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How to Recover from Overzealous Auto-Correct Curly Quotes

Most of the time, it’s appropriate when an auto-correct feature turns single and double hash marks into single and double curly quotes. However, there are times when the curly quotes are awkward for some reason or actively wrong. For instance, hash marks indicate feet and inches, as in 5′ 6″. You could attempt to disable the auto-correct feature or copy and paste a hash mark from some other place, but the simple fix is to type the hash mark, watch auto-correct change it, and immediately press Command-Z to revert to the hash mark. We can’t guarantee this will work in all situations, but it’s generally effective.

(Featured image by iStock.com/nicoletaionescu)

Use the iPhone Camera’s Zoom to Avoid Glare, Reflections, and Shadow

We increasingly need to take photos of documents—vaccination cards, driver licenses, passports, etc.—to submit for online verification. That’s often easier said than done, especially when taking a photo at night under lights that obscure the text with glare and shadows. Similarly, when photographing a screen to document a problem for tech support, it’s often difficult to capture it without a problematic reflection. For a possible solution, back up from the thing you’re photographing and use your iPhone’s zoom feature to enlarge the document or screen. The extra distance often lets you adjust the angle and positioning to prevent glare, shadows, and reflection.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

The Best Characters to Use When Naming Files and Folders

Back in the early 1980s, DOS filenames couldn’t be more than 8 characters long with a period and a 3-character extension. That was limiting, so when Apple developed the Mac operating system in 1984, it allowed longer names and eliminated the need for an extension, although Mac OS X’s Unix roots meant a return of the filename extension in 2001. Since then, filename restrictions have loosened to the point where it’s easy to think that they no longer exist.

If only that were true! In some ways, the situation has become even cloudier, thanks to additional limitations from file-sharing services like Dropbox, OneDrive, and Box. (Google Drive’s native Web interface reportedly has no naming limitations, but files whose names contain Windows or macOS forbidden characters may not sync via Google Drive’s desktop software.) Plus, people tend to move files between operating systems more than ever before—if you’re sending a file from your Mac to a Windows user through Dropbox, you need to make sure that all three can deal with the filename.

At least length isn’t something that you generally have to think about these days, since both macOS and Windows—and the cloud services—accept filenames up to 255 characters in length. Technically speaking, Windows limits directory paths (the enclosing folder names along with the filename) to 255 characters, but even still, that shouldn’t be difficult to avoid.

What could go wrong if you run afoul of a naming restriction? macOS and Windows may simply not let you type the character—for example, you can’t put a colon in a Mac filename. Putting a period at the start of a Mac or Unix filename will hide the file. Cloud sharing services might rename the file, or you might encounter syncing issues where files don’t appear where they should. Certain characters can also cause trouble when files are used at the command line.

Here are the characters to avoid and the operating systems and services that prohibit them:

  • : (colon): macOS, Windows, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box
  • . (period): macOS (at the start of a name), Dropbox
  • / (forward slash): macOS, Windows, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box
  • (backslash): Windows, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box
  • < (less than): Windows, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box
  • > (greater than): Windows, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box
  • ” (double quote): Windows, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box
  • | (vertical bar or pipe): Windows, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box
  • ? (question mark): Windows, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box
  • * (asterisk): Windows, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box
  • ^ (caret): Windows (using FAT-formatted drives)

In addition, avoid using special characters like the © (copyright) symbol or emoji 🤷🏽‍♂️  in filenames. They might work locally, but all bets are off if you share the files in any way.

A few other recommendations:

  • Avoid unusual punctuation; in particular, note that OneDrive renames filenames containing:
    • , (comma) to ^J
    • # (number sign) to ^N
    • & (ampersand) to ^O
    • ~ (tilde) to ^F
  • Never start or end file or folder names with a space, and avoid spaces in filenames that will be uploaded to a Web or SFTP server.
  • Avoid putting more than one period in a filename, and don’t put a period after a filename extension.
  • Never assume that names are case sensitive—always make sure that similarly named items differ by more than just case.

If all that seems like a lot to keep in mind, here’s the simple rule that will ensure your filenames will work everywhere:

Name files only with uppercase (A-Z) and lowercase (a-z) letters, digits (0-9), and the hyphen (-) and underscore (_), plus a single period (.) and extension.

(Featured image by iStock.com/cosmin4000 and smartstock)


Social Media: You might think that you can name a file or folder any way you want, but macOS and Windows have restrictions on which characters you can use, and the prevalence of cloud sharing services makes it all the more important to avoid prohibited characters.

Can’t Rotate the Screen on an iPad or iPhone? Fix the Problem in Control Center

Normally, when you rotate an iPad, the screen happily flips from portrait (vertical) to landscape (horizontal) orientation as appropriate. Rotating an iPhone has the same effect in some apps, though many are written to work only in one orientation. If you ever end up in a situation where your device’s screen doesn’t rotate when you think it should, the reason is likely that Rotation Lock has been turned on in Control Center. Swipe down from the top-right corner of your screen (or up from the bottom of the screen on a Touch ID iPhone) and disable the Rotation Lock button. You can turn it on again later if you ever want to prevent the screen from rotating temporarily.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Jacephoto)

Extend Your Battery Life in macOS 12 Monterey with Low Power Mode

We’ve become accustomed to our iPhones and iPads switching into Low Power Mode to preserve battery life, and you can enable it manually if you want to reduce power usage for a day. New in macOS 12 Monterey for the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro is a similar feature, though you must enable it manually. Open System Preferences > Battery, click Battery in the sidebar, and select Low Power Mode. It reduces the screen brightness automatically and may decrease CPU performance. Make sure to turn it off once you don’t need it anymore.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Pascal Kiszon)

Does Your Magic Mouse Need More Juice? Here’s How to Check

It’s unfortunate that the most recent iteration of the Magic Mouse has its Lightning charging port on the bottom, making it impossible to use while charging, unlike the Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad, which work fine when plugged in. To check if your Magic Mouse needs charging before it starts to nag (and starts acting a little funky), look in one of these spots. If your menu bar is displaying the Bluetooth icon, click it, and the charge level should show up. Or click the Control Center icon on the menu bar and click Bluetooth. You can also look in System Preferences, in either the Bluetooth preference pane or the Mouse preference pane. In our experience, the Bluetooth menu is the easiest, but Control Center and the Mouse preference pane are the most reliable—sometimes the charge level doesn’t appear in the menu.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Alex Sholom)

If Your Internet Connection Is Slow, Research These Three Numbers

As pandemic-related restrictions ebb and flow, many people continue to work from home at least some of the time. A key requirement for successful remote work is a fast, solid Internet connection. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for Internet connections to degrade over time as cables endure a variety of insults ranging from water seeping into connectors to squirrels gnawing through insulation. You might be surprised at how variable such problems can be—we once saw an Internet connection that dropped out infrequently; it turned out that squirrels had damaged just one pair of wires in the cable, and the Internet provider’s system hopped between pairs depending on other neighborhood traffic.

How do you know if something in your Internet connection needs fixing? If the entire connection goes offline periodically, even if it comes back on its own, that’s a hint. Videoconferencing apps and streaming video services can also provide useful warnings—if the picture often pixelates or pauses, or if the audio falls out of sync with the video, that’s another indication that something may be wrong. Finally, if you use a VPN, Internet connectivity issues can cause all sorts of weird problems.

When you notice such problems, you can perform a simple test that may shed some light on the situation. First, make sure to stop any audio or video streaming or large downloads. Then go to speedtest.net and click the Go button. Speedtest will run some tests to come up with three numbers:

  • Download: Your download performance, generally measured in megabits per second (Mbps), is the most important and determines how quickly your computer can receive data from the Internet for downloads and streaming video.
  • Upload: Conversely, your upload performance, also measured in megabits per second, determines how fast you can send data to the Internet. It’s almost always much lower than download performance, but sufficient upload bandwidth is essential for your audio and video to be clear and smooth in a videoconference.
  • Latency: This number, which Speedtest calls “ping,” measures the amount of time in milliseconds to send a single packet to the destination server and receive it back again. The lower the latency, the more responsive communications will be, which is all-important for online gaming. Very long latencies can also cause problems for VPNs.

(You can also use other similar services, such as Netflix’s fast.com or Google’s built-in tester. Apple even built a networkQuality tool into macOS 12 Monterey—run it at the command line in Terminal—though it has an unusual Apple Network Responsiveness test that replaces the latency test.)

What should these numbers be? When you signed up for a plan with your Internet service provider (ISP), you should have been quoted download and upload numbers, such as 200 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up. If you don’t know what those numbers should be, ask your ISP. It’s not uncommon for download and upload speeds to vary somewhat from what you were promised, but they should generally be close.

Latency is trickier, and ISPs won’t promise anything specific. The lower the latency number, the better. Speedtest suggests that times under 59 milliseconds are good for gaming, times between 60 and 129 milliseconds are acceptable, a range of 130–199 milliseconds is problematic, and 200-plus milliseconds won’t be usable. There’s no way to know what latency numbers might cause other problems, but we’d pay attention to anything over 100 milliseconds.

Let’s assume your numbers aren’t what they should be—or at least what you’d like them to be. Don’t complain to your ISP right away. Instead, try these steps:

  • Run the test a few more times, preferably at different times of the day. (If you create an account with Speedtest, it will track your tests so you can see how they change.) You may discover that performance is slow only during peak usage hours.
  • Run more tests using different Speedtest servers or even different testing services. You’re testing the performance between you and a particular server, and it’s possible that server is having problems that others won’t share.
  • If you have other devices, run tests from those as well. Don’t assume you’ll get identical results because different devices may have varying capabilities. If you notice differences between devices that use Wi-Fi and those connected via Ethernet, that might point to your Wi-Fi router as a bottleneck. That’s not common with modern Wi-Fi routers, but if you’re still relying on an old AirPort Express, it could be slowing you down.
  • Restart your devices, and if that doesn’t make a difference, restart or power cycle your router and modem as well.

If your performance problems persist through all those troubleshooting tests, the problem is likely in the physical connection, and only your ISP can address that. When you call, be sure to share the testing numbers and any commonalities—times of day, for instance—that you observed. With luck, they’ll be able to confirm your issues and dispatch a technician to evaluate the physical connection for problems.

(Featured image by iStock.com/gorodenkoff)


Social Media: Slow or unreliable Internet connection? It could be your ISP—read on to find out how to test your connection and evaluate the results.

Pay Attention to the iPhone’s Emergency SOS Auto Call Feature

Did you know that pressing and holding the side button and one of the volume buttons on an iPhone 8 or later brings up a screen that lets you power your iPhone off, show your medical ID, and invoke Emergency SOS? (On earlier iPhones, press the side or top button five times.) Slide Emergency SOS, and your iPhone will immediately call emergency services, which could be lifesaving in a real emergency. Even without touching​​ that slider, if you continue to hold the side button and volume button, after a 5-second countdown, the iPhone automatically calls emergency services, which may not be what you want. At least in the US, even if you hang up, that will likely cause the 911 dispatcher to send police to your location. To ensure that you can’t accidentally trigger Emergency SOS to call automatically, go to Settings > Emergency SOS and turn off Auto Call. We won’t say how we know this can happen.

(Featured image by iStock.com/LightFieldStudios)

Shrink Apps to Prevent the MacBook Pro Notch from Obscuring App Controls

The new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models feature a camera housing built into the screen, resulting in a notch like that on the iPhone. Most developers are updating their apps to ensure that no controls or menu bar items appear blocked or hidden by the notch, but if you use an older app that doesn’t play nicely with the notch, there’s a fix. Quit the app if it’s running, select it in the Finder’s Applications folder, and choose File > Get Info. In the Info window that opens, select “Scale to fit below built-in camera.” The active area of the display resizes so everything appears below the notch, slightly reducing the overall screen space. This checkbox won’t appear once the app has been updated to avoid the notch.

(Featured image by Apple)

Avoid Unusual Top-Level Domains in Custom Domain Names

Remember the heady dotcom days, when businesses were desperate to get a short, memorable, easily typed .com domain? It quickly became difficult to get what you wanted—so much so that deep-pocketed companies paid exorbitant sums for just the right domain.

Before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. Domain names are necessary because computers on the Internet are all identified by inscrutable numeric IP addresses. You can remember and type apple.com easily; 184.31.17.21 not so much. Domain names have two or more parts: the top-level domain (read from the end, such as com) and the second-level domain (like apple), plus optional third-level domains (which could give you support.apple.com).

Since the days of speculating in .com domains, however, hundreds of additional top-level domains have been opened up, including domains from .aaa to .zone. There are now top-level domains for .doctor, .florist, .lawyer, and many more, including the general .xyz. It might be tempting to switch from the awkward dewey-cheatham-howe.com to the shorter and more memorable dch.lawyer. And even if there isn’t a profession-specific top-level domain that works for you, you may think that if abc.xyz is good enough for Google’s parent company Alphabet, surely it’s good enough for you.

Alas, much as we appreciate the creativity and flexibility offered by these alternative top-level domains, we’d like to dissuade you from using one, if possible. Problems include:

  • Email deliverability: If you’re sending email using an alternative top-level domain or including links to that domain, it’s much more likely that your email will be considered spam by receiving systems.
  • SMS deliverability: Some SMS text message providers will automatically delete messages containing URLs with alternative top-level domains in an effort to protect their customers from phishing attacks.
  • Social media spam filtering: As with SMS text messages, social media posts that include URLs with alternative top-level domains may be categorized as spam or as linking to a malicious site.
  • Firewall blocking: Abuse of alternative top-level domains has become so commonplace by scammers that some companies prevent their employees from accessing websites using certain alternative top-level domains at the firewall level.
  • User perception: Although there’s no telling how anyone will react to a particular top-level domain, people won’t think twice about .com but might think .ooo seems sketchy. (We would.)

Obviously, it may not be possible to get the domain name you want in .com. What to do? There are a few strategies:

  • Expand or abbreviate: At this time, people mostly don’t see, remember, or type domains apart from those that go with businesses that do a lot of real-world advertising. So if you need to add or subtract words (or letters) in your domain to find a unique one, that can work.
  • Use a country domain: Two-letter top-level domains are restricted for use by countries, so .us is for the United States, .ca for Canada, and .au for Australia. Every country has different rules for who can register them. For instance, it’s possible to get a domain ending in .it (Italy) as long as you work through a registrar that acts as your representative there. .io (British Indian Ocean Territory) and .ai (Anguilla) are popular top-level domains among tech companies.
  • Stick with better, pricier alternatives: Not all alternative top-level domains are equally problematic. The classic .net and .org are fine, and .biz isn’t bad. But how to determine that? When you’re checking to see if a domain name is available, compare prices. For instance, at one domain name registrar, iphonewhisperer.xyz costs only $1 per year, whereas the iphonewhisperer.biz version is $4.98 per year, iphonewhisperer.net is $9.18 per year, and iphonewhisperer.studio is $11.98 per year. The more you pay, the less likely that domain has been abused by spammers and marked for filtering.

In the end, when it comes to domain names, it’s best to be conservative and stick with a top-level domain that won’t cause people or filters to think twice. That’s probably .com, if you can make the rest of the name work for you.

(Featured image by iStock.com/BeeBright)


Social Media: Tempted to get a short, memorable domain name ending in .xyz or .shop? As we explain, that’s a bad idea if you care about user perception, email and text message deliverability, and not being blocked by social media and firewalls. Details at: