32 iPad Tips and Tricks

Master your new iPad with these quick tips and handy iOS shortcuts.

You know that your new iPad will let you easily watch movies, browse the Internet, or play games on the go, but there are many advanced features hidden beneath the surface of iOS that can improve your tablet computing experience even further. To help you become an iPad master, we’ve compiled a handy list of tips and tricks for new iPad users. Read on if you want to learn how to multitask, take screenshots, encrypt your backups and more.

Set the iPad to self-destruct in 10 seconds: Okay, not really–but you can set the iPad to erase all data after ten failed passcode entry attempts by checking the Erase Data option under Settings, General, Passcode Lock.

Don’t let AutoCorrect mess you up: If you don’t like the option AutoCorrect gives you, reject it by finishing the word as you prefer, and then tapping the suggestion. If you want to use AutoCorrect’s choice, just type a space or punctuation mark, or tap Return, the moment it pops up.

Create custom shortcuts for common phrases: Make AutoCorrect work for you by teaching iOS to transform shorthand (such as “omw”) into common phrases (like “on my way”) using iOS 5 shortcuts. Simply navigate to Settings, General, Keyboard, and select Add New Shortcut. Type the phrase you want to shorten in the Phrase field, and then type the shortened version you want to use in the Shortcut field.

Download the free iPad User’s Guide: You may have noticed that your iPad didn’t come with a big printed manual–that’s not Apple’s style. However, you can download the PDF version of the iPad User’s Guide from Apple’s website, or you can read it in iBooks if you have that installed (iBooks is available as a free download in the App Store). Make sure to download the manual for the version of iOS you’re currently using!

Use the Side Switch: You can use the switch on the side either to enable and disable audio alerts (this doesn’t affect video/audio playback) or to lock the screen’s orientation in portrait or landscape mode. You can toggle which function is assigned to the switch by opening Settings from the home screen, selecting General, and choosing the function you want under the ‘Use Side Switch to’ heading.

Take a free guided tour: Apple provides video tutorials on setting up iTunes, as well as a complete rundown of all your preinstalled apps so that you can get a good look at how to use them.

Speed up your sentences: Double-tapping the spacebar while typing a message will type a period and a space.

iPad Tips and TricksMultitask in iOS: You probably already know that you can press the Home button twice to bring up a list of currently running or suspended apps. However, you can also swipe the multitasking bar left to right to quickly access audio/video playback controls, a shortcut to the iTunes app itself, an AirPlay button that lets you wirelessly mirror the iPad display on an Apple TV, and volume controls. Also, when you choose whether the Side Switch should mute alert sounds or lock the screen orientation (see the tip above), the function you didn’t choose will appear in this shortcut bar.

Secure your backups: You can encrypt your iPad’s backup data in iTunes. Just open the iPad in iTunes, click the Summary tab, and check Encrypt iPad backup under the Options heading.

Swap the search engine: Too cool for Google? You can change Safari’s default search engine by going to Settings, Safari, Search Engine. Alas, you can choose only from Google, Bing, or Yahoo–no vintage Metacrawler for you.

Take a screenshot of whatever is on the screen: Press the Home button and the sleep/wake button simultaneously. The screenshot will automatically appear among your photos.

Selectively prevent automatic sync: Sometimes you don’t want to sync your iPad when you connect it to your computer. In that case, hold down Shift-Ctrl (or Command-Option, on a Mac) in iTunes while plugging your iPad in, and iTunes will skip the automatic sync just this once. Alternatively, you can safely interrupt a sync by dragging the unlock slider on your device while the iPad is midsync.

Toggle 3G/LTE data roaming: If you’re using a 3G iPad, you can turn data roaming on in theSettings, Cellular Data menu in case you want to try receiving cellular Internet through a different provider (fees may apply). You can also disable LTE service if you’re trying to conserve bandwidth, and you can check your data usage by going to SettingsGeneral, Usage.

Restrict mature content: Go to Settings, General, Restrictions and tap Enable Restrictions to selectively apply controls on your apps, content, Game Center, and more. You can use this setting to limit mature content on your new iPad by disabling explicit-language recognition, blocking podcasts that have the “Explicit” tag, or blocking movies, TV shows, and apps that are rated for mature audiences.

iPad Tips and TricksMake your passcode more complicated: iOS defaults to a four-number passcode, but you can turn it off by going to Settings, General, Passcode Lock, Simple Passcode. Now you can use any full keyboard password to lock the iPad. The password also helps to encrypt your mail and attachments on the iPad, so you probably want to make it safer than a four-digit number.

Tweak AutoFill: You can choose to enable Safari’s AutoFill feature under Settings, Safari, AutoFill. From there you can tell Safari to fill out forms automatically, either by using your specified contact information or by remembering the names and passwords from previous website login sessions.

Sync your bookmarks: You can use iTunes to sync your iPad’s Safari bookmarks with your PC’s Web browser. Open the iPad tab in iTunes, click the Info tab, scroll down to the Other heading, check Sync bookmarks with, and choose your preferred browser.

Email photos: The easiest way to email photos from an iPad is to open the Photos app, select a photo, press the button in the upper-right corner (the rectangle with the right-facing arrow, not the AirPlay or trash can button), and choose Email photo… to send.

iPad Tips and TricksTest your Web links: You can check a linked word’s actual destination URL by touching and holding down on the link–it’s a perfect way to sniff out phishy links.

Choose an app for email attachments: You can open a file attached to an email message by tapping the attachment in Mail, but if the default app isn’t the one you want to use, simply press and hold and wait for a menu that lets you select an app.

Use your iPad as a picture frame: Not for physical photographs of course, but you can press the Picture icon in the lower-right corner of the lock screen to have the iPad display your photo stream as a slideshow.

iPad Tips & TricksShow traffic conditions: Open Maps, press the dog-eared page icon in the lower right, and then turn the Traffic overlay on. If your iPad has an Internet connection, Maps will show real-time traffic conditions in the displayed area. Green means traffic is going at the posted speed limit, yellow means traffic is slower than the posted speed limit, and red means traffic is stop-and-go.

Share podcasts with friends: Listening to a podcast that you think a friend would like? You can share the link while you’re listening to it by pressing the Email button while it’s open.

Don’t forget your downloads: You can immediately see if your iTunes account is due for incoming downloads by opening iTunes on your PC, clicking the Storemenu, and selecting Check for available downloads. This trick can come in handy if your download process is interrupted, or if you missed some bonus iTunes content that came with an album you purchased.

Turn on Universal Access: You can enable options such as closed-captioned movies, VoiceOver screen reading, zoom magnification, and inverted white-on-black text by selecting the iPad in iTunes, opening the Summary tab, and clicking Configure Universal Access under the Options heading.

Forget Wi-Fi networks: So you accidentally connected to a network once, and your iPad remembers it for life–whether you like it or not. On your iPad, go to Settings, Wi-Fi, and find the network under the ‘Choose a Network’ heading. Tap the blue arrow next to the network you want to remove, and tap the button on the top that says Forget this Network.

Customize your Spotlight searches: The iPad uses Spotlight for its built-in search functions, and you can tweak it to your needs under Settings, General, Spotlight Search. If you have a lot of data on your iPad, for example, you can selectively disable search in different categories (Contacts, Applications, Audiobooks, Notes, Events, Mail, and so on) that you don’t use so that your desired results show up faster. You can also simply change the order in which the search-result categories display by dragging them up and down, so that your more frequently used search categories appear at the top of the page.

Turn off in-app purchases: Go to Settings, General, Restrictions and tap Enable Restrictions to selectively enable restrictions for your apps, content, Game Center, and more. If you’re worried about other people breaking your bank account on in-app purchases, just disable In-App Purchasesunder the ‘Allowed Content’ setting.

iPad Tips and TricksSwitch up the fetching frequency: Your iPad automatically grabs new data, such as incoming email. However, the iPad also periodically activates apps that don’t support iOS’s Push feature so that they can go fetch new data–which uses the tablet’s battery life. You can tweak your Push and Fetch settings in Settings under the Mail, Contacts, Calendars menu by toggling the Fetch New Data option.

Change your email signature: Don’t be one of those people who leave the default ‘Sent from my iPad’ signature on all their messages. Change it in Settings, Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Signature to something more interesting.

Master multitasking gesture controls: Enable multitasking gesture controls in any iPad running iOS 5 or later by navigating to General, Settings and toggling Multitasking Gestures on. Now you can place four or five fingers on the screen at once and swipe them left or right to switch between open apps, or swipe up to display the multitasking bar. You can pinch your fingers together on the screen to return to the iPad home screen.

Sync your iPad wirelessly: To set up iTunes wireless syncing, plug your iPad into your PC, make sure both devices are connected to the same wireless network, and then boot up iTunes on your PC. On your iPad, navigate to Settings, General, iTunes Wi-Fi Sync, select the computer you want to sync with, and tap the Sync Now button. Your iPad should sync wirelessly with your computer, and will now do so automatically whenever you have it plugged in and connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your computer.

By Alex Wawro and Patrick Miller, PCWorld

How to master the art of passwords

Passwords are a way of life for nearly everybody who uses any kind of software. No viable alternative is imminent: fingerprint readers, retina scanners, voice identification, and USB tokens all have limitations. Nothing is as simple and inexpensive as an old-fashioned string of keystrokes.

Web services and network managers nearly always require a minimum degree of password difficulty to prevent standard password-cracking techniques from guessing them quickly. We’re also cautioned not to reuse the same passphrases on different sites and are routinely blocked from recycling the passwords we’ve used previously.

Considering the number of times PC users sign into a service or network each day, we may need to remember a half-dozen hard-to-guess passwords, not to mention the various sign-in IDs we use along with the passwords (full name or first initial-last name? Case sensitive? An e-mail address?). Many computer professionals need access to dozens of secure systems, which stretches the limits of anyone’s memory.

Your three options are to use a password-management program, to write your passwords down on paper (or record them in an encrypted text file), or to devise a method for memorizing hard-to-guess passphrases. While no single technique is right for everyone, here’s why I suggest the memorization approach.

The pros and cons of password managers
For many people, the best way to protect their data and identity is to use a password manager, which either stores your passwords in the cloud or on a local drive–often a USB thumb drive or other portable storage device. The obvious risk is that the vendor’s server is hacked or you lose the drive that stores your passwords.

Last May, the LastPass password-management service reported a breach that may have exposed users’ passwords, although LastPass CEO Joe Siegrist stated that people who used strong master passwords were not threatened.

LastPass is available as a Firefox add-on and as an extension for Internet Explorer, Chrome, and other browsers. The version for mobile devices costs $1 per month.

Other password managers work without storing your passwords on a Web server. The Tech Support Alert site recently compared several free password-management programs, including LastPass, RoboForm, and KeePass.

The hard-copy approach to password management
If you forgo the password-manager route, your options are to write your passphrases down or to memorize them. Whenever you record your passwords on paper–even if you record only a mnemonic that reminds you of the actual characters–you’ve made your accounts a little more susceptible to unauthorized access.

That hasn’t stopped computer experts from recommending that users jot down their passwords and keep the paper in a secure location. Gunter Ollman, a researcher for security firm Damballa, concludes that recording your passwords on paper is the lesser of several password evils; more risky is using the same password at multiple sites, setting your software to remember passwords, failing to change passwords frequently, using an easy-to-guess password, and reusing past passwords.

Likewise, computer expert Bruce Schneier reiterated on his Schneier on Security blog the advice of Microsoft executive Jesper Johansson to record your passwords on paper to encourage use of strong passwords.

The obvious downside of the paper approach is that someone will find the paper taped to the bottom of your keyboard or tucked into your wallet and access your private data before you’re able to take preventive measures. Or you may simply lose the paper and have to do the recover-password-by-e-mail two-step for each network and service you need to access.

The wetware approach to password storage is still the safest
As you might have guessed, Mr. Schneier’s 2005 post recommending that you write down your passwords generated quite a few comments to the contrary. Most of the commenters suggested their own technique for remembering strong passwords.

Of course, the bad guys pay close attention to this information and will attempt to incorporate the approaches in their password-cracking efforts. The key is to get creative in altering something you’ve already memorized, such as song lyrics, family members’ first names, or place names from your past.

An alternative method leverages something nearby. For example, there may be a product near your workstation that has a prominent model or serial number, or a book within view of your seat has an ISBN number on the back cover. Rather than using the exact number, add or subtract two or three numbers or letters, so “1158748562″ becomes “3370960784,” or “BCGA1339″ becomes “DEIC3551.”

The only problem I’ve encountered with my own password-mnemonic creation is that some vendors require a mix of upper and lower case letters and numbers. I have become resigned to having to go through Apple’s “Forgot your password?” e-mail routine about every other week.

This is doubly upsetting because my system uses from 12 to 16 random alphabetic characters (found in no dictionary and following no discernible pattern). As the How Secure Is My Passwordsite indicates, the all-text, all-lower-case password I devised would take much more effort to crack than an eight-character password that meets Apple’s requirements.


How Secure Is My Password siteCheck the strength of your passwords at the How Secure Is My Password site, which indicates how difficult your password is to crack, and whether it’s on the site’s common-password list.(Credit: screenshot by Dennis O’Reilly)

Only time will tell whether PC users will ever be able to securely store their sign-in credentials in their systems’ software or on a service’s Web server. For most people, the safest approach to passwords is to rely only on their own personal gray matter. Let’s hope a secure alternative to passwords arrives before our memories give out.

 Dennis O’Reilly @ CNET

Hidden iTunes: The Five Best Keyboard Shortcuts

Regular Hassle-Free PC (HFPC) readers know that I love keyboard shortcuts. Not, not love: lurve. (Quick trivia quiz: Name the movie in which that word was coined.) So today let’s talk about the five best ways to zip around iTunes without ever taking your hands off the ol’ QWERTY.

  • Ctrl-N: Create a new playlist
  • Ctrl-Up Arrow/Ctrl-Down Arrow: Raises and lowers the volume, respectively.
  • Ctrl-Left Arrow/Ctrl-Right Arrow: Skip back a song and skip ahead a song, respectively.
  • Ctrl-Shift-H: Takes you directly to the iTunes Store home page.
  • Space Bar: Play/pause the current song. (In other words, hit Space once to pause the song, again to resume, and so on.)

Rick Broida, PCWorld

Find Duplicate Songs

There are plenty of good programs for finding duplicate files–based on file name, size, and checksums–but finding duplicate songs can be trickier. After all, if you have the same recording in .mp3 and .m4a formats, you’ve got duplicate songs that are not duplicate files.

So you need to search by metadata–the extra information that defines the contents of a file. Specifically, you need a program that can matches songs with the same title and by the same artist (because Smash Mouth’s “I’m a Believer” is not a duplicate of the Monkees’ original.)

You’ll also have to remember that no list of duplicate songs generated by software will be perfect. A program may not realize that Beatles and The Beatles are the same group. Nor can it always differentiate between the original studio recording and the live concert version. (I’ve known Dead Heads with probably ten versions of “Brokedown Palace.”)

But the right program can give you reasonably accurate lists to work through. Here are three I can recommend:

iTunes: Well, no, I wouldn’t recommend you download and install iTunes just for this purpose, but if you’re already using it, you’ve got a pretty good search tool. Just select File • Show Duplicates. If you have the same song as an .mp3 and a .m4a, iTunes will list both, but it won’t find any .wma versions.

Lincoln Spector, PCWorld