We wanted to make sure that those of you who work on a Mac laptop with an external display know that you can close your laptop’s screen and keep working. Apple calls this closed-clamshell or closed-display mode. Of course, it requires that you connect an external keyboard and mouse or trackpad, via either USB or Bluetooth, and the laptop should be connected to power as well. Apple also recommends putting the Mac to sleep before disconnecting the external display. Why would you want to use closed-display mode? Mostly to conserve desk space when you have another preferred keyboard and pointing device, although it might also help graphics performance by allowing the Mac to focus on driving only the external display. There are lots of stands that hold a MacBook in a vertical orientation so it takes up less desk space.
Whenever you view a document that’s longer than will fit onscreen, a scroll bar appears (often only if you’re actively scrolling). That’s true whether you’re using an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Inside the scroll bar is a control called a scroller that you can drag to scroll more quickly than by swiping or using keyboard keys. But did you know its size and position are useful for orienting yourself within the page? First, the scroller position within the scroll bar reflects how far down the page you are. Second, the size of the scroller indicates what percentage of the page appears onscreen. When you see a large scroller, most of the page is showing. With a small scroller, what you see is only a portion of a longer page. Combine the size and position of the scroller, and you can tell at a glance where in a page you are, and how much is left to read.
(Featured image by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash)
Whenever you tap a link to open a Web page on your iPhone or iPad, it automatically opens a new tab. Having hundreds of tabs open won’t cause any problems but can make working with tabs clumsy. You can close all tabs—touch and hold the tab button and then tap Close All X Tabs—but you might prefer to prevent them from building up in the first place. To do that in iOS 13, navigate to Settings > Safari > Close Tabs and choose from Manually, After One Day, After One Week, or After One Month.
(Featured image by Startaê Team on Unsplash)
Every so often, we hear from a Mac user with a seemingly impossible problem: a document window in some app is opening somewhere outside of the screen so it’s effectively invisible and they can’t work with it in any way. Just closing (with File > Close) and reopening the window, or quitting and relaunching the app, or even restarting the Mac won’t usually help because the app will reopen the window in the same off-screen position. The solution is to try various commands in the app’s Window menu, such as Tile, Move, or Zoom. (You may need to choose View > Show All Tabs to get the tab-related commands.) What’s there will vary by app, but with luck, one of them will bring your errant window back on screen.
If you have lots of apps on your iPhone or iPad, rearranging their icons on your Home screens by dragging from page to page is tedious. Although the new App Library promised for iOS 14 later this year will help you find apps, rearranging them will still be a manual process. To make organizing your Home screens easier, try using the Dock as a temporary shelf. Touch and hold on any icon and then tap Edit Home Screen (or just start dragging) to start all the icons wiggling. Then, navigate to your rightmost Home screen and drag one icon off the Dock temporarily. Now, for other icons you want to move between screens, drag the icon to the Dock, swipe quickly to view the desired screen, and then drag the icon off the Dock into the position you want. When you’re done, put your original Dock icon back and swipe up (on Face ID devices) or press the Home button (on Touch ID devices) to stop the icons from wiggling.
Since iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 Mojave, Apple has supported Group FaceTime, which lets you have a video call with up to 32 people. However, as has become painfully obvious in today’s era of non-stop videoconferencing, Group FaceTime has a feature that some find obnoxious: automatic speaking prominence that causes the video tile for the speaker to grow and move around. Happily, Apple finally took the feedback and added options to disable that feature in iOS 13.5, iPadOS 13.5, and macOS 10.15.5 Catalina. In iOS and iPadOS, disable the Speaking option under Automatic Prominence in Settings > FaceTime; on the Mac, look in FaceTime > Preferences.
If you have access to multiple printers, you probably know that you can choose one from the Printer pop-up menu at the top of the Print dialog. But macOS has a feature that should make it so you don’t have to switch printers manually as often. Open System Preferences > Printers & Scanners, and look at the bottom of the Print view. The Default Printer pop-up menu lists all your installed printers, plus an option for Last Printer Used. That last one makes sense if you print a number of documents to the big office Canon, switch to printing images on the Epson photo printer for a while, and then switch back again. But if you primarily print to one printer, choose it from the Default Printer pop-up menu. You can still switch to another printer in the Print dialog anytime you want, but your main printer will always be the default.
This isn’t about periscopes or mouthwash—when it comes to searching, a scope is the area in which a search takes place. When you use the Search field in a Finder window to look for files and folders, you have the choice of two scopes: This Mac or the current folder. You can always switch the scope after starting the search by clicking the other choice near the top of the window, but it’s easier to set the default search scope in Finder > Preferences > Advanced so it’s set right to start. From the “When performing a search” pop-up menu, choose Search This Mac to search across all indexed drives, Search the Current Folder to limit the search to the folder showing when you start the search, or Use the Previous Search Scope. Most of the time, if you have any idea where the item you’re looking for might be, selecting an enclosing folder and then searching within it is the best approach.
Tired of typing your admin account password whenever you try to install software or change security settings on your Mac? A new feature in macOS 10.15 Catalina removes that requirement for Apple Watch owners. In System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General, select the checkbox for “Use your Apple Watch to unlock apps and your Mac.” Then, whenever an app asks for your account credentials, you can instead just double-press the side button on your Apple Watch. Of course, if you forgot to wear it or its battery has died, you can always fall back on entering your password.
(Featured image by Adam Engst)
Apple recently released iOS 13.5, incorporating a new Exposure Notification API in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve seen a few people freaking out about this, but seriously, calm down, folks. At best, the Exposure Notification API could lower contact tracing costs, reduce the spread of COVID-19, prevent life-changing health consequences, and save lives. At worst, it won’t prove particularly effective. In neither case does it pose any threat to personal privacy.
Why have Apple and Google—two companies that normally compete tooth and nail—formed this unprecedented partnership? Contact tracing is one of the key techniques employed by public health authorities in slowing the spread of COVID-19. It involves gathering information from an infected person about those they’ve been in contact with, enabling authorities to learn who might have been the source of the infection and who they may have infected. It’s a slow, laborious, and error-prone process—do you know or even remember all the people you’ve come in contact with over the past few weeks?—but it’s helpful nonetheless.
To speed up this process and make it more accurate, Apple and Google are building exposure notification capabilities into their respective smartphone operating systems. A large percentage of the population carries a smartphone running either iOS or Android, and since these phones have the capability to detect when other phones are in their vicinity via Bluetooth, Apple and Google realized they could use technology to alert people when they had been exposed to a person who later tests positive for COVID-19.
Their solution comes in two phases. In the first phase, Apple and Google are releasing the Exposure Notification API, and that’s what just happened with iOS 13.5. This API, or application programming interface, allows apps written by public health authorities to work across both iOS and Android devices, something that’s never been possible before. The first key fact to understand is that only public health authorities will be allowed to write apps that leverage the Exposure Notification API. It cannot be incorporated into sketchy social media apps.
Unfortunately, it seems likely that many people will never learn about or download those apps. So in the second phase, Apple and Google will build the exposure notification technology directly into iOS and Android, so it can work without a public health authority app being installed.
The second key fact to understand is the entire system is opt-in. You must explicitly consent to the terms and conditions of the program before it becomes active on your phone. That’s true whether you get an app in the first phase or rely on the integration in the second phase. And, of course, if you change your mind, you can always turn it off in the app or the operating system settings.
How does it work? Apple and Google have developed an ingenious approach that ensures that those who opt-in to the technology can use it without worrying about privacy violations.
Your phone creates a Bluetooth beacon with a unique ID derived from a randomly generated diagnosis encryption key. The system generates a fresh diagnosis key every 24 hours and stores it on your phone for 14 days, deleting all older keys. Plus, the unique Bluetooth beacon ID that your phone broadcasts to other phones in your vicinity changes every 15 minutes. Similarly, your phone reads the unique IDs from nearby phones and stores them locally. This approach ensures privacy in three important ways:
- No personal information is shared. The ID is based on a random encryption key and changes constantly, so there’s no way it could be traced back to your phone, much less to you personally.
- No location information is stored. The only data that’s generated and transferred between the phones are these unique IDs. The system does not record or share location information, and Apple and Google have said they won’t approve any public health authority app that uses this system and also records location separately.
- No data is uploaded unless you test positive. As long as you remain uninfected by COVID-19, no data from your phone is uploaded to the Apple- and Google-controlled servers.
What happens if you test positive for COVID-19? (Sorry!) In that case, you would need to use a public health authority app to report your test results. You’ll likely have to enter a code or other piece of information to validate the diagnosis—a requirement necessary to prevent fake reporting.
When the app confirms your diagnosis, it triggers your phone to upload up to the last 14 days of diagnosis encryption keys—remember, these are just the keys from which the IDs are derived, not the IDs themselves—to the servers. Fewer days might be uploaded depending on when the exposure could have occurred.
All the phones enrolled in the system constantly download these diagnosis keys from devices of infected people. Then they perform cryptographic operations to see if those keys match any of the locally stored Bluetooth IDs captured during the period covered by the key. If there’s a match, that means you were in proximity to an infected person, and the system generates a notification with information about the day the exposure happened, how long it lasted, and the Bluetooth signal strength (which can indicate how close you were). A public health authority app will provide detailed instructions on how to proceed; if someone doesn’t have the app yet, the smartphone operating system will explain how to get it. Additional privacy protections are built into these steps:
- No one is forced to report a positive diagnosis. Just as you have to opt-in to the proximity ID sharing, you must explicitly choose to share your positive diagnosis. Not sharing puts others, including your loved ones, at risk, but that’s your decision to make.
- Shared diagnosis keys cannot identify you. The information that your phone uploads in the case of a positive diagnosis is limited to—at most—14 encryption keys. Those keys, which are then shared with others’ phones, contain no personal or location information.
- The matching process takes place only on users’ phones. Since the diagnosis keys and the derived IDs only meet on individual phones, there’s no way Apple, Google, or any government agency could match them up to establish a relationship.
- The notification information is too general to identify individuals. In most cases, there will be no way to connect an exposure notification back to an individual. Obviously, if you were in contact with only one or two people on a relevant day, that’s less true, but in such a situation, they’re likely known to you anyway.
Finally, Apple and Google have said they’ll disable the exposure notification system on a regional basis when it is no longer needed.
We apologize if that sounds complicated. It is, and necessarily so, because Apple and Google have put a tremendous amount of thought and technical and cryptographic experience into developing this exposure notification system. They are the preeminent technology companies on the planet, and their knowledge, skills, and expertise are as good as it gets. A simpler system—and, unfortunately, we’ll probably see plenty of other apps that won’t be as well designed—would likely have loopholes or could be exploited in unanticipated ways.
You can read more about the system from Apple and Google, including a FAQ and the technical specifications.
Our take? We’ll be installing the necessary app and participating in this exposure notification system. It’s the least we can do to help keep our loved ones and others in our communities safe. In a pandemic, we all have to work to help others.
In a move that completes the transition of the MacBook line from the troubled butterfly keyboard to the Magic Keyboard, Apple has released a new 13-inch MacBook Pro. The company also doubled the amount of storage in each of the standard configurations while keeping prices the same, and it ramped up the specs in the model with four Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Like the MacBook Air that Apple released several months ago, the most notable change in the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is the replacement of the butterfly keyboard with the new scissor-key Magic Keyboard introduced last year in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. So far, that keyboard has been well-regarded. Unlike the MacBook Air, however, the 13-inch MacBook Pro continues to include Apple’s Touch Bar, though now with a physical Escape key and a separate Touch ID sensor.
Apple doubled the onboard storage across all base configurations, so the 13-inch MacBook Pro now starts at 256 GB, and you can choose from configs that include 512 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, and even a whopping 4 TB.
As in the past, there are two models of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, one with two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the left side and another with four Thunderbolt 3 ports, two on each side. The two-port model receives the Magic Keyboard and additional storage, but is otherwise unchanged from last year’s model. It still features 8th-generation quad-core Intel Core i5 and i7 processors running at 1.4 GHz and 1.7 GHz, respectively (the faster processor is a $300 option), and 8 GB of RAM, upgradeable to 16 GB for $100.
However, Apple beefed up the four-port model with faster 10th-generation processors, either a 2.0 GHz quad-core Core i5 or, for $200 more, a 2.3 GHz quad-core Core i7 that should provide even better performance.
These new processors also feature updated Intel Iris Plus Graphics that Apple claims improve graphics performance by up to 80% and can drive the company’s 6K Pro Display XDR screen.
Finally, the four-port model now starts at 16 GB of RAM (up from 8 GB) for the same price, uses faster memory than before, and can be upgraded to 32 GB of RAM for an additional $400.
The two-port model of the 13-inch MacBook continues to start at $1299, and the price of the four-port model still starts at $1799. Both are available now in silver or space gray.
If you’re looking for a new laptop, which should you choose? With its new processors, more and faster RAM, and improved graphics performance, the four-port model provides a particularly attractive package for the price.
For those who would prefer something less expensive, however, the new MacBook Air may be more compelling than the two-port model of the MacBook Pro—it largely comes down to whether you would prefer the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar or the MacBook Air’s function keys. Contact us for help choosing the right Mac for your needs!
(Featured image by Apple)
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If you’re plugging your iPhone in regularly but getting low-battery warnings when you shouldn’t, consider the possibility that something is preventing your iPhone from charging successfully while plugged in. If there’s no lightning bolt badge on the battery icon when the iPhone is plugged in, that’s a sure sign that no power is reaching the device. Another hint that failures could be happening intermittently would be a lack of charging in the Last Charge Level graph in Settings > Battery when you know the iPhone was plugged in. Luckily, the solution is often easy. Take a wooden (not metal) toothpick and gently poke around inside the iPhone’s Lightning port for pocket fuzz. You’d be amazed how much crud can end up in there. If cleaning doesn’t solve the problem and you use only a single Lightning cable to charge, try another one.
(Featured image by Adam Engst)
When you’re in the Finder, choosing File > New Finder Window does, as you’d expect, open a new Finder window. But what folder appears in that window? By default, new Finder windows open to Recents, which is a built-in smart folder showing recently opened documents. If you’d prefer to see items in a fixed location on your drive, go to Finder > Preferences > General and choose any location from the New Finder Windows Show pop-up menu. We’re partial to Desktop or Documents, but you can choose whatever folder makes sense with your workflow.
When you’re writing a blog post or email newsletter, you’ll eventually hit the question of how to capitalize words in a title. There is no one right way, but just as with poor spelling and grammar, randomly capitalized titles can reduce reader trust in your knowledge, competence, and expertise. The trick is to pick a capitalization form and style guide to follow. There are two capitalization forms: title case (where important words are capitalized) and sentence case (which is capitalized like a normal sentence). Then there are a handful of major style guides, including the Associated Press Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style, and The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. It’s never a bad idea to pick one and learn its rules, but for a quick shortcut, turn to the Capitalize My Title Web site. Click a style guide tab at the top, select a capitalization form, and paste or type your title. The site automatically applies the appropriate rules to your title. Press Return to copy it to the clipboard for pasting into your document.
(Featured image by Adam Engst)
Sharing your location works well when you’re out with friends or family and want everyone to be able to see where everyone else is. It’s easy to enable in various spots in iOS 13—in Messages, in Contacts, in the Find My app, and so on. You can share your location for an hour, until the end of the day, or indefinitely, but beware of this final option. If you’re with a group for a weeklong trip, for instance, sharing indefinitely makes sense, but it’s easy to forget to turn it off, at which point those people can see where you are at all times. We recommend that you periodically audit the list of people with whom you’ve shared your location. To do so in iOS 13, open the Find My app, tap the People button in the bottom toolbar, and look through the list. For anyone you want to delete, swipe left on their name and tap the trash button.
(Featured image by Adam Engst)
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)
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.
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)
In your list of conversations in Messages, you probably have lots of people who have generic icons next to their names or numbers. You likely look like that to other people as well, but a new feature in iOS 13 lets you share your preferred name and avatar picture with other iMessage users (blue-bubble friends). In Messages, first tap the ••• button and then Edit Name and Photo. Then, in the activity view that appears, tap Edit under your photo to select a new photo and set your name as you want it. Make sure Name and Photo Sharing is enabled before tapping Done. From now on, for any iMessage conversations, you’ll see a little banner at the top that asks if you want to share your name and photo. Do so and your recipient will get a prompt to replace whatever they’re seeing for you. (And if, as a recipient, you don’t want to accept the new photo, tap the X button at the right of the prompt.)
As you undoubtedly know, TYPING IN ALL CAPS is considered shouting on the Internet. Doesn’t it bug you when you accidentally tap the Caps Lock key and start writing in uppercase? The Caps Lock key is vestigial—it was invented as a “Shift lock” key to make it easier to type the second characters on the keys of a mechanical typewriter without also holding down the Shift key the entire time. It’s seldom useful on a computer; Google replaced it with a Search key on Chromebook keyboards. It still appears on all of Apple’s keyboards, but macOS lets you disable or remap it. In System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard, click the Modifier Keys button. In the dialog that appears, choose No Action (or another key) from the pop-up menu next to Caps Lock. Click OK and you’re free from accidental capitalizations.