Use Visual Look Up in Photos in iOS 15 to Identify Plants, Pets, and More

Use Visual Look Up in Photos in iOS 15 to Identify Plants, Pets, and More

Have you ever wanted to identify a plant, flower, or pet breed, or find out what that famous painting is called? Us too. In iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, Apple added a new AI-driven feature called Visual Look Up that provides more information about photos of plants, flowers, pets, books, artworks, and landmarks. When you’re viewing a photo, swipe up or tap the sparkle-badged info button ➊ to see metadata about the image (camera model, image details, location, and more) and then tap Look Up to learn more ➋. Depending on the item recognized, it will suggest Wikipedia articles, similar images from the Web, websites, bookstores, map locations, and more. Tap a suggestion to switch to Safari or another app for details. (If the info button doesn’t have the sparkle badge, Visual Look Up hasn’t identified anything in the photo.)

(Featured image by iStock.com/Hakase_)

With Apple Watch Faces, Too Much Choice Can Be Confusing

With Apple Watch Faces, Too Much Choice Can Be Confusing

The Apple Watch has a lot to offer older people, including heart rate monitoring, atrial fibrillation detection, fall detection, and electrocardiogram recording. But if you are—or are helping someone who is—of the generation where watches once did nothing beyond telling the time, too many options can be overwhelming. Adding to the confusion is how easy it is to create and accidentally swipe between multiple watch faces, making it so the Apple Watch suddenly looks and works completely differently. If that’s an issue, use the Watch app to delete all but the preferred watch face. In Watch > My Watch, tap Edit to the right of My Faces ➊, tap the red delete button next to a face ➋, and then tap Remove ➌.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Apple Provides Temporary iCloud Backup Space for New Device Transfers

Apple Provides Temporary iCloud Backup Space for New Device Transfers

When you move from an old iPhone or iPad to a new one, the easiest approach is often the Quick Start device-to-device transfer. But if that doesn’t work, or if you have to give up one device before receiving the other, iCloud Backup is a fine alternative. Fine, that is, if you have enough iCloud storage space, which many people with the free 5 GB plan do not. For devices running iOS 15 or iPadOS 15, Apple just introduced the option to create a temporary iCloud backup that’s larger than the available space. Tap Settings > General > Transfer or Reset Device > Get Started to create the backup. You have 21 days (plus another 21 if necessary) to restore that backup, and it sticks around for another 7 days after you restore.

(Featured image by iStock.com/honley)

Safari 15.1 Reverses Course, Reverts to Old Tab Interface

Safari 15.1 Reverses Course, Reverts to Old Tab Interface

With the betas of Safari 15 on the Mac and iPad, Apple experimented with a variety of interface tweaks related to tabs. By the time Safari 15 shipped, however, Apple had pulled back on the more radical changes from the betas, offering the new Compact Tab Bar layout and colorized tab bar as options. Even with the more traditional Separate Tab Bar layout, however, tabs appeared as buttons above your favorites, a switch from earlier versions of Safari. With Safari 15.1 in macOS and iPadOS 15.1, Apple has reverted the Separate Tab Bar layout even further, making the tabs look like, well, tabs, moving them below the favorites, and eliminating the colorized tab bar (it remains an option in iOS 15.1). The Compact Tab Bar option remains available for those who prefer it, but if you’ve been feeling the sand shifting under your feet, it’s not your imagination—tabs really did change in Safari 15.1.

(Featured image by iStock.com/ESOlex)

When It Comes to Wi-Fi Networks, Sometimes It’s Better to Forget

When It Comes to Wi-Fi Networks, Sometimes It’s Better to Forget

It’s easy, particularly when traveling, to end up connecting to a Wi-Fi network that doesn’t provide Internet access, requires credentials you don’t have, or lacks access to the network’s printer. Unfortunately, once your iPhone, iPad, or Mac has connected to such a network, it may reconnect to it later, causing consternation when things don’t work. The solution? Whenever you realize a Wi-Fi network is worthless, forget it. (The network, that is.) On the Mac, open System Preferences > Network > Wi-Fi > Advanced > Wi-Fi, select the network in the list (you don’t have to be connected to it), click the – button, and click Remove. On an iPhone or iPad, when you’re connected to the offending network, go to Settings > Wi-Fi, tap the i button to the right of the current network, and tap Forget This Network on the next screen.

(Featured image based on images by iStock.com/fizkes and Elena Pimukova)

Messages Not Being Delivered to Blue-Bubble Friends? Check Cellular Data

Messages Not Being Delivered to Blue-Bubble Friends? Check Cellular Data

Here’s a tricky situation that threw one of our clients for a loop recently. Texts they sent in Messages via iMessage (indicated by blue bubbles) to their son, letting him know they were stopping by weren’t being delivered, making their visits a surprise. But other texts worked fine. The problem, it turned out, was that Cellular Data had somehow gotten turned off in Settings > Cellular. So messages worked fine as long as the iPhone was on Wi-Fi at home, but as soon as they were on the road using a cellular connection, the iPhone could no longer communicate with the Internet. In theory, Messages should fall back to SMS (indicated by green bubbles), which doesn’t require cellular data, but that doesn’t always happen. The fix? Just enable Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data again.

(Featured image based on an original by iStock.com/Dima Berlin)

After Upgrading to iOS 15, Check Do Not Disturb in Focus Settings

After Upgrading to iOS 15, Check Do Not Disturb in Focus Settings

In iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, Apple expanded the concept of Do Not Disturb to what it calls Focus. You can create a Focus for different types of activities, so only specific people and apps can break through your cone of silence at appropriate times. Focus subsumes the old Do Not Disturb functionality, and your settings may not transfer when you upgrade, leaving you open to being woken at night by a previously silenced notification. To check and reset things to your liking, visit Settings > Focus > Do Not Disturb. If necessary, tap Add Schedule or Automation to set a schedule or try the new Smart Activation option. Then decide who, potentially beyond those in your Favorites, should be able to get through, along with any apps that might be essential. Note that you shouldn’t enable the Do Not Disturb switch at the top—that turns on the Do Not Disturb Focus immediately.

(Featured image by iStock.com/klebercordeiro)

When Migrating to a New iPhone or iPad, Try Quick Start First

When Migrating to a New iPhone or iPad, Try Quick Start First

You have a new iPhone or iPad—congratulations! When transferring your data to the new device, you have three options: Quick Start, an iCloud backup, or a Mac backup. All will work, but they don’t quite provide the same end result (particularly if you didn’t encrypt your Mac backup). Our advice—backed by this post from Apple expert John Gruber—is to try Quick Start first because it transfers everything directly from your old device to your new one, maintaining app logins in most cases and allowing you to transfer your Apple Watch pairing. It may seem like it’s taking a long time before you can use the device, but it’s worth it to avoid logging in to numerous apps and unpairing and repairing your Apple Watch.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Sort Your Lists Differently in Reminders in iOS 14 and Big Sur

Sort Your Lists Differently in Reminders in iOS 14 and Big Sur

For many years, Apple’s Reminders app let you sort your lists, but in just one way that applied to all lists equally. That was a problem if you had a to-do list that you wanted to sort by Due Date and a list of foods in your freezer that you wanted to sort by Creation Date (to see which were older) or Title (for a simple alphabetical sort). Happily, in iOS 14 and macOS 11 Big Sur, Apple finally addressed this limitation, letting you sort each list independently. Your choices even sync across all your devices! So if you had given up on sorting, or given up on Reminders entirely because of this limitation, on the Mac, check out the View > Sort By menu, and in iOS and iPadOS, tap the ••• button and then Sort By.

(Featured image by iStock.com/fizkes)

Losing the Occasional Important Message? Set up a Ham Filter

Losing the Occasional Important Message? Set up a Ham Filter

Although spam remains as much of a scourge as ever, spam filters have improved enough that most people see relatively little spam and lose relatively few legitimate messages (known as “ham”) to spam filters. However, good email messages are still sometimes caught by spam filters. To reduce the chance of missing an important message, consider making a “ham filter.” A ham filter looks for certain words—usually proper nouns—that are likely to appear only in legitimate messages and then marks such messages as Not Spam or moves them out of a Spam folder. (This capability is available in Gmail and can be emulated with multiple rules that you create in Apple’s Mail preferences, and likely in other systems as well; ask us about yours if you’re not sure.) Useful ham words include the name of your city, local high school or college names, club names or abbreviations, industry-specific terms, and any other words that are specific to your community or profession. Always test a possible ham word by first searching for it in your Spam folder to make sure it appears only in legitimate messages.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Fotosmurf03)

About That Worrying Message Saying Your Password Has Been Breached…

About That Worrying Message Saying Your Password Has Been Breached…

In iOS 14, Apple added a feature that warns you when one of your website passwords stored in iCloud Keychain has appeared in a data breach. We’ve fielded some questions of late from people worrying if the message is legitimate, and if so, what they should do. What has happened is that online criminals have stolen username and password data from a company, and your credentials were included in that data breach. You should indeed change your password immediately, and it’s fine to let the iPhone suggest a strong password for you. Or, if it makes you feel more comfortable, you can usually change the password in Safari on your Mac instead. Either way, make sure it’s unique—never reuse passwords across multiple sites!

(Featured image by iStock.com/LumineImages)

The Plug Is Mightier Than the Puck: Wireless Charging Is Wildly Inefficient

The Plug Is Mightier Than the Puck: Wireless Charging Is Wildly Inefficient

In 2017, Apple added support for Qi wireless charging to the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, and with the iPhone 12 lineup, it introduced its own MagSafe wireless charging technology. There’s no denying the convenience of wireless charging, but keep in mind that it’s extremely inefficient compared to wired charging. Individually, that may not matter much when you’re charging overnight from a wall-connected charger. But across billions of phones, it’s more problematic. One estimate suggests that wireless charging requires nearly 50% more power than cable. And if you’re charging from a wireless battery pack, wasting that juice means less of a top-up before exhausting the battery pack. Charging speed suffers too. In short, to charge your iPhone quickly and efficiently, whether from a wall-connected charger or a battery pack, stick with the traditional Lightning cable.

(Featured image by iStock.com/grinvalds)

Ever Have Trouble Printing? Try a Different Printer Driver

Ever Have Trouble Printing? Try a Different Printer Driver

Some clients have reported problems with HP laser printers failing to print. Sometimes there’s an error. Other times, the print job just disappears into the ether. It’s unclear why this is happening or how widespread it is, but here’s a workaround that can help. Create a new printer configuration by clicking the + button in System Preferences > Printers & Scanners and selecting your printer in the list. Then, from the Use pop-up menu, choose something other than the default Secure AirPrint driver. We’ve had the most luck with Generic PostScript Printer. Both the old and new configurations will be available when printing, so if one doesn’t work, try again with the other one.

(Featured image by Mahrous Houses on Unsplash)

Nightstand Mode Makes Your Apple Watch a Helpful Bedroom Companion

Nightstand Mode Makes Your Apple Watch a Helpful Bedroom Companion

Most Apple Watch users charge their watch every night, putting it on a charger as part of a bedtime routine. If that’s you, make sure you’re not missing one of the Apple Watch’s best features: nightstand mode. When you enable it in the iPhone’s Watch app, in General > Nightstand Mode, a charging Apple Watch displays the charging status, current time and date (in a large, easily readable font), and the time of any alarm you’ve set. It uses a green color that won’t shock your eyes in the middle of the night, and after a minute, the screen goes completely dark. To see it again, tap the watch or—even better!—the surface it’s on. The screen lights up for 10 seconds before going dark again. (And yes, we love the little classic Mac stand.)

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

The Mac’s Magic Shortcut to Trashing Files and Photos Quickly

The Mac’s Magic Shortcut to Trashing Files and Photos Quickly

Sure, you could select a file in the Finder and choose File > Move to Trash or drag it to the Trash in the Dock. Similarly, you can trash selected photos in Apple’s Photos app by choosing Image > Delete X Photos, or by pressing the Delete key, but both of those methods result in a dialog asking if you’re sure. The easiest way of trashing a file in the Finder or a picture in Photos is to select it and press Command-Delete. Poof, it’s in the Trash (Finder) or Recently Deleted album (Photos), with no extra effort or prompts! And if you accidentally trash the wrong thing, just press Command-Z to restore it. Keep this key combination in mind for other apps too, since they may also support it as a shortcut for “delete without prompting.”

(Featured image by iStock.com/YurolaitsAlbert)

Filter What’s Showing in Photos to Focus on Specific Types

Filter What’s Showing in Photos to Focus on Specific Types

You know you can make albums and smart albums in Photos, and do searches to find photos that contain particular objects. But what if you want to separate photos from videos, identify which images in an album have been edited, or pick out just the ones you’ve favorited? For that, use Photos’ filters. On the Mac (below left), click the Showing menu in the upper-right corner, and in iOS and iPadOS (iPhone screens below right), tap the ••• button in the upper-right corner and tap Filter. Either way, you can choose Favorites, Edited, Photos, or  Videos to limit the items showing to that type. When you’re done, turn the filter off by choosing All Items.

(Featured image by iStock.com/metamorworks)

Name That Tune with Siri or Control Center

Name That Tune with Siri or Control Center

Don’t you hate it when a familiar song is playing but you can’t think of what it’s called? Or worse, when you hear a new track you really like but have no one to ask what it is? Never worry about that again, thanks to your iPhone or iPad. Back in 2018, Apple bought the music identification app Shazam and has since integrated it into iOS. You can still use Shazam, but it’s easier to ask Siri, “What’s playing?” or tap the Music Recognition button in Control Center (add it in Settings > Control Center) and then let your iPhone listen to the music for a few seconds. Siri is easiest, but the Control Center button is perfect in situations where you’d prefer to keep your question quiet. The music recognition feature recognizes only recorded music—no high school glee club versions, sorry—and while not perfect, is often helpful. Tap the notification that appears to open the song in Apple Music.

(Featured image by Laura Balbarde from Pexels)

Two Important Tips for External Storage Devices

Two Important Tips for External Storage Devices

It’s tempting to think that most external storage devices—whether simple hard drives or more complicated network-attached storage (NAS) units—are relatively similar because they all do roughly the same thing. However, a recent problem with older Western Digital My Book Live NAS devices highlighted that there can be large differences. In that case, hackers figured out how to cause a factory reset that wiped the entire drive of all files. (If you have one, note that Western Digital recommends disconnecting it from the Internet immediately.) Two tips: Although no one could have anticipated this particular problem, ask us before buying external storage because we may be able to recommend known good products or warn you away from sketchy manufacturers. Also, if you store unique data on an external drive, you must back up that drive just like your Mac’s internal drive or risk losing everything, like these My Book Live owners did. Backup, backup, backup!

(Featured image by Western Digital)

Live in the Future by Using Apple Pay on Your Apple Watch

Live in the Future by Using Apple Pay on Your Apple Watch

With mask wearing over the past year rendering Face ID ineffective at cash registers, we’ve become fond of using the Apple Watch for contactless payments with Apple Pay. We recommend it highly since it’s so fast and convenient. Once you’ve set up a credit card in the Wallet app on your iPhone, switch to the Watch app, go to My Watch > Wallet & Apple Pay, and tap the Add button next to the desired card. From then on, to pay for a purchase, double-click the Apple Watch’s side button and put it very close to the reader. (We generally turn our arms so we can put the Apple Watch face flat on the reader.) It takes just seconds and tends to wow cashiers who haven’t seen it before.

(Featured image by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels)

Disable Unused Sharing Options on Your Mac If You’re Not Using Them

Disable Unused Sharing Options on Your Mac If You’re Not Using Them

Many security breaches—even high-profile ones—stem from simple oversight. There’s one spot in macOS that has long been particularly susceptible to such lapse: the Sharing pane of System Preferences. In it, you can enable a wide variety of sharing services, some of which could allow another user to access your Mac remotely. They all let you limit access to particular users, but passwords can be stolen, accounts can be compromised, and server software can have bugs. For safety’s sake, if you’re not actively using a sharing service, turn it off. The most important ones to disable when not in use are Screen Sharing, File Sharing, Remote Login, Remote Management, and Remote Apple Events. We also caution against leaving Printer Sharing and Internet Sharing on unnecessarily.

(Featured image by Morgane Perraud on Unsplash)