For the most part, Spotlight works well. Press Command-Space or use the Search field in a Finder window, and it finds everything that matches your search term. Sometimes, however, Spotlight fails to turn up a file that you know is present, likely due to index corruption. To fix the problem, you can force Spotlight to rebuild its index. (Don’t do this unless it’s necessary since reindexing can take a long time and may impact the performance of your Mac while it’s happening.) Open System Preferences > Spotlight > Privacy, and then drag your drive (or the drive on which Spotlight isn’t finding files) into the list of locations that Spotlight shouldn’t search. That deletes the old Spotlight index. Still working in the Spotlight Privacy list, select the drive and click the – button below the list. Spotlight now reindexes the contents of the drive and should find your files properly in the future.
Last quarter, Apple’s Services segment generated a whopping $15.8 billion in revenue, 14% of the company’s total—sales of apps, media, and subscriptions are a big deal to Apple. And if you’re like us, you’re probably now paying Apple for services like Apple Music, extra storage for iCloud Photos, various app purchases and subscriptions, and perhaps the new Apple Fitness+.
It’s a lot to keep track of, but particularly with subscriptions, it’s essential to stay on top of the charges and make sure you’re paying only for services you’re still using. Happily, Apple enables you to do that on both the Mac and the iPhone/iPad.
Review Your Purchase History
On a Mac running macOS 11 Big Sur or 10.15 Catalina, you can see your purchase history in the Music app. If you’re running an earlier version of macOS, you’ll use iTunes instead. In either app, choose Account > View My Account. Scroll down to Purchase History and click See All at the right.
In Purchase History, you’ll see every one of your purchases from Apple, whether it’s an app from the App Store, a book from Apple Books, or a subscription like Apple TV+ (even when it’s free). You can click the More link to the right of any purchase for a few additional details (in the screenshot below, these are showing for iCloud) or click the blue Order ID link for even more details. Also hidden inside the Order ID information for any item you paid for is a Resend link that sends you another email copy of the invoice for that purchase.
On an iPhone or iPad, navigate to Settings > Your Name > Media & Purchases > View Account > Purchase History (you’ll need to scroll down for the last one). The Purchase History screen shows the same information as on the Mac, and you can tap the Total Billed line under each item for the equivalent of the Order ID details, complete with a button for resending the email invoice.
Apart from merely displaying your purchases, the Purchase History screen can raise two other questions:
Why isn’t an item I purchased showing up? The main reason why this happens is if the purchase was made with a different Apple ID. If you have two or more Apple IDs, that could explain it, or if you’re participating in Family Sharing, a family member might have made the purchase. In either case, you must sign in with the appropriate Apple ID to see the purchase.
What are these purchases that I don’t recognize? The most likely explanation is that someone in your Family Sharing group made a purchase without telling you. You can turn on Ask to Buy if you have children in your family. If you’ve shared your Apple ID and password with someone else (never do that!) who has bought items without your knowledge, we recommend changing your Apple ID password immediately. If you still can’t figure it out, contact Apple Support.
For the most part, app, book, and other purchases aren’t that expensive, but subscription fees can add up quickly. We recommend checking your subscriptions periodically to make sure they’re all still relevant and canceling any that aren’t. Here’s how.
On the Mac, you can manage your subscriptions in the Music app in Big Sur or Catalina, though Apple recommends the App Store app. In the App Store app, click your name or picture in the lower-left corner and then click View Information at the upper right. In the window that appears, scroll down to Manage and click the Manage link to the right of Subscriptions.
Next, you’re shown a list of all your active and expired subscriptions.
To see more details about a subscription, click Edit to the right of the subscription’s listing. You can now change your billing period using the radio buttons and cancel the subscription by clicking Cancel Subscription.
On an iPhone or iPad, it’s a little more straightforward. Tap Settings > Your Name > Subscriptions to see a list of all your subscriptions. Tap one of them to change the billing frequency or cancel it.
Although it’s easier to manage subscriptions on a Mac, iPhone, or iPad, you can also cancel subscriptions from the Apple Watch or Apple TV. Here’s what to do:
On the Apple Watch, open the App Store app, scroll to Account and tap it, tap Subscriptions, tap the desired subscription, and tap Cancel Subscription.
On the Apple TV, you can see subscriptions only for installed tvOS apps, and thus only for the Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K. (For the third-generation Apple TV, use a Mac, iPhone, or iPad to manage subscriptions.) Open Settings, select Users & Accounts, select your account, select Subscriptions, choose the desired subscription, and select Cancel Subscription.
Finally, what if you don’t see the subscription you want to cancel? There are a few possibilities:
Sadly, email is not an entirely reliable communications medium, thanks to spam filters, addressing errors, and server failures. With certain types of email, it’s worth double-checking that a message was seen. One example of that we see is with reports of phishing email, which miscreants use to try to trick you into revealing passwords, credit card info, or other sensitive information. Phishing messages can be tricky to identify—that’s their goal. If you’re forwarding a possible phishing email to us or another trusted technical contact for evaluation, remember that spam filters often catch such messages, so they may go unseen. To work around this awkwardness, send a separate message saying you’ve forwarded what you think might be a phishing message so the recipient knows to check their Junk mailbox if need be. It’s helpful if you can include the Subject line of the suspect message.
With vaccinations underway, there’s light at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic tunnel. But given the enormity of the task and the unknowns surrounding coronavirus variants, we’ll still be in this tunnel for some time to come. Happily, there’s a new app called NOVID that, if you and your friends (and their friends, etc.) install it, provides early warning as COVID-19 infections creep closer in your personal network of connections. It’s like weather radar for disease.
Developed by a Carnegie Mellon University math professor, NOVID is a free app for iOS and Android that relies on roughly the same smartphone proximity detecting technique as the Apple/Google exposure notification technology. If your phone can use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or ultrasound to detect another nearby phone with NOVID installed, the two phones record that completely anonymous interaction.
However, where the Apple/Google technology notifies you only if you have been directly exposed at some point in the past, forcing you to quarantine and get tested, NOVID helps you look into the future and evaluate your personal risk of being infected. That’s because the Apple/Google technology stops at 1 degree of separation—you only learn about exposures to people with whom you have directly interacted, and only well after the fact. NOVID goes way beyond that, tracking infections out to 12 degrees of separation and showing you how far away they are.
Think about what that means. If a friend’s father gets sick, you probably wouldn’t hang out with your friend until it was certain that she wasn’t also infected. That’s 2 degrees of separation. Imagine 3 degrees of separation—another friend’s spouse works in an office where a colleague tested positive. That still feels pretty close, and you’d probably take more precautions than normal with your friend.
Beyond 3 degrees of separation, however, it’s unlikely you’d ever know about infections. Plus, you would only learn about infections that are 2 or 3 degrees of separation away from you if everyone involved knows each other. What if that 3rd-degree infection was a guy at a bar that an appliance repair person chatted with several nights before fixing your friend’s dishwasher? That’s where anonymous smartphone proximity sensing comes in.
NOVID solves these problems by building your network of personal interactions out to 12 degrees of separation, showing you both how many connections and how many infections are at each level of your network. As infections get closer, you can take more precautions to reduce your chances of being exposed to the coronavirus.
What’s most fun about NOVID is that its statistics show it working. It tells you how many other NOVID users you meet each day, and tapping the graph even tells you how NOVID detected their presence (ultrasound is more accurate than Bluetooth, and Bluetooth is more accurate than Wi-Fi).
NOVID also provides some community-level statistics if users choose to provide the first three digits of their ZIP codes. You can see how many people are in your greater ZIP code, how many cases are in the community, the size of the average user’s network, and even the iOS versus Android breakdown.
The key to making NOVID useful is adoption, so here’s our pitch. Install NOVID and ask a couple of friends or family members with whom you come into contact to do so as well. Then ask them to encourage a few of their friends or family members to install it and keep recommending it. Think of it as an early warning system that leverages the same kind of person-to-person transmission exploited by the coronavirus itself. And if a city—like Santa Fe—or a college campus—like Georgia Tech—were to recommend NOVID more broadly, that would be a super-spreader event on the positive side of the balance sheet!
We’ve all installed NOVID. Will you join us in building a network for community-wide early warning of approaching COVID-19 infections?
We’re all accustomed to the Do Not Disturb feature on our iPhones since they’re with us for most of the day and often spend the night next to the bed. But Apple long ago added Do Not Disturb to the Mac as well, and it’s useful for muting your Mac at night to eliminate unnecessary noises and for preventing unwanted notifications during presentations. In System Preferences > Notifications > Do Not Disturb, you can tell macOS to turn the feature on during specific times, when the display is sleeping or locked, and when mirroring to another screen. Or, you can turn on Do Not Disturb manually—you might want to do this when giving a presentation with Zoom or another videoconferencing app. In macOS 10.15 Catalina and earlier, do this in Notification Center by clicking it at the far right of the menu bar, scrolling up, and enabling the Do Not Disturb switch. In macOS 11 Big Sur, you find Do Not Disturb in Control Center.
In the heyday of iTunes, Apple users stored their music, movies, and TV shows on their Macs and shared them with other Macs in their homes, as well as their iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs. Of late, however, streaming has become Apple’s preferred media consumption approach, thanks to the rise of Apple Music and the way the Apple TV app aggregates video streaming services like Netflix.
Nevertheless, even though iTunes has been replaced by the Music and TV apps on the Mac, it’s still possible to maintain your libraries of music and videos on your Mac. When you do that, sharing that media with your other Apple devices over your local Wi-Fi network continues to work through Home Sharing, but how you manage that technology has changed. To be clear, we’re talking about content stored in the Media folders specified in the Music and TV apps’ preferences—they may still point to an old iTunes Media folder.
One note first. We’re focusing on network sharing here, not syncing media to an iPhone or iPad. That’s possible too, but is a separate topic—for more details, check outTake Control of macOS Media Apps, by Kirk McElhearn.
Set Up Home Sharing on Your Mac
With the demise of iTunes, Apple has moved the Home Sharing controls to the Sharing pane of System Preferences. Follow these steps to enable it:
Open System Preferences > Sharing > Media Sharing.
Give your library a recognizable name.
Select the checkbox for Home Sharing.
Enter your Apple ID credentials. You’ll need to use this same Apple ID for every computer or device on your Home Sharing network. (There is also a guest option that others in your household can use; see below.)
Click Turn On Home Sharing.
Home Sharing provides three options via checkboxes:
Devices update play counts: Select this option if you want each play from one of your devices to update the play count in your Home Sharing library.
Share photos with Apple TV: This option lets you share photos from your Photos library—either everything or just selected albums, with an option to include videos. You can also share photos from your Pictures folder, any folder inside it, or any folder at all.
Share media with guests: Normally, you can access media using Home Sharing only from devices signed in with your Apple ID. With this option, however, you can allow guests to access your songs, movies, and TV shows. If you live in an apartment or other situation where people unknown to you can see your Wi-Fi network, it’s a good idea to require a password, and regardless, you can share just selected playlists if you want. Guests access Home Sharing media just like you do.
Access Media from a Mac
The process of accessing media from another Mac using Home Sharing is the same for music and video—the only difference is that you use the Music app for music and the TV app for video. In either, click Library in the sidebar and choose your shared library under Public Sharing. Library changes to the name of your shared library, and all the items underneath display its contents. You’ll interact with them just like any local or streamed media.
Access Media from an iPhone or iPad
As on the Mac, the trick on the iPhone or iPad is simply to use the correct app. For instance, to access your videos, open the TV app, tap Library ➊ at the bottom, and tap the name of your Home Sharing library ➋ above. You’ll then need to tap to select the type of content you want to view, and then you’ll see thumbnails for the actual videos. Tap one to play it.
Access Media and Photos from an Apple TV
Finding Home Sharing media is a little different on the Apple TV. Open the Computers app, select your library, and then choose from music, photos, or videos at the top. A sidebar at the right lets you drill down into your content.
You can also have the Apple TV play a randomized slideshow of your photos as its screen saver. Go to Settings > General > Screen Saver > Type > Home Sharing > Photos, and select either Photos to show all available photos or Albums to limit the selection. In the Screen Saver preferences, you can also set a preferred transition.
We won’t pretend that Home Sharing is the latest and greatest technology from Apple—it’s definitely yesteryear’s solution—but if you have a lot of music and video on your Mac, it’s a good way to share it throughout your house and get a personalized screen saver on your Apple TV.
We regularly hear from people who think they need Adobe Acrobat DC to manipulate PDFs. Don’t misunderstand: Adobe Acrobat is the gold standard, but it’s complicated and expensive—$14.99 per month or as part of Creative Cloud for $52.99 per month. In contrast, Apple’s Preview is easy and free with macOS. Here are six tasks that people may think require Acrobat but can easily be accomplished in Preview.
Remove and Rearrange or Export Pages
Have a PDF with unnecessary pages? You can delete them in Preview. First, make sure page thumbnails are showing in the sidebar by choosing View > Thumbnails. Then select the pages you want to remove and press Delete. Choose File > Save when you’re done—you’ll need to do that after all the rest of these tasks too.
Rearranging pages also happens in the sidebar—just drag the thumbnails as needed. If you drag a thumbnail to the Finder, Preview exports the page as its own PDF file.
Merge and Add Pages
What about putting pages from one PDF into another? Preview has your back there too. Open both PDFs, make sure their sidebars are showing page thumbnails, and then drag one or more thumbnails from one sidebar to the other, dropping them between the desired pages in the destination.
You can also drag a PDF from the Finder into the sidebar to add all its pages. Or, to take a photo or scan a document and insert it into the document, Control-click in the sidebar and choose Import from iPhone or iPad.
Let’s say someone asks for edits or comments on a PDF. Although you can’t change the text with Preview, you can mark up the document.
Highlight text: They may give you flashbacks to high school, but Preview provides a handful of colored highlighters, along with underline and strikethrough styles. Choose one from the Highlight menu in the toolbar and then select the desired text.
Add highlight notes: To ensure that your highlights make sense to others, add notes to them. Control-click the highlighted text and choose Add Note. Then enter your note in the colored box that appears. It shrinks when you click away from it and expands when you click it again.
Add general notes: You can also place faux sticky notes anywhere on a PDF page. Reveal the Markup toolbar by clicking the Markup button, and then click the Note button. Drag the closed note box to position it on the page. See all your notes in the sidebar by choosing View > Highlights and Notes.
Add shapes and text boxes: The Markup toolbar also contains controls for creating various shapes (including lines with arrows) and text boxes. At times, the best way to show what you mean is to put a box, line, or text directly on the page. Click a shape to add it—text you type while it’s selected sticks with the shape, like the speech balloon below and the arrows above.
If you do need to edit the text of a PDF, that’s a job for Adobe Acrobat or another PDF tool like Smile’s PDFpen.
Sometimes, when you’re sharing a PDF, you want to redact sensitive information so it can’t be read. macOS 11 Big Sur’s version of Preview can permanently obscure and delete selected text from the document. Choose Tools > Redact and select the text you want to hide.
In earlier versions of macOS, you can simulate redaction by covering text with a colored rectangle. Unfortunately, recipients could delete your rectangle or copy the text underneath it. Don’t depend on this workaround to protect confidential information. For true redaction in older versions of macOS, use Acrobat or PDFpen.
Fill PDF Forms
Although Preview cannot create fillable PDF forms (again, turn to Acrobat or Smile’s PDFpenPro), it works fine for entering information into such forms. If you have to fill out an IRS form for your employer, for instance, Preview should work fine. Just click in a field and type, or click a checkbox to select it.
One warning. We’ve heard occasional reports that Windows users reading PDFs with forms filled out in Preview sometimes don’t see the entered text. When returning an important form, it’s always best to ask the recipient to confirm that it worked. If it doesn’t, fall back on the free Adobe Acrobat Reader DC.
Now that so much paperwork has gone digital, we often need to sign PDFs. The most important documents will probably use a service like SignEasy that’s designed for collecting legally binding, secure signatures. But for something like a simple permit application, you can add your signature in Preview by clicking the Signature button in the Markup toolbar and choosing it.
Inserting (and resizing) an already created signature is easy, as is the one-time process of making one. Click the Signature button, and then click Create Signature. If your Mac has a trackpad, write on it with your finger or a rubber-tipped iPad stylus. Or use a marker to write your signature on paper and take a picture of it with the camera. In macOS 10.15 Catalina and later, you can also create a signature on an iPhone or iPad. Once created, the signature sticks around in Preview and even syncs to your other Macs through iCloud.
Note that Preview’s signature is just a graphic that could be copied, so it’s no more protected than a handwritten signature that could be scanned or photocopied.
Useful as all these features are, they’re just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Preview can do, particularly with graphics. For a complete look at Preview’s features, check out the 178-page ebook Take Control of Preview.
With iCloud Drive, Apple provides an Optimize Mac Storage checkbox that, when checked, stores the full contents of iCloud Drive on the Mac only if there’s enough space. However, you may wish to recover local storage space without selecting that option—luckily, that’s easy to do. Open iCloud Drive in the Finder, Control-click a file, and choose Remove Download. The file remains in iCloud Drive, and if you need it locally, you can click the cloud icon next to its name to download it. If you’re not sure which files in the iCloud Drive window occupy the most space, choose View > As List, and then click the Size column so the largest files sort to the top (click again if they’re sorting to the bottom).
Remember when we had to keep magnets away from floppy disks to avoid scrambling them? Modern storage is no longer vulnerable, but magnets and electromagnetic fields from consumer electronics can interfere with medical devices, like implanted pacemakers and defibrillators. Although iPhone 12 models contain more magnets than prior models, Apple says they’re not expected to pose a greater risk of magnetic interference. However, after a study found that one pacemaker could be deactivated by holding an iPhone 12 near it, Apple issued a support document recommending that you keep your iPhone 12 and MagSafe accessories more than 6 inches (15 cm) away from your medical device or more than 12 inches (30 cm) away while wirelessly charging. Better safe than sorry—if you have a pacemaker, don’t put your iPhone or any other consumer electronics in a breast pocket.
In iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, Apple added two new status indicators to the right side of the status bar at the top of the screen. They’re designed to give you feedback about what an app is doing. An orange dot indicates that an app is using the microphone, and a green dot means that an app is using the camera (and possibly the microphone as well). They’re subtle and shouldn’t be distracting, but if you ever notice them when you don’t think the camera or microphone should be in use, look for apps that might be using them in the background.