Apple’s New AirPods Pro Offer Active Noise Cancellation and Better Fit

Are you a fan of Apple’s AirPods, or have you had trouble with them staying in your ears? Either way, you might like the just-released AirPods Pro, which offer a new design with three sizes of soft, flexible, silicone ear tips and welcome new capabilities. The ear tips should make the AirPods Pro fit better for more people, and an Ear Tip Fit Test will tell you which size is right for your ears. The hot new feature is Active Noise Cancellation mode, which significantly cuts down on the background din of planes, trains, and automobiles. Alternatively, Transparency mode reduces surrounding noise while still letting you hear important announcements and stay aware of the environment around you. And, of course, Apple promises superior sound quality. The AirPods Pro cost $249 and come with a Wireless Charging Case.

(Featured image by Apple)

The New 16-inch MacBook Pro is here!

16-inch MacBook Pro

New 16-inch MacBook Pro Model Sports a Redesigned Scissor-Switch Keyboard

Responding to customer complaints and media mocking, Apple has introduced a new 16-inch MacBook Pro that features improves on its predecessor in several ways, most notably with a scissor-switch keyboard in place of the flaky butterfly-key keyboard. The 16-inch MacBook Pro replaces the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro at the top of Apple’s notebook line and starts at $2399. The 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air remain unchanged.

Apple also announced that the new Mac Pro (starting at $5999) and Apple Pro Display XDR (starting at $4999) will ship in December 2019—we’ll have more details once those are available.

New Keyboard Provides More Key Travel

Apple says the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s new Magic Keyboard features “a redesigned scissor mechanism and 1mm travel for a more satisfying key feel.” That’s a positive way to say that many people disliked typing on the previous keyboard’s butterfly mechanism. Plus, keys failed frequently, causing Apple to redesign the keyboard multiple times and offer a repair program for out-of-warranty devices.

Although the new 16-inch MacBook Pro still features a Touch Bar with a Touch ID sensor in place of the classic F-keys, another important keyboard enhancement is the return of the physical Escape key and the reinstatement of the traditional inverted-T layout for the arrow keys.

16-inch MacBook Pro’s new Magic Keyboard

Initial reviews from pundits who received early access to the new MacBook Pro were positive, with several vocal critics of the previous keyboard saying the new one feels the way a keyboard should.

About That 16-inch Display… and Other Displays

You might expect the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s display to be its most notable feature, and it is legitimately bigger, with that 16-inch diagonal measurement and a slightly higher native resolution. But since nearly everyone uses Retina displays at scaled resolutions like 1920-by-1200 or 1680-by-1050, the practical upshot is that the new MacBook Pro won’t show any more content on the screen than the previous model, but what it does display will be a little bit larger. And it’s still gorgeous.

To drive that larger screen, the 16-inch MacBook Pro continues to offer both integrated (for better battery life) and discrete (for faster performance) graphics. On the latter side, you can choose from the AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4 GB of memory, or the Radeon Pro 5500M with either 4 GB or 8 GB of memory. Those graphics chips simultaneously support up to four 4K external displays or up to two 6K displays.

More Power, More RAM, More Storage

Apple claims the 16-inch MacBook Pro is up to 80% faster than the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro, thanks to new 9th-generation processors: the 6-core Intel Core i7 and the 8-core Intel Core i9.

16 GB of RAM is the base level, which is good, since we don’t recommend any less than that. For those who need a higher RAM ceiling, Apple offers 32 GB ($400) and 64 GB ($800) build-to-order options.

When it comes to SSD storage, the base level is 512 GB, but you can upgrade to 1 TB ($200), 2 TB ($600), 4 TB ($1200), or a whopping 8 TB ($2400).

Radically Better Audio

Apple clearly had audio professionals in mind while designing the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Along with the beefy processors, high RAM ceilings, and massive storage options, all of which will be popular with the audio crowd, the new notebook features significantly improved audio input and speakers.

For input, the MacBook Pro relies on a three-mic array with high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beamforming that Apple claims delivers a 40% reduction in hiss. Podcasters have praised the new mic array, though without suggesting that it competes with dedicated mics.

Equally compelling for anyone who listens to music is the new six-speaker, high-fidelity sound system. Its force-canceling woofers with dual opposed speaker drivers reduce unwanted and sound-distorting vibrations and enable the bass to go half an octave deeper than the previous model. There’s still a 3.5mm headphone jack too.

Slightly Larger Physical Package

Between the larger screen, the six-speaker sound system, and the 100-watt-hour battery that Apple says provides up to 11 hours of battery life, the company had to increase the size of the 16-inch MacBook Pro slightly compared to the previous 15-inch model.

It’s only about 8mm wider and 5mm deeper, which likely won’t be noticeable. However, it also weighs 4.3 pounds (1.95 kg), which is noticeably more than the 4.02 (1.82 kg) pounds of the previous model.

802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 remain standard for wireless connectivity, and the 16-inch MacBook Pro continues to offer four Thunderbolt 3.0 ports for charging and connectivity. You’ll still need a collection of dongles for connecting to USB-A peripherals, HDMI and DisplayPort monitors, Ethernet networks, and so on.

Price and Availability

You can buy the 16-inch MacBook Pro now, in either silver or space gray. The base model starts at $2399 with 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB of storage, a 6-core Intel Core i7 processor, and the AMD Radeon 5300M graphics chip. That’s a totally legit Mac, but if you need more power and can pay for it, a maxed-out configuration with 64 GB of RAM and an 8 TB SSD  would set you back $6099.

Note that the 16-inch MacBook Pro ships with macOS 10.15 Catalina and almost certainly cannot be downgraded to 10.14 Mojave.

Frankly, this new MacBook Pro is a solid upgrade, particularly for those who have been delaying due to the problems with the butterfly keyboard. The only real problem is that the smaller, lighter, and less expensive 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air are still saddled with that keyboard. We hope 2020 will bring the redesigned scissor-switch keyboard to those models as well.

(Featured image by Apple)

Beware Scammers when Selling Your Old Tech Hardware Online

Whenever Apple releases hot new hardware, it’s tempting to order the latest and greatest and then put your old Mac or iPhone up for sale on a classifieds site like Craigslist. If you do that, be cautious about potential buyers—it’s increasingly common for a scammer to request that you ship them the device and then to “pay” you by forging payment email from PayPal or using a stolen PayPal account (whose owner will likely get PayPal to take the money back from you). Instead, insist on an in-person meeting in a public place and payment in cash or via a digital method like Apple Pay Cash or Venmo that can’t be canceled once you accept the money. Or, if the location and payment amount (under $1000) work, meet in a nearby post office and request payment via money order (US or Canada) that you can verify on the spot. Craigslist has more advice.

(Featured image modified from an original by Vitabello from Pixabay)

iOS 13 Makes Editing Text Easier

Let’s be honest—text editing in iOS has never been anywhere near as good as it is on the Mac. We may be more accustomed to our mice and keyboards, but the Multi-Touch interface has always been clumsy when it comes to text. Apple keeps trying to improve iOS’s text editing features, and iOS 13 (and iPadOS 13) brings some welcome changes in how we go about positioning the text insertion point, selecting text, and performing the familiar options in the Mac’s Edit menu: Cut, Copy, Paste, and Undo/Redo. Has it caught up with the Mac yet? You’ll have to decide that for yourself, once you’ve learned the new techniques.

Note that these changes apply only to spots in iOS where you’re entering and editing text, not selecting and copying static, read-only text such as a Web page in Safari. And even when you are working on a Web page where you can enter and edit text, the site may override iOS’s text handling.

Insertion Point Positioning

Positioning the insertion point on the Mac is easy—you move the cursor to the right spot and click. In previous versions of iOS, you could tap to put the insertion point at the start or end of a word, or press and hold briefly to bring up a magnifying glass that let you put the insertion point anywhere, including within a word. It was slow and awkward, and made better mostly by trackpad mode, which you could invoke by long-pressing the Space bar.

iOS 13 improves positioning by letting you press and hold the insertion point to pick it up and then drag it to where you want it. This approach is much easier and more sensible than the previous method.

Selecting Text

On the Mac, you can select text with multiple clicks, by clicking and dragging, or by using the keyboard. In iOS, however, text selection has always been tough—you could double-tap to select a word, but anything else required subsequent moving of start and end markers. (On an iPad with a keyboard, you could hold Shift and use the arrow keys too.)

Happily, iOS 13 improves text selection. To start, you can still double-tap to select a word, but you can also triple-tap to select a sentence (shown below) and even tap four times in quick succession to select an entire paragraph. Unfortunately, these selection shortcuts may not work in all apps, but you can always fall back on the previous approach.

For selections of an arbitrary length, just press, pause ever so briefly to start selecting, and then drag to extend the selection. In other words, it’s as close to the Mac approach as is possible with the Multi-Touch interface. If the selection isn’t quite right, you can adjust the start and end markers.

Cut, Copy, Paste, and Undo Gestures

Everyone knows Command-X for Cut, Command-C for Copy, Command-V for Paste, and Command-Z for Undo on the Mac. In previous versions of iOS, those commands were available only from a popover that appeared when text was selected, or (for Paste) when you pressed and held in a text area. The only command with a gesture, so to speak, was Undo. At the risk of dropping it, you could shake your iOS device to undo your last action. Not good.

iOS 13 introduces a variety of three-finger gestures to make these commands quick and easy to invoke. Note that you can use the entire screen for these gestures—it’s OK to make them with one finger over the keyboard.

  • Copy: To copy selected text, pinch in with three fingers, or, more likely, your thumb, index finger, and middle finger.
  • Cut: To cut (copy and then delete) selected text, perform the copy gesture twice in quick succession.
  • Paste: To paste the text you’ve copied at the insertion point, reverse the action—pinching out (spreading) with three fingers.
  • Undo: To undo a mistake, immediately swipe left or tap twice with three fingers. You can keep swiping or double-tapping to undo more actions.
  • Redo: To redo the action that you just undid, swipe right with three fingers.

Whenever you use one of these gestures, a little feedback badge appears at the top of the screen to reinforce what you just did.

If you can’t remember which direction to pinch or swipe, press and hold with three fingers anywhere for a second to see a shortcut bar at the top of the screen with icons for Undo, Cut, Copy, Paste, and Redo.

Finally, instead of using Cut and Paste to move a swath of selected text, try dragging it to the new position.

Slide to Type

Various third-party keyboards have provided “slide-to-type” over the years, letting you type a word by sliding your finger from letter to letter on the keyboard without lifting it up in between. But switching to a third-party keyboard meant that you often gave up useful other features, like Siri dictation, so most people stuck with Apple’s default keyboard.

On the iPhone, iOS 13 now lets you slide to type on its default keyboard, and it works surprisingly well. In iPadOS 13, slide-to-type works only on the new floating keyboard you can get by pinching with two fingers on the default keyboard (pinch out with two fingers to restore the default keyboard). When you get to the end of a word, lift your finger to insert it, and then start sliding again for the next word. If you make a mistake, the suggestions above the keyboard often provide the word you want. You can switch between tapping (best for unusual words) and sliding on a word-by-word basis.

Make a mistake with sliding? By default, tap Delete after inserting a slide-to-type word to delete the whole word, not just the final letter. If you don’t like that behavior, turn off Delete Slide-to-Type by Word in Settings > General > Keyboard.

(Featured image by Lorenzo Cafaro from Pixabay)

Do You Put Dates in Filenames? Use This Format for Best Sorting

There are plenty of situations where it makes sense to put a date in a filename, but if you don’t use the right date format, the files may sort in unhelpful ways. For instance, using the names of months is a bad idea, since they’ll sort alphabetically, putting April before January. And although the Mac’s Finder is smart enough to sort filename-3 before filename-20, most other operating systems are not (because 2 comes before 3). So, to make your life—and the lives of everyone with whom you share files—a little easier, use this date format, which is guaranteed to sort correctly everywhere: YYYY-MM-DD. That translates to a four-digit year, followed by a two-digit month (with a leading zero if necessary), and a two-digit day (again, with a leading zero if need be).

(Featured image by Henry & Co. on Unsplash)

Everything You Need to Know about Multitasking in iPadOS 13

With this year’s operating system updates, Apple has formally acknowledged that the iPhone and iPad have different uses and different needs. To that end, Apple has given the iPad version of iOS 13 its own name—iPadOS 13.

The big changes include a desktop-class version of Safari that works better with complex Web apps, a redesigned Home screen that sports more icons and Today View widgets, a new floating keyboard you can use for thumb-typing or with one hand, Apple Pencil improvements, and the Sidecar feature that lets you use an iPad as a Mac’s second screen or graphics tablet.

Also important are the tweaks Apple made to iPadOS’s multitasking capabilities. Particularly when you pair an iPad with a Smart Keyboard, you can now get real work done on an iPad more fluidly than ever before. The “hard” part is learning how you switch between apps, display a second app in a Slide Over panel that floats on top of another app, or make two apps share the screen in Split View. Here’s what you can do.

Switch Between Apps

Moving between apps is a key aspect of using the iPad. Apple has provided multiple ways to switch so you can pick those that best fit your style:

  • Press the Home button, and on the Home screen, tap another app’s icon.
  • Swipe down on the Home screen to show Siri app suggestions and search for any app.
  • Within an app, swipe left or right with four fingers to switch to the previous or next app.
  • Within an app, swipe up from below the bottom of the screen to reveal the Dock, and then tap an icon on it. The three rightmost icons are your most recently used apps.
  • After revealing the Dock, keep swiping up to reveal the app-switching screen, then tap an app thumbnail to switch to it. Swipe right to see less recently used apps.
  • On a physical keyboard, press Command-Tab to bring up a Mac-like app switcher. Release both keys quickly to switch to the previous app instantly, or keep Command down while you press Tab repeatedly to move sequentially among the shown apps, letting up on Command to switch. While the app switcher is shown, you can also tap an icon in it.

Display an App in Slide Over

Say you’re working on your iPad, perhaps in Safari, and you want to keep an eye on your favorite weather app (we like Dark Sky) because an upcoming storm might affect your upcoming bike ride. You don’t need to see both apps all the time, but you also don’t want to have to switch back and forth. With Slide Over, you can put Dark Sky in a panel that floats over Safari and then hide and show it.

The easiest way to put an app in a Slide Over panel is to use the Dock, so this technique works best if the app’s icon is already on the Dock. For instance, while you’re in Safari, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to display the Dock. Then touch and hold the Dark Sky app’s icon until it dims slightly. Keeping your finger down, drag the icon over Safari until it becomes a vertical lozenge.

Lift your finger, and Dark Sky appears in Slide Over. (If you get a horizontal rectangle instead of a vertical lozenge, the app won’t work in Slide Over because it needs a larger window.)

If the app you want to put in Slide Over isn’t on your Dock, you can use a two-handed procedure to get it from another location and drop it onto another app. Working on the Home screen or the Siri search screen, start dragging an app icon (it’s OK if the icons start wiggling). Then use your other hand to switch to the other app (perhaps by swiping right with four fingers or pressing Command-Tab on a physical keyboard) and drop it over the other app. Don’t worry if you have trouble at first—it takes time to become accustomed to two-handed usage.

Once an app is in Slide Over on the right side of the screen, you can swipe right on its left edge or the gray bar at the top to hide it, or swipe left on its right edge or gray bar to move it to the other side of the screen. If Slide Over is hidden, swipe left from the right edge of the screen to display it.

If you think Slide Over looks a bit like an iPhone app on your iPad screen, iPadOS 13’s big enhancement will make sense. You can now open multiple apps in Slide Over—just drag a new app over the main app as you would normally. Once you have two or more apps in Slide Over, you can cycle through them by swiping right or left on the thick black bar at the bottom, just like on a Face ID-equipped iPhone. To see what you’ve got in Slide Over, swipe up slightly on that thick black bar to display a Slide Over app switcher; tap any thumbnail to switch to it.

Open Multiple Apps in Split View

Imagine that you want to email someone a photo you took, so you want Mail and Photos showing at the same time. Displaying two apps side-by-side in Split View is nearly the same action as Slide Over. The difference is that, instead of dropping the app lozenge on top of the current app, you drag it to the far left or right of the screen, and drop it once the screen shows a 90/10 split—after you drop, the split changes to 50/50.

Drag the handle between the apps to switch to a 70/30 or 30/70 split; if you drag the handle all the way to one side of the screen, the app that’s shrinking in size disappears entirely. Both apps in Split View have a handle at the top as well, and dragging one of those down slightly converts that app into a Slide Over panel.

Bonus tip: If you’ve become comfortable with Split View, note that you can also grab an app by that handle and drop it to the left or right of another app—switch apps with your other hand—to move it to another Split View space. (You can also drag a Slide Over app’s handle down slightly to switch it to Split View.)

New in iPadOS is the capability to open multiple windows from the same app. Not all apps support this (or Split View at all), but Safari and Notes are good examples of apps that do. To do this, while in the app, bring up the Dock, tap the app’s icon, and then tap the + button in the upper-right corner of the screen.

There are more direct ways of opening multiple windows from the same app too. In Safari, tap and hold the Tabs icon (two stacked squares) and then tap Open New Window to get a second Safari window. You can also drag a tab from Safari’s Tab bar to the side of the screen to open it in Split View.

Similarly, you can drag notes from the sidebar in Notes to open them in Split View, either as a second Notes window within the same space, or as an addition to a new Split View space.

With all these possibilities, it’s easy to get confused about what’s open where. The iPadOS app switcher now displays thumbnails of the Split View spaces so you can switch among them easily.

And if you aren’t sure which space has a particular Safari window, for instance, tap and hold the Safari icon in the Dock (or anywhere else) and choose Show All Windows to see all the spaces—including Slide Over—that include Safari windows (Apple calls this App Exposé).

Take a few minutes and try putting apps in Slide Over and Split View in different ways, since some of the actions require practice before they feel natural. Finally, if combining two particular apps doesn’t seem to work, don’t fret. Apps must specifically support both Slide Over and Split View, and not all do.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)