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Last week at WWDC a new version of tvOS was announced which is set to come out sometime this fall. Apple has been promoting the app experience heavily since the latest Apple TV hit the shelves last fall and many of the upgrades to tvOS make it even easier to enjoy those apps. Here are some of the updates to look forward to in the Fall.

Siri will now specifically look for content in a specific app. You have been able to search content generically using Siri and it automatically does a general search. I will say my one complaint is that it does seem to prefer pulling content from the iTunes store. I was excited to see that you can now specify, for example, Netflix or YouTube when you’re looking for content with Siri. I’ll be excited to see how well Siri will be able to search specific apps for the content that I am looking for. Overall I have found that the Siri function on the Apple TV works extremely well.

App badging is finally coming to Apple TV, but what is it? Those little red dots that appear next to your apps on your iPad or iPhone letting you know there is something is new about the app will now appear next to the app. Additionally automatic app downloads are also going to be available with the new tvOS. When you download a universal app or game on your iPhone or iPad, it will automatically send it to your Apple TV.

Single sign-on is another new feature in the upcoming tvOS. For those with supported cable or satellite providers you’ll now just need to enter your provider’s information once and you’ll have automatic access to any supported apps. Currently you have to enter your information for each individual app you wish to use, so this feature is going to save users a lot of time and allow for faster access to content. As a bonus, this feature will also be available in iOS 10 so you’ll only have to sign on once for each of your devices.

Light or dark will be a new feature to tvOS and one that I admit I think I need to see and use to gain an appreciation for it. Similar to features you can turn on in iBooks and Night Shift in iOS, you’ll be able to set your Apple TV background to light or dark depending on your viewing environment. This will allow you to optimize your view of different apps within Apple TV. This flexibility is great when using my iOS devices but I admit I can’t just yet wrap my head around the advantages when I am watching TV.

HomeKit makes its Apple TV debut in the new tvOS and continues to make it even easier to access and control HomeKit compatible devices like your lights, the temperature in your house or lock the downstairs door before heading off to bed. Other improvements were also announced in Apple Music and in Photos allowing users to access their favorite media in new ways and faster than before.

Now if only fall was here so we can all try this out! OK, I won’t rush summer; it never lasts long enough as it is.

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Watch This

I am really surprised that I have taken to the Apple Watch so completely. It is not that I use it as a fitness device although I DO have goals…that I seldom meet. But, I wear it every day even though it was over 50 years since I regularly wore a watch.

Q: So, what do I use it for?

A: ApplePay, sports scores, texts, answering my iPhone Dick Tracy-style, weather and a lot of other stuff like checking the time. :)

I was very interested in the latest version of watchOS that was introduced by Apple at WWDC; watchOS 3 has some pretty dramatic changes in store for your Apple Watch. The first, and most noticeable for me, is that the little scribbles that you can send to your friends when you press the side button is gone. Okay, I used that like 4 times to send little drawings to Grace or my hearbeat but pretty useless for that important button. Now, pressing that button will give you a Dock which you can configure with your favorite apps, which I find a lot more convenient than trying to get my big fat finger on that tiny little icon.

Something you will get used to pretty quickly, but is a huge improvement, is that it is easier and faster to perform common tasks including replying to a message, starting a workout, or skipping a track. Apps launch much faster. Swipe up from the bottom of the watch face to access your important settings in Control Center.

Apple added new watch faces, too, including Minnie Mouse (I don’t get the fascination with Mickey and Minnie), Activity, or Numerals, and you can customize them with more complications like Music and Workout. Switch faces with just a swipe, so you can have the Activity face for the gym and the Modular face for work. And easily configure your faces in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. Configuring your watch faces on your iPhone is much easier than on the tiny watch face.

There are some improvements to the Activity app including some for the more competitive folks. You can share and compete with activity sharing. Send and receive real-time progress updates when friends finish workouts or earn achievements, and reply with encouragement or smack talk. Activity rings are optimized for wheelchair users, there are two wheelchair-specific workouts, and there’s a new Time to Roll notification.

There was a lot of time spent on the new Breathe app and while I like it and have tried it out a few times it is not as groundbreaking as Apple made it out to be. It must have been someone’s pet idea. The new Breathe app encourages you to take moments in your day to do short, deep-breathing sessions. The beautiful, calming visualization and haptic cues guide you through deep, full breaths in sessions lasting from one to five minutes. And when you’re done, you’ll receive a helpful heart-rate summary. I ended up turning of Breathe notifications after a few sessions.

You know those squiggly drawings we talked about that were eliminated? Well, they were actually just moved where they belong: into Messages. Set off fireworks or stick a sticker. Share a secret with invisible ink or reply in your own handwriting. You can even draw letters on the display and Apple Watch turns it into text. All your options including larger emoji, sketches, taps, and your heartbeat are in the same place, so you can send and respond to messages faster than ever.

The new SOS feature is a handy safety item to complement your Medical ID that we talked about a couple weeks ago. Quickly and easily call for help if you’re in a critical situation. Press and hold the side button and your Apple Watch will automatically initiate a call with 911 or other emergency services numbers in other countries. SOS can also send a message to the people you’ve chosen as your emergency contacts, so your family and friends are alerted as quickly as possible.

The Timer app which I use all the time is revamped and makes it easier to start timing, but best of all is Auto Unlock. While it is not yet implemented in the current betas, Auto Unlock will unlock your Mac when you are wearing your watch. Very, very handy!

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iOS 10

Earlier this week at WWDC Apple announced the latest edition of iOS for iPhone and iPad. As is typical with these announcements, the changes to iOS are one of the more exciting software announcements to many users. iPads and iPhones are often the sole device for many users. Some improvements to iOS 10 greatly improve productivity and others give us another excuse to do less. There is a huge list of improvements to iOS 10 and here are some highlights of what’s to come.

Messages got more expressive and makes it even easier to use less words in your text messages. When sending a text in iOS 10 you will now find suggestions for autofilling emojis rather than words. That’s right, autofill for emojis! If you’re never exactly sure what that emoji is, don’t fret, emojis can be sent bigger as well as your text messages with bubbles. Do you feel that emojis just aren’t your thing and prefer a more personal approach to messages? The ability to handwrite a message has now been added to iOS 10, and offers a really cool way to add a personal touch to any message! I guess I’ll forgive Apple for making it easier to send messages without words with the added handwriting feature and lastly celebrations. Celebrations? That’s right, you’ll be able to celebrate a special moment even from afar by sending a full screen affect like balloons or fireworks, pretty cool!

Maps received some pretty cool upgrades this time around. Now when you’re traveling around and utilizing maps you can quickly find and book a cab or even a reservation at a nearby restaurant all without leaving the Maps app. One other slightly hidden feature is the ability to instantly mark where you parked your car. Maps can automatically recognize that you have gotten off the highway and parked your car. It will automatically drop a pin for you in Maps ensuring you will never again forget where you parked your car!

QuickType is getting some pretty incredible upgrades in iOS 10. Using Siri intelligence, your phone or iPad can predict what you might want to say to someone, suggest adding an event to your calendar or change the language with which you respond. Now if you’re having a conversation with someone about dinner reservations, QuickType will pick up on patterns found in your conversation. Easily add a dinner reservation or location right from your conversation.

The Phone feature of your iPhone also is getting some pretty significant improvements which even include the ability to recognize a potential spam call. No longer will you have to be interrupted by a call from a number you don’t recognize only to find out it was a spam call. Your phone will now tell you if it thinks an incoming call is spam. Your phone will now also be able to better work with third-party VoIP calls such as Skype reducing the number of missed calls through apps on your phone.

At WWDC only a small portion of the total improvements to iOS 10 can be talked about, and even this article is missing some, but I wanted to take a moment to talk about some of the improvements they didn’t highlight. In iOS 10 you will now be able to remove stock apps, yes it finally happened! Tired of seeing the Apple Watch app because you still don’t have the watch, just delete it and any other apps that come standard on the phone that have been in your way all this time. If you’re someone who says you wish and need to get on a better sleeping pattern but find each night you once again sat up too late? A bedtime tab can now be found in the alarm App, it can help you to get on a regular sleeping schedule by alerting you it’s time to go to sleep. For those who find that space is an issue on their phone with large music libraries you can now optimize your storage. Your phone can be set to hold an ideal amount of songs and will help you keep your storage in check by automatically removing songs you listen to least often. Lastly one of my favorite finds is that there is now a magnifier built into the accessibility features. It sounds silly, but it’s just made finding that tiny screw or lost pin on the floor easier!

iOS 10 is set to be released sometime in the fall. Unfortunately this means most users still have several months until they can try it out. However, thanks to beta testers already using iOS 10 and the public beta testers in July, you should feel confident that when iOS 10 comes out for public download in the fall it should have only minimal, if any, problems.

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Deciphering the Graphic Format Alphabet

When it comes to graphics on the Internet, it’s easy to feel as though you’re swimming for your life in a giant bowl of alphabet soup, surrounded by shouting acronyms: GIF! JPEG! PNG! TIFF! What do those names mean? Why does your camera spit out JPEGs? What’s the best format for a web graphic? Grab onto a capital O and let’s get some answers.

First off, don’t worry about the acronyms, because expanding them doesn’t explain much. For example, JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, which is the standards body that invented the JPEG format. Helpful? Not really. So think of them just as names, like Sally or Fred. That said, it can be helpful to know how they’re pronounced:

GIF: Either “jif,” as in jiffy, or “gif” as in “gift”
JPEG: “jay-peg”
PNG: “ping”
TIFF: “tiff”

Let’s take a look at each one of these:

GIF: The oldest of these formats, GIF was long the standard for computer-generated images. It worked well for graphics and logos with large areas of solid color, but less so for photos. Due in part to a patent licensing kerfuffle, GIF has been superseded by PNG in all ways but one.

GIF’s remaining use lies in flipbook-style animations, where each frame is a separate GIF image. Animated GIFs that run in short loops have become wildly popular on the Internet because they’re small and easy to embed in a Facebook or Twitter post, email message, or web page. Numerous utilities exist for turning a short movie clip into an animated GIF; check out GIF Brewery on the Mac or Giphy Cam for an iPad or iPhone.

JPEG: The most common graphics format on the Internet, JPEG owes its popularity to being the default format for photos created by all digital cameras, including those in iPhones and iPads. JPEG works well for photos because it can compress file sizes significantly while barely affecting the image quality.

For instance, a 20 MB photo saved in JPEG format might end up as only 4 MB, with reductions in image quality that most people would never even notice. Most graphics software lets you adjust a slider to specify different quality levels, and while the results vary by the photo, saving at a 75% quality level is usually a good compromise between quality and file size.

The downside of JPEG is that it achieves these minuscule file sizes by throwing away data in the file, which limits how they can be edited in the future. That’s why professional photographers generally shoot in what are called “raw” formats (which contain all the image data the camera sensor recorded when the shutter was opened). Raw files are huge but can be edited in ways that aren’t possible with a JPEG file. Once edits have been made, photographers save a copy as a JPEG for sharing or posting online.

PNG: Conceived as an improved, patent-free alternative to GIF, PNG is now the go-to format for online graphics such as buttons, logos, and screenshots that have large areas of solid color. That’s because PNG can compress such images well without introducing any fuzziness, as can happen with JPEG. Similarly, you can edit PNG images repeatedly without hurting image quality.

In another contrast with JPEG, PNG supports transparency, which means you can define one color in an image as “transparent” rather than an actual color. When the image is displayed on a web page, the transparent pixels are rendered in whatever the background color is. That’s tremendously handy for creating images that appear to float over the background.

Don’t use PNG for photos, since a photographic image saved in PNG format will be much larger than the corresponding JPEG.

TIFF: Like PNG, TIFF files can be compressed without losing any data. Because of this, TIFF is used extensively for archiving original photos instead of JPEG; TIFF files may be much larger, but that’s acceptable when it comes to preserving originals from which you could later make edited copies.

TIFF also boasts some additional color-related features that PNG lacks, making TIFF useful in the print world—if you were to write a book that was going to be printed professionally, the publisher might ask for any photos or other illustrations in TIFF format. Useful as TIFF can be, for most people, most of the time, JPEG and PNG are all you need.

Nearly any graphics program can open images in these formats and convert to the other formats, but look no further than the bundled Preview app from Apple on your Mac for basic image conversion features (for more info about using Preview, check out Take Control of Preview, by Adam Engst and Josh Centers).

Now that you know the basics of the Mac’s most important graphics formats, you are ready to put your best face forward whenever you need to pick a file format for your images.

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Tips and Tricks for Taking Screenshots on a Mac and iOS Device

Did you ever want to capture what’s on your screen, or at least a part of it? Screenshots aren’t just for technical writers trying to document app behavior—you might also use them to provide feedback on a photo, to document an error message for someone who helps you with your Mac, or to record a particularly funny auto-correct fail in Messages on your iPhone.

OS X and iOS have both long included built-in screenshot features that make it easy to take a high-resolution picture of what you see onscreen. You can, of course, use a camera to take a photo of your screen, but that will never look as good.

Taking a screenshot in iOS is super simple, and it works the same on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. Just press the Home and Sleep/Wake buttons simultaneously. You’ll see the screen flash, and iOS saves the screenshot to your Photos app—look at the bottom of the Camera Roll or, if you’ve turned on iCloud Photo Library, the All Photos album. The same technique works on the Apple Watch, where you press both the digital crown and the side button simultaneously. Accidental presses of those buttons explains why random Apple Watch screenshots might appear in Photos.

On the Mac, you can take your pick from three built-in methods of taking screenshots: (If you take a lot of screenshots, consider memorizing OS X’s keyboard shortcuts.)

  1. For a full-screen screenshot, press Command-Shift-3.
  2. For a screenshot of an arbitrary size, press Command-Shift-4 and drag out a rectangle.
  3. To capture just an object like a window, press Command-Shift-4, hover the pointer over the window, press the Space bar to show the camera cursor over the highlighted object, and then click to take the screenshot. (The Command-Shift-4 shortcut is the only way to capture a menu. All screenshots are saved as PNG files on your Desktop and automatically named with the date.)

If that sounds geeky and hard to remember, try Apple’s Grab app, which is hidden away in the Utilities folder inside your Applications folder. It’s a simple app, but it can take full-screen, window, and selection screenshots, and it walks you through the process. You can also use Grab to capture a full-screen screenshot with a timer, which is handy if what you want to record appears only while you’re dragging an icon or other object, for instance. Captured screenshots appear in Grab as Untitled TIFF documents that you can close, copy, save, or print.

Whatever method you choose, remember that a picture is worth a thousand words, and the right screenshot can be even more valuable.

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