Have you ever emailed a document to several colleagues for feedback, and then had to go through each of their changes in turn, merging everything into your master document? What if one of them needs to see the changes that another suggested? Plus, what if you need to make substantial changes after you’ve sent the document out for review, but before you’ve heard back from everyone?
If you’re still doing this document dance, it’s time to quickstep into the modern world and try the real-time collaboration features that are built into many apps, including Apple’s iWork apps (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote), the Microsoft Office 365 suite (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), and Google’s online app suite (Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides).
Let’s look at why real-time collaboration is the most efficient and productive solution for working with colleagues.
One Document to Rule Them All
In the old model of collaboration, where you gave each person their own copy of the document, you had to bring their changes and comments back into your master copy. That’s clumsy, time-consuming, and error-prone, even when the apps in question have features for merging.
With modern collaboration systems, there is only one document that everyone works on, so there’s no need to keep track of different copies or merge changes. Plus, you never have to worry about someone’s copy getting corrupted or lost.
Work Simultaneously or Sequentially
In many collaborative scenarios, the people with whom you’re working need to be aware of what the others are doing. Theoretically, you could send your document to one person, get it back, send to the next, get it back, and so on. That way each person sees the changes and comments from those who have gone before, but it takes a lot of time and coordination effort.
But in a real-time collaboration system with a single document, everyone can work at the same time. That’s not to say they will, but even after Alice has taken her primary pass and Bob and Carmen have added more changes and comments, Alice can dip in again to see and react to what they did, assuming they had track changes enabled. It’s a much faster way to resolve differing opinions on a document’s wording or a slide’s appearance.
Some collaboration systems also feature a revision history, which lets you go back in time and see what each person has done at different points. That can be helpful if the app wasn’t set to track changes when a collaborator made some edits.
Have In-Document Conversations
“Collaboration” generally takes two forms: changing information in the document and commenting on it. For instance, if you’re collaborating on a budget spreadsheet with colleagues, each person can add or update the information about annual expenses for their department, saving you the trouble of collecting and entering that information. And if someone makes a mistake, it’s easy for another person to correct it. Collaboration systems generally identify the person who makes each change, so Alice knows that Bob added his department’s expenses and Carmen updated all the dates to the current year.
Equally useful are comments, which you can generally attach to one or more words on a document or presentation, or a cell in a spreadsheet. Also, in many systems, a change or comment can be the start of a conversation much like in Messages, where each person gets to weigh in and the conversation stays tied to that change or comment.
Invite Multiple Types of Collaborators
A key feature of most collaboration systems is that people can take on different roles. There are generally three levels of access—view, comment, and edit—and you can invite any given person to a particular role. So you might ask Alice to proofread your document and give her edit access, while you ask Bob and Carmen merely to add comments. And if you need to show the document to Deepak (but you don’t want to let him even comment), you could invite him with just view permissions.
There’s one implicit role here—you as the document’s owner. Someone with edit access can generally make the same changes you can, but it’s always best to have one person who’s in charge of accepting or rejecting changes and resolving differences. That person might even change occasionally, but you should always make clear what you expect others to do at what point. For instance, if you’re an author collaborating with an editor, you should deal with your editor’s changes, and your editor should accept your subsequent edits.
You’re probably already using apps that can be used for real-time collaboration, so if you’d like help figuring out the best way to get started, get in touch.
Need to check something in another email message while composing a message in Mail on an iPhone? Many people don’t realize that you can swipe down on the top of the draft to dock it at the bottom of the screen, look something up in another message, and then expand the draft again by tapping it at the bottom of the screen.
Here is a trick for enabling caps lock when typing in iOS. The Caps Lock key on Mac keyboards often feels extraneous, since it’s easy enough to hold the Shift key while typing multiple capital letters for acronyms like HIPPA or when you want to shout GET OFF MY LAWN! But if you need to do that on an iPhone or iPad, it’s annoying to keep tapping the Shift key to switch to the uppercase keyboard for each letter. Luckily, Apple has baked a time-saving trick into its onscreen keyboard. Tap the Shift key twice in a row to lock it on, type the letters you need, and tap it again to unlock it. Notice that when Shift is locked on, a horizontal line appears beneath the arrow on the Shift key.
Siri on the Mac hasn’t been as useful as on iOS devices, but with macOS 10.14 Mojave, Apple enhanced the Mac version of Siri in a variety of ways. Apple says that Siri now knows about food, celebrities, and motorsports, but more interesting is how you can ask Siri to control your HomeKit devices (“Turn on the bedroom lights.”) and locate your iOS devices or AirPods via Find My iPhone (“Where is my iPhone?”).
For security reasons, we always recommend that you use a password manager like 1Password or LastPass to generate, store, and enter strong passwords in your Web browser. We hope you’ve been doing that because iOS 12 has a fabulous new feature that lets you enter passwords from third-party password managers in addition to iCloud Keychain. It makes logging in to Web sites—and iOS apps!—vastly easier than before.
Set Up AutoFill
To begin, you need to enable the feature. Go to Settings > Passwords & Accounts > AutoFill Passwords. Tap the AutoFill Passwords switch to turn the feature on, and select your password manager in the list below.
Two notes. First, the iOS app for your password manager must be installed for it to appear in the list. Second, although you can also allow iCloud Keychain to fill passwords, it’s not worth the extra confusion unless you have a lot of passwords stored only in iCloud Keychain.
Log In to a Web Site in Safari
Now it’s time to try the feature. Navigate to a Web site where you need to log in, and for which your password manager has stored your credentials. Then follow these steps:
- Tap in the username or password field.
- iOS 12 consults your password manager, and if it finds a username/password pair that matches the domain of the site, it displays the username for the site in a blue button or in the QuickType bar above the keyboard. Tap it, and unlock the password manager using your password, Touch ID, or Face ID. iOS fills in your credentials.
- Tap to continue the login process.
If you have multiple accounts for the same site, you may see several of them in the QuickType bar, but if the one you want doesn’t appear, or if none appear, tap the key icon to see all available passwords. If none are right even still, tap the name of your password manager at the bottom of the list to open and search it manually.
Log In to an App
The process of logging in to an app is often similar to logging in to a Web site, as with the Dropbox and Netflix apps, but iOS 12 doesn’t know how to match every app with an associated account in your password manager. For an app that iOS 12 can’t identify, like the Pixabay app, follow these steps instead:
- Tap in the username or password field.
- In the QuickType bar, tap the key icon to open your password manager.
- If necessary, unlock it with your password, Touch ID, or Face ID.
- Search in the password manager for the associated account.
- Tap the account to autofill it in the app’s login fields.
Password Manager Limitations
As welcome as iOS 12’s new support for password managers is, it’s lacking in two important ways:
- The autofill integration is limited to usernames and passwords, so if a site requires an additional field for login, you’ll have to enter that information manually. Similarly, it won’t enter credit card numbers or other information the password manager can autofill when used on a Mac.
- The password manager can’t automatically create new accounts or generate new passwords, as all password managers can do on the Mac. You can do both manually, but the process is so clumsy that it may be easier to wait and do it on a Mac later, or use an easily typed password temporarily until you can change it to something stronger on your Mac later.
Despite these annoyances, iOS 12’s support for third-party password managers is a huge step forward for anyone who wants quick access to the same login credentials on an iPhone or iPad.
Browser tabs. They breed like bunnies, and if you’re like us, you have oodles of tabs open on your Mac, iPhone, and iPad. But you may not know that Safari has a great tab-management feature that lets you access all the open tabs on all your devices. (Make sure to enable the Safari switch in System Preferences > iCloud on the Mac and in Settings > YourName > iCloud in iOS.) This tab overview is easiest to find on the iPad, where tapping the tab button displays local tabs as thumbnails at the top of the screen and lists tabs from other devices beneath. On the iPhone, scroll down to the bottom of the tab list to see them, and on the Mac, choose View > Show Tab Overview. Click or tap any tab to view it. To close an unnecessary tab, in iOS, swipe left and tap Close; in macOS, hover over the tab name and click the x button that appears.