Try an iCloud Link for Faster, Easier Photo Sharing

It’s easy to share a single photo from your iPhone or iPad with a friend, but if you want to share a bunch of photos or lengthy videos, sending them in Messages or Mail might not work or could impact your (and your recipients’) data caps. In iOS 12, Apple added a clever feature that instead uploads the files to iCloud and lets you share a simple link that your recipients can use to view and download. Use this approach and your messages will send and be received faster and more reliably.

This feature requires that you use iCloud Photos (previously called iCloud Photo Library). If you’re not already set up with iCloud Photos, you can turn it on in Settings > Photos, but be aware that you will likely need to pay for more iCloud storage ($0.99 per month for 50 GB, $2.99 for 200 GB, and $9.99 for 2 TB). Your recipients don’t need to use iCloud Photos, though, and in fact, they can use any device or operating system.

Send iCloud Links

It’s easy to send an iCloud Link. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Photos app on an iPhone or iPad running iOS 12.
  2. In any view with multiple thumbnails showing, tap Select.
  3. Tap one or more photos or videos to select them.
  4. Tap the Share button.
  5. In the bottom row of icons in the Share sheet, tap Copy iCloud Link. You may have to scroll to the right to see it.
  6. After iOS prepares the items for sharing, it puts the iCloud link on the clipboard.
  7. Switch to whatever app you’re using to communicate and paste the link by pressing in a text area and tapping Paste in the control that appears. Messages will generate a preview thumbnail for you; other apps will display a Web URL to icloud.com.

Manage iCloud Links

By default, items you share via an iCloud link are stored for only 30 days. That’s a good thing—you don’t have to worry about things hanging around forever. However, it does mean that your recipients need to get around to viewing or downloading within that time. And what if you want to remove access before the 30 days are up? Plus, what if you want to send the iCloud link to another person—how do you get it again?

Here’s the trick. In Photos, tap For You, then tap your collection under Recently Shared to open it. Then tap the blue more button in the upper-right corner to display a menu with two options:

  • To get the link again to send to another person, tap Copy iCloud Link.
  • To remove the files from iCloud, tap Stop Sharing.

Receive iCloud Links

When someone sends you an iCloud link, opening it is as simple as tapping or clicking the link, just like any other Web URL. (As with other Web links, if you’re receiving an iCloud link in Messages, you’ll see a thumbnail preview instead of the URL.)

If you’re receiving the iCloud link on an iOS device, tapping it opens the collection in the For You tab of Photos with a convenient Add All button for bringing the photos into your own library. If you don’t want all of them, you can instead tap Select to pick a few.

However, opening the iCloud link on a Mac or any other device opens it in a Web browser, with a Photos-like display. By default, all the photos are selected, although you can click the blue checkmark for any one to deselect it or click Deselect All. Clicking the round spot where the checkmark was selects an image again. Once the photos you want are selected, click Download.

Alternatively, if you just want to look at the photos online, click any photo to expand it. All the other photos appear in a scrolling bar below, and you can click them or use the arrow keys to navigate through them.

So next time you have some photos to share and don’t want to waste bandwidth or mess around with shared albums, try sending an iCloud link instead!

(Featured image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay)

What’s the Deal with AMBER and Other Emergency Alerts on Your iPhone?

Have you ever gotten an emergency alert on your iPhone, telling you about an abducted child or public safety emergency? That’s the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system, at least in the United States, although some other countries have similar systems.

The WEA system enables authorized national, state, and local government authorities to send alerts about public safety emergencies to mobile devices in the affected area. Also included in the WEA system are AMBER Alerts designed to solicit public information when law enforcement is searching for a missing child. Some US states also broadcast Silver Alerts about missing adults, particularly senior citizens with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other mental disabilities. The alerts are always meant to be useful, either to you or to law enforcement working on a case.

Unfortunately, the alerts aren’t always helpful or well targeted. Worse, they break through the Do Not Disturb cone of silence, and there’s no way to change their tones. You might not appreciate being woken up at 2 AM to be told to look for a white Ford that’s potentially associated with a missing child. Plus, although the AMBER Alerts are generally popular with the public, research suggests that they’re largely ineffective.

More concerningly, the loud noise that accompanies the alerts can be dangerous, either to your hearing if you’re wearing earbuds when the alert comes through, or to your life if you overreact while driving.

In iOS 12 in the US, you’ll see three categories of government alerts at the bottom of Settings > Notifications: AMBER Alerts, Emergency Alerts, and Public Safety Alerts.

In most countries, Apple lets you turn off all three categories, but you could still receive so-called “Presidential Alerts,” which are meant to reach everyone in the country during a national emergency. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which manages the WEA system, tested the Presidential Alert system for the first time in October 2018.

What should you do? It’s entirely up to you, of course, but in most situations, it’s probably best to leave all three alert types enabled. If you find yourself being annoyed by repeated AMBER Alerts or Silver Alerts, particularly if you’re unlikely to be in a location where you could be helpful, you might want to toggle the AMBER Alerts switch off. But the Emergency and Public Safety alerts could be essential, especially if you’re in an area prone to hurricanes or tornadoes.

If you’ve already disabled the alerts because of poor targeting—being notified of something of concern only to people hundreds of miles away is just an interruption—you might consider turning them back on later this year, since the FCC requires carriers to improve the geo-targeting starting November 30th, 2019.

Here Are Your Options to Merge Photos Libraries

If you need to merge Photos libraries there are multiple options available, we’ll show you your options so that you can make the best decision to suit your needs. Photos makes it easy to create and switch between libraries. That’s good when photos need to be kept completely separate. For instance, a real estate agent might want to keep personal photos separate from house photos taken for work. But too much separation is annoying—you have to keep switching between libraries, and it’s easy to import new photos into the wrong one.

If you struggle with multiple Photos libraries, never fear—you can merge them. Unfortunately, the process is slow, can require a lot of disk space, and may result in the loss of some metadata. You have three options: merging through iCloud Photos, using the PowerPhotos utility, and merging by exporting and importing. Each has pros and cons.

Merge through iCloud Photos

Apple’s iCloud Photos service offers the best solution for merging libraries. The trick is that whenever you designate a library as your System Photo Library, Photos automatically uploads all images that aren’t already present, adding them to the photos already in iCloud Photos. It also retains all the metadata surrounding your photos—titles, keywords, albums, facial recognition, projects, and more.

On the downside, using iCloud Photos almost certainly won’t be free unless you have so few photos that the combined library will fit within the free 5 GB of iCloud space Apple gives everyone. Almost everyone will have to pay for additional storage space ($0.99 per month for 50 GB, $2.99 for 200 GB, or $9.99 for 2 TB) for at least the month in which you’re doing the merge. iCloud Photos is a good service, so it’s likely worth paying for anyway.

More problematic is that the iCloud Photos way of merging will be very slow. If you haven’t already started using it, it could take a week or more to upload many thousands of photos. Plus, it will probably download the entire cloud-based collection of photos to each library whose photos you want to merge, so you may need a lot of local disk space too.

If you haven’t previously used iCloud Photos, go to System Preferences > iCloud and click the Options button next to Photo. In the dialog, select iCloud Photos.

Now, starting with the smallest Photos library and working up in size, follow these steps for each library you want to merge:

  1. Double-click the Photos library to open it.
  2. In Photos > Preferences > General, click Use as System Photo Library. (If it’s dimmed out, that library is already set as the System Photo Library.)
  3. Wait for photos to upload. Scroll to the bottom of the Photos view to see the progress. A Pause link will appear there during uploading—click it if you need to keep Photos from overwhelming your Internet connection. Once the photos have all uploaded, go back to Step 1 with your next Photos library.

When you’re done, the last Photos library becomes the one you’ll keep, and you can delete the others. Needless to say, make sure you have good backups first!

Merge with PowerPhotos

The $30 PowerPhotos from Fat Cat Software provides a variety of extra capabilities when working with Photos. It helps you to create and manage multiple libraries, copy photos between libraries, find duplicates, and—most important for this topic—merge libraries. This is my personal favorite method and have used PowerPhotos for years.

Because PowerPhotos is working entirely on your Mac’s drive, it’s fast and it doesn’t require huge amounts of extra disk space. Unfortunately, unlike the iCloud Photos approach, which brings in both originals and any edits to those photos, PowerPhotos can import only your original photos or the versions that you’ve edited, not both. Plus, it can’t merge facial recognition data, smart albums, or print projects.

PowerPhotos provides an actual interface for merging too—choose Library > Merge Libraries to start.

In the window that appears, you have four tasks:

  1. Choose source libraries. You aren’t limited to merging just two libraries; you can pick multiple sources.
  2. Choose the destination library. This is the library you want to receive all the photos. If you want, you can create a new one.
  3. Configure duplicate handling. PowerPhotos can import just one of several copies of duplicate photos, or you can bring in all the duplicates if that’s important.
  4. Choose options. PowerPhotos can merge album contents, create an album from each source library, and create a backup before merging. Most important, though, is the choice of whether to merge your original photos or the edited versions.

Merge by Exporting and Importing

This final option is conceptually simple. You export all the photos from one library and then import them into another. It’s even what Apple recommends. The main thing it has going for it is that it’s free, and it will be faster than the iCloud Photos approach. It could also be useful if you want to copy a subset of photos between libraries, rather than merging all photos.

However, as with PowerPhotos, you have to choose between original and edited photos, and you’ll need a lot of extra disk space. Even worse, you’ll lose even more metadata, including albums, faces, and print projects. And if you export as JPEG, your photos may also suffer a slight quality drop as they’re recompressed.

For those who want to use this approach, Apple provides detailed instructions. In essence, you’ll click Photos in the sidebar to see everything, and then choose Edit > Select All. Then you’ll choose File > Export and either Export X Photos (to get the edited versions of images) or Export Unmodified Original for X Photos (to get the original images). Once everything has exported, you’ll switch libraries in Photos and then drag the folder of exported images back into Photos to import it.

Our nod goes to the iCloud Photos technique, but PowerPhotos is a fine utility for those who aren’t perturbed by its limitations. Of course, don’t start any merging without making backups first, and if you need help, don’t hesitate to come in and see us.

How to Clear Unnecessary Data and Free Up Hard Drive Space On Your Mac

SSDs are great—they’re fast, durable, and reliable—but they’re also expensive, which results in many of us not having as much storage built into our Macs as we’d like. Particularly for those who watch videos in iTunes or take a lot of photos, it’s all too easy to run out of space on your Mac’s internal drive.

MacPaw’s CleanMyMac X is a great solution for those who don’t mind its $89.95 price tag. This utility can help you identify and remove unnecessary data to free up space. It can ferret out forgotten downloads, old videos, mammoth folders, bloated caches, outdated iOS updates and backups, copies of iOS apps, and more. It also boasts other features that can improve performance, protect your Mac from malware, and keep your apps up to date.

But if you want to go the belt-and-suspenders route, you can use Apple’s built-in tool for cleaning house: Storage Management.

Apple hid Storage Management inside the System Information app, but there’s a shortcut for accessing it. Choose  Apple > About This Mac, click the Storage button, and then click Manage… but wait! Before you click Manage, look at the About This Mac window’s Storage view.

Hover over each colored bar to see how much space is taken up by a particular type of data. The white space at the end of the bar shows space that’s still available. You can’t do much here, but the view gives you a quick overview of your usage.

When you click Manage, System Information launches, and the Storage Management window appears. (You can also open System Information manually and choose Window > Storage Management.) In the sidebar at the left, ignore Recommendations and look at the rest of the categories, particularly Applications, Documents, and iOS Files. The specific categories will vary a bit between Macs, depending on what apps you use, but they correspond to the colored bars you saw in the About This Mac window’s Storage view.

Applications

The Applications category lists your apps and is sorted by size by default. But try clicking the column header for Kind and scrolling down. You can probably trash most apps tagged as Duplicates or Older Versions. Similarly, click the Last Accessed column header to see which apps you haven’t launched in years. Many of them can probably go. Plus, you can redownload anything tagged as coming from the App Store, so you can toss those apps to save space.

Documents

In Documents, you’ll see three buttons: Large Files, Downloads, and File Browser. Large Files focuses on files over 50 MB in size, Downloads displays the contents of your Downloads folder (much of which you likely don’t need), and File Browser gives you a column view that’s sorted by file size and shows sizes next to each item. It’s great for trawling through your drive to see what’s consuming all that space.

In any of these views other than File Browser, hover over any item to see an X button for deleting the file and a magnifying glass button that reveals the file in the Finder. To delete multiple files at once, Command-click or Shift-click to select them and then press the Delete key to remove them all at once. Storage Management gives you the combined size of all the selected files and warns you before deleting the files, so you can use this technique to preview how much space a multi-file deletion will save.

In File Browser, select one or more files and either drag them to the Trash icon in the Dock, or press Command-Delete.

iOS Files

If you’ve used iTunes to manage iOS devices in the past, pay special attention to the iOS Files category. It shows any device backups and software updates that are stored on your Mac’s drive. If you still use iTunes to back up your device, it’s worth keeping the latest backup of devices you still use, but many people have obsolete backups and unnecessary updates kicking around.

Other

As noted before, the rest of the categories here may vary depending on what apps you use. With Books and iTunes, you can remove content that you’ve purchased since you can download it again. With Mail and Photos, Storage Management merely tells you how much space the app’s data occupies and lets you enable space optimization (downloading only recent attachments for Mail, and keeping only optimized photos on the Mac). To save more space, you must delete unnecessary data from within the app itself.

If your Mac’s drive is filling up—if it has less than 10 percent free space—consider using the Storage Management tools to search out and delete files that are wasting space. To be safe, make a backup first!

Choosing a Cloud-Based File Sharing Service

The fastest and easiest way to share files among your Macs and iOS devices is via cloud-based file sharing services, and they’re also fabulous for collaborating on files with colleagues. Here’s how to choose among them.

Macs haven’t had removable storage for years, so when you want to move files between computers, you can use USB flash drives, email, Messages, AirDrop, or local file sharing. Those techniques are fine, but for a more efficient, effective, and elegant solution, try a cloud-based file sharing service.

These services use special software to integrate into the Mac’s Finder, designating a particular folder to hold shared files. Whenever you add a file to that folder—or any subfolder inside it—the software automatically uploads it to the cloud and downloads it to linked devices. File changes and deletions sync quickly, so the shared folder remains in sync everywhere at all times. iOS’s Files app also provides a single interface to the main services on your iPhone or iPad.

File sharing services provide two key capabilities:

  • They allow you to share files between your own devices, including Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Windows-based PCs. This makes it easy to access your data wherever you are and on whatever device you’re using.
  • They let you share files or folders with others, sometimes with permissions- or date-based restrictions. Such capabilities are incredibly effective for workgroup collaboration.

Numerous cloud-based file sharing services exist, but the most popular are Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, and Microsoft’s OneDrive, all of which offer free plans with limited amounts of storage.

Box

Box is aimed primarily at large enterprises, with plans priced at $5, $15, or $25 per user per month. The main differences between those plans revolve around things like the number of users, administrative controls and security reporting, and custom branding. Box integrates with hundreds of apps and offers a platform on which companies can build their own collaboration and workflow solutions.

Box also offers a free Individual plan with 10 GB of storage. A Personal Pro plan costs $10 per month, but that provides only 100 GB of storage, much less than the competition.

Dropbox

The 800-pound gorilla of the file-sharing space is Dropbox, which popularized the concept starting in 2007. A free Basic account offers 2 GB of storage space, but for $9.99 per month, the Plus plan gives you 1 TB and the $19.99 Professional plan doubles that to 2 TB and provides additional controls. If you need to share a folder with someone, Dropbox is generally the best option because so many people already have accounts.

For teams, Dropbox Business provides Standard ($12.50 per user per month) and Advanced ($20 per user per month) plans that increase the space even further and add administrative controls, increased security options, and more. iStore is proud to be a Dropbox Registered Partner and can assist you with setting up your Dropbox Business account. Just drop us a line here.

Google Drive

Conceptually, Google Drive is where Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides store their files. However, it also lets you store any type of file, and Google provides 15 GB of free storage with every Google account. For those who need more storage, Google offers a variety of storage tiers, including 100 GB ($1.99 per month), 200 GB ($2.99), and 2 TB ($9.99).

Google Drive Enterprise extends the service for teams with additional collaboration, workflow, and security tools. It’s priced at $8 per active user per month plus $0.04 per gigabyte of data stored. If you want the full G Suite, which includes Gmail, Google Docs, video conferencing, team messaging, and shared calendars, $6 per user per month buys 30 GB of storage and $12 per user per month buys unlimited storage.

Google generally assumes you’ll do everything in a Web browser or a smartphone app, but with the company’s Backup and Sync software for the Mac, it provides the same level of Finder integration as other services.

iCloud Drive

Although Apple’s iCloud Drive is deeply integrated into macOS and iOS and numerous apps, it’s the weakest of the file sharing services. That’s because Apple focuses on individuals, not groups or teams. iCloud Drive works fine for sharing files among your own devices, and it allows you to share individual files (but not folders) with anyone who has an Apple ID.

Apple gives all Mac and iOS users 5 GB of free space in iCloud Drive, although things like iCloud backups of your iOS devices can use that up quickly. For $0.99 per month, you can get 50 GB, $2.99 per month gets you 200 GB, and 2 TB costs $9.99 per month. There are no business plans, but you can share the purchased space with other members of a Family Sharing group.

OneDrive

Most of Microsoft’s Office 365 subscriptions include OneDrive storage—a $99.99 per year Office 365 Home plan provides 1 TB for each of up to six users, whereas a $69.99 Office 365 Personal subscription is for just one user. On the business side, you can pay $5, $8.25, or $12.50 per user per month for different Office 365 plans. The low-end plan doesn’t include the desktop versions of the Office apps, and the high-end plan provides Exchange, SharePoint, and Teams in addition to all the Office apps and 1 TB of OneDrive storage for each user.

How to Choose a Service

Which of these services is best for your needs? That’s a potentially complicated question, and we’re happy to talk with you directly to make a recommendation. That said, here are the basics.

If you mostly need to share files among your own devices and want to share the occasional file with another Apple user, iCloud Drive may be sufficient, especially if you are already paying for more storage for iCloud Photos. Those who are heavily invested in Google’s G Suite or Microsoft Office 365 should focus on Google Drive or OneDrive. If you aren’t already in bed with Google or Microsoft, Dropbox is the best bet for most individuals and groups, although larger organizations should also evaluate Box.

Why you are seeing “SomeApp is not optimized for your Mac” dialogs

If you’re running macOS 10.13.4 High Sierra or macOS 10.14 Mojave, you may have seen a dialog that says an app isn’t optimized for your Mac. The message differs slightly between High Sierra and Mojave, with the High Sierra version telling you the developer needs to update the app to improve compatibility whereas Mojave saying bluntly that the app won’t work with future versions of macOS.

What’s going on here, what should you do, and when should you do it?

What’s Going On: 32-bit and 64-bit Apps

Over a decade ago, Apple started to transition all the chips used in Macs, along with macOS itself, from a 32-bit architecture to a 64-bit architecture. Without getting into technical details, 64-bit systems and apps can access dramatically more memory and enjoy significantly faster performance.

Apple knew it would take years before most people were running 64-bit hardware and 64-bit-savvy versions of macOS, so it allowed macOS to continue running older 32-bit apps. However, maintaining that backward compatibility has a cost, in terms of both performance and testing, so at its Worldwide Developer Conference in 2017, Apple warned developers that High Sierra would be the last version of macOS to support 32-bit apps “without compromise.” At the next WWDC in June 2018, Apple announced that macOS 10.14 Mojave would be the last version of macOS to run 32-bit apps.

Happily, the only “compromise” for 32-bit apps in Mojave is the warning dialog, which appears every 30 days when you launch an older app. But the writing is on the wall: 32-bits apps will cease working in macOS 10.15.

How Do You Identify 32-bit Apps?

Apple provides a tool to help you find 32-bit apps. Follow these steps:

  1. From the Apple menu, choose About This Mac and then click the System Report button.
  2. In the System Information utility that opens, scroll down to Software in the sidebar and select Applications. It may take a few minutes to build the list of every app on all mounted drives.
  3. When it finishes, click the 64-bit column header (No means 32-bit; Yes means 64-bit) to sort the list, and select an app to see its details in the bottom pane.

This technique works in both High Sierra and Mojave, but in Mojave, System Information includes a better-formatted section, called Legacy Software, that also provides a list of 32-bit apps. However, this list may be smaller because it includes only those apps that you’ve launched. Since it’s likely that you open old 32-bit apps only occasionally, you can’t trust the Legacy Software list to be complete.

If you find System Information’s Applications list overwhelming, check out the free 32-bitCheck utility from Howard Oakley. It performs exactly the same task but lets you focus on a particular folder and save the results to a text file for later reference.

What’s Your Next Step?

Once you know which apps won’t work in macOS 10.15, you can ponder your options. Luckily, you have some time. We expect Apple to release macOS 10.15 in September 2019, but you don’t need to upgrade right away—in fact, we recommend that you wait a few months after that to allow Apple time to fix bugs.

That said, we do encourage upgrading eventually, and if you buy a new Mac after September 2019, it will come with macOS 10.15. So you need to establish a plan—it’s better to know what you’re going to do than to be forced into action if you have to replace your Mac on short notice. For each 32-bit app on your Mac, you have three options:

  • Delete it: It’s not uncommon to have old apps that you haven’t used in years and won’t miss. There’s no need to waste drive space on them in macOS 10.15.
  • Upgrade it: Apps in active development will likely have a new version available. The main questions are how much the upgrade will cost and if there are compatibility issues associated with upgrading. You can upgrade at any time, although it’s likely worth waiting until you’re ready to move to macOS 10.15 to minimize costs. The apps that cause the most irritation here are things like the Adobe Creative Suite—Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign—that require switching to a monthly subscription.
  • Replace it: If no upgrade is available, the cost of upgrading is too high, or upgrading comes with other negatives, it’s time to look for an alternative. This can take some time, so it’s worth starting soon to ensure that the replacement will provide the features you need before macOS 10.15 forces the decision.

Needless to say, if you’d like recommendations about how to proceed with any particular app or workflow, get in touch with us!

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