You Can Now Access Flash Drives on an iPhone or iPad—Here’s How

An unexpected and useful feature of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 is also nearly invisible, and for most uses, requires a special adapter. With this feature, the Files app now can “see” external storage devices.

That’s huge—now you can move data to and from an iPhone or iPad using standard flash drives, SD card readers, or even powered USB hard drives. It’s also a great way to play videos and other data that won’t fit in the available free space on your device. (You’ll still need an app on the iOS device that knows how to open the files—for videos, try VLC for Mobile.)

iOS should be able to read any unencrypted file system supported by the Mac’s Disk Utility, including the PC-focused MS-DOS (FAT) and exFAT, and the Apple-focused MacOS Extended (HFS+) and APFS. If you’re formatting a drive for sharing with a PC, we recommend exFAT; for use within the Apple ecosystem, use Mac OS Extended.

Necessary Hardware

If you plan to use a flash drive with an iPhone or iPad regularly, it’s worth buying a new MFi Lightning flash drive that you can plug in directly. Apple’s MFi program should ensure that drives with that label meet the necessary power and file system requirements. Or, if you have a 2018 iPad Pro model with USB-C, get a USB-C flash drive.

But what about all those USB flash drives and hard drives you already have? To connect those to a Lightning-based iPhone or iPad, you’ll need Apple’s $39 Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter. For the USB-C iPad Pro models, any USB-C hub with a USB-A port should work.

There is one big gotcha, which is that many USB flash drives require 500 milliamps (mA) of power, which is more than the iPhone or iPad can provide. When that’s the case, iOS will usually alert you to the problem (or the drive simply won’t show up in Files). You’ll need to provide extra power by plugging a standard Lightning-to-USB cable into the adapter and a power source. That passthrough power should usually be enough to charge the device and run the flash drive, although we’ve seen flash drives that work with the iPhone 11 Pro but not with a 10.5-inch iPad Pro. (Avoid Apple’s older $29 Lightning to USB Camera Adapter, which supports only the slower USB 2 and doesn’t provide passthrough power.)

Happily, flash drives that require only 100 mA of power work fine without additional power. To learn how much power a drive requires, connect it to your Mac, open the System Information app (in the Applications folder’s Utilities folder), click USB in the sidebar, select the drive in the USB Device Tree at the top, and then read the Current Required line.

Accessing Your Drive

Once you’ve connected a drive to your device, you can access it in Files. On the iPhone, or if you’re using your iPad in portrait orientation, tap the Browse tab at the bottom of the screen. On an iPad in landscape orientation, Browse appears automatically in the sidebar.

Either way, you can find your drive in the list of locations—remember that flash drives are often called Untitled or have funky names.

Copying Files to and from Your Drive

The Files app works a bit like the Mac’s Finder in that it lets you copy files by dragging or by using Copy and Paste. This latter approach is often easier:

  1. In Files, navigate to the file you want to copy.
  2. Tap and hold it until a popover appears with commands.
  3. Tap Copy in the popover.
  4. Tap the Browse tab to return to the Browse screen, and then tap your flash drive.
  5. Tap a blank spot in the flash drive’s directory, and then tap Paste in the popover.

Moving a file works similarly, except that once you tap Move in the popover, iOS displays a list of destinations.

Dragging to copy a file is easier on the iPad if you open two Files windows showing different locations in Split View. With Files as the frontmost app, swipe up to reveal the Dock, and then tap and hold the Files icon briefly so you can drag it to the left or right edge of the screen. Then, to copy files, simply drag them from one view to the other.

Even without Split View, you can also drag to copy files on the iPhone. Tap and hold the file you want to copy, but instead of letting up or working with the popover, start dragging. Then, with another finger (your thumb may work well), tap the Browse tab to switch back to the Browse screen, and then keep dragging the file onto your flash drive. If you’re dextrous, you can even tap the flash drive with another finger to open it—do this to nest the dragged file into a sub-folder on the flash drive.

Obviously, you can also use the commands in the tap-and-hold popover to perform numerous other actions on files. These commands include Duplicate, Delete, Info, Quick Look, Tags, Rename, Share, Compress, and Create PDF.

One last thing. On the Mac, you need to eject external storage devices manually by dragging their icons to the Trash, Control-clicking them and choosing Eject, or pressing Command-E. Once you’ve done that, you can unplug the drive. Happily, that’s not necessary for drives mounted in iOS—just use common sense and don’t remove a flash drive while files are being read or written.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

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)

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)

Some of Our Favorite Features of macOS 10.15 Catalina

Some of Our Favorite Features of macOS 10.15 Catalina

In a break from Apple’s pattern of alternating cycle of releases, macOS 10.15 Catalina is not a refinement of 10.14 Mojave like 10.13 High Sierra was for 10.12 Sierra. Instead, Catalina boasts significant changes, both obvious things like new apps and less-obvious things like under-the-hood improvements. Here are some of our favorites.

iTunes Is Dead! Long Live Music, TV, and Podcasts

After 18 years of being a fixture on the Mac, the increasingly bloated iTunes has been replaced with a trio of independent apps: Music, TV, and Podcasts. Note that the iOS device syncing features of iTunes have moved to the sidebar in Finder windows.

Major App Updates: Reminders, Notes, and Photos

The ease of telling Siri “Remind me to touch base with Javier tomorrow at 10 AM” has long made Reminders useful, but the Reminders app itself was weak. Apple has overhauled it in Catalina, giving it a completely new interface that lets you create smart lists that collect tasks from multiple lists, add attachments to tasks, and click buttons to add dates, times, locations, and flags to reminders instantly. Best of all, lists finally have their own sort orders! Note that to see some of the new features, you must upgrade your Reminders database on all your devices and those of anyone with whom you share lists, so you may need to wait until everything and everyone is up to date.

Notes gains a new gallery view that provides thumbnail instead of a scrolling list. More practically, you can now share entire folders as well as notes, and for both, you can limit collaborators to read-only mode. If you use lists in Notes, you’ll like the new checklist features for reordering list items, moving checked items to the bottom, and easily unchecking all items to reuse the list.

With Photos, Apple redesigned how the main Photos view displays your pictures. Previously, it started with Years, zoomed in to Collections, and zoomed in again to Moments. Now Photos uses a more sensible Years, Months, Days hierarchy, with Years and Months using a large, easily viewed grid, and Days showing selected thumbnails of different sizes to focus attention on the best images. All Photos still shows everything in a grid. Apple also enhanced the machine-learning aspects of Photos so it can better understand who is in each shot and what’s happening—this helps Photos to highlight important moments and create better Memories. And you can now edit Memory movies on the Mac as well as iOS.

Screen Time Replaces Parental Controls

Last year, iOS 12 introduced Screen Time, which helps you monitor app usage and how often you’re distracted by pickups or notifications. Plus, it lets you set limits on particular categories of apps and make sure you don’t use your device when you should be sleeping. Even better, it enables you to manage what your kids can do on their iOS devices, when they can do it, and for how long.

All that goodness has now migrated to the Mac in Catalina, replacing the old parental controls, so if your middle-schooler needs help avoiding games when homework is due, or in putting the Mac to sleep when it’s bedtime, the new Screen Time pane of System Preferences has the controls you need. It also provides a wide variety of content and privacy controls.

Voice Control Your Mac

Although Apple has buried the new Voice Control settings in System Preferences > Accessibility > Voice Control, if you’ve ever wanted to control your Mac with your voice, give it a try. It’s astonishing, and you really can run through a set of commands and dictation like this:

Open TextEdit. Click New Document. ‘Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent comma a new nation comma conceived in liberty comma and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal period’ Click File menu. Click Save. ‘Gettysburg address.’ Click Save button.

You can even use your voice to edit the text you dictate! Make sure to scan through the full set of commands to see what’s possible, and remember that you can add your own commands.

Enhanced Security and Privacy

Apple continues to improve macOS’s security and privacy controls in a variety of ways:

  • In Catalina, the operating system runs in a dedicated read-only system volume that prevents anything from overwriting or subverting critical files.
  • Kernel extensions, which are often required for hardware peripherals, now run separately from macOS, preventing them from causing crashes or security vulnerabilities.
  • All new apps, whether from the App Store or directly from developers, must now be “notarized,” which means Apple has checked them for known security issues.
  • Macs with Apple’s T2 security chip now support Activation Lock in Catalina, so if they’re stolen, there’s no way to erase and reactivate them.
  • Catalina now plays a mean game of “Mother, May I?,” so apps will have to ask permission to access data in your main folders, before they can perform keylogging, and if they want to capture still or video recordings of your screen, among other things. Apps even have to ask to be allowed to put up notifications. Be prepared for an awful lot of access-request dialogs.

 

Attach an iPad Sidecar to Your Mac

Our final favorite feature in Catalina is Sidecar, which enables you to connect an iPad to your Mac and use it as a secondary screen, either extending your Desktop or mirroring what’s on the main display. It does require a relatively recent Mac and an iPad running iOS 13, but it works either wired or wireless.

On the iPad, you can keep using Multi-Touch gestures, and Sidecar even supports the Apple Pencil so you can use the iPad like a graphics tablet. Apps that have Touch Bar support will display their controls on the bottom of the iPad screen, even on Macs without a Touch Bar.

More Smaller Features

Those are our favorite big features, but Catalina boasts plenty of smaller ones too:

  • A new Find My app combines Find My iPhone and Find My Friends into one.
  • Find My can locate offline devices using crowd-sourced locations.
  • Apple Watch users can authenticate anywhere on the Mac by double-clicking the side button. (Oh, thank you, Apple!)
  • Mail can block email from specified senders and move their messages directly to the trash.
  • You can mute specific Mail threads to stop notifications from chatty email conversations.

Enough! We’ll keep covering new Catalina features, but once you upgrade, spend some time exploring, since there are so many neat new things you can do. And remember, we recommend caution when upgrading your Mac—see our earlier article on that topic.

(Featured image by Apple)

Make a Backup before Upgrading to Catalina or iOS 13!

Confession time. If there’s one topic we can’t stop talking about, it’s backups. Backups are essential, since no one can guarantee that your Mac or iPhone won’t be lost or stolen, be caught in a flood from a broken pipe, or just fail silently. It happens.

You should have a good backup strategy that ensures backups happen regularly, but it’s not paranoid to make double extra sure when you’re doing something that’s more likely to cause problems than everyday activity. And by that we’re thinking about upgrading to a major new operating system, such as macOS 10.15 Catalina or iOS 13.

The reason is simple. As much as Apple tests the heck out of these upgrades, so many files are in play that all it takes is one unexpected glitch to render the entire Mac or iPhone non-functional. Wouldn’t you like to be able to revert instantly if something does go wrong?

Mac Backups before Upgrading

On the Mac side, most people should be using Time Machine. It ensures that you can not only restore your entire drive if necessary, but also easily recover a previous version of a corrupted file. The other advantage of having Time Machine backups (and a bootable duplicate, discussed next) is that you can use either to migrate all your apps, data, and settings back to a new installation of macOS, should that become necessary.

As useful as Time Machine is, a bootable duplicate made with SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner is the best insurance right before you upgrade to Catalina. If an installation goes south, you can also boot from your duplicate and get back to work right away.

Finally, although it’s not directly related to backing up before upgrading, we always recommend an offsite backup made via an Internet backup service like Backblaze. This is because a fire or flood would likely destroy your backup drive along with your Mac.

So please, back up your Mac before something goes wrong. It’s fast, easy, and inexpensive to get started, and we’re happy to help.

iOS Backups before Upgrading

Although upgrade-related problems are less common with iPhones and iPads, they can still happen. It’s more likely that you’d drop your little friend accidentally while juggling groceries or forget it after your workout at the gym, but regardless, a backup ensures that you don’t lose precious photos if you’re not using iCloud Photos or My Photo Stream, and backups make migrating to a new device like a fancy new iPhone as painless as possible.

With iOS, though, you don’t need extra software or hardware to make a backup. Apple provides two ways of backing up your iPhone or iPad: iTunes and iCloud. We generally recommend backing up to iCloud if your backups will fit in the free 5 GB of space Apple provides or if you’re already paying for more iCloud space. If you’re not a fan of the cloud or don’t have space, there’s nothing wrong with iTunes backups, though they’re a bit fussier to set up and manage.

There’s also no harm in using both, with iCloud for nightly automatic backups and iTunes for an extra backup just before upgrading to iOS 13 or to a new iPhone or iPad. A second backup can be useful—we’ve seen situations where an iPhone would refuse to restore its files from iTunes but would from iCloud.

To back up to iCloud, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > iCloud Backup, turn the switch on, and tap Back Up Now. For backups to happen automatically in the future, you must have sufficient space in your iCloud account (you can buy more), and your device must be on a Wi-Fi network, connected to power, and have its screen locked.

To back up to iTunes, connect your device to your Mac via a Lightning-to-USB cable, launch iTunes, and click the device icon to the right of the media menu.

Then, in the Backups section, click the Back Up Now button. If you’re prompted to encrypt your backups, we encourage you to agree since otherwise your backup won’t include passwords, Health information, or HomeKit data. For automatic backups via iTunes, select This Computer. After that, every time you plug into your Mac, it will back up.

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that we’re not talking about how to restore if something goes wrong during an upgrade. That’s because it’s impossible to predict exactly what might happen or what state your device will end up in. So if you’re unfortunate enough to have such problems—or to have some other catastrophic failure—get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

(Featured image based on an original by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash)

Learn How to Autofill SMS Login Codes in iOS 12 and Mojave

An ever-increasing number of Web sites boost their security via two-factor authentication (2FA), which requires you to type in a short numeric code to complete a login after entering your username and password. It’s a big win because that code is generated on the fly and is good for only a short time (often 30 seconds). So even if your username and password were revealed in a data breach, your account is safe if you use 2FA. We recommend using it whenever possible.

You get these codes—usually six digits—in one of two ways. The most common is via an SMS text message to your iPhone, but you may instead be able to generate authentication codes with an app such as 1Password, Authy, or Google Authenticator, or LastPass. And yes, if you’ve followed our advice to use 1Password or LastPass as a password manager, their capabilities to generate and enter these codes is a nice bonus.

Many sites support only the SMS text message approach, however, so Apple added features to iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 Mojave that simplify entering the codes sent via SMS.

Autofill SMS codes in iOS 12

In iOS 12, the trick to easier entering of the code is to use the QuickType bar above the standard iOS keyboard, where iOS suggests auto-complete options. Follow these steps:

  1. Start logging in to a site that requires 2FA via SMS with your username and password.
  2. When you’re prompted for your code, tap in the Enter Code field.
  3. When the text message arrives, instead of trying to remember and retype the six digits, look at the QuickType bar at the top of the keyboard, where iOS 12 displays “From Messages” and the code. Tap it to enter the code in the field.
  4. Submit the form to log in.

Autofill SMS codes in Mojave

In Mojave, Apple did something similar with autocomplete, but it works only in Safari, so if you prefer Google Chrome or Firefox, you’re out of luck. Follow these steps:

  1. Using Safari, start logging in to a site that requires 2FA via SMS with your username and password, after which you’re prompted for a code.
  2. When the text message arrives, instead of trying to remember and retype the six digits from your iPhone or the macOS notification, click in the Enter Code field.
  3. The code appears in a pop-up underneath the field under the “From Messages” tag. Click it to enter the code in the field.
  4. Submit the form to log in.

One final note. If you have a choice, use an authentication app instead of SMS for your 2FA codes. There are several ways a hacker could intercept an SMS text message meant for you and use that to complete a login. The chance of you being targeted like this is low, but there’s no reason not to use an authentication app instead to eliminate the worry. Plus, it means you can still log in even if your phone number changes, as it does if you use a different SIM card while traveling.

(Featured image by James Sutton on Unsplash)