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How to collaborate with Apple Pages via iCloud

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If you’d prefer to handle your document collaboration from macOS, Jack Wallen shows you how to do so with Pages and iCloud.

Image: Apple

Collaboration is the name of the game in today’s world of business and busy homes. I’d go so far as to say that, without collaboration, people would be hard-pressed to get everything done in a day. To that end, developers do everything they can to make collaboration possible. Given how Apple has always been about making things easy, it should come as no surprise that their Pages App makes it possible to easily collaborate via iCloud.

I’m going to show you to do just that.

SEE: Research: Video conferencing tools and cloud-based solutions dominate digital workspaces; VPN and VDI less popular with SMBs (TechRepublic Premium)

What you’ll need

To be able to collaborate with Apple Pages, you’ll need an Apple laptop or desktop that includes Apple Pages. I’ll be demonstrating on a MacBook Pro, running macOS version 11.3. You’ll also need an iCloud account. 

How to enable iCloud collaboration

The first thing you must do is enable the connection between Pages and iCloud—otherwise you can’t collaborate through the cloud service. To do this, click the Apple menu and then click System Preferences. In the resulting window, click Apple ID and then click iCloud in the left navigation. In the resulting screen, click the Options button associated with iCloud Drive (Figure A).

Figure A

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Navigating to iCloud Drive settings from with macOS System Preferences.

In the pop-up window, scroll down and make sure the check box associated with Pages is clicked (Figure B).

Figure B

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Enabling Pages for iCloud collaboration.

How to enable collaboration within Pages

Now that you have Pages enabled for collaboration through iCloud, how do you work with a Pages document? It’s quite simple. Open a Pages document and click the Collaborate button (Figure C).

Figure C

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The Collaborate button is at the ready in Apple Pages.

From the popup, select how you want to notify those you’ll be collaborating with (either Mail, Messages, Link or AirDrop) (Figure D).

Figure D

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Sharing the file with those you want to collaborate with.

You can also configure who has access to the file and what level of permission they’ll have (either View-Only or Make Changes).

Once you’ve configured the sharing, click Share and the file will be uploaded to iCloud for sharing.

How to access the collaboration file

Those you’ve shared the file with will receive a link to the file. You can access the file from any browser by going to icloud.com and clicking Pages (from the list of available apps). In the resulting window, click Browse from the left navigation and then double-click the file you shared for collaboration (Figure E).

Figure E

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Opening a file me and my editor collaborated on from within iCloud.

Note: If you have tracking changes enabled in the document in the desktop version of Pages, no one will be able to edit the document through iCloud. The caveat is that to turn off changes in Pages, you must have already accepted or rejected all changes. Because of this, it’s best to collaborate via iCloud on a document that has yet to have any changes that are tracked.

Other than that one caveat, using Apple Pages and iCloud is an outstanding way of collaborating on documents, if your preferred tool of the trade is Pages. Considering all of the work I do on the fiction side of my career, after the first draft (which is done in Google Docs) is handled in Pages, it makes sense that I would make use of this handy collaboration feature. Give it a try and see if you don’t adopt Pages/iCloud as your go-to collaboration system.

Subscribe to TechRepublic’s How To Make Tech Work on YouTube for all the latest tech advice for business pros from Jack Wallen.

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Apple’s WWDC 2021: The top 3 announcements business users want to hear

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A tech expert shares his Apple WWDC 2021 predictions and wish list items, which includes iOS 15 and one potential surprise.

Apple’s WWDC 2021 virtual event will be held June 7-11.

Image: Apple, Inc.

Business users have robust expectations about Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which routinely features important new software and hardware innovations. WWDC 2021 will be held June 7-11 as an online event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I don’t think dramatic announcements are at the top of professionals’ WWDC21 wish lists; instead, some reliable and even predictable upgrades would help businesses in the U.S. as they begin returning to normal operations. Here are biggest announcements I think business users hope to hear during WWDC21.

SEE: How to migrate to a new iPad, iPhone, or Mac (TechRepublic Premium)

MacOS 12 and more new OS versions

New editions of virtually every Apple OS are expected at WWDC21: leading the list is macOS 12, Big Sur’s replacement, along with the “15” versions of iOS, iPadOS and tvOS.

Business users will focus on what these operating systems offer in terms of new features, capabilities, performance, efficiencies, battery life and more. While no one expects a new standalone translation app or digital assistant, refinements to existing technologies–such as translation capabilities and Siri–are important. The same is true for Maps, Notifications, iCloud integration and the iWork productivity suite.

SEE: iOS 15: The top 3 features Apple should include (TechRepublic)

Security improvements, including encryption capabilities and protection from malicious attacks, are also expected by business professionals. As ransomware attacks become more public and more widespread, the need for the OS to better protect its activities, applications and data from infection is increasingly important. 

New and/or improved pro-level Macs

The existing Mac Pro, which starts at $5,999, is a beast. The iMac Pro, a more affordable if still expensive but capable desktop with integrated display, was discontinued in March 2021. Even though Apple just introduced new hardware at its recent Spring Loaded event, there is a chance that during its June developers event Apple might reveal replacements for its high-end professional desktops. 

Power users (e.g., those who produce audio and video productions) will be listening for new pro platforms that boast multiple processors and numerous cores, robust graphics cards, efficient temperature control and a host of ports. As Apple’s laptops and desktops have become much stingier lacking many expansion ports, the pro versions provide more flexibility, which is a necessity for such users.

SEE: Apple Silicon M1 Mac buying guide: 2021 iMac vs. 2020 MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro vs. Mac mini (TechRepublic)

Possible among any hardware updates is a new Mac or iMac Pro with potentially new chassis designs. But even subtle hardware upgrades to the existing Mac Pro model would be welcome to business professionals awaiting the next generation of pro machines. And who knows, Apple may even take a crack at leveraging its own Silicon chips in new pro platforms–a development that could set new performance benchmarks.

An M2 chipset

Apple announced in November 2020 new Silicon chipsets of its own. The innovation marked the end of an important Intel collaboration that helped fuel more than a decade of impressive new systems.

The M1 first-generation chips integrate the CPU processor, I/O functions, security controls and Thunderbolt operation onto a single, fast-performing and power-conserving chip. Reviews repeatedly confirm the new Apple Silicon is a significant upgrade.

SEE: 4 reasons Apple’s new M1-powered iPad Pro is a desktop and laptop replacement (TechRepublic)

In a world where “what have you done for me lately” continues arresting attention and confirming value, though, the question becomes: When will Apple reveal its second-generation of chips? While less than a year after launch may be too soon to expect an M2 chip, such a surprise would likely give many businesses confidence that the new Apple chips are mature, proven and ready for work.

That said, with positive reviews and benchmark tests so widespread, I have no reservations recommending businesses purchase new Mac laptops or iMac desktops with the first-generation M1 chip. Regardless, I’ve heard many users claim they are awaiting second-generation chips before committing to systems using Apple’s own Silicon due to potential performance, reliability and compatibility fears. Although I believe those fears are unfounded, I think an M2 announcement at WWDC would be well received by business professionals and encourage sales and adoption.

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How to set up and use Microsoft OneDrive on a Mac

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Learn how you can fully use OneDrive on a Mac, just as you can in Windows.

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft OneDrive is available for a variety of platforms, including Windows, iOS, iPadOS, Android and macOS. Mac users can set up OneDrive Personal or OneDrive for Business to back up and sync files from their computer. The process for customizing OneDrive on a Mac is similar to that in Windows, though there are some differences. Once you set up and configure OneDrive, the tool runs automatically to manage files across your Mac and other devices outfitted with OneDrive.

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OneDrive is built into Windows 10, so the tool is available by default. On a Mac, however, you have to install and set up OneDrive and then go through the customization steps.

First, you need a Microsoft account to use OneDrive. If your organization uses OneDrive for Business, you should already have the necessary account. If you intend to use OneDrive Personal, head over to Microsoft’s OneDrive page to set up your account. Click the button to Sign Up For Free. Follow the steps to create your account by adding an email address, password and the other requirements.

SEE: How Apple users can make the most of Microsoft 365 at work (TechRepublic Premium)

After your Microsoft Account is ready, you can download OneDrive on a Mac a couple of different ways. Browse to the OneDrive download site. Sign in with your account if prompted. At the OneDrive For Mac section, click the Download button. Open the Downloads folder and run the OneDrive.pkg file. Alternatively, go to the Mac App Store, search for OneDrive and download the program. After it’s been downloaded, click the Open button. Follow the screens in the OneDrive installer (Figure A).

Figure A

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After installation, go to Finder and open the Applications folder. Double-click the icon for OneDrive. At the first screen in the Set Up OneDrive program, enter your account’s email address and click the Sign In button (Figure B).

Figure B

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Go through the first couple of screens. The screen for Your OneDrive Folder displays the location that will be used to store your synced folders and files. You can change it to a different location; otherwise click Next (Figure C).

Figure C

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The next few screens provide basic information on how to set up and use OneDrive. Click Next at each screen. At the screen to Get The Mobile App, click the Later button as you can always download the iOS or Android app another time. At the final setup screen, click the button to Open OneDrive Folder. If you’ve already been using OneDrive on a Windows computer or other device, your synced folders and files will start appearing in the OneDrive folder on your Mac. If not, then the folder will contain a few default files (Figure D).

Figure D

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Next, you’ll want to customize OneDrive. Right-click the OneDrive menu bar icon at the top and select Preferences from the popup menu (Figure E).

Figure E

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At the General section in Preferences, make sure that Open In Login is checked so that OneDrive automatically starts each time you sign into your Mac. You can opt to hide or not hide the Dock icon and decide if you need to see notifications about sharing or editing. You should check the option to be warned if many files you deleted are removed from the cloud—just as a precaution against accidental file deletions. If you take many screenshots on your Mac and want the images to automatically upload to OneDrive, check the option to Save screenshots to OneDrive.

You’ll also want to choose whether or not to use Files-On-Demand. With this option turned on, any folders and files synced through OneDrive are stored online, but not stored on your Mac. Any such file from OneDrive is downloaded to your computer only when you need to access it. The advantage here is that you save on disk space. The disadvantage is that you need to be online to access your files. If your Mac is low on storage, you may want to keep Files-On-Demand turned on. If not, turn it off. To do that, click the button to Turn Off Files-On-Demand and then click OK (Figure F). All your OneDrive files are then downloaded to your Mac.

Figure F

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In the Preferences window, Click the Account icon. Here, you can see the name of your OneDrive account and how much space your OneDrive files are taking up in the cloud. Click the Choose Folders button. This section shows you which folders are being synced between your Mac and your cloud storage. Any folder or file you deselect here will be removed from your Mac and stored only online. You may want to deselect any folders you don’t need on your Mac but want to keep in OneDrive. Click OK when done (Figure G).

Figure G

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Finally, click the icon for Office. If you use Microsoft Office in collaboration with other people, the option to use Office applications to sync Office files can avoid sharing conflicts. If you don’t use Office or don’t use it for collaboration, you can turn off this option (Figure H).

Figure H

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When done, close the OneDrive Preferences window. Based on your customizations, OneDrive will now work in the background to back up and synchronize your selected folders and files.

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Apple M1 MacBook Pro is the speed king of my work day, and Intel should be worried

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Six months into using his M1-powered MacBook Pro and Jack Wallen is just as impressed as he was on day one. Find out why he believes Apple Silicon should have Intel execs nervous about the future.

Image: Apple

I have to admit, I was skeptical, but I bought into Apple Silicon. Although the OS still ran like a champ, my old MacBook Pro’s keyboard was suffering under the weight of a dust particle or two and I was starting to grow weary of leaning on Intel-based Apple hardware, knowing what the M1 chips did portend.

Ergo, I made the purchase. 

As you can read in my piece: Review: MacBook Pro 2020 with M1 is astonishing–with one possible deal-breaker, I was not disappointed. In fact, my initial reaction to the M1 hardware was nothing short of shocked at how impressive a piece of gen 1 hardware could be. Of course, it is Apple, who happens to know its way around the scene.

SEE: Electronic communication policy  (TechRepublic Premium)

Even so, there was still a bit of doubt in my mind. Would these new chips (and the operating system that powered them) stand the test of time? Or would I find the MacBook Pro’s performance degenerating over time? Would the hardware fail? Finally, would I find software I needed which had no support for Apple Silicon?

It’s been six months now. I’ve been using the MacBook Pro daily for certain tasks, and I’m here to report that my opinion of the M1-powered Apple laptop is just as good on day 180 as it was on day one.

  • Speed is still amazing

  • Stability continues to impress

  • The laptop never gets even slightly warm

  • Battery life is tops

  • Keyboard? Perfection

  • Software? Everything I need works

In other words, Apple has succeeded in upending the hardware game. They’ve shown every company on the planet how to succeed at hardware, without compromise—every hardware manufacturer in the business should take note.

Spoiler alert: some of them have. For instance, take the rumors that Google will be creating its own Whitechapel chips for the Pixel 6. That’s huge, and probably wouldn’t have come to fruition had Apple not made everyone realize that it can be done and done with a very high measure of success.

That success should have Intel execs suffering from night terrors and hair loss—this is only the beginning of the chip wars. Given Intel has already suffered a few serious blows over the years (think Spectre), their woes are only just beginning. 

Apple struck the first blow. Google is next, although that’s a blow to Qualcomm and not Intel. Which company will soon place their iron into the fire? Will it be a brilliant and always forward-thinking System76? Its already making its own desktop hardware—the Thelio, which is my daily driver. Is it such a far stretch of the imagination that Carl Richell is in his Denver office figuring out how his company could begin creating a Thelio CPU? It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he pulled that feat off, and open source the chip along the way. 

Consider that possibility: an open source company creates a game-changing CPU chip and releases the specs. That could mean game over for the likes of Intel. Given System76’s record with the Thelio desktop, if they were to pull something like that off, it most certainly would be game-changing.

Of course, that’s all fantasy at the moment. I have no reason to believe Richell is plotting such a scheme (Carl, if you’re listening, you should do it).

Back to reality.

After six months with the M1-Powered MacBook Pro, I couldn’t be happier. The 13″ laptop is a perfect mixture of power, elegance, simplicity and reliability. Even better, after having used the machine daily, it’s not hinted at the slightest degradation in speed or reliability. The laptop is as impressive today as it was on that first day. 

To be fair and transparent, I use my M1 MacBook Pro for the following:

So my usage is limited to the following apps:

Now that I’ve listed out the apps I use on the laptop, I realize my use case is actually above average. The video rendering alone puts my usage in another class. As the MacBook performed at the beginning of its life, it still renders videos exponentially faster than the previous, Intel-based laptop, and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon. 

Apple has a track record of opening the floodgates for ideas. The company isn’t just a leader in innovation, they help inspire other companies to greatness. That fact alone should have Intel execs continuing to lose sleep. Think about it: when was the last time Intel rolled out a chip that caught the world by storm? AMD certainly has had their moment with the Ryzen Threadripper. Now Apple has its game-changing chip. 

Intel? Crickets.

Apple is leading chip innovation with the M1, while Intel stagnates. If other companies, such as System76, jump on board this chip tsunami, Intel will find themselves in serious trouble.

This is the tech industry—you cannot rest on reputation. If you’re not seriously innovating, you’re behind the curve. Apple has, for decades, proven itself to be one of the biggest innovators in technology. Every company on the planet should be following in those same footsteps.

So take heed, Intel. If Apple continues at this pace, it will usurp you as the global leader of CPU chips.

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Why is Android more popular globally, while iOS rules the US?

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If you’ve ever wondered why Android has such a tight grip on the global mobile market share, let Jack Wallen answer the question for you.

Image: Burcak Yalaman/Getty Images

Every time I make the statement that Android is the most popular mobile operating system on the planet, a certain cross-section of people look at me as though I’ve lost my mind. They’ll also make statements like, “I don’t even know any Android users.” Those people who question my sanity, without fail, hail from the United States.

You see, there’s a unique trend that’s been remarkably consistent over the years:

According to Statcounter, the global market share looks like this:

  • Android: 72.2%

  • iOS: 26.99%

However, within the U.S., that market share looks like this:

  • iOS: 59.17%

  • Android: 40.54%

How is it that Android can lead iOS globally by nearly 50% while trailing iOS in the U.S. by nearly 20%? Unless you’d been following the trend for years, you’d think that’s an anomaly. It’s not.

There’s a very obvious reason for this strange phenomenon, as well as some less-than-obvious reasons. 

Let’s examine why.

SEE: Electronic communication policy  (TechRepublic Premium)

It’s all about cost

The primary reason why Android rules the global market is cost. In many countries (with significantly higher populations than the U.S.), people have far less disposable income. Because of that, the first factor in deciding on a phone is cost. In that arena, Apple simply cannot compete with Google. 

A quick search on Amazon and you’ll find Android phones starting at $39 (the BLU Advance L5). That’s right, less than $40. The cheapest iPhone on Amazon is a pre-owned 7, starting at $149. It’s important to note that the $39 phone runs Android 8, while the $149 iPhone runs iOS 10. It’s also important to note that the reviews of the iPhone 7 on Amazon are pretty disappointing—especially when it comes to battery life. Of course, the $39 Android phone also has its share of scathing reviews. The point is, you can have a low-end (nearly obsolete) version of one for cheap, while the other (nearly obsolete) device will cost you over $100.

For some, $100 is like change in the sofa. For others, it’s a month’s wages, or more. To that end, Android is the obvious choice. Given the rampant poverty in so many countries around the globe, the existence of very cheap phones makes Android the obvious choice over iOS.

It does go beyond cost. In fact, according to Mobileapps:

That’s not the whole story, however. In fact:

  • iOS holds a 62.69% market share in Japan

  • Native english speakers prefer iOS over Android

  • Android has an increasingly larger market share in Asian countries

  • Apple’s App Store generated 87.3% more consumer spending than Google Play Store

  • Android is the most popular mobile OS in the world’s most populous continent (with over 83.53%)

The biggest factor in the Android hold over global market share could likely be boiled down to Asia, a continent with a massive population, where more than 320 million people live in extreme poverty. That’s nearly the population of the United States (as of 2019 the population of the U.S. was 328.2 million).

It’s also about brand

Apple is huge. There’s no way around it. As a brand, Apple has control over everything with its products. Unlike Android devices, where Google creates the operating system and OEMs produce the hardware, Apple maintains everything. Because of that, Apple can keep a stranglehold over quality control, such that their products (for the most part) enjoy a “top to bottom” reliability.

You rarely hear of people complain about Apple hardware. The intersection of Apple hardware and software cannot be bested. Even Google Pixel devices don’t enjoy that same level of consistency. Google builds the software and a third party creates the hardware. That could change with the Pixel 6 when Google begins using its own CPU chips. However, that doesn’t mean Google will build (or control) every aspect of the hardware. 

As a brand, people in the U.S. trust Apple more than Google. That trust goes well beyond phones and into data, and what is done with said data. Beyond trust, Apple’s brand is just shinier and more polished than Google’s. Consider the commercials for both iPhones and Android devices. Apple never fails to release commercials with the exact hip sheen that consumers in this country want to see.

Google, on the other hand, tends to lean more heavily on the cuter side of advertisement. Their logo is even an adorable robot. So when American consumers see the two different commercials, one simply looks more professional. Apple never fails to present itself as a complete brand and that’s important to consumers in wealthier countries.

It’s also about spreading out the costs

If there’s one thing you cannot deny, it’s the power of spreading out the cost. If it weren’t for carriers distributing payments for iPhones over time, we’d probably see the U.S. and global market shares more in line with one another. 

Because carriers spread the price of devices out over two years, it turns a $700 iPhone into a do-able purchase for most. This is made even more attractive when you’re looking at a flagship device. Just about any American can own a top-of-the-line iPhone when the price is broken into monthly installments—that equates to cost no longer being a factor. 

It’s also about pop culture

The United States is a country constantly under the thrall of pop culture. When you see a celebrity holding an iPhone, if you’re impressionable, you might feel compelled to follow in those footsteps and buy an iPhone. I’d go so far as to say that I rarely see an Android phone being used in TV or film. When you hear a message chime or incoming call on the screen, it’s almost always the sound of Apple cashing in. And, trust me, I look for these things. I do see Android devices being used on occasion, but, for the most part, TV and film default to Apple. 

That holds powerful sway over consumers. The court of public opinion keeps a watchful eye on their favorite shows and their favorite characters in their favorite shows. Until more Android phones are seen in TV and film, it’s going to be an Apple world in the U.S.

The conclusions are easy to draw

Around the globe, appearance and trends aren’t nearly as important as practicality. When you’re impoverished and you need a phone, it doesn’t matter the brand or the features. So long as it can place calls and (on occasion) get online, you’re good. If Apple were to release an iPhone that could compete with Android on the low-end market, they’d give Google a serious run for their money. 

I don’t look for that to happen any time soon, so Android will continue to dominate the global phone market for years to come. At the same time, unless Google pulls some serious magic out of its hat with the Pixel 6, I don’t expect Android will tip the U.S. market into its favor any time soon.

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3 reasons your conference room needs a new Apple TV 4K

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Although manufacturers regularly refine products, the tweaks don’t always justify upgrading. Three new Apple TV 4K innovations, however, warrant replacing older versions in office conference rooms.

New Apple TV 4K models feature the robust A12 Bionic processor for better performance and a newly designed remote control for greater ease of use.

Apple Corp.

As part of its April 2021 Spring Loaded virtual event Apple announced a new generation of Apple TV 4K devices. Featuring the A12 Bionic processor and multiple improvements, three innovations justify replacing aging conference room Apple TVs with the new model.

1. A truly user-friendly remote control

While Apple TVs are among the easiest-to-use audio/video accessories, and the flexibility and content options the devices add within office environments are impressive—you can use an Apple TV to extend Mac desktops, display presentations, access subscription channels, view photos and videos and more. Let’s be frank: The remote control was an exercise in frustration. Just picking up the old remote often resulted in unintended functions being executed due to the top quarter of the remote serving as a touchpad. The new remote eliminates such trouble.

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The new remote on the Apple TV 4K

Image: Apple

In place of the touch pad, Apple’s designers have integrated intuitive navigational controls with the clickpad. The new design, which uses raised buttons for common functions and the new clickpad control, decreases the likelihood of inadvertently entering a variety of commands when simply picking up the remote and attempting to orient the control within one’s grip.

Content navigation is improved, too. The new clickpad control leverages a raised outer ring that enables “jog” controls, or the ability to rotate the ring to advance through or rewind video.

With a separate mute button, the new remote adds other helpful capabilities you may find useful every time a meeting occurs. The Siri button’s been moved to the side of the remote, while a power button’s been added to the more traditional top-right location, thereby enabling powering down a conference room TV display using a single remote.

Officially labeled a Siri Remote due to the remote’s increased adoption of Siri command support—Austria, Ireland and New Zealand join 13 regions supporting the functionality—the remote’s one-piece aluminum design make it easier to use and more comfortable. Seeing as wrestling with controls, volume and content selections should be the least of concerns when returning to conference room meetings following the pandemic, the new Apple TV 4K remote eliminates those lesser worries.

2. Color balance technology

Having worked in and supported multiple industries the past three decades, I understand that for some organizations, not all conference room presentations are the same. For example, the needs for a plumbing firm that uses its conference room to coordinate projects solely among its own internal staff will have drastically different requirements than a marketing firm pitching a multimillion-dollar broadcast media ad campaign to a prospective new client. 

Regardless, the new color-balancing technology baked into the Apple TV 4K helps everyone. Even small firms with equally small budgets will appreciate color-accurate representation when performing such common tasks as reviewing proposed letterhead and business cards, approving advertising slicks or simply completing regularly required video training.

Assuming there’s an iPhone with Face ID handy using iOS 14.5 or later, the new Apple TV 4K’s color balancing process uses the iPhone’s light sensors to compare color representation within the room and adjust playback to match commonly accepted industry standards. By receiving the iPhone’s sensor data, the Apple TV 4K can automatically adjust color output and contrast to provide more accurate, higher-quality playback, which is just one more way Apple devices commonly work together to make life a little easier. Those small wins add up, of course.

3. Studio-quality playback

I understand audio and video presentations serve different purposes, as just mentioned, for different firms. For those working in industries where just a large display and basic audio capabilities are nowhere near sufficient—we’re talking about advertising, marketing, audio and film production, graphic design and similar functions in which surround-sound, subwoofers and high-end displays are the norm—high-quality playback is more than a luxury, it’s a requirement, one that transcends simple color balancing.

Thanks to the new Apple TV 4K’s A12 Bionic processor, graphics performance, video playback and audio processing all benefit. The new-generation set-top box supports 4K HDR video playback up to 60 frames per second. High frame-rate support for AirPlay, too, means firms can also stream video content at the same quality from Apple iPhone 12s to the Apple TV 4K, thereby extending the box’s functionality within conference rooms.

Add in the fact the new Apple TV 4Ks also now support Dolby Vision video playback, as well as Dolby Atmos audio performance, and the upgrade costs become easier to justify. The 32GB models cost $179. The 64GB version is $199.

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How to access information offline anywhere on the globe with these apps

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If you have sufficient storage space, you can carry Wikipedia, maps, translation and weather apps with you wherever you go—even if there’s no internet connection.

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

The rise of remote work means more people will travel to places that may not always provide reliable internet access. Modern office apps, such as Google Workspace, can store email and documents offline, then sync new and changed content when you reconnect.

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However, you might be surprised just how much information can be stored and accessed offline on a smartphone. Wikipedia, maps, translation and weather information can all be downloaded to your device for your reference, regardless of your ability to connect to the internet. Additionally, the apps identified below will work anywhere in the world. That can be immensely useful not only for traveling professionals, but also for students.

SEE: 5 collaboration apps you can use without an internet connection (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

How to use Wikipedia offline

Thanks to Kiwix.org, you can download Wikipedia and use it offline for free: no need to rely on an internet search engine when you want to know more about many people, places or things. In addition to Wikipedia, you can download Wikinews, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikispecies, Wikibooks and WikiMed Medical Encyclopedia, as well as many other reference works.

Install the Kiwix app, download one or more archive files (in ZIM format), then search and browse these files offline. Kiwix periodically updates their directory of data files, so you may want to update your data files every now and then when you have access to a fast internet connection

However, your device will need a decent amount of storage. On my iPhone, the English version of Wikipedia with images requires roughly 90 GB of storage (Figure A, left). In other languages, Wikipedia often contains less content, so the file size may be smaller. To save space, you also may download an edition that omits images (typically about 50% of the complete edition size) or one that omits details and provides truncated entries (typically about 15% of the complete edition size). On my phone, I have all of the Wiki files named in the first paragraph of this section installed and they take up about 110 GB of storage.

Figure A

Three screenshots: (left) 7 files listed, with sizes, ranging from 260 MB for Wikinews to 88 GB for Wikipedia; (middle) Home screen with search box

The Kiwix app lets you download Wikipedia and related resources for offline reference.

How to use maps offline

OsmAnd Maps & Navigation lets you explore OpenStreetMap information for regions around the world. This includes overview maps for continents as well as more detailed street maps, contour maps, hillshade and slope maps, site-specific Wikipedia data, as well as OpenSeaMap nautical maps. You’ll want to download overview maps for much of the world and likely more detailed maps for specific areas (Figure B). 

Figure B

Three screenshots: (left) Maps Arizona, California, and Los Angeles, in sizes ranging from roughly 70 MB to as much as 1.5 GB; (middle) Available plugins: Ski map, nautical map, track recording, parking position, Wikipedia, Contour lines, trip planning, and OpenStreetMap editing; (right) Sample map shows an area southwest of Sante Fe.

The OsmAnd Maps & Navigation app provides offline maps.

Pricing varies on Android and iOS, but a subscription that allows unlimited downloads is typically less than $10 per year. Storage requirements will vary with the maps you install. For example, on my phone, 29 maps—the world overview map, nautical maps and detailed data for four U.S. states—take up just under 10 GB of storage.

People who travel outside of cities and towns might also find a few other apps helpful. PeakVisor (Pro subscription about $30 per year) helps you identify prominent hills and mountains. The built-in compass app on an iPhone or a simple compass such as Just a Compass (free) on Android both work offline, since they rely on GPS signals, which operate independent of an internet connection. If you’re interested in more advanced sighting and navigation options, the Spyglass app (about $6) offers a compass, elevation, angles as well as speed data. Make sure to test these apps in a setting where you know the directions with some certainty before relying on them in an unfamiliar area.

How to use translation offline

The free Apple Translate app offers offline translation between 11 distinct languages—or 12, if you count U.K. English as a different language than U.S. English. Select languages to use offline, then you may type or talk and have the words translated. Typically, you’ll need 100-200 MB of storage space for each language you want to use offline.

Both Google Translate (iOS and Android) and Microsoft Translate support translation between many more languages all at no charge, and allow you to download languages to enable offline translation (Figure C). 

Figure C

Three screenshots: (left) Apple Translate, showing all available languages downloaded for offline use, except U.K. English, (middle) Microsoft Translator, showing English and Spanish downloaded, and several other languages lists, with file sizes from 95 to 212 MB, (right) Google Translate list of languages that may be downloaded (no file sizes shown).

Apple (left), Microsoft (middle) and Google (right) all offer translation apps that allow you to download languages for offline use.

Unlike Apple Translate, both of these apps also include offline camera-based translation that lets you open the app and point your camera at text, which the app then translates in real-time with overlay text in the target language. This is extremely useful for signage and menus. However for real-time voice translation input, both of these apps require an internet connection.

How to use weather offline

A surprising number of weather apps don’t work offline. Typically, that’s because weather apps pull in recent observations from ground observations, radar and satellites, among other sources in order to deliver up-to-the-minute forecasts. Sailors and weather professionals examine and compare weather model projections with apps such as LuckGrib (approx. $25 one-time purchase fee on iOS) or Flowx (Android, with annual subscriptions about $5 to $20 per year) (Figure D, right). LuckGrib is intended for offshore and offline use, while Flowx caches content for any models you’ve loaded and displays it until you’re again connected. Both apps show forecasts from several different weather models.

Casual weather watchers might explore Meteoblue (iOS and Android), which caches several days of forecast details ($0.99 per year subscription required) (Figure D, left). The app also displays a visual confidence indicator next to forecast data to give you some sense of how reliable the forecast for a day might be. The higher the forecast bar, the greater the degree to which the various models used by Meteoblue agree.

Of course, another offline alternative is to use an app to access your smartphone’s barometer data. Barometer Plus (iOS and Android; free with about $3-4 upgrade for premium features and ad removal) or Starpath Corporation’s Marine Barometer and Barograph apps (Barometer apps are free; Barograph is about $15 on iOS), all obtain barometer readings thanks to hardware in your smartphone. Rising barometer levels may indicate nice weather, while falling barometer levels can signal the potential onset of a storm.

Figure D

Three screenshots: (left) Meteoblue, shows conditions for 8 days, (middle) Flowx, shows 6 different forecast model projections, (right) LuckGrib, shows GFS model parameters, such as wind, precipitation, temperature and cloud cover percentage selected.

Meteoblue (left) shows the time of the last update, forecast agreement bar indicators, and, with a paid upgrade, caches data offline. Flowx (subscription required) lets you compare several forecast models and caches recently accessed data. LuckGrib (right, one-time payment required) is intended for offline use, such as while sailing, and gives you very granular access to GRIB data files.

What offline apps do you rely on?

When I upgraded my phone recently, I opted for 512 GB of storage because I wanted space for Kiwix, OsmAnd+ and translation apps and files. I’ve found local/offline access to lots of information a nice reminder that not every question needs to turn into a web search.

Do you use apps to access Wikipedia or OpenStreetMap? What apps do you rely on for information when you lack an internet connection? What circumstances prompted you to seek out apps that work well offline? Let me know what apps you rely on that work without internet access, either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).  

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6 tips for improving typing speed and quality on iPhone

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Increase your typing accuracy by learning some shortcuts built into iOS that give quick access to the number keys, undoing and redoing entries and more.

Image: CNET

Apple wowed the world when they announced the first iPhone would rely solely on the on-screen keyboard for typing. Fortunately Apple had a bit of magic working behind the scenes to ensure that the correct letters were typed by increasing the tap size based on the completion of a word the user was typing.

Apple’s on-screen keyboard has become the quickest way to input text on a mobile device, and they’ve improved the experience significantly over the years through some software advancements in iOS.

In this tutorial, we’ll walk through six different ways you can improve your typing speed and accuracy on iOS devices using some shortcuts that you can implement in your own daily workflows. By doing this, you can easily increase your typing speed and quality on iPhone.

SEE: How to migrate to a new iPad, iPhone, or Mac (TechRepublic Premium)

1. QuickPath

QuickPath (otherwise known as swipe typing) is a tool that was released with iOS 13. It lets you quickly type (one handed in most cases) by just swiping your finger between the letters of the word that you want to type; iOS will then figure out what word you’re trying to spell and will type it for you once you release your finger from the screen.

This is one of the quickest ways to get text into a document on your iPhone. This feature also works on iPad, but when typing on the iPad, we prefer to use the nearly full sized, on-screen keyboard or a physical keyboard connected to the iPad.

Whenever you lift your finger after typing a word, QuickPath automatically inserts a space between words, so there’s no need to tap the spacebar. Give QuickPath a try and see if you can improve your typing speed by swiping around the keyboard.

If this QuickPath feature isn’t enabled, then you can enable it by performing these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Select General | Keyboard.
  3. Ensure the toggle for Slide To Type is enabled.

2. Quick number access

One of the downsides of the iPhone keyboard has been that there is no dedicated number row keys on the QWERTY keyboard. As a result, you must tap into the number keyboard by selecting the number button, then tapping the number you want.

However, there is a quicker and easier way to enter the number keyboard and select the number you want and quickly get back to the QWERTY keyboard.

To do this, in one swipe tap the number key on the QWERTY keyboard and without lifting your finger, drag it to the number key you wish to type. When you release your finger from the screen, the number keyboard will disappear and will automatically return to the QWERTY keyboard to start typing again.

This is great for when you just need to enter one or two number digits from the number keyboard and then quickly return back to typing text.

3. Slide to undo or redo

When you accidentally type something, you can easily undo it by tacking three fingers to the screen and swipe to the left on the screen. This performs the Undo action in the text editor on iOS.

If you didn’t mean to delete something, then take three fingers and swipe right on the screen. This will perform the Redo action and bring the deleted text back.

This quick-and-easy undo-and-redo swipe action will save time over Shake to Undo, or tapping three fingers on the screen to bring up the edit bar.

4. Move the cursor

This feature has been one of our favorites since Apple released it alongside Force Touch in 2014. Now all iOS devices can take advantage of the text cursor when typing (Figure A).

Figure A

typingimprovements-figurea.jpg

When using cursor mode on the keyboard, the keyboard will turn into a trackpad that lets you move around the insertion cursor with ease.

When you’re in a long document and need to move the cursor, there’s no need to try to tap around on the text to place the insertion cursor: Instead simply tap and hold on the spacebar on the keyboard. When you do, the keys on the onscreen keyboard will disappear (Figure A) and you can use the keyboard area as a trackpad. Move your finger around and it will move the insertion cursor around in the text area, allowing you to place it exactly where you wish to begin inserting new text.

5. Use predictions and text replacement

One of the ways to improve reliability of text is to use the prediction toolbar above the keyboard to easily correct misspellings while typing. You can show the prediction bar by tapping and holding on the Emoji key on the keyboard, then tapping Keyboard Settings from the menu that appears. Ensure that the Prediction toggle is enabled (Figure B). With this enabled, predictions will appear on the gray bar above the keyboard while you are typing. Tap any of the words to complete and insert the word into the text area.

Figure B

typingimprovements-figureb.jpg

When the “Prediction” toggle is enabled, then the prediction bar will offer suggestions as you type.

In addition to the prediction keyboard, you can use text replacement shortcuts to transform shorthand into longer-form text. Learn more on our previous iOS Keyboard tips and tricks article.

6. Reset the keyboard when things aren’t quite right

The iOS keyboard learns from you as you type, but if you’re experiencing some oddities with the iOS keyboard, such as buttons pressing accidentally when typing, or predictions spelled incorrectly showing up, then you can reset the software keyboard back to default.

To reset the iOS keyboard, perform these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Select General | Reset.
  3. Select Reset Keyboard Dictionary and then type in your iOS passcode to continue with the reset (Figure C).

Figure C

typingimprovements-figurec.jpg

Resetting the keyboard dictionary can often solve issues where incorrect spellings of words have made their way into your typing, or you find yourself hitting incorrect keys.

After resetting the keyboard dictionary, your iOS keyboard will begin retraining itself on the way that you type. You may need to add custom words back to the dictionary: When typing and a prediction appears that is incorrect, tap the left-most word in the prediction bar to accept your spelling, then it will suggest that spelling in the future.

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How to browse and administer iOS files using Path Finder 10

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Cocoatech has updated its macOS Path Finder file management app to include several new features. One new capability in version 10 is browsing and administering files on an iOS device using a Mac.

Image: flydragon/Shutterstock

Although Finder isn’t the only file management application available to macOS users, its comprehensive capabilities and elegant integration make it tough justifying purchasing an alternative. But Cocoatech’s Path Finder 10 makes it easier, especially for novice users, to access hidden files while also servicing other needs. The program supports viewing low-level file hex information and more using a variety of modules—as shown in Figure A—that can be loaded directly within the app.

SEE: Research: Video conferencing tools and cloud-based solutions dominate digital workspaces; VPN and VDI less popular with SMBs (TechRepublic Premium)

Figure A

pathfinder10-fig-a.jpg

Cocoatech’s Path Finder supports loading a variety of helpful modules that drastically expand the file management application’s capabilities.

The $36 program also permits viewing two file management windows simultaneously, thereby simplifying file copying and transfers. To enable the dual-pane browser within Path Finder, as shown in Figure B, open the program, select View from the Path Finder menu bar and select Dual Browser, for which a few options exist. You can choose to position the dual browser horizontally or vertically, and you can even swap the windows using the provided Swap Panes option.

Figure B

pathfinder10-fig-b.jpg

Path Finder’s dual-pane browser makes it easier to drag-and-drop files between windows.

Another Path Finder 10 feature macOS users will find helpful is the program’s ability to assist browsing and administering iOS files. With Path Finder loaded on a Mac, users can connect iOS devices via a USB-to-Lightning cable, then browse the iOS device’s file system within Path Finder, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

pathfinder10-fig-c.jpg

Path Finder permits browsing and administering files on an iOS device using a Mac.

Using Path Finder’s simple, user-friendly interface, it’s easier for users to display and access hidden iOS files, too, than having to resort to Terminal commands. From within Path Finder, you need only click View from the menu bar and select Show Invisible Files. Once specific files and directories have been located on the connected iOS device, Path Finder users can delete files, which bypasses placing the deleted information in the Trash.

To delete files on an iOS device using Path Finder, connect the device, open Path Finder, then navigate to the iOS directory containing the file or files you wish to copy, move or delete. Once the file or files are located and highlighted, click Commands from the Path Finder menu bar, then select the corresponding action: Copy To, Move To or Delete.

SEE: Edge computing adoption to increase through 2026; organizations cautious about adding 5G to the mix (TechRepublic Premium)

Users can also copy and transfer files between the iOS device and the Mac, sort files and quickly find the largest files on the iOS device using the Size Browser and search files options. Traditional right-click copy-and-paste and drag-and-drop actions permit copying and moving files between Path Finder and the Mac.

More accomplished users confident in their actions can also rename iOS files, although Cocoatech warns against performing such actions unless you are sure you know what you are doing. Renaming the wrong files could result in an inoperable iOS device.

The same warning applies to moving and deleting files. Although a tool or application permits doing so, only perform such actions when you’re confident you’re proceeding as intended, and you understand the ramifications of any changes you make.

During my tests, I found I could also perform the same functions as in iOS on an iPad Mini 4, too. Browsing, copying, dragging-and-dropping, moving and deleting files proved straightforward using Path Finder. The program also made quick work toggling hidden files on and off, too, on the iPad. While not officially supported within the Cocoatech literature, the ability to use Path Finder to navigate and clean an iPad certainly adds to its value.

A helpful $36 utility

While Apple’s integrated Finder permits performing many of the same functions, Path Finder simplifies the process, while also adding the ability to load various modules that enable accessing Terminal commands directly from within the file management app. Loading the Hex module, as mentioned earlier, and other modules that assist viewing permissions and active processes are but a few examples. Mac users who enjoy poking around under the hood will find Path Finder 10’s capabilities well worth exploring.

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How to create notes anywhere in iOS 14 with back tap and Shortcuts

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Harness the power of the Shortcuts app to build a workflow that allows you to take notes anywhere inside of iOS 14 without opening a secondary app.

Image: CNET

Apple has improved the power of the Shortcuts app tremendously with the introduction of compact UI and the ability to run the workflows built with Shortcuts anywhere in iOS 14.

One of the neat workflows that I recently built was a note-taking shortcut that could run when I use the back tap feature in iOS 14. (The back tap feature lets users trigger an app, action or Shortcuts workflow by tapping the back of a compatible iPhone three times. You can also assign a back tap action when tapping the back of a compatible iPhone twice.) When this workflow is run, it shows a note field overlaid on the screen, allowing you to create a note from anywhere in iOS without losing your place or train of thought.

Learn how to create this shortcut on your iOS device and assign it to a back tap action to trigger it from anywhere.

SEE: How to migrate to a new iPad, iPhone, or Mac (TechRepublic Premium)

How to build the Shortcut workflow in iOS 14

You can skip the steps involved below to create the workflow by downloading the workflow we created using this iCloud link.

To begin building the workflow, open the Shortcuts application (or install it from the App Store if it’s not available on your device), then select the + button to create a new workflow. Tap the search field, and then search for and add the following actions in this order:

  1. Ask For Input action with Text selected with a prompt of Add A Note.
  2. Create Note action (the Input to the Note action should automatically set to Provided Input; if not, tap Body and then set it to the Provided Input variable).

When you’re finished laying out the workflow, it should look like Figure A

Figure A

notesanywhere-figure-a.jpg

The completed Create Note workflow will create a note by first asking you to supply text to input into the note.

The final step is to name the workflow. Tap the … in the titlebar and then provide a name and optional icon. We named our workflow Create Note with Tap for easy identification. 

How to assign the Shortcut to back tap in iOS

Back tap is a feature that allows you to tap the back of a compatible iPhone with your finger to run an action. You can add a back tap action to a double or triple back tap.

To assign the workflow that we just created to a back tap action, perform these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Navigate to Accessibility | Touch | Back Tap.
  3. Select Triple Tap.
  4. Select Create Note With Tap from the Shortcuts section, or whatever you named the workflow just created (Figure B).

Figure B

notesanywhere-figure-b.jpg

Adding a Shortcut workflow or other action to back tap is easy with the selector. Choose from the action running when it’s a double or triple tap.

Once the back tap is assigned, it will appear in the list under Accessibility | Touch | Back Tap. You can remove the action here if you ever decide to no longer use this workflow to create notes.

How to create a note

To run the workflow and create a note, simply tap the back of your iPhone near the Apple logo with your finger three times. The Shortcuts UI will spring to life no matter where you are at in iOS (Lock Screen, Home Screen or in another app). It will ask for input by showing a text field that will allow you to type the text to create a note (Figure C).

Figure C

notesanywhere-figure-c.jpg

Triple tap the back of your device to create a note from anywhere–even your Lock Screen.

When you’re done typing, press the Done button, and the text will be added as a new Note to the Notes app in iOS and will sync to your other devices. Triple tapping the back of your device will allow you to create another new note.

As you can see, this feature allows you to not miss the moment and forget what you need to remember. You can draft a new note from anywhere in iOS quickly and easily without opening another app.

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