PSA: Add a Medical ID to Your iPhone for Emergencies

No one expects to be in an accident, but if you are, and if you end up in a state where you can’t speak with the emergency responders, wouldn’t you like your iPhone to help? Once you enter your medical data and emergency contact info into Apple’s Health app, anyone can use your iPhone to learn about your medication allergies and other conditions, plus contact your family. Even if you are too shaken up to share your details clearly, you may be able to point at your phone sufficiently to show your Medical ID. This data could also help a Good Samaritan return a lost iPhone (unfortunately, the Health app isn’t available on the iPad).

To enter this essential information, follow these steps.

  1. Open the Health app, and tap Medical ID in the button bar at the bottom.
  2. Tap Create Medical ID on the first screen that appears.
  3. In the Medical ID screen, make sure Show When Locked is enabled.
  4. Enter all the relevant details about your medical conditions, medications, allergies, and so on.
  5. Specify one or more emergency contacts. These must be people in the Contacts app with phone numbers; if the right people aren’t there, add them first. You can’t select your own card in Contacts, so consider making one for a fake person called “If Lost, Please Call” and listing a different phone number at which you can be reached.
  6. Tap Done once you’ve finished entering all relevant information.

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Hopefully, you’ll never have to use someone else’s Medical ID information, but you should know how to do so. You should also teach family, friends, and colleagues how to find and use this information. Should you come across a bicyclist who has had a bad crash or a similar situation, follow these steps:

  1. With a locked iPhone, slide right on the Lock screen to display the Passcode screen.
  2. On the Passcode screen, tap Emergency in the bottom left corner to move to the Emergency screen. If necessary, call 911 from this screen.
  3. Again at the bottom left, tap Medical ID to display the Medical ID screen, complete with all the details that person entered into the Health app.
  4. From that screen, you can share the information with EMTs or other first responders so they’re aware of any serious conditions or allergies that would affect treatment. You can also call any emergency contacts listed.

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Please, enter your medical and emergency contact details into the Health app right now, and spread the word to everyone you know. It could save your life, or help you save someone else’s!

Paste without Formatting on the Mac

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When you copy text from a Web page, PDF, or word processing document, OS X usually includes formatting, so the words you paste may be 56 point blue italic if that was what the source text looked like. That may be appropriate at times, but often you want the text to take on the (more restrained) styling of the text where you’re planning to paste it. Rather than reformatting after pasting, in most Mac apps, try using the Edit > Paste and Match Style command (sometimes called Paste Text Only or Paste without Formatting) to paste the text such that it takes on the style of the surrounding words in the destination. Apple’s default keyboard shortcut for this is Command-Shift-Option-V, but some apps may use a different one. If you regularly need this capability in an app that doesn’t support it, consider using a clipboard utility app, like Keyboard Maestro, to make your own universal Paste Text Only hotkey.

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Sign PDFs Using Preview

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Although a fully paperless office remains tantalizingly in the future, we get closer all the time. For many people, one of the most annoying uses of paper is the signature dance. You know how it goes—someone sends you a document via email that you need to sign, so you print it out and sign it. Then you have to figure out how to send it back: scan and email, run through the fax machine, or pop it in an envelope and mail it. There’s a better way, and it’s built into every copy of OS X since 10.7 Lion.

You’ve likely used this surprisingly powerful program many times over the years: Preview. That’s right, the app you use to look at PDFs and images on the Mac boasts a feature that makes the signature dance a thing of the past. First, you create an image of your signature using either your Mac’s camera or its trackpad. Then you can drop that signature image into any PDF with just a couple of clicks, save the file, and email it back. Follow these steps in Preview in OS X 10.11 El Capitan; earlier versions of OS X are similar:

    1. Open the PDF you need to sign in Preview.
    2. Click the toolbox toolbox-button icon in the toolbar to reveal Preview’s markup tools.
    3. Click the signature JH-button icon:
        • To use the trackpad to make your signature, click Click Here to Begin, and start signing. Press any key when you’re done. Honestly, this is hard to do with a finger—click Clear to try again—so if you have a rubber-tipped iPad stylus, use that to make the writing easier. Click Done once you have a signature you like.
        • For an easier method, sign your name using a thick black marker on a white piece of paper that’s blank on the back. Then click Camera and hold your paper up to the camera. You can keep moving it around until the entire signature fits in the window and isn’t angled oddly. Once Preview captures it, click Done.create-signature-701x357

      4. To sign the current PDF and any others in the future, click the signature icon again and click your signature to insert it as a graphic that you can move around in the document and resize to fit into the appropriate space.

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That’s it—you now have your own digital signature stamp! One final tip. You can create and insert multiple signatures, and while the authorities frown on forgery, Preview makes it easy for an assistant to affix the boss’s signature to documents that don’t need the real thing.

11 Steps to Ultimate iPhone Battery Life

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It’s inevitable. At some point, you’ll need your iPhone, but its battery will be dead. And as an iPhone ages, its battery becomes weaker, to the point where it may have trouble making it through a typical day of use. Charging the iPhone during the day may stave this off, and you could lug around an external battery (or just get the battery replaced!), but a few simple adjustments will reduce power usage and extend battery life.

  • Don’t stream media or use GPS navigation when battery life is paramount, since these are the most power-hungry activities you can engage in on your iPhone. If you do use GPS navigation, make sure it stops (or stop it manually) when you reach your destination. Similarly, store music locally rather than streaming it via Apple Music or Spotify.
  • Reduce screen brightness. The screen takes a lot of power, so you’ll save juice if you reduce the brightness by swiping up from the Lock screen or Home screen and dragging the Brightness slider to the left. Also, turn on Auto-Brightness in Settings > Display & Brightness so iOS can adjust automatically for current lighting conditions.
  • Turn off unnecessary notifications in Settings > Notifications to prevent apps from waking your iPhone’s screen repeatedly—turning it on to display a notification takes power.
  • Turn off Background App Refresh. This setting, located in Settings > General > Background App Refresh, lets you prevent apps from updating themselves in the background, which can chew power. Disable any unnecessary apps here, or turn off the feature entirely.
  • Adjust Location Services usage in Settings > Privacy > Location Services. It’s best to leave Location Services turned on in general, but if you have little-used apps set to Always, consider changing their setting to While Using the App or Never. Apps that have recently used location services display a purple indicator (scroll to the bottom of the list for a key to the indicators).
  • Turn down the volume and use earbuds when possible. Using the iPhone’s speakers draws power, so the lower the volume, the less power used. Plugging in earbuds reduces audio-related power usage even more. Along the same lines, when sending audio to a remote speaker, Bluetooth uses less power than AirPlay.
  • Use Airplane Mode in weak cell coverage areas. When the iPhone is searching for a better signal, it increases power to its radios, which hurts battery life. Going into Airplane Mode (tap Settings > Airplane Mode or use Control Center) prevents you from making or receiving calls or SMS text messages but saves a lot of power. Just remember to disable Airplane Mode later!
  • Use Wi-Fi in favor of cellular. Since Wi-Fi can use less power than cellular data (particularly when the cell connection isn’t strong), connect to a Wi-Fi network when possible; go to Settings > Wi-Fi to find an available network if you’re not prompted automatically (which you can turn on with Ask to Join Networks in that screen). Also, in Settings > Cellular, disable cellular data for apps that you don’t need while out and about, but that are transferring non-trivial amounts of data.
  • Disable automatic downloads, or restrict them to Wi-Fi. In Settings > iTunes & App Stores, you can disable automatic downloads for purchased music, apps, and books made on other devices, which could save a little power. Or just disable Use Cellular Data in that screen, which increases the likelihood that the downloads will happen on Wi-Fi when you’re near a charger.
  • Avoid extreme cold or heat. Cold temperatures will drastically reduce your iPhone’s battery life, albeit temporarily, whereas hot temperatures can permanently hurt the battery’s ability to hold a charge.
  • Enable Low Power Mode in iOS 9. In Settings > Battery, flip the switch for Low Power Mode to tell your iPhone to use less power for a variety of background activities and visual effects. iOS automatically prompts you to turn Low Power Mode on when the battery drops to 20%; it’s best to accept that suggestion.

What’s a Retina Display?

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You’ve seen the term in Mac names—iMac with 5K Retina display, MacBook Pro with Retina display, and so on. But what is a Retina display, and why should you care? The short answer is Retina displays are high-resolution screens on which graphics are extra sharp and text is super crisp. Here’s the longer answer.
First off, a little background. The LCD screens used in Apple’s displays use a grid of “pixels”—the smallest possible dot whose color can be controlled—to create all the text and graphics you see. The first Mac needed 72 pixels in each direction to draw a 1-inch square, giving it a pixel density of 72 pixels-per-inch (ppi). Thanks to manufacturing advances in screen technology since 1984, the iPhone 6s Plus screen can fit a stunning 401 pixels into each inch. As pixel density goes up, the pixels get smaller. With a 72 ppi screen, it’s easy to see each individual pixel in a character, and the higher the pixel density, the harder it becomes to pick out separate pixels.
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When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone 4 in 2010, he said that for a screen that’s held 10 to 12 inches from the eye—about the distance at which many people hold their iPhones— the human eye can’t resolve individual pixels if it’s about 300 ppi. At longer distances, it becomes harder to discern small details, so most people won’t be able to pick out pixels on a screen viewed at arm’s length, such as an iMac display, if it’s about 220 ppi.
A “Retina display,” then, is any screen whose pixel density is high enough that someone with 20-20 vision cannot see individual pixels at the standard viewing distance used for that device.
For the Mac, the necessary pixel density for a Retina display is about 220 ppi. Larger iPads have a pixel density of 264 ppi, and the iPad mini checks in at 326 ppi. From the iPhone 4 through the iPhone 6s, pixel density stayed at 326 ppi, but the iPhone 6s Plus upped it to 401 ppi. The tiny Apple Watch screen is about 330 ppi.
Practically speaking, a Retina display looks better than a non-Retina display. Put a 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display (218 ppi) next to a non-Retina 27-inch Thunderbolt display (109 ppi), and the difference will be noticeable, particularly with text. If you suffer from eyestrain, reading on a Retina display will likely be easier and less tiring, since the words will be clear and crisp, without any of the fuzziness on the edges that you see on lesser displays.
Happily, there are few decisions to make when it comes to Retina displays. All recent models of the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Apple Watch have Retina displays, so you’re good there. In the Mac world, however, not all MacBook models have switched, and Apple still sells some non-Retina iMacs and the non-Retina Thunderbolt Display. Plus, not all Macs can drive an external display that would be equivalent to a Retina display, even if Apple were to update the Thunderbolt Display to Retina. So if you’re buying a Mac now and there’s a choice between a Retina and a non-Retina option, be sure to compare them in person before deciding.
One last thing. It’s important to realize “Retina display” is an Apple trademark. So you won’t see any other manufacturers talking about their products as having Retina displays.