other things that Siri on the Apple TV can do, like tell you who stars in a movie, work only when you press and hold the Siri button on the Siri Remote.
Much as the HomePod works well right now, it stands to improve in the coming year. Apple plans to release software updates that will enable two HomePods in the same room to provide true stereo sound, and that will let you control multiple HomePods simultaneously for multi-room audio.