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)

The Fastest Way to Change Wi-Fi Networks in iOS 13

Historically, picking a new Wi-Fi network has required you to open the Settings app and tap Wi-Fi, forcing you to unlock your iPhone or switch away from what you were doing. In iOS 13, however, Apple added a better way to connect to a new Wi-Fi network. Open Control Center (swipe down from the upper-right corner on an iPhone X or later or an iPad; or up from the bottom on an earlier iPhone), press and hold on the network settings card in the upper-left corner to expand it, and then press and hold on the Wi-Fi icon to reveal a list of Wi-Fi networks. Tap one to switch to it.

(Featured image by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash)

Use Guided Access to Let Kids and Others Temporarily Use Your iPhone

Let’s get one thing straight. You know that you should never, ever share your iPhone or iPad passcode with anyone you don’t trust implicitly, like a spouse or adult child, right? That’s because, with your iOS passcode, someone could change your Apple ID password, and if you use iCloud for email, completely steal or otherwise abuse your online identity. (Scared? Good. If you’ve given anyone your passcode, go change it right now. We’ll wait.)

So if sharing your passcode is such a terrible idea, how do you let someone else use your iPhone or iPad temporarily? Perhaps you want to let your kid play a game in the car while you focus on tricky winter driving. Or maybe you time running races with an iPhone app and want someone to do the timing without giving them full access to your iPhone. Whatever the reason you want to give someone limited access to a single app in iOS 13, the solution is Guided Access.

Enabling and Configuring Guided Access

To turn Guided Access on, navigate to Settings > Accessibility > Guided Access (it’s near the bottom), and flick the switch. While you’re here, check out the remaining settings:

  • Passcode Settings: Create a passcode for getting out of Guided Access here (it can be different than your normal one), and choose whether you can use Touch ID or Face ID to exit as well.
  • Time Limits: You don’t set time limits here, but you can set audio and spoken warnings before the time runs out.
  • Accessibility Shortcut: Enable this if you also use triple-click for another Accessibility Shortcut like Magnifier.
  • Display Auto-Lock: Choose how long the device can be inactive before the screen turns off. If the Guided Access user wakes up the device, they’ll still be in Guided Access.

With those settings configured, switch to the desired app and triple-click the side or Home button, and if necessary, tap Guided Access in the Accessibility Shortcut list. You can do five things:

  • Set session-specific options: Tap Options in the lower-right corner to access various switches. If they’re disabled:
    • Side Button or Sleep/Wake Button: The user can’t put the device to sleep.
    • Volume Buttons: The user can’t change the volume.
    • Motion: The screen doesn’t change from the orientation (portrait or landscape) it was in when you started Guided Access.
    • Touch: The user can’t do anything with the screen at all—probably most appropriate for letting a young child watch a video.
    • Dictionary Lookup: Prevents word lookups in some apps.
  • Set time limits: At the bottom of the Options list, tap Time Limit and set an amount of time after which the device can’t be used until you enter the Guided Access passcode.
  • Disable specific areas on the screen: Draw circles around parts of the screen you want to make off-limits to the user. After making a circle, you can move it by dragging it, resize it by dragging any of its handles, or remove it by tapping its X button.
  • Start/Resume Guided Access: In the upper-right corner, tap Start. If you haven’t yet set a passcode, you’ll be prompted to do that.
  • Exit the setup screen: In the upper-left corner, tap End.

Using Guided Access

Once you tap Start, iOS tells you it’s entering Guided Access and lets you use the current app with the restrictions you’ve applied. If you decide that the restrictions aren’t right, triple-click the side or Home button to return to the setup screen. When you’re done, tap Resume in the upper-right corner.

To leave Guided Access, triple-click the side or Home button, enter the passcode, and in the setup screen, tap End in the upper-left corner.

That’s it! Once you understand the various limitations of Guided Access, you’ll be able to turn it on and off quickly whenever you need to let someone use your iPhone or iPad for a while.

(Featured image by mohamed Abdelgaffar from Pexels)

Get a Higher Wattage Power Adapter to Charge Your iPhone/iPad Faster

By default, most iPhones and iPads ship with Apple’s tiny 5-watt power adapters. They work, but not quickly. However, the iPhone 8 and later, all models of the iPad Pro, and the most recent iPad Air and iPad mini models support fast charging when connected to higher wattage power adapters. You may have an older one of these around, or you can buy a new one. Apple has bundled with iOS devices or sold 10-watt, 12-watt ($19), and 18-watt ($29, USB-C) power adapters, and the company has also produced 29-watt, 30-watt ($49), 61-watt ($69), and 87 or 96-watt ($79) USB-C power adapters for Mac laptops. Plug your compatible iPhone or iPad into one of these chargers with an appropriate cable (for a USB-C charger, you’ll need a USB-C to Lightning Cable, $19), and it will charge significantly more quickly. Look for a wattage rating on the adapter itself, or multiply the output volts and amps together to get watts.

(Featured image by Matthew Henry on Unsplash)

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)

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