In your list of conversations in Messages, you probably have lots of people who have generic icons next to their names or numbers. You likely look like that to other people as well, but a new feature in iOS 13 lets you share your preferred name and avatar picture with other iMessage users (blue-bubble friends). In Messages, first tap the ••• button and then Edit Name and Photo. Then, in the activity view that appears, tap Edit under your photo to select a new photo and set your name as you want it. Make sure Name and Photo Sharing is enabled before tapping Done. From now on, for any iMessage conversations, you’ll see a little banner at the top that asks if you want to share your name and photo. Do so and your recipient will get a prompt to replace whatever they’re seeing for you. (And if, as a recipient, you don’t want to accept the new photo, tap the X button at the right of the prompt.)
Are you the person your friends and family members turn to for questions about the Mac? In normal times, those questions might come over dinner or at another in-person gathering, such that you could look directly at their Mac to see what was going on. Now, however, with everyone staying at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, answering those questions has seemingly gotten harder. But it doesn’t have to be that way, thanks to a built-in feature of macOS that you may not have known about: screen sharing.
With the Mac’s built-in Screen Sharing app, you can either observe or control another person’s Mac, anywhere on the Internet. They don’t even need to enable Screen Sharing in System Preferences > Sharing. (Don’t worry—there are multiple ways that Apple ensures that this feature can’t be used surreptitiously.)
Initiate the Connection
There are multiple ways to connect to a remote Mac for screen sharing, but two stand out as being particularly easy.
First, if you communicate in Messages with the person whose Mac you’re trying to control, make sure your conversation with them is selected, and then choose Buddies > Ask to Share Screen. The other person can also initiate the connection with you by choosing Buddies > Invite to Share My Screen.
Second, if Messages doesn’t work for you (those commands are often dimmed), or the other person doesn’t use Messages, there’s another option. Press Command-Space to open Spotlight and type “Screen Sharing”. The Screen Sharing app should be the top hit—press Return to launch it. (For future reference, it’s stored in /System/Library/CoreServices/Applications/Screen Sharing.)
Then, in the dialog that appears, enter the person’s Apple ID, which is likely their email address, and click Connect.
Accept the Connection
Needless to say, macOS doesn’t allow anyone to connect to a Mac like this without permission. The other person needs to accept the connection request, which they do by clicking Accept in the notification that appears, likely in the upper-right corner of the screen. Obviously, clicking Decline immediately terminates the connection.
After clicking Accept, the other person gets yet another permission request, this time with additional options. They can once again choose to Accept or Decline, and choose between allowing you to control the screen or just observe them using it. And, of course, if you ever get a screen sharing request from someone you don’t know, you can always click Block This User to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Next, a little popover appears to alert the other person to the new icon on the menu bar. The blue menu bar icon constantly flashes while the connection is active so there’s no question that screen sharing is taking place.
So what’s in that menu? Commands for switching between controlling and observing (choose “Allow Name to control my screen” to toggle), mute the microphone (more on that shortly), pause screen sharing, and end the session.
Use the Connection
The Mute Microphone command in the remote Mac’s Screen Sharing menu is a hint—when you’re sharing the screen, the connection also provides full audio communication. This seems helpful, but in many cases, you’re already talking on the phone, at which point it’s helpful to mute the microphone on both sides. Or hang up the phone and stick with Screen Sharing’s audio.
For the most part, once you’re controlling someone’s Mac remotely, it’s just like using the Mac while sitting in front of it. You can move the pointer around, select icons and menus, open apps and documents, and so on. You may notice a slight lag or jitter as the screen draws, since updating it over an Internet connection is much, much slower than in person.
You do have a few special capabilities based largely on the buttons in the toolbar, however:
- Toggle Control/Observe: When you’re controlling the remote Mac, you may find yourself competing for the pointer and keyboard with the other person. To let them “drive,” click the binoculars icon in the toolbar to switch to Observe mode. Click the arrow pointer to return to Control mode.
- Resize the window: If you’re on a 13-inch MacBook Pro and trying to control a 27-inch iMac screen, it simply won’t fit. Luckily, Screen Sharing lets you resize the window so it does, although some interface elements may become too small to use easily. If that’s a problem, you can disable scaling by clicking the left-most Scaling button, after which everything on the remote screen will appear at normal size. You’ll have to scroll the window to see parts of the screen that are out of view.
- Share Clipboard: By default, you’re sharing the Clipboard, so anything you cut or copy on your Mac will be transferred to the other Mac’s Clipboard, and vice versa. If that’s awkward, you can disable it and then use the commands in the Clipboard menu to get or send the Clipboard contents manually.
- Take a screenshot: Normal screenshot controls don’t work for taking a screenshot of the remote screen, or rather, they’ll work on the remote Mac. To take a screenshot of what you see and keep it on your Mac, click the Screenshot button.
- Transfer files: It’s not obvious, but you can move files back and forth between the two Macs merely by dragging them to and from the remote Mac’s window. You sometimes have to pause slightly for Screen Sharing to realize your pointer has left the remote Mac and is on your Mac, but as soon as you let up on the mouse button, the file copies. A File Transfers window shows progress and history.
When you’re done with your screen sharing session, you can shut it down by choosing End Screen Sharing from the remote Mac’s Screen Sharing menu or just close the window or quit the Screen Sharing app on your Mac. Remember that as soon as you do that, the audio connection will drop as well, so make sure you’ve said goodbye first!
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.
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:
- Start logging in to a site that requires 2FA via SMS with your username and password.
- When you’re prompted for your code, tap in the Enter Code field.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- The code appears in a pop-up underneath the field under the “From Messages” tag. Click it to enter the code in the field.
- 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.
Apple’s Messages app for iOS and macOS generally works well, but when it doesn’t, figuring out what’s wrong and how to fix it can take some doing. Here are a few of the most common solutions we’ve come across for problems with sending and receiving messages.
Help Android-switcher friends turn off iMessage
Do you have a friend who previously used an iPhone but later switched to an Android phone? People like that can confuse your copy of Messages, which doesn’t know if it should send to them via iMessage (no) or SMS (yes). If you text with someone in this situation, get them to deregister from iMessage.
Check device connectivity
If messages aren’t flowing when you think they should be, the first “is it plugged in?” thing to check is connectivity. Make sure that your iPhone has at least cellular service (for SMS) and cellular data (for iMessage) and that your iOS device isn’t in Airplane mode. In the case of a Mac, make sure it’s connected to your network.
Relaunch the Messages app
Force-quitting in iOS isn’t something you should do willy-nilly, since it slows down your device and hurts battery life, but it’s worth trying if Messages isn’t sending or receiving messages correctly. Double-press the Home button on Touch ID devices or swipe up and to the right from the bottom of the screen on Face ID devices, then swipe up on the Messages app thumbnail to force-quit it. On the Mac, just quit and relaunch Messages.
Toggle iMessage off and back on
Here’s an easy one. In iOS, go to Settings > Messages and turn the iMessage switch at the top off and back on. iMessage may take a minute or two to reactivate. On the Mac, go to Messages > Preferences > iMessage > Settings, uncheck Enable This Account, and then log in again.
Toggle Messages in iCloud off and back on
With the new Messages in iCloud feature, Apple syncs conversations through your iCloud account. If messages from one device aren’t showing up properly on another device, in iOS, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud and turn Messages off and back on. On the Mac, go to Messages > Preferences > iMessage > Settings and uncheck and recheck Enable Messages in iCloud.
Verify your phone number and email addresses are correct in Messages settings
SMS relies on a phone number, and you can be contacted via iMessage via a phone number or email address. Make sure you can be reached at all the appropriate ones. In iOS, go to Settings > Messages > Send & Receive to check. On the Mac, look in Message > Preferences > iMessage > Settings.
If they’re not right, fix them in iOS in Settings > Passwords & Accounts > iCloud > Your Name > Contact Information, by tapping Edit in the Reachable At section. On the Mac, you add these addresses with the plus button in System Preferences > iCloud > Account Details > Contact.
Verify that SMS fallback is enabled
When you’re in an area with sketchy cell service, there may not be enough of a data connection for iMessage to work. In such a situation, SMS text messages are more likely to get through, but Messages will try to send to iMessage users via SMS only if you turn on Send as SMS in Settings > Messages.
Check text message forwarding settings
If you’re receiving SMS messages on your iPhone but not any of your other devices, make sure Text Message Forwarding is enabled for the relevant devices (they need to be signed in to the same iCloud account). On your iPhone, look in Settings > Messages > Text Message Forwarding.
When in doubt, restart
Restarting can resolve all manner of problems, so it’s always worth a try if all the settings and accounts are correct. On the Mac, of course, just choose Apple > Restart. For iOS devices with Touch ID, press and hold the top button until the Slide to Power Off slider appears. For those with Face ID, press and hold the side (iPhone) or top (iPad) button and one of the volume buttons until the slider appears.
Reset network settings in iOS
Finally, the most voodoo of the fixes we’ve seen work is to reset network settings in iOS. You don’t want to start with this option because doing so also resets Wi-Fi networks and passwords, cellular settings, and VPN settings. But if all else fails, go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings.
If none of these techniques fix your problem, let us know and we’ll see what we can do to help!
Before iOS 12, you’d tap the camera button in a Messages chat in order to share either a brand-new photo or a photo that had already been taken. In iOS 12, Apple changed things so tapping the camera button only lets you take a fresh photo. To find and send a photo that’s already in Photos, use the Photos mini-app in Messages. If necessary, tap the Apps button to the left of the message field to show the Messages apps, and then tap the Photos button to see a list of recent photos. Tap one or more to add them to the message, and you’re ready to send!
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