Want to Push Some Buttons? Make the Most of Control Center in iOS

Starting back in iOS 11, Apple made Control Center significantly more useful by letting you customize it more to your liking by adding and rearranging buttons. You can even remove a few of the default buttons if they’re just taking up space.

Opening and Closing Control Center

To open Control Center in iOS 11 and later on an iPhone X or later (the models with Face ID), swipe down from the top-right corner of the screen. For iPhones with a Home button that use Touch ID (including the just-released iPhone SE and the iPod touch), swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen.

On an iPad, you’ll swipe down from the top-right corner of the screen if it’s running iOS 12 or iPadOS 13; if it’s still running iOS 11, swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen.

If you swipe down to invoke Control Center, you can close it by tapping a blank area of the screen or by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. If you swipe up to show Control Center, close it either by tapping the top of the screen or pressing the Home button.

Interacting with Controls

In Control Center, you can interact with the various controls in two ways: tap or press and hold. Unfortunately, the interface provides no clues to alert you to how you should interact with any given item.

Start with a tap, but it’s always worth pressing and holding to see what options Apple might have hidden behind that button. Some buttons, like Camera, Do Not Disturb, and Flashlight, even react to both a tap (launching the app or turning on) and a press-and-hold (providing extra useful options).

What happens when you tap a button varies, but here are some guidelines:

  • Apps: A number of buttons, like Camera, Magnifier, and Stopwatch, open other apps instantly. Alas, you can’t pick just any apps to open in this way.
  • Toggles: Some Control Center buttons, like Screen Lock and Low Power Mode, are simple on/off toggles. Tap the button once to turn it on; tap it again to turn it off.
  • Sliders: Drag the sliders for Brightness and Volume to adjust the intensity of the setting.
  • Option screens: With a few of the buttons, like Screen Mirroring and Text Size, a tap opens another screen with more options.

What happens when you press and hold is more predictable. If you press and hold a button that has more options (or if you press and hold a “card,” which is what Apple calls the collection of buttons for networking and audio controls), another screen opens, showing controls for those settings. Some of those screens provide even more options—press and hold the networking card to expand it from four buttons to six, and then press and hold the Wi-Fi, AirDrop, or Bluetooth button to switch Wi-Fi networks, choose who can send you files via AirDrop, or connect to Bluetooth devices.

Customizing the Controls

To change which buttons are available in Control Center, go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls. The Customize screen is split into two sections: Include lists controls that are showing in Control Center, and More Controls contains inactive controls you can add.

Here’s how to switch things up:

  • Add a button: Tap its green plus button. It moves to the Include list. You can add as many buttons as you like. If you add so many that they don’t fit on the screen, you’ll have to swipe in Control Center to see the extras.
  • Remove a button: Tap its red minus button, and tap Remove. The button moves to More Controls.
  • Arrange buttons: For any button in the Include list, drag the grab handle on the right side up or down.

Pay attention to which buttons you find yourself actually using in Control Center and how often you use them. Then you can adjust which ones appear and where they’re located, so you can find them quickly whenever you open Control Center.

Interesting Buttons

Apple has a full list of all the controls in Control Center, but here are a few of our favorite optional buttons, and what to expect from them:

  • Apple TV: This button opens an Apple TV remote control that can replace your Siri Remote. It’s especially useful when you need to type a search string or password into the Apple TV.
  • Clock Options: Need to keep track of the time? Three buttons—Alarm, Timer, and Stopwatch—each open their corresponding screen in the Clock app so you can complete a timing task quickly. Timer is the most useful because it has a press-and-hold option that lets you start a timer without switching to the Clock app.
  • Magnifier: Tapping the Magnifier button takes you to a camera-like app designed to zoom in on something in the physical world so you can see it better. It’s helpful for seeing tiny type, such as serial numbers on electronic devices.
  • Notes: Tap to start a new note in the Notes app. Or press and hold to bring up a menu of choices for starting a new note with a checklist, a photo, or a scanned document.
  • Screen Recording: Want to make a movie of something you see on your iPhone or iPad’s screen? Tap the Screen Recording button to start a recording, then tap the red button in the upper-left corner of the screen to stop.
  • Text Size: This button brings up a slider for adjusting the size of the system font—this is the text in places like the Messages and Settings apps.
  • Voice Memos: This button opens the Voice Memos app when you tap it, but if you press and hold instead, you can start a new recording immediately or access recent recordings. If your yoga instructor doesn’t mind, recording a class is a handy way to recap workout instructions.

Only Apple can provide new controls for Control Center right now, so you won’t find any options for working with independent apps. But who knows—as with Siri, perhaps Apple will open Control Center up to developers in the future too.

(Featured image by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash)

Migrate to a New Mac Right Away, Rather Than Waiting

The next time you buy and set up a new Mac, make sure to migrate data and apps from your previous Mac to it right away during the initial setup. It can be tempting to see what it’s like to use it fresh from the factory or to delay migrating because doing so would force a macOS upgrade, but waiting is a mistake. The problem is that if you do real work in an account on the new Mac, when it comes time to use Migration Assistant to bring over data from your old Mac, there’s no way to merge the old and new accounts. The best workaround is to make sure all important data on the new Mac is also stored in a cloud service like iCloud Drive or Dropbox, and then replace the new account on the new Mac with the old account from your previous Mac. Bring all the data back down from the cloud afterward.

(Featured image built with images from Apple and Marc Mueller from Pexels)

How To Create an Email Signature in Apple Mail

Email has been around for decades, but there are no hard-and-fast rules for how you should close a message with either the signoff or the signature block. If you’ve always wondered about the best ways to finish off a message or are uncomfortable with what you’ve been doing, here’s our advice on how to create an email signature.

Use the form of your name that you want the recipient to use. If your given name is Mohammed, but everyone calls you Mo, use that for signing most of your messages. Otherwise, they’ll have no idea you prefer the shorter version. (The reverse is true too; if you’re not sure how to address someone, look at their signoff for a hint.)

However, for formal correspondence with people or organizations who would usually refer to you as Ms. So-and-so, stick with Elizabeth instead of Betty.

Match the formality of your closing to that of your recipient. When writing business email to someone you don’t know, it’s best to stay formal at first with closings like “Sincerely” or “Yours truly.” Once you know the person a little better, you could move on to “Kind regards” or “Best wishes.”

With friends, family, and people you know well, try “Cheers,” “Talk soon” (if you mean it), or even a quick “Later.” Finally, it’s never inappropriate to use “Thanks!” if you truly are thanking them for something.

Create context-specific signature blocks. We all wear many different hats in today’s world. Your email signature should match the role you’re in for the particular email message. For instance:

  • Work email should probably include at least your title, department, and formal organization name. If you work for a large organization, you may have been provided with a template for your signature. If much of your communication takes place outside of email, include your phone number and postal address.
  • If you serve on a nonprofit board or have a side gig—like as an author or musician—messages you send in those contexts need their own focused signatures with appropriate links.
  • For email to friends and family, there’s no need for a signature at all.

Avoid clever sayings and inspirational quotes. Although it’s tempting to instill some personality into your signature with a quote, don’t do it. The quote might be entertaining the first time someone sees it, but after that, it’s just one more thing to ignore. Part of combatting email overload is to keep messages short and to the point, so you want your signature to have less text than the message itself.

No fancy formatting or pictures. Along the same lines of avoiding quotes, keep your signature simple. Stick to plain text and links, and don’t insert your company’s logo or a picture of your pony just because you can. Just imagine how awkward it would be if someone were to look at a long email thread and see your signature repeated ad infinitum, taking up more space than your actual messages.

Don’t assume anyone will read your signature. Keep in mind that some email apps automatically hide signatures so your recipients may not see it at all. There’s usually a way to view a hidden signature, but never assume that everyone will see it.

Consider automation tools for inserting signoffs and signatures. Many email programs, including Mail on the Mac, let you create multiple signatures and attach them to messages you send from specific email addresses. For even more flexibility, think about using a macro utility like Keyboard Maestro or a text expansion tool like TextExpander to insert custom signoff and signature combinations. Such options are commonplace on the Mac but much less so in iOS or iPadOS.

(Featured image by John-Mark Smith from Pexels)

In Case of Emergency, Create an iPhone Medical ID

Accidents, particularly those involving automobiles, are all too common, and while no one plans to be in one, you can prepare for the eventuality. If you end up in a state where you can’t speak with emergency responders or are too shaken up to share your details clearly, your iPhone can provide them with essential medical information. Emergency responders are trained to know how to access these details.

Apple makes this possible via the Medical ID feature of the Health app, which you can use to record medical data and emergency contact information (this is sometimes referred to as “ICE information,” where ICE stands for “In Case of Emergency”). Once you’ve entered all this information, emergency responders can use your iPhone to learn about your medication allergies and other conditions, plus contact your family. This data could also help a Good Samaritan return a lost iPhone. (Unfortunately, the Health app isn’t available on the iPad.)

To set up or edit your Medical ID, follow these steps (in iOS 13; they’re slightly different in earlier versions of iOS):

  1. Open the Health app and tap the Summary tab at the bottom.
  2. Tap your profile picture in the upper-right corner.
  3. Under Medical Details, tap Medical ID.
  4. Tap Edit in the upper-right corner.
  5. Make sure the Show When Locked switch is on.
  6. Enter all the relevant details about your medical conditions, medications, allergies, and so on.
  7. 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.
  8. Tap Done.

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 that uses Touch ID, press the Home button to display the Passcode screen. For iPhones with Face ID, press the side button and swipe up from the bottom.
  2. On the Passcode screen, tap Emergency in the bottom-left corner to move to the Emergency screen. If needed, call 911 from this screen by tapping Emergency Call.
  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 by tapping their numbers.

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!

(Featured image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay)

How to Get Custom Alerts for Email from Your VIPs

Few people get so little email that they want an iPhone notification for every message that rolls in. But many of us have just a couple of people—our personal VIPs—whose messages are important enough to warrant an alert. If that’s true for you, and you want to know right away when your boss or your spouse or your child sends you a message, set up VIP Alerts. In Mail in iOS, in your Mailboxes list, tap the i button next to the VIP mailbox. If necessary, use the Add VIP link to pick your VIPs from your contacts, and then tap VIP Alerts to jump to the screen of Settings > Notifications > Mail > VIP. Once there, you can choose a banner style, alert sound, and other notification-related settings.

(Featured image by Noelle Otto from Pexels)

Want to Use Your Friends’ Nicknames in iOS? Here’s How

If you have a friend whom you refer to only by his nickname, it can be annoying to feel like you should use his proper first name when adding him to Contacts. Worse, then he shows up in Messages with a name you don’t recognize as easily. Here’s how to convince iOS to use his nickname instead. Open his card in Contacts, tap Edit, scroll to the bottom, tap Add Field, and tap Nickname. That puts a Nickname field at the top, under his proper name, for you to fill in. To get iOS to use it, go to Settings > Contacts > Short Name and enable Prefer Nicknames. From then on, you can enter your friend’s nickname instead of his proper name in apps like Messages and Mail, and iOS will also display it instead of his name everywhere.

(Featured image by Yuri Manei from Pexels)

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