Need to Stay in Touch? Try One of These Videoconferencing Apps | IT Support in Los Angeles

Videoconferencing has gone mainstream. If you work in a sufficiently large organization, you probably have already been indoctrinated into a recommended solution, whether it’s the built-in videoconferencing features of Slack or Microsoft Teams, or a dedicated videoconferencing system like Zoom or Webex.

But what if you’re in a small workgroup, are a freelancer, need to communicate with members of a non-profit group, or just want to stay in touch with friends and family? There are numerous options, but here are a few free options we recommend.

One note: As with text chat, you often have to meet people where they are, rather than where you’d prefer. You might like Skype, but be flexible if someone else schedules a Zoom meeting or if you want to talk with an elderly relative who can only use FaceTime.

FaceTime

Since FaceTime is limited to users of Apple devices, it’s both the easiest and most limiting of your videoconferencing choices. If everyone you want to talk with is an Apple user, you’re all set. But if you’re going to include even one Windows or Android user, look elsewhere.

Setting up and using FaceTime is simple because every Apple user already has the FaceTime app, it ties into your contacts, and everyone already has the necessary iCloud account. FaceTime calls can include up to 32 people, and it’s entirely free.

To start a new call, either tap the + button (iOS) or start typing someone’s name (Mac). Or, if you’ve talked to that person or group recently, just select them in the list.

You can also start a FaceTime call from any Messages conversation by tapping the avatar icons at the top of Messages and then tapping the FaceTime button.

Adding someone to a call is easy, if hidden. On an iPhone, tap the screen to reveal the controls, then swipe up on them to reveal more, including Add Person. On the Mac, click the sidebar button to reveal the sidebar and the Add Person button.

FaceTime in iOS includes numerous effects that are popular largely with children, including Animoji that replace your face with a cartoon, video filters (try Comic Book with an Animoji head), shapes, activity stickers, Memoji stickers, and emoji stickers. Alas, you can’t switch to a virtual background as you can with Zoom.

The big thing that FaceTime lacks in comparison with other options is screen sharing, which lets you show others in the video call what you see on your screen. The closest you can come is to flip the camera on your iPhone or iPad and point it at your Mac’s screen. FaceTime also lacks recording, though you can use iOS’s Screen Recording or macOS’s QuickTime Player to do that.

Google Hangouts

Whereas Apple separates text messaging and video calling into Messages and FaceTime, Google combines those capabilities in Google Hangouts. It works in iOS and Android, and on the Web, so it can be used on any computer. Google’s Web approach means it’s easy to follow an invitation link to join a hangout on the Mac, although that’s best done in Google Chrome or Firefox, neither of which needs a plug-in. Safari does require a plug-in.

If you already have a text conversation going with one or more people, it’s easy to start a video call by clicking the video button. You can also start a video call with one person and, once you’re in the call, click the Invite People icon, click Copy Link To Share, and then send that link to people in any way you want. Every participant does need a Google account, and only ten can join a video call at once.

In comparison with the others, Google Hangouts is bare-bones. It offers no effects, virtual backgrounds, built-in recording, or other gewgaws, and the way it separates the chat in a video call from the text conversation in a hangout is confusing. But if you need to communicate with a set of people who use Hangouts regularly, it works.

Skype

Microsoft’s Skype is the granddaddy of Internet telephony apps. It’s available for free for macOS, Windows, iOS, and Android, making it a good cross-platform choice. Since it uses Microsoft Live logins, it’s most easily used by those who are already deep in the Microsoft ecosystem, but you can invite someone to join a conversation as a guest without an account. Guests invited by link can even join from within Google Chrome (but not Safari) without needing the Skype app.

The easiest way to start a video call is from an existing conversation; just click the video button in a conversation. To get the link to a conversation, click the bold names at the top left of the conversation.

Skype offers extras for jazzing up the associated text chats—emoticons, stickers, and “mojis,” which are short video clips from movies. Its video calling options—for up to 50 people—are extensive. You can take a still photo of the screens in the call and share them in a gallery of images, carry on the text chat in a sidebar, and turn on “subtitles” that automatically transcribe what everyone in the call says. Skype lacks virtual backgrounds, but it can blur your background for more privacy. Screen sharing is supported, though not built-in recording.

All these options make for a somewhat convoluted interface, but Skype works well and may be the best free option overall.

Zoom

In the last few months, Zoom has become the best-known entry in the videoconferencing field. It’s popular with organizations, thanks to enterprise-level features and a simple experience for joining group calls, coupled with high-quality audio and video. The main downside is that the company has been criticized for lax security and poor privacy practices.

You need a Zoom account only to host a videoconference; the people you invite don’t need to sign up. Joining a video call for the first time is easy—you merely click an invitation link, and the Web page that loads either downloads the app (on a computer) or provides a button to get it (smartphone). Subsequent connections launch the app and connect you to the meeting.

For those who don’t pay $14.99 per month for a Pro account, Zoom’s Basic account is free. With the exception of limiting calls to 40 minutes, it’s fully featured. Nothing prevents you from starting another call immediately, and there are no limits on the number of calls you can make. The Basic and Pro plans are limited to 100 participants at a time, but Pro plan subscribers can pay for more.

Along with its popular virtual backgrounds feature, which lets you upload a photo or video to put behind you in the picture (a snazzy executive office, a tropical beach, or whatever), Zoom offers a number of compelling options. It lets multiple people share screens at once, lets people display reaction emoji (handy for showing approval while staying muted), can record audio or video locally (Pro accounts can record to the cloud), and much more.

Making a Choice

If you’re videoconferencing only with Apple users, try FaceTime to start. If FaceTime doesn’t float your boat, or you need cross-platform video calls, Skype beats out Google Hangouts handily. Zoom is probably the best of the lot, though you have to decide if breaking its 40-minute limit is worth $14.99 per month. If not, fall back on Skype.

(Featured image by ThisIsEngineering from Pexels)


Troubleshooting Steps for When Your Mac Won’t Print | Apple Consulting Los Angeles

There’s little more frustrating than being unable to print a document when you need it. You choose File > Print, and nothing happens. Or, worse, macOS looks like it’s printing, so you focus on some other task, only to realize 20 minutes later that nothing has come out of the printer. Now what? Try these troubleshooting steps.

Check the Printer’s Print Queue App

Whenever you print, the printer’s Print Queue app appears in your Dock, named for the printer. (If it doesn’t, open System Preferences > Printers & Scanners, select the desired printer and click Open Print Queue.)

In the Print Queue app, look at the status of the printer and the print job. First off, if you print to multiple printers, does the app correspond with the correct printer? If not, cancel the job by clicking the X button to its right, quit the Print Queue app, print again, and choose the correct printer from the Printer pop-up menu in the Print dialog.

The Print Queue app may also display a useful error message that tells you what’s wrong, such as the printer being offline or not connected. You may also see old print jobs stuck in the queue that are blocking the current job—delete them by clicking the X next to their names.

If something has caused the printer to be paused, click the green Resume button. That won’t work if the printer has paused itself due to a paper jam or low supplies—in such a case, resolve the problem first.

Check the Printer and Its Connection

Error messages may have given you a hint about problems with the printer itself, but they’re not always helpful. Verify the following:

  1. Is the printer turned on? Doh! If necessary, turn it on. Also, try turning it off and back on—this resolves a surprising number of printing problems.
  2. Is the printer connected? It should be connected via either USB or your Wi-Fi or Ethernet network—make sure the cables are plugged in and it’s on the same network as your Mac. Consider restarting your router if there seem to be communication issues.
  3. Does the printer have paper in it? No paper, no printout.
  4. Is there a paper jam? Printers usually squawk about paper jams. Clear it before trying again.
  5. Are any ink or toner cartridges empty? Some printers are notorious for refusing to print if even one ink cartridge is empty, or even low. That can be true even if you’re printing only in black and a color cartridge is empty.

There’s one final check of the printer you can perform: printing a test page directly from the printer (check your printer’s manual for instructions). If that fails, the printer may need servicing.

Check Your Mac’s Printing Setup

The final place to look for a solution to printing problems is in your Mac’s printing subsystem. Problems here can be specific to your document or to its app, or they can be related to the printer driver.

For your first test, try opening your document in Preview as a PDF (in the document’s Print dialog, choose PDF > Open in Preview) and printing it from Preview.

If that works, you know that your Mac can print, so the problem has to do with either the document or the app. To isolate the problem to the document or the app, print another simple document from the app. If that does print, you know the problem is with your document, but since you’ve already gotten a PDF to print of that document, your immediate problem may be already solved. If the problem is with the app, you’ll eventually need to solve it, of course. But most of the time, the problem actually lies with your printer driver.

It’s uncommon for driver updates to come outside of macOS updates these days, but check System Preferences > Software Update just to make sure. You can also check the printer manufacturer’s Web site for updates; Google on “printerNameAndModel Mac driver” to find what’s available. Compare that against what you see when you select the printer in System Preferences > Printers & Scanners and click the Options & Supplies button. If there’s a newer version, download and install it.

If installing a new version doesn’t work, try deleting the printer from Printers & Scanners and re-adding it. Select the printer in the list and click the – button at the bottom to delete it. Then click the + button and add it back.

No luck? Try deleting the driver and adding it again, but choose a different option from the Use pop-up menu at the bottom. Start with the name of the printer itself instead of Secure AirPrint to ensure you’re using the manufacturer’s driver instead of Apple’s. If that doesn’t make a difference, try again with Generic PostScript Printer or Generic PCL Printer—beware that they may not provide full functionality beyond basic printing. For the ultimate in trying something different, if it supports your printer, try installing an independent driver from the open-source Gutenprint project.

One note: if possible, avoid using the Printer Sharing feature that’s been in macOS for years. It works, but it requires that the Mac doing the sharing be turned on and awake whenever anyone using the shared printer wants to print.

If you’re still stuck, go nuclear. Go back to the Printers & Scanners preferences, Control-click any printer, and choose Reset Printing System. As the warning dialog tells you, doing so will delete all your existing printers, scanners, and faxes, and any pending print jobs. You’re basically resetting your printing system to factory defaults, after which you’ll have to add printers back again.

One of these solutions will almost certainly solve your problem, but if not, give us a call!

(Featured image by Adam Engst)


How to Choose Between iCloud Photos and My Photo Stream | IT Services in Los Angeles

For quite a few years, Apple enabled users to download their iPhone or iPad photos to their Macs with a service called My Photo Stream. It wasn’t perfect, but it was free, and it did a decent job of ensuring that photos you took on your iPhone or iPad would end up on your Mac.

Then Apple introduced iCloud Photo Library, later renamed to iCloud Photos, which is a full-featured cloud-based photo syncing service. However, because it stores all your photos in the cloud, most people need to purchase more storage from Apple to use it.

As a result, Apple has kept My Photo Stream around, at least for most existing users. (The company says, “If you recently created your Apple ID, My Photo Stream might not be available. If My Photo Stream isn’t available, use iCloud Photos to keep your photos and videos in iCloud.” Huh.) For those who have a choice, which should you use? (On the Mac, you make that choice in Photos > Preferences > iCloud; in iOS, look in Settings > Photos.)

Cost and Storage Details

The key advantages of My Photo Stream over iCloud Photos are that My Photo Stream is completely free and the storage it uses doesn’t count against your iCloud limits.

In contrast, Apple gives every iCloud user 5 GB of free storage, but that’s shared among all your iCloud services, like iCloud Drive and icloud.com email, so it disappears quickly. Most of us have more than 5 GB of photos anyway. You can purchase 50 GB for $0.99 per month, 200 GB for $2.99 per month, or 2 TB for $9.99 per month (prices vary slightly in other countries).

On a pure price basis then, My Photo Stream wins. However, it suffers from other limitations that make it less compelling:

  1. My Photo Stream stores your photos on your iOS devices in a lower resolution to save space and transmission time. On the Mac, however, your photos download in full resolution. In contrast, iCloud Photos lets you choose on each device whether you want original images or optimized versions to save space—full-resolution originals are always stored in iCloud itself.
  2. My Photo Stream manages only the last 30 days of photos and only the last 1000 photos. That’s fine for just transferring photos from your iPhone to your Mac for permanent storage, but your other devices will be able to display only your most recent photos. iCloud Photos stores all your photos as long as you have sufficient space.
  3. When you edit a photo while using My Photo Stream, the edits apply only to the photo you edited, not to versions synced with other devices. With iCloud Photos, all edits you make—on any of your devices—sync to all the rest of your devices.

Supported Formats

There’s another big gotcha with My Photo Stream. It supports only photos and images in JPEG, PNG, and TIFF formats, plus most raw formats. That doesn’t sound terrible until you realize that it doesn’t include Live Photos or any video formats. That’s right—My Photo Stream won’t sync your Live Photos or videos from your iPhone to your Mac at all! You’ll have to move them over manually in some other way.

In comparison, iCloud Photos supports the same still image formats as My Photo Stream and adds GIF, HEIF, and more raw formats, along with Live Photos. Plus, it supports MP4 and HEVC videos. In other words, iCloud Photos will sync all your images and videos, regardless of format.

Supported Devices

Finally, My Photo Stream works on the Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple TV, and with Windows-based PCs. iCloud Photos extends that list to include the Apple Watch and the iCloud.com Web site. Apple Watch support likely isn’t a dealbreaker for most people, but it can be useful to be able to see all your photos in a Web browser on any computer.

Making the Choice

Technically speaking, you can have both My Photo Stream and iCloud Photos turned on. However, if you’re using iCloud Photos, My Photo Stream doesn’t get you anything, so you should turn it off.

If you’re trying to save money and have more than 5 GB of photos, My Photo Stream works to bring most of your iPhone photos down to your Mac for permanent storage in the Photos app. Just beware that it won’t sync your Live Photos or videos, and any other iOS devices you have will be limited to seeing the last 30 days or 1000 photos.

For most people, though, iCloud Photos is the way to go. It’s easily worth $12 or $36 per year for 50 GB or 200 GB of storage, it syncs all your photos and videos among all your devices, and it even syncs edits.

(Featured image based on originals by Jon Tyson on Unsplash and OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay)


Disable or Remap the Caps Lock Key to Avoid Accidental ALL CAPS | IT Support in Los Angeles

As you undoubtedly know, TYPING IN ALL CAPS is considered shouting on the Internet. Doesn’t it bug you when you accidentally tap the Caps Lock key and start writing in uppercase? The Caps Lock key is vestigial—it was invented as a “Shift lock” key to make it easier to type the second characters on the keys of a mechanical typewriter without also holding down the Shift key the entire time. It’s seldom useful on a computer; Google replaced it with a Search key on Chromebook keyboards. It still appears on all of Apple’s keyboards, but macOS lets you disable or remap it. In System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard, click the Modifier Keys button. In the dialog that appears, choose No Action (or another key) from the pop-up menu next to Caps Lock. Click OK and you’re free from accidental capitalizations.

(Featured image based on an original by Scott Webb from Pexels)

What to Do If You Run Low on iCloud Storage Space | Cloud Solutions Los Angeles

By default, Apple gives every iCloud user 5 GB of storage space. That disappears quickly, given how it’s shared between iCloud Mail, iCloud Drive, iCloud Photos, Messages, and iCloud-enabled apps.

Apple will, of course, sell you more iCloud space. $0.99 per month gets you 50 GB, $2.99 per month provides 200 GB, and for $9.99 per month, you can use a whopping 2 TB. The latter two plans can even be shared with others in your Family Sharing group.

As we’ve noted elsewhere, using iCloud Photos almost certainly requires you to pay for extra storage. But if you’re paying $2.99 per month and nudge up against the 200 GB limit, you may not be enthused about increasing your payment to $9.99 per month when you’re unlikely to need anywhere near 2 TB.

That said, you don’t want to run out of storage space. Email to your iCloud email address will be rejected, photos won’t upload from your iPhone, and app data will fail to sync. Happily, Apple alerts you when you’re running low on space, before things get bad.

It’s often easy to recover space that’s not being used in a helpful way. First, check how much space you have and how much you’re using. In macOS 10.14 Mojave, look at the graph at the bottom of System Preferences > iCloud. In 10.15 Catalina, the graph is in System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud. In iOS, you’ll find a similar graph at Settings > Your Name > iCloud.

Then, to clear space, work through these five approaches.

1. Remove Unnecessary iCloud Device Backups

The biggest win comes from deleting iCloud device backups for devices you no longer use. It’s common for these to stick around, so if you recently upgraded from an iPhone X to an iPhone 11 Pro, the iPhone X backup is probably still consuming gigabytes.

Navigate to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > Manage Storage > Backups to see what you have. If you find backups for a previous iPhone or iPad, tap it and then tap Delete Backup.

2. Delete Unnecessary Data from iOS Apps

While you’re in the iCloud Storage screen (the leftmost screenshot above), look through the other apps at the top of the list. The Photos app will likely be using the most storage, but all you can do to minimize its space usage is delete unnecessary screenshots, duplicate photos, and accidental videos from Photos. That will likely require lots of manual effort.

However, some other apps—think about third-party camera or video apps—may be using space unnecessarily. Investigate any apps reporting a lot of usage in the iCloud Storage screen, and if possible, clear out the unnecessary data.

Finally, consider Messages. If you regularly trade photos and videos in chats, it could be another place you can save significant space. In the iCloud Storage screen, tap Messages > Top Conversations to see which conversations are the largest. Tap one to switch to Messages, tap the person’s avatar at the top of the conversation, tap the Info button, scroll down to see the photos, and tap See All Photos. Tap Select, tap photos you have no desire to keep within that Messages conversation, and then tap Delete at the bottom-right of the screen.

3. Avoid Backing Up Apps with Massive iCloud Data Stores

If one of your apps is storing a lot of data that you don’t want to delete, but that you don’t care if it were to be lost, you can prevent it from being backed up by iCloud Backup and reduce the size of your backups.

To find such apps, navigate to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > Manage Storage > Backups and tap the name of the device you’re on. That screen shows which apps consume the most space in your backup. Tap the toggle switch next to an app to stop backing it up and delete its data from your backup.

4. Scan for and Delete Large Files in iCloud Drive

It’s hard to know if you’re likely to be using lots of space in iCloud Drive—it all depends on what iCloud-savvy apps you use and if you store other files in iCloud Drive via the Mac’s Finder or the Files app in iOS.

There’s no need to guess, however, thanks to free Mac apps that help you identify especially large files and folders. Our favorites are GrandPerspective and OmniDiskSweeper. GrandPerspective uses a graphical view so you can see at a glance where your space is going, whereas OmniDiskSweeper opts for a classic text-based approach that gives you hard numbers. In GrandPerspective, choose File > Scan Folder and select iCloud Drive in the sidebar of the Open dialog. For OmniDiskSweeper, choose File > Size Folder.

Whichever app you use, it’s easy to select large files or folders and click Delete (GrandPerspective) or Trash (OmniDiskSweeper). You may have to set an option in GrandPerspective > Preferences to enable deletions if its Delete button is disabled.

5. Delete Old Email from iCloud Mail

All the email you store at iCloud counts against your free space, so it can be worth clearing out unwanted old messages (and their large attachments). To delete individual messages using Apple’s Mail, just select them and click the Trash button in the toolbar. Some messages are much bigger than others, however, and to find them, choose View > Sort By > Size. That puts the largest messages at the top.

Of course, deleting messages normally just moves them to the Trash mailbox; to reclaim the space they occupy on iCloud, choose Mailbox > Erase Deleted Items > AccountName. Once you do that, the messages are gone for good.

If you want to remove an entire mailbox and its contents, select it in the sidebar and choose Mailbox > Delete Mailbox. That deletes all of its messages immediately and can’t be undone.

When you put all these space-clearing techniques together, you’ll likely be able to clear enough cruft that you won’t have to pay Apple for more iCloud storage space. But if you’re uncomfortable deleting such data, there’s no shame in upgrading to a larger iCloud storage plan.

(Featured image by stokpic from Pixabay)


MacBook Air Update Features Magic Keyboard, iPad Pro Gets a Trackpad | Managed Services LA

In a widely expected update, Apple has introduced a new MacBook Air that replaces the much-maligned butterfly keyboard with the new Magic Keyboard. The MacBook Air also gains faster processors, enhanced graphics, and more storage options, all for $200 less than before.

Apple also threw back the curtains on an updated iPad Pro that will be compatible with a new iPad Pro-specific Magic Keyboard that includes a trackpad. The iPad Pro is available now, but the Magic Keyboard won’t ship until May.

MacBook Air Gains Magic Keyboard, Faster Performance, and Other Enhancements

In an effort to eliminate the hated butterfly keyboard from the Mac line, Apple has released an updated MacBook Air that features the scissor-key Magic Keyboard introduced last year in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. That keyboard has received highly positive reviews, and we’re happy to see it appear in the MacBook Air. (Look for a new model to replace the current 13-inch MacBook Pro soon as well.) The Magic Keyboard includes 12 function keys as well as a Touch ID sensor, but no Touch Bar.

Apple significantly improved the MacBook Air’s performance by providing a choice of 10th-generation Intel Core processors, including the model’s first quad-core processor option. The base level 1.1 GHz dual-core Intel Core i3 is probably pretty slow, but upgrading to a 1.1 GHz quad-core i5 is only $100 and a 1.2 GHz quad-core i7 is just $250.

Graphics should be noticeably speedier as well, thanks to the switch to Intel Iris Plus Graphics. The MacBook Air can now drive a 6K display too, if you have a Pro Display XDR.

Apple also doubled the base level of storage to 256 GB, and you can increase that to 512 GB ($200), 1 TB ($400), or 2 TB ($800).

Minor enhancements include True Tone technology for more natural images on the 13-inch Retina display, “wide stereo sound” for the speakers, and support for Bluetooth 5.0.

As welcome as all these changes are, the best news is that Apple simultaneously dropped the MacBook Air’s price. The entry-level model now starts at $999, and it’s available to the education market for just $899.

iPad Pro

We were waiting for the Magic Keyboard to come to the MacBook Air, but we had no inkling that Apple was going to add a trackpad option to the iPad Pro. It will come in the form of the new Magic Keyboard, due in May, and will require iPadOS 13.4, slated for late March. Apple says it will be easy to use, with the pointer transforming to highlight user elements appropriately as the user moves their finger across the trackpad. What it won’t be is cheap, at $299 for the 11-inch model and $349 for the 12.9-inch model. (The second-generation Apple Pencil and an updated Smart Keyboard Folio remain available.)

The other unexpected change in the new iPad Pro is the addition of the new LiDAR Scanner. LiDAR (light detection and ranging) is a way of measuring distance with reflected laser light. It’s commonly used in self-driving cars, but Apple is instead using it to beef up the iPad Pro’s augmented reality (AR) capabilities. It offers existing ARKit apps instant AR placement, improved motion capture, and people occlusion. Apple also uses it to improve the Measure app. We can’t help but think Apple is testing the technology for future AR goggles.

Less surprising improvements include a new processor—Apple’s custom A12Z Bionic chip—and a dual-camera system that combines a 12-megapixel wide camera and a 10-megapixel ultra-wide camera that zooms out two times to capture a much wider field of view. The iPad Pro also now boasts five microphones for capturing audio and four speakers that automatically adjust to any orientation.

Pricing for the iPad Pro itself hasn’t changed. The 11-inch model starts at $799, with the 12.9-inch model at $999. Both come with 128 GB of flash storage, up from 64 GB in the previous models, and you can buy more storage: 256 GB (add $100), 512 GB ($300), or 1 TB ($500). Cellular connectivity costs an extra $150.

Mac mini

Last and indeed least, Apple announced that the standard configurations of the Mac mini now have twice as much storage as before. That means the $799 configuration comes with 256 GB and the $1099 configuration comes with 512 GB. 1 TB and 2TB configurations remain available, and there are no other changes.

(Featured image by Apple)


Set Your Preferred Name and Photo for Messages | Apple Consulting Los Angeles

In your list of conversations in Messages, you probably have lots of people who have generic icons next to their names or numbers. You likely look like that to other people as well, but a feature in iOS lets you share your preferred name and avatar picture with other iMessage users (blue-bubble friends). In Messages, first tap the Edit button and then Edit Name and Photo. Note that if you have not setup a Memoji with Apple you will need to complete this first. Then, in the activity view that appears, tap Edit under your photo to select a new photo and set your name as you want it. Make sure Name and Photo Sharing is enabled before tapping Done. From now on, for any iMessage conversations, you’ll see a little banner at the top that asks if you want to share your name and photo. Do so and your recipient will get a prompt to replace whatever they’re seeing for you. (And if, as a recipient, you don’t want to accept the new photo, tap the X button at the right of the prompt.)

(Featured image by Daniel Frese from Pexels)

Invoke Split View More Easily in Catalina or later | IT Services in Los Angeles

Split View on the Mac helps you focus on your work in one app—perhaps a word processor—while providing access to one other app, like a Web browser. (Make sure “Displays have separate Spaces” is selected in System Preferences > Mission Control.) Before macOS 10.15 Catalina, you had to click and hold on the green full-screen button in the upper-left corner of any window, drag that window to one side of the screen, and click a window on the other side to put them side by side. With the Catalina or later operating system this is easier to discover: hover over the green full-screen button briefly and then choose Tile Window to Left of Screen or Tile Window to Right of Screen before selecting a window on the other side of the screen. If you don’t want a 50-50 split, drag the black divider bar between the windows to adjust the proportions. To leave Split View, move your pointer to the top of the screen to reveal the menu bar and then click the green full-screen button.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

How to Find the Snaps You Want in the Mac’s Photos App | IT Support in Los Angeles

Digital cameras have been around long enough that people have stopped making snarky comments about how hard it is to find anything in a shoebox filled with hundreds of unorganized photos. But given the tens of thousands of photos many of us now have, it’s hard to be smug about the ease of finding any given image. Luckily, Apple has provided us with numerous tools in the Photos app to help. Some of these organization systems you have to set up and maintain, but others work silently for you in the background. Let’s start with the automatic methods.

Date

It’s impossible to miss how Photos automatically organizes your photo library by date, particularly in macOS 10.15 Catalina, where the Photos view lets you drill down by Year, Month, and Day. One tip: Day view doesn’t necessarily show you all the pictures taken on a particular day; to see them, click All Photos.

If you don’t want to browse, you can also search (choose Edit > Find) on things like “2015” or “January 2015.” The utility of such searches is that they filter the displayed images to just those taken in that year or month. You can even search on “January” to find all photos taken in January of any year.

People

With a little training of its facial recognition algorithms, Photos can automatically create and maintain collections of photos of particular people. Click People in the sidebar to see the faces that Photos has identified automatically, and if any of them currently lack names, click the Name button for a photo you want to identify, enter a name, and either press Return or select from the suggestions. Although it may not happen immediately, Photos will scan all photos for other pictures of each person and add them; if you get a banner in the toolbar asking you to review additional photos, click Review and then deselect any photos that aren’t that person in the next dialog.

Whenever you’re looking for a photo of a particular person, the fastest way may be to focus on just those photos that contain their face. Click People in the sidebar and double-click the desired person’s box to see their photos. Make sure to click Show More to see all the matched photos, rather than just those Photos deems the best.

Places

By default, the Camera app tags every iPhone or iPad photo with the location where you took the picture. That enables you to search for images on a map. Click Places in the sidebar, and then pan and zoom the map to find the desired location. Click any photo thumbnail to show just the photos taken in that spot. If you know the name of the location, you can also search for it directly—Photos knows the names of all geotagged locations.

Location-based searching could be a godsend for real-estate agents, builders, and others who need to collect images by address. No need to use keywords or other metadata, since the geotagging provides all the necessary information. 

AI Object Search

In the last few releases of Photos, Apple has added object searching, which finds photos based on their contents. Looking for photos of cows, or beaches, or oak trees? Just type what you want to find into the Photos search field, and Photos might find it.

Although it’s magic when this approach works, don’t put too much stock in it. Searching for “cow” also brought up images of pigs, goats, and horses for us. Close, in that they’re all four-legged farm animals, but no cigar.

Media Types

Sometimes, what you want to find is already categorized by its media type. If you want to find a selfie, for instance, or a panorama, look no further than the Media Types collection in the Photos sidebar. It includes dedicated albums that automatically update themselves to contain videos, selfies, Live Photos, Portrait-mode photos, panoramas, time-lapse movies, slo-mo movies, bursts, screenshots, and animated GIFs.

Albums and Smart Albums

With the categorization techniques so far, you don’t have to do much, if anything. With albums, however, all organization is entirely manual. Creating a new album is easy—select some photos and then choose File > New Album with Selection. After the fact, you can add more photos to the album by dragging them from the main window to the album in the sidebar. And, of course, clicking the album in the sidebar displays all the photos.

Smart albums are entirely different from albums—they are essentially saved searches. To create one, choose File > New Smart Album and then define the matching criteria. Photos provides oodles of options, making it easy to create a smart album that, for instance, holds photos of a particular person taken with one specific camera over a certain time frame.

An aspect of working with albums and smart albums that can be confusing is how to delete photos. When you remove a photo from a regular album, you’re just taking it out of that album, not deleting it from your library. (To actually delete a photo from your library, click Photos in the sidebar before selecting the photo and pressing the Delete key.) The only way to remove a photo from a smart album is to ensure that it no longer matches the smart album’s criteria, either by changing the conditions or by modifying the photo’s metadata, which isn’t always possible.

Keywords

If you want to tag individual images in a way that makes them easy to find later, keywords are an excellent option. Choose Window > Keyword Manager to display the floating Keywords window, and click Edit Keywords to open the editing view where you can click + to add a keyword (complete with a one-letter shortcut, which also puts it at the top of the Keywords window). Click – to remove a keyword (from the list and from any photos to which it’s assigned). Click OK to switch back to the main keyword view.

To assign a keyword, select a set of photos or just focus on the current one. Either click the keyword in the Keywords window or press its associated letter shortcut. Clicking or pressing the shortcut again removes the keyword.

You can see what keywords are attached to an image by making sure View > Metadata > Keywords is chosen and then clicking the badge that Photos adds to keyworded images. To find everything with a particular keyword, though, you’ll have to do a search and, if necessary, look at the Keywords collection at the bottom of the search results.

Titles and Descriptions

Another way to find photos manually is to give them titles or descriptions and then search for words in those bits of metadata. Applying consistent titles and descriptions manually would be onerous, but you can do multiple selected images as easily as one. Select some pictures, choose Window > Info, and in the Info window, enter a title or description. Close the Info window to save.

To see (and edit) the title under each image, make sure View > Metadata > Titles is chosen. To find included words, you need to do a search, just like with keywords.

Choosing the Best Approach for Your Needs

So many choices! Here’s our advice about which should you use:

  • When possible, stick with the approaches (date, People, Places, object search, media types) that require little or no additional tagging work. People and Places are particularly useful that way.
  • If you can construct a smart album that finds all the images you want, do it. However, it may not be useful (or possible) unless you’re looking for a subset of photos that already are in an album, have a keyword, or are attached to a person.
  • Use albums for quick, ad-hoc collections or for collections of related photos. They’re easy to make and use, and to delete if you no longer need them. An album would be good for collecting all the photos from your summer vacation.
  • Use keywords to identify general aspects of images throughout your entire photo library that you’re happy to access only by searching or via a smart album. Keywords would be useful for tagging all the photos you take of lecture slides, or that relate to your hobby.
  • Avoid relying on titles and descriptions if you can. It’s too easy to make mistakes such that later you can’t find items you’ve titled or described. Albums and keywords are better for organization. Leave the titles and descriptions for actually titling and describing individual images.

Next time you think, “I wish I could find all my photos that…,” take a minute and think through these options to decide which will best serve your needs.

(Featured image by Simon Steinberger from Pixabay)

Migrate to a New Mac Right Away, Rather Than Waiting | Apple Consulting Los Angeles

The next time you buy and set up a new Mac, make sure to migrate data and apps from your previous Mac to it right away during the initial setup. It can be tempting to see what it’s like to use it fresh from the factory or to delay migrating because doing so would force a macOS upgrade, but waiting is a mistake. The problem is that if you do real work in an account on the new Mac, when it comes time to use Migration Assistant to bring over data from your old Mac, there’s no way to merge the old and new accounts. The best workaround is to make sure all important data on the new Mac is also stored in a cloud service like iCloud Drive or Dropbox, and then replace the new account on the new Mac with the old account from your previous Mac. Bring all the data back down from the cloud afterward.

(Featured image built with images from Apple and Marc Mueller from Pexels)