If your Mac is anything like ours, you end up with lots of apps open, each with one or more windows that obscure the Desktop. For those people who like to save in-progress documents to the Desktop and keep current project folders there, all those windows get in the way. macOS has a solution. Open System Preferences > Mission Control, and in the Keyboard and Mouse Shortcuts section, from the Show Desktop pop-up menu, choose a keyboard shortcut. Try the right-hand modifier keys—we’re fond of Right Option—because they’re easy to press and aren’t likely to be used for other purposes. Then, whenever you want to see and work with the icons on your Desktop, hit that key, and do what you want. If you like, you can press that key again to bring the windows back.
Apple first unveiled 3D Touch in iOS 9 with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, giving users of those iPhones a new way of interacting with apps, but 3D Touch didn’t catch on until Apple released the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and gave it broader support in iOS 10. Another year later, and 3D Touch is absolutely worth learning if you have a supported iPhone.
3D Touch works in two ways: peek and pop and quick actions.
Apps use peek and pop to let you glance (peek) at an item by pressing down on it (not just a touch, but a press into the screen), and then jump to that item (pop) by pressing harder still. In Safari, for instance, you can preview a link by pressing it, and then either release to dismiss the preview or continue to load it in its own tab by pressing harder. Or move your finger up on the screen without letting go or pressing harder to get controls for opening the link, adding to your reading list, or copying the URL. This trick applies to links in other apps like Mail, Messages, and Notes, too.
You can also use peek and pop with email message summaries in Mail, headlines in News, thumbnails in Photos, people in Find My Friends, dates and events in Calendar, and even the previously taken photo box in Camera. Support for peek and pop in third-party apps isn’t as widespread as it is in Apple’s apps, but it’s still worth trying whenever you want to preview something.
More interesting are quick actions, which present a menu of common actions when you press down on an app’s icon on the Home screen, or on various other items throughout iOS. Home screen quick actions are great, since they let you kickstart an app into doing something with just a hard press on its icon. If the app has a widget, pressing the icon shows that as well.
For instance, pressing on the Phone app shows its widget, which gives you buttons to call people in your Favorites list, along with actions to view the most recent call, search for a contact, create a new contact, or view the most recent voicemail. The Clock app lets you start a timer or the stopwatch, or create an alarm. Messages quick actions can create a new message or open a recent conversation. Press Safari’s icon, and you can create a new tab or see your bookmarks or reading list. You can even press on a folder to rename it quickly.
Quick actions and widgets are much more commonplace among third-party apps than peek and pop support, so be sure to try 3D Touch on all your favorite apps. If all you see is a Share item, the app has no quick actions or widget, but many apps provide both static actions that are always the same and dynamic actions that reflect your past usage.
Starting with iOS 10, you can use 3D Touch in Control Center too. Press the Flashlight button to adjust the brightness of the light, the Timer button for some pre-canned times, the Calculator button to copy the last calculation result, or the Camera button to take a photo, slo-mo, video, or selfie.
On the Lock screen, some notifications work with 3D Touch. For example, press a Messages notification to expand it and reply directly from the notification. And in Notification Center, you can press a notification to expand it, or use 3D Touch on the X button for any day to reveal a Clear All Notifications option.
It’s too bad that there’s no way to know in advance if an app supports quick actions or peek and pop, but as the number of iPhone users who can use 3D Touch increases, developers will incorporate 3D Touch capabilities into their apps more and more. So give it a try!
Don’t get us wrong—email is great. But sometimes there’s too much of it at work, and if we’re honest, the majority of it doesn’t pertain to us individually. Over the past few years, lots of organizations—including small and large firms, non-profits, academic departments, student project teams, and government agencies—have moved their internal communications to the group messaging service Slack, which is free but includes paid plans with additional features. MacAtoZ has been using Slack for several years now as our main form of inter-office communication.
Slack, which has apps for macOS, iOS (iPhone and iPad), Windows, and Android, isn’t conceptually all that different from Apple’s Messages app. You type short messages and other people in the conversation can reply. You can share graphics or other files in the discussion, and search through past messages. Slack supports person-to-person voice calls, and if you switch from a free to a paid team, group calls, video conferencing, and screen sharing.
What sets Slack apart from simple messaging apps is that it lets you segment discussions into “channels,” which can either be public, such that everyone in the team can see them, or private, so only invitees can participate. Plus, you can have “direct message” conversations with individuals or small groups.
The beauty of Slack channels is that they’re easy to create and they bring together all communications relevant to a particular workgroup, project, or topic. You might have a private #marketing channel for everyone in that department, a private #annual-report channel for the people who need to put together that document, and a public #facilities channel to talk about burnt-out lightbulbs and stuck doors. That’s way better than organization-wide mailing lists, since you can pay attention to just those channels that matter to you, and ignore the others.
How do you keep up on discussions? Slack has flexible notifications, letting you choose at the top level to be notified about everything; just direct messages, mentions, and keywords; or nothing. You can also choose to be notified of replies to threads you’re in. Then you can override those defaults for any channel or conversation you’re in, which lets you make sure that important messages get through and water cooler chatter doesn’t interrupt you. Plus, if you leave your computer, Slack can repoint notifications to your mobile devices automatically, with separate settings to make sure you aren’t overly nagged while at your kid’s soccer game.
Slack provides tons of other features that can prove useful in organizations of any size. You can share and comment on files of any type, which is far more effective than sending attachments around in email. You can create “posts” and get others to edit them collaboratively—a boon when trying to craft the perfect bit of text for some purpose. And you can integrate hundreds of Internet services into Slack so it can act as a single dashboard for many other apps.
There’s no question that setting up Slack for your team is a major step, but the fact that it has become so popular—77% of Fortune 100 companies use it—shows that it can make your organization’s internal communications faster, more targeted, and more effective. It’s not hard to set up and maintain, but give us a call to talk about the best ways to begin.
Question: Do I ever need to log out of my Mac? How do I log out?
Answer: macOS is a operating system that accommodates multiple users. Depending on how your Mac is set up, you may be automatically logged into your account and may not realize that the possibility of having more than one account even exists. (You can add or change User accounts in System Preferences > Users & Groups.)
When you log out, you exit your own account and the Mac goes back to the Login Window which shows you all available accounts on the Mac. As part of the Log Out process, the Mac will automatically save any open documents it can and quit any open programs. If there is unsaved work that the Mac can’t automatically save, you will be prompted to save it before the log out process continues.
Our Sentinel+ program requires users to log out so that Login Window maintenance can run.
Here’s how you log out of a Mac:
Facebook has dominated the news headlines of late, but not for good reasons. There were the 50 million Facebook profiles gathered for Cambridge Analytica and used in the 2016 presidential election. Facebook has long been scraping call and text message data from Android phones. And within the Facebook iOS app, the company pushes the Onavo Protect VPN, an app made by a subsidiary that literally collects all your mobile data traffic for Facebook.
Because of this, many have encouraged Facebook users to delete their accounts. That even includes the billionaire co-founder of the WhatsApp messaging service, which Facebook bought in 2014. If you’re done with Facebook, you’re welcome to deactivate or even delete your account. Facebook provides instructions for both actions. Deactivating your account basically just makes you invisible on Facebook, whereas deleting your account may eventually (up to 3 months) result in most of the data being removed.
The problem is that Facebook is useful. It may be the only connection you have with certain friends or family members, and many informal groups use Facebook for meetup logistics. For many of us, losing access to Facebook would hurt our real-world relationships and activities. Plus, lots of companies have Facebook pages, and taking those down might result in a loss of business from customers who would find out about the firm only through Facebook. What to do?
If you’re a business, the most sensible tack is to keep your Facebook page but avoid relying on it. Remember, Facebook is not your friend. Earlier in 2018, Facebook announced that it would be prioritizing posts from friends and family over public content, which is a nice way of saying that Facebook is deprecating business-related posts. So make sure you have a Web site that you control, and make sure that customers can easily find it and contact you through it. It’s also a good idea to offer customers multiple ways to contact you, including via email.
On a personal level, there are two ways to think about privacy on Facebook: limiting the information you share with other people on Facebook, and limiting the information that you’re willing to provide to Facebook at all. If Facebook doesn’t have certain data about you, they can’t sell it to the highest bidder, let it be harvested by hackers, or use it in ways you might find creepy.
To control who on Facebook can see what you share, click the ? button on the Facebook Web site on your Mac, or tap the hamburger button in the bottom right corner of the Facebook iOS app and tap Privacy Shortcuts. Then click or tap Privacy Checkup and run through the steps to make sure you’re sharing the right info with the right people. Be sure to lock down or remove any apps that you don’t need, since they can leak all sorts of data.
Also, go to Facebook’s Privacy Settings & Tools page. Click the Edit button next to each item, and make it as specific as you can. You also might want to review the posts you’re tagged in and remove those that you don’t want on your timeline.
But what if you don’t want to give information to Facebook for it to use? Go to Facebook’s page for Uploading and Managing Your Contacts, and delete them all. You’re just giving away your contacts’ personal information without their permission otherwise.
To ensure that contact uploading doesn’t happen again, in the Facebook iOS app, tap the hamburger button, scroll to the bottom, and then tap Settings & Privacy > Account Settings > General > Upload Contacts and make sure the switch is off. (Some versions of the Facebook app just have Settings, not Settings & Privacy, and show a popover for Account Settings.)
Also, in the iPhone Facebook app, tap the hamburger button again and then Settings & Privacy > Account Settings > Location > Location, and make sure it’s set to Never. And whatever you do, keep Location History off—Facebook doesn’t need to know everywhere you’ve ever been.
If you’re perturbed by the way Facebook’s iOS app is trying to capture your contacts and locations, you could delete it from your iOS devices and rely instead on the Facebook Web site, which can’t access nearly as much information about you. To make it easier to open, in Safari, visit facebook.com, tap the Share button, and then tap the Add to Home Screen button in the bottom row of the share sheet.
Let us leave you with one thought. Always assume that anything you post to Facebook or allow Facebook to have access to could end up on the front page of your local newspaper… or the New York Times. Nothing on Facebook is ever completely private—Facebook has shown it isn’t trustworthy or reliable—and the best way to ensure confidential information doesn’t leak inadvertently is to avoid posting it to Facebook in the first place.
Question: The reminder to run Sentinel+ Maintenance just popped up on my screen but I’m in the middle of something and don’t want to log out right now. What should i do?
Answer: The pop up box is a gentle reminder that maintenance should be run sometime soon. If you are in the middle of something important and don’t want to log out, just click on the reminder box to close it. You don’t have to notify us, or feel bad at all. Just go on with what you are doing, and log out when it is convenient for you. It is always our goal for these programs to provide the most amount of help with the least amount of disruption to you.
Apple’s engineers have snuck some surprising little features into Reminder’s Mac version. We like using Siri on the iPhone, Apple Watch, and HomePod to add items to our iCloud-synced Reminders to-do lists and shopping lists whenever we think of them. And then, when we’re at our Macs, all those reminders are waiting for us. Here are some useful tricks on the Mac that you may not have noticed.
Open List in New Window
By default, Reminders is a single-window app with a sidebar that shows all your lists. You can hide the sidebar to focus on a single list at a time, at which point you navigate between lists by clicking the dots at the bottom of the screen or swiping on a trackpad.
But what if you want to see multiple lists at once? You can open any list in its own window by double-clicking it in the sidebar or by choosing Window > Open List in New Window. Resize and position that window as you like. Reminders even remembers which lists you had open if you quit and relaunch (and if it doesn’t, deselect the “Close windows when quitting an app” checkbox in System Preferences > General).
Check Today’s Tasks and Notice the Scheduled List
Perhaps the best part of making reminders is telling Siri to alert you at a particular time. “Hey Siri, remind me to test my backups on Friday the 13th at 9 AM.” Such reminders work well if you just want a notification at that time, but for those who like to see what’s coming up, Reminders has a few features for you.
To see what you’ve scheduled for today, choose View > Go to Today—we prefer the Command-T shortcut. To expand your view of tasks to those you didn’t finish yesterday (drat!) and those that are coming soon, click the automatically generated Scheduled list at the top of the sidebar. (It also exists at the top of the list of lists in the iOS version of Reminders.) The Scheduled list shows every reminder that has an associated time—it’s helpful for longer-term planning.
The Scheduled list may become overwhelming if you schedule lots of tasks, so Reminders on the Mac has one more trick for helping you view your tasks by date. Choose View > Show Calendar to display a tiny calendar at the bottom of the sidebar. Any date that has tasks on it gets a dot underneath; click one to see that day’s items.
Set and Sort By Priorities… Or Not
For those who have so many tasks that they need to prioritize them to stay on track, Reminders provides four levels of priority: None, Low, Medium, and High. To set and reset them quickly for a selected to-do, use the keyboard shortcuts:
- Command-1 for Low
- Command-2 for Medium
- Command-3 for High
- Command-4 for None
Once you’ve set priorities, choose View > Sort By > Priority to put your most urgent items at the top. Alas, if you have multiple Reminders lists open at once, the Sort By setting applies to all of them. So you might want to switch back and forth between Priority and other sorts, such Due Date, Creation Date, or Title. Or choose Manual and drag the items into the order you like.
If you want to move an item from one list to another, you can drag it. The trick is to click to the left of its circle or the right of its name; clicking on the name will start editing. You can also Command-click to select multiple items or Shift-Click to select a range of items.
Although clicking the i button that appears when you hover over an item lets you set its notifications and priority, it’s easier to double-click the item. Or, you can Control- or right-click to the left of any item to update it too. Even better, select multiple items first, and then Control- or right-click them to modify them all once! And if your goal is to delete unnecessary items rather than marking them as completed, just select them and press the Delete key.
Reminders may not be the most full-featured to-do list app, but with these tricks and its Siri integration, it can be surprisingly powerful.
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