Managed IT Services & Why It’s Important for Your Business

You’ve chosen the devices to run your business. That’s great, but are you still dealing with each of those devices individually? If you hire a new employee, do you go to the Apple Store to buy a new Mac, bring it back to the office, spend a few hours installing the right software, and then sit down with the employee to get them started with email accounts and other logins?

That self-support approach can work when your company has only a few users, but as your business grows, how much of your time can you afford to spend on IT? You might enjoy it, but it distracts you from what you need to do to make your company thrive. Sure, you might think you’re saving money by doing this work yourself instead of hiring an IT professional, but that amount may pale in comparison to the amount you could make in your primary role. There’s a better way: Outsourced or Managed IT Services with device-management software.

In essence, with Managed IT Services, we become part of your team, creating systems that simplify and speed up the process of onboarding new devices, monitoring their usage, ensuring their security, and providing ongoing support. Here are some of the ways a Managed IT Services model can help your business.

Advantages of Managed IT Services

Faster and More Accurate Setup

With Managed IT Services and properly configured device-management software, you can order a Mac or iOS device from Apple (through an Apple Business Manager account) and when it arrives, your employee can take it out of the box, log in, and have the entire device automatically configured over the network with required apps, server settings, security policies, and more.

If you’ve spent several hours configuring devices manually, it’s magical to watch a device pick up apps and settings automatically. And it’s not just for new devices. If an employee leaves or you need to repurpose a Mac or iOS device, device-management software can automatically wipe it and set it up for its new role with minimal effort.

Increased Security

An important aspect of switching to a Managed IT Services model that relies on device-management software is requiring security policies. If you’ve ever worried about an employee losing a company device containing confidential data, device-management software can eliminate those concerns by automatically enabling FileVault for Macs or enforcing non-trivial passcodes on iOS devices. Lost devices can even be locked or wiped remotely from a central management console.

Also, device-management software can restrict what apps users may install, so you don’t have to worry about apps that could leak confidential information or malware that could be stealing passwords.

Proactive Monitoring

A Managed IT Services support model lets your users focus on their work, rather than on their Macs. Monitoring software can report if Mac hard drives start to fail, when laptop batteries start to go, if RAM is faulty, and more. It’s better to know that a drive is dying before you lose data.

managed-services-monitoring

Monitoring software can also check on important events, making sure that backups are happening regularly, warning if a user has downloaded a potentially problematic operating system update, and making sure anti-malware software is up to date.

Proactive Maintenance

Monitoring helps identify issues early on, but perhaps the most important aspect of a Managed IT Services solution is how it combines proactive monitoring with proactive maintenance. It uses software and services that go beyond identifying problems to fixing them—blocking undesirable software upgrades, automatically deploying essential security updates, and removing malware—before they impact your workflow. This saves your users downtime and frustration, and lets you focus on your work rather than troubleshooting problems.

Improved Reporting

It may not be difficult to keep track of a handful of Macs and iPhones, but as your business grows, inventory can become daunting. A Managed IT Services solution helps you know exactly what devices you have, who is using them, and more. It can also report on installed software to make sure you’re in compliance with your software licenses.

managed-services-reporting

Predictable Pricing

If your company pays for support on an hourly billing model, there’s no way to budget accurately for expenses, since no one can predict what will go wrong. Plus, it takes longer to investigate and resolve problems because of the time necessary to figure out the status of the device in question. Solving complex or recurring problems can get expensive in such a scenario.

With Managed IT Services, we instead charge a flat monthly fee based on how many devices you have. Thanks to proactive monitoring and device management, we can fix many problems before the user even notices. And if a user does need in-person support, it’s faster and easier to help them when we know exactly what device they’re using, what version of the operating system it’s using, what software they have installed, and more.

A Managed IT Services model isn’t for every situation, but if your business has more than a handful of Macs, iPhones, and iPads in use by your employees, it could reduce downtime, save you money, and increase security.


We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Red Badges (On Our iPhone Apps)

Quick quiz: what does a red number badge on the Phone icon on your iPhone mean? You’d be right if you said that it indicates the number of missed calls or voicemail messages. The Mail and Messages apps also use a red badge to display the number of unread messages; Settings uses one to indicate that software updates are available; and Reminders shows a badge for the number of tasks due today. Third-party apps also use red badges to indicate that some number of somethings await you inside. You’ll also see a red badge on any folder that contains apps that are themselves showing badges—the folder’s badge sums the total of the badges inside.

We’re willing to bet that some of you stay on top of your badges at all times, checking the missed calls, reading the messages, and completing the to-dos. Others don’t find the badges helpful and either ignore them or find them somewhat annoying. Who needs to know they have 315 unread email messages?

Here then is our advice on how to ensure that the red badges either provide useful information or get out of your way.

Clear Badges Organically

Being told that you have 17 voicemail messages that you haven’t listened to or 32 unread texts in Messages isn’t helpful—at best, you have to remember that you had only 16 voicemail messages yesterday. There’s no option for dealing with them all at once, but it’s worth taking a few minutes while standing in line or otherwise killing time to clear the badges manually.

Precisely how you do this depends on the app. In the Phone app, all you have to do to clear the missed calls in the badge is tap Recents at the bottom—that’s enough to mark them as viewed. For voicemails, however, you’ll either have to listen to at least some of the message or delete it by swiping all the way to the left. (Remember that you can drag the playback slider to fast-forward if you want to mark it as listened without actually doing so.)

In Messages and Mail, the trick is to read or delete each message. That mostly means just loading it quickly and then moving on, although you can also swipe left to delete unread conversations or email threads. In Messages, you’ll have to scroll through all your conversations, looking for those that have a blue unread dot next to them. In Mail, you can tap the Filter button at the bottom to show only unread messages (tap Filtered By and select Unread if it’s set some other way).

Regardless, the goal is to mark everything as dealt with so the badge goes away, not for the sake of making it go away, but so when it returns with the next unread message or new voicemail, it’s giving you actionable information.

Disable Unnecessary Badges

However, some badge numbers are never useful. Unless you receive very little email, being told you have more than a handful of unread emails will likely just cause stress, not encourage you to deal with those messages. That’s especially true if a session in Mail merely knocks the number down to a still-high value. (“Oh good, now I only have 289 unread messages.”) Or you may just dislike the badges in general—that’s fine too.

Luckily, you can turn the badges off entirely. Go to Settings > Notifications > AppName and disable Badges. You’ll never see that red badge of nagging again.

Clear Stuck Badges

Sometimes an app will end up with a red badge even when you’re certain that you’ve done whatever is necessary to clear it. Here are a few things to try:

  • Update the app: Go to the App Store app, tap your avatar in the upper-right corner, and tap Update All if it appears (pull down to make the App Store check for new updates). It’s generally worth going to Settings > App Store and enabling App Updates so they come in automatically.
  • Force-quit the app: There’s no reason to force-quit apps unless they’re misbehaving, but a stuck badge counts as bad behavior. Swipe up from the very bottom of the screen and pause to enter the app switcher—or on Touch ID-equipped devices, double-press the Home button—and then swipe up on the card for the app in question to force-quit it.
  • Restart the iPhone: If all else fails, restart the iPhone. First, press and hold the side button and either volume button (iPhone X, 11, 12, and 13), the side button (iPhone 6, 7, 8, and second-generation iPhone SE ), or the top button (first-generation iPhone SE, iPhone 5, and earlier). Wait until the power off slider appears, drag it, wait 30 seconds, and then press either the side button or the top button to turn the iPhone back on.
  • Disable that app’s badges: If nothing else works to clear a stuck badge, you can always resort to the steps above to disable badges for that app.

Making sure that app badges are either useful or hidden won’t change your life, but given how often we look at our iPhones, even little tweaks like this can lift your mood.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)


Siri on a HomePod Can Control Alarms on Other Devices

Siri has plenty of tricks up its sleeve, and we’ve just discovered a new one. Let’s say you set iPhone alarms to wake up and remind you to take medication throughout the day. However, if you don’t have your iPhone handy when those alarms go off, it can be annoying (for both you and others) to find your phone and stop or snooze the alarm. If you have a HomePod, it turns out that you (or someone else) can say, “Hey Siri, snooze the alarm” or “Hey Siri, stop the alarm.” Siri usually asks for confirmation—just reply with “Yes”—and sometimes tells you to continue on the iPhone, but it can be easier than finding the iPhone and stopping the alarm. (And yes, if you’re wearing an Apple Watch, you can stop the alarm from it as well. It’s also possible to set alarms on a HomePod directly, though they’re useful only if you’re guaranteed to be home when they go off.)

(Featured image by iStock.com/Antonio_Diaz)

Set Custom Text Sizes on a Per-App Basis in iOS 15

In previous versions of iOS, you could change the systemwide text size to make all apps—at least those that support Dynamic Type—display text at larger or smaller sizes. (Most people who use this feature want the text larger so it’s easier to read with aging eyes.) In iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, however, Apple lets you adjust the text size on a per-app basis, so you can increase it only for those apps where it really makes a difference for you. First, make sure Text Size is showing in Control Center by going to Settings > Control Center, and if it’s not in Included Controls, tap the green + button for it under More Controls. Then, while in an app where you want bigger text, invoke Control Center, tap the Text Size button, move the vertical slider to the desired setting, and then tap the App Only button so the setting affects only that app, not all apps.

(Featured image by iStock.com/SandraMatic)

Consider the Affinity Suite Instead of Adobe Creative Cloud

Few would disagree that the most popular image editing software in the world is Adobe Photoshop, the top illustration app is Adobe Illustrator, and the preeminent page layout package is Adobe InDesign. Many design and publishing professionals spend their lives in one or more of these apps.

There’s one problem: cost. Adobe provides access to them only via Creative Cloud subscriptions, where each app costs $21 per month, making it hard to pass up the $53-per-month All Apps bundle that includes all three plus Premiere Pro, Acrobat Pro, and more. That All Apps bundle works out to an eye-watering $636 per year.

For many people, that $636 annual expense is just the cost of doing business. They need the full power of Adobe’s tools, and they need to collaborate with others using native Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign files. If you fall into that camp, no worries, and you can stop reading right now.

However, if you’re subscribing to Adobe Creative Cloud merely because you need a capable image editor, illustration app, or page layout package, and you aren’t otherwise deep in the Adobe ecosystem, consider the Affinity suite from Serif: Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, and Affinity Publisher, each of which costs $55. Once. That’s right, you can buy all three for $165, or just about the same as 3 months of Creative Cloud. Updates are free. Versions for Microsoft Windows are available for $55 too, and Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer also come as $10 iPad apps.

The obvious question is if you could replace Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign with Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, and Affinity Publisher. We can’t answer that for sure—the Adobe apps have so many features that it’s impossible to know which are most important to you and if the Affinity apps’ features are comparable. Some may not match up—we’ve been told that master pages in Affinity Publisher are a bit funkier than master pages in InDesign, for instance. Others may even be better—some people we know find exporting Web graphics from Affinity Designer easier than exporting from Illustrator. And some may not exist at all—it doesn’t seem that Affinity Publisher (the newest addition to the suite) has a Track Changes feature like InDesign.

For instance, just as you can embed Photoshop and Illustrator files in an InDesign layout and then use the Edit Original command to edit them in the other app, you can embed Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer files in Affinity Publisher. Serif’s StudioLink technology provides direct access to the primary tools from Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer right within an Affinity Publisher document. It’s neat.

Overall, the feature sets are similar. Those who would consider switching from Creative Cloud can probably figure out how to accomplish their necessary tasks using the Affinity apps. That’s not to say that they’re clones of Adobe’s apps. In many cases, you might need to learn a new technique for accomplishing some task. Along with full documentation, Serif provides hundreds of tutorial videos and runs an active user forum where people ask questions, make suggestions, and share tutorials. Simple Web searches also often turn up blog posts with useful techniques from Affinity users.

What about moving files back and forth? Affinity Photo can open Photoshop’s proprietary PSD files, although it’s not guaranteed to import everything perfectly. Affinity Designer can open Illustrator documents as long as they were saved with the Create Compatible PDF File option selected. Similarly, it can open Illustrator-created PDF files that many designers send to clients as proofs. And Affinity Designer can open InDesign files that have been saved in IDML (InDesign Markup Language) format. Plus, you can often just copy and paste text and objects between the apps. If you decide to switch, you might want to continue your Creative Cloud subscription while ensuring that your key Adobe files are saved such that the Affinity apps can open them.

On the export side, the Affinity apps can export in many formats, but they’re more for final exports when it’s time to print or publish. You probably wouldn’t want to use the Affinity apps to collaborate on files with those using the Adobe apps. That said, Affinity Photo can export PSD files for use in Photoshop, and Affinity Designer and Affinity Publisher are probably best served by exporting PDF files that Illustrator and InDesign can open. Just don’t expect everything to move between the apps flawlessly.

In the end, the decision is yours—we’re merely suggesting the Affinity suite as a cost-saving option if you don’t need everything Creative Cloud provides. Visit the Affinity site, watch Serif’s marketing and tutorial videos, and poke around in the extensive online help. Free trial versions of all the apps are available, and there’s a 14-day money-back guarantee. In the best of all worlds, you’ll save hundreds of dollars per year and find that you like the Affinity apps more than Adobe’s.

(Featured image by Serif)


Plan for the Future by Establishing a Legacy Contact

Have you heard the expression “hit by a bus”? It’s a somewhat macabre attempt to inject a little levity into planning for the unthinkable event of dying without warning. No one expects to be hit by a bus, but people do die unexpectedly in all sorts of ways. That’s terrible, of course, but it’s also incredibly hard on that person’s family, who suddenly must deal with an overwhelming number of details. Many of those details revolve around the deceased’s digital life—devices, accounts, passwords, subscriptions, and more.

We strongly encourage everyone, regardless of age or infirmity, to think about what your family would want and need to do with your digital presence in the event of your death. The ultimate guide to this topic is Joe Kissell’s book Take Control of Your Digital Legacy, although the current version is a little out of date and is slated for updating in 2022.

The next edition of that book will undoubtedly discuss Apple’s new Legacy Contact feature, introduced in iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, and macOS 12.1 Monterey. It enables you to specify one or more people as a Legacy Contact. Should you die unexpectedly, those people can use an access key along with your death certificate to access much of your Apple content and remove Activation Lock from your devices. (If you have time to prepare for your passing, it’s easier to share all your passwords and passcodes explicitly.) The person or people you set as Legacy Contacts don’t have to be running Apple’s latest operating systems or even be Apple users, though it’s easier if they are. (Like so many other things in life.)

Don’t put off specifying someone as a Legacy Contact, whether it’s a family member or close friend. The entire point of the “hit by a bus” scenario is that it’s both unexpected and could happen at any time. (It’s possible to get access without being a Legacy Contact, but it requires a court order and will undoubtedly be significantly more work.)

Apple provides good directions for the Legacy Contact feature, and while we’ll summarize the steps below, read Apple’s documentation to get the word from the horse’s mouth. Apple’s support pages include:

What Data Can a Legacy Contact Access?

Apple has the full list at the link above, but in short, a Legacy Contact can access anything stored in iCloud, including photos, email, contacts, calendars, messages, files, and more, as well as the contents of iCloud Backup. Not included are licensed media (music, movies, and books), in-app purchases (upgrades, subscriptions, and game currency), payment information (Apple ID payment info or Apple Pay cards), and anything stored in the account holder’s keychain (usernames and passwords, credit card details, and more). A Legacy Contact cannot access the deceased’s devices—Apple is incapable of sharing passcodes. However, Apple can remove Activation Lock so those devices can be erased and reused.

How Do You Add a Legacy Contact?

Adding someone as a Legacy Contact is easy. You must be running iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, or macOS 12.1 Monterey to initiate the process, and two-factor authentication must be turned on for your Apple ID (this is a very good idea anyway).

On an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Your Name > Password & Security > Legacy Contact > Add Legacy Contact. On a Mac, use System Preferences > Apple ID > Password & Security > Legacy Contact > Manage. You can choose a group member if you’re in a Family Sharing group or pick someone from your contacts list.

As part of the process of picking someone, Apple allows you to share the access key via Messages if they’re running iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, or macOS 12.1 Monterey. If they accept, a copy of the access key will automatically be stored in their Apple ID settings. If they’re not running a necessary operating system or don’t use an Apple device, you can instead print out an access key QR code and give that to them. You might also want to print a copy to store with your will and other important documents.

It may often be appropriate to act as a Legacy Contact for the people you’re asking to be your Legacy Contacts, particularly with spouses or adult children.

How Does a Legacy Contact Request Account Access?

Let’s assume the worst and pretend ​​that someone who has added you as a Legacy Contact has passed away. To request access to their Apple ID, you need the access key that the person shared with you and a copy of their death certificate. You can find the access key on an iPhone or iPad in Settings > Your Name > Password & Security > Legacy Contact > Contact’s Name, and on the Mac in System Preferences > Apple ID > Password & Security, where you click Manage next to Legacy Contact settings and then Details next to the person’s name. It’s also possible that the person shared the access key as a document stored with their estate planning documents.

The screens that provide the access key also have a Request Access link. Tap or click that and follow the instructions to upload the death certificate. If you don’t have an appropriate Apple device, you can also do this on the Web at Apple’s Digital Legacy – Request Access page.

Apple evaluates all access requests to make sure they’re legitimate, and once approved, sends you an email with more details and instructions. That email will also include a special Legacy Contact Apple ID that replaces the deceased’s previous Apple ID. You can use that Apple ID to log in to iCloud.com or download data at privacy.apple.com, sign in to an Apple device, or restore an iCloud backup to another Apple device. Having an access request approved also removes Activation Lock from the deceased’s Apple devices so you can restore them to factory settings and set them up again, either fresh or with the Legacy Contact’s Apple ID’s data.

The main limitation is that the Legacy Contact Apple ID is good only for 3 years, after which the legacy account is permanently deleted. So be sure to download everything important fairly quickly—don’t just keep using the Legacy Contact Apple ID or assume that you’ll be able to go back to it at any time.

We sincerely hope that you never have to act as Legacy Contact for a loved one, but we can say from experience that this new feature can only help make an already stressful time more manageable.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Olga Serba)


Change Your Pointer Color in macOS 12 Monterey

Some people find it hard to find the mouse pointer at times, particularly on a large screen or when working in Dark Mode or in apps with dark interfaces. You’ve long been able to increase the size of the pointer generally and also zoom it temporarily by shaking it, but in macOS 12 Monterey, Apple now lets you change the color of the pointer. That could be a boon to those who have trouble seeing it otherwise. Go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Display > Pointer, click the Pointer Fill Color box, and choose a different color in the color picker. You can also choose a different Pointer Outline Color if that’s helpful. After customizing it, if you decide you prefer the old black-and-white version, click the Reset button.

(Featured image by iStock.com/tahir_duran)

Forgetting Your Apple Gear? Use “Notify When Left Behind”

Apple’s Find My technology is a lifesaver when it works, enabling you to locate and potentially retrieve lost or stolen devices. It’s not perfect, even with the addition of the Find My Network, which drafts other nearby Apple devices to relay the location of a lost device, but it’s a heck of a lot better than nothing. Part of the problem is that you have to notice that a device is missing before you can bring Find My into play to see where it might be.

No longer, thanks to the brilliant new Notify When Left Behind feature of iOS 15. Why wait until you notice that your AirPods aren’t in your bag when the Find My app can notify you shortly after you leave their immediate vicinity? Even if that means talking your way back onto an airplane to retrieve your AirPods from the seatback pocket, that’s better than discovering your loss an hour or two later.

Notify When Left Behind doesn’t support all Apple devices—you know that you’re leaving your 27-inch iMac behind whenever you leave home, and HomePods tend to stay put. But it does work with the iPhone, iPad, AirPods, AirTag, and Mac laptops. Somewhat surprisingly left out is the Apple Watch, perhaps because Apple assumes it would always be either charging or on your wrist.

To set up Notify When Left Behind for your devices, follow these steps:

  1. In the Find My app, tap Devices at the bottom of the screen to show all your devices.
  2. Tap the name of the device for which you want to enable Notify When Left Behind.
  3. Scroll up to reveal the Notifications section, and tap Notify When Left Behind.
  4. Enable the Notify When Left Behind switch, then tap Done.
  5. Repeat for each desired device, switching to the Items screen to include AirTags.

“Wait a second,” you’re thinking. “How can your iPhone tell you that you’ve left it behind if it’s not with you?” Apple is one step ahead of you. The key is your Apple Watch—if you leave your iPhone on your desk at work when going home for the day, your Apple Watch will alert you 5 or 10 minutes later. It may be annoying to go back for it, but it’s better than not realizing until you get home.

Your next thought is probably, “Won’t it be annoying if my iPhone tells me that I’ve left various devices behind even when I meant to leave them there?” Apple has an answer to that as well. As you can see in the Notify When Left Behind screen above, there’s a Notify Me, Except At section to which you can add places that it’s acceptable to leave your devices. Find My even suggests your Home location; just tap the + button to add it. If you tap New Location, you can scroll the map to any location, press and hold to drop a pin, and then choose a small (300 feet), medium (800 feet), or large (1400 feet) radius to ignore. When you add a custom location, Find My asks if it should apply to just the current device or to all your devices and items.

When you actually leave a device behind, you’ll get a notification on your iPhone. Tap it to see where you left the item, which may be all the reminder you need. If you tap Continue to open the Find My app, you can tap Directions to be directed to where the device is or tap Don’t Notify Me Here if the location is a place where you don’t mind leaving your devices.

That’s all there is to Notify When Left Behind. It’s the perfect example of a feature that works quietly in the background to help you avoid problems.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Farknot_Architect)


Erase All Content and Settings in macOS 12 Monterey

Before macOS 12 Monterey, if you wanted to sell, trade in, or give away your Mac, you had to boot into Recovery, erase the internal drive with Disk Utility, and reinstall macOS to ensure that the new owner would get a fresh start and couldn’t see any of your data. In Monterey, Apple has made the process much easier for newer Macs that use Apple silicon or that are Intel-based with a T2 security chip. Open System Preferences, and from the System Preferences menu (yes, it has menus), choose Erase All Content and Settings. You’ll have to enter an administrator username and password to enter the Erase Assistant. It suggests you back up to Time Machine before erasing, and if you’ve already done that or don’t want to, click Continue. Verify everything that will be erased on the next screen and click Continue. Finally, log out of your Apple ID when prompted to complete the erasure.

(Featured image by iStock.com/wildpixel)

Apple’s Evolution of Do Not Disturb Helps You Focus

Between texts, alarms, reminders, calls, and myriad other notifications on our iPhones, iPads, and Macs, it’s a miracle we get anything done at all. To free us from this onslaught, Apple previously provided Do Not Disturb, which let you set times during which you could be free from interruption.

In iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS 12 Monterey, Apple has gone even further. Do Not Disturb is now called Focus, and Apple has made it more powerful and flexible. Focus can turn on automatically at certain times, at particular locations, or when you’re using certain apps so you can avoid interruptions during activities like working out, doing homework, eating dinner, or gaming. But not all interruptions—you can allow certain people and apps to break through the cone of silence. A Focus can also hide or show certain Home screen pages, prevent notifications from appearing on the Lock screen, and more. Plus, all your devices can share the same Focus settings—we’re showing iPhone screenshots below, but the interface is identical in iPadOS and similar on the Mac, where you’ll find it in System Preferences > Notifications & Focus > Focus.

In Settings > Focus, Apple provides a pre-built Focus for Do Not Disturb, Driving, and Sleep to match the old Do Not Disturb options:

  • Do Not Disturb: This catch-all Focus takes over from the old Do Not Disturb setting.
  • Driving: This Focus replaces the old Do Not Disturb While Driving option. It’s unusual in that it doesn’t allow any app notifications through at all (eyes on the road!). It also lets you write a custom auto-reply for those who text you while you’re driving.
  • Sleep: If you use Apple’s sleep management features in the Health app, you’ll use this Focus to control which notifications can get through while you’re asleep.

Apart from those, Apple makes six suggestions: Personal and Work (in the main list), and Fitness, Gaming, Mindfulness, and Reading (when you add a new Focus). You can also create a custom Focus from scratch.

Apple’s suggestions are special in one important way. Fitness, Gaming, and Mindfulness can turn on automatically: when you’re engaged in a workout, when you connect a wireless controller, and when you’re in a Mindfulness session started from your Apple Watch, respectively.

When configuring a suggested Focus or creating a new one from scratch, Focus runs you through several setup screens. One has you choose people whose notifications you want to come through regardless, and what to do about incoming phone calls. The other screen lets you pick which apps can notify you when the Focus is active, with an additional option to allow notifications marked as Time Sensitive through regardless. (Time Sensitive notifications include timed Reminders alerts, for instance, and are usually best left enabled.)

Once your Focus is ready, you can configure various options, including:

  • Focus Status: Enable this option to allow apps to alert those who message you that you have notifications silenced.
  • Home Screen: If your Focus involves you using the Home screen a lot, you can have it hide notification badges that might lure you into another app or even hide entire Home screen pages that could be distracting.
  • Lock Screen: If you might be looking at your Lock screen while the Focus is active, you can have it dim automatically and hide or show silenced notifications as appropriate.
  • Schedule or Automation: Although you can turn on any Focus from Control Center, it may be easier to have it turn itself on automatically at certain times, in particular locations, or when certain apps are active.

As with any new feature, it’s going to take a bit to figure out how to make Focus work best for you. We’re still learning it ourselves, but here are some recommendations:

  • To identify when a Focus would be helpful, wait until you find notifications irritating and then think about which ones you’d want a Focus to block.
  • Create just one or two Focuses at first. You don’t want to end up with a bunch that interact in unexpected ways and cause you to miss important notifications.
  • Be careful with schedules and automations. An automation that invokes the Reading Focus when Books is open might work well for reading before bed but could be problematic if you read while waiting for a meeting to start.
  • It may be safest to allow silenced notifications to appear on the Lock screen so you can easily see what you missed afterward and adjust the Focus as necessary.
  • You can manually invoke a Focus by tapping the Focus button in Control Center and selecting the one you want. Tap the ••• button to the right of the Focus to specify when it should turn off automatically, or just tap the Focus again to turn it off.

Newness aside, Focus looks like it will help us all cut down on distracting notifications. And if all else fails, stick with just Do Not Disturb, Driving, and Sleep to replicate what we had before.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Daisy-Daisy)


Keep the Menu Bar Showing in Full Screen in macOS Monterey

Do you like using full-screen mode on your new M1-based MacBook Pro but hate having the menu bar disappear unless you move the pointer to the top of the screen? Happily, in macOS 12 Monterey, Apple has at long last added a setting to keep the menu bar visible at all times. Open System Preferences > Dock & Menu Bar and uncheck “Automatically hide and show the menu bar in full screen.” The change won’t affect apps currently in full-screen mode until you toggle their window state again or quit and relaunch. Unfortunately, some apps, including Apple’s Photos, need to be updated to show toolbars or other controls at the top of the window without forcing you to mouse up there to reveal them.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)