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#936: Productivity Apps, Update Advice, iTunes Backups, iCloud Photos


Hello Fellow Tech Enthusiasts,

Here at Small Dog we strive to make sure that our staff members always have the latest and greatest knowledge. One of the best ways to do that is to encourage them (and for certain roles, require them) to get advanced Apple certifications. I have several acronyms in my email signature: ACMT, ACTC and ACSP. These are, in order: Apple Certified Macintosh Technician, Apple Certified Technical Coordinator, and Apple Certified Support Professional. I also have sales certifications and iOS certifications, and am an Apple Certified Associate. I have received all of these while working here at Small Dog, but guess what? You can get these certifications too!

Apple allows anyone to study for and take these tests. If you are looking to brush up on your technical skills, I would highly recommend studying for and taking the Apple Certified Associate exams. These are the perfect starting place for becoming an OS X-pert. The study materials are available for free online and you can take the exams from the comfort of your own home. You can see all of the details at this link: OS X Certifications

If you are just looking for a little extra knowledge, keep reading Tech Tails!


  iOS Productivity Apps  

Life keeps us on the go and we are relying on our iPhones more than ever. There are a number of productivity apps that are free and easy to use. Each one of these also has options for paid features such as extra storage, advanced features, etc.


Dropbox is a great app to share documents, pictures, and other media across multiple computers and handheld devices. You can collaborate with friends, family, and coworkers. Dropbox gives you 2GB for free, and 2GB is enough for most people who only need to share documents. If you need more space, Dropbox offers more storage if you are willing to pay for it.

Google Drive:

Google Drive is one of my personal favorites. It allows you to store and share files (like Dropbox) but what really separates the two is the companion apps that Google Drive has. Google Docs is very similar to Pages or Microsoft Word, while Google Sheets is very similar to Numbers and Excel. Google Drive has 15GB of free storage with options to buy more.

Microsoft Office:

Most people are familiar with Microsoft Office. Word, Excel, and Powerpoint have been the industry standard for decades. The Office apps for iOS no longer need an Office 365 subscription to edit, store, or create documents, but you can get an Office 365 subscription to unlock the advanced features. The awesome thing about the Office apps is you can share files you create through both Dropbox and Google Drive.

Also, in case you didn’t know, you can use the Apple productivity apps to edit Microsoft Office apps. Pages allows you to open and edit Word documents, Numbers for Excel, and Keynote for Powerpoint.

  To Update or Not to Update?  

To update or not to update? It’s a question some folks waffle on. There are two schools of thought, and I subscribe to both of them:

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In other words: don’t update if everything is working.

Always update! Developers work hard to fix bugs and patch security holes, if you’re not updating, you’re being lazy and setting yourself up for disaster. if you’re giving a PowerPoint presentation in front of many people, just click the button to update now on that little Microsoft Windows Auto Update notification window that keeps coming up every 15 minutes, and let your machine go into an updating frenzy that’ll probably still be going when everyone you were presenting to is back home. It’s inconvenient and embarrassing, but at least you’re up to date!

There are software updates and there are hardware updates. There are changes, advantages, and compatibility issues that arise when new technologies come out, and (usually) solutions to all of these. The updates we all face most frequently are software updates, and that’s where the views above are most relevant.

In the realm of software updates there are many types of updates. You have major updates, like going from Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks to Mac OS 10.10 Yosemite. There is a tremendous difference in the visual experience alone, and the insides of the OS is equally different. While the visual changes are most apparent, some of those internal changes to the coding make some software unable to work. It’s that possibility that scares me away from updating recklessly. I take some measures before any major updates, because I know from experience that some of my programs might not work as I expect them to. Sometimes that measure might be to not update to the latest version of Mac OS X. But the measure to always take is back up your data!

There are also minor updates. These are the security patches and minor incremental changes. I’m much less conservative with these. While there is a possibility that things will stop working or there will be some disorienting changes, in most cases there’s much less room for software to stop working. These incremental changes are liking going from Mac OS X 10.10 to Mac OS 10.10.1. Most of the changes are under the hood: they’re bug fixes, security patches, and just programmers working hard to keep my Mac working the way I know it’s supposed to and not being glitchy and buggy. But sometimes these incremental updates are a little more significant.

Back to the original question of “should you update?” My opinion is to start with a good solid backup, meaning multiple places where your data is stored. If you know you can get to them when your computer isn’t working, that’s a great starting point. The next step is to ask if it’s an incremental update or a major update. I personally jump without looking when it’s an incremental update or says security in the description. When the update has a different name and number, like you’re on 10.9 Mavericks and the new one is called 10.10 Yosemite and has a different picture it might be worth researching a little before downloading and installing.

  iTunes Backups  

iTunes may be a little nerve racking when it comes to finding and managing your backups. One of the best features of iTunes is being able to retrieve all of your data if for any reason(s) your iOS device were to malfunction. In the event of you having to restore your device after a malfunction, having an iTunes backup will feel like a cool breeze on a hot summer day with no shade within miles. You may also delete backups that are no longer needed to free up space off your device in the event you need too. With a little practice backing up your device via iTunes, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing your information is in a viewable location.

All your iTunes backups are saved to your User folder within your device. The main backup location of your backup folder varies depending on your operating system, and this location can’t be changed. No worries because you may want to have extra copies of your iTunes backups elsewhere. All you have to do is copy the backup folders to another location, external drive or even an network storage location. Now let’s get down to business of locating a specific backup. The following steps will navigate you to your specific backups within your Mac:

  • Open iTunes
  • Go to the iTunes menu (next to the Apple in the left upper corner)
  • Click on Preferences > Devices
  • Locate the backup you would like to view
  • Right (or Control) click on this backup
  • Select “Show in Finder” from the drop down box

Don’t have an Apple product with iTunes? No problem! Navigating the Windows seas a little will have you to your backups in no time.

Windows Vista and Newer Operating Systems

  • In Windows Vista or Windows 7: Click Start; In Windows 8: Click the magnifying glass in the upper-right corner.
  • In the search bar, type: appdata and press return
  • Double-click on these folders: Apple Computer > MobileSync > Backup.

Windows XP Operating System

  • Click Start, then choose Run
  • In the search bar, type: appdata
  • Click OK
  • Then double-click these folders: Apple Computer > MobileSync > Backup.

Rest assured that in no time you’ll be the master of your iTunes Backups.

  iCloud Photo Library vs. Photo Stream  

iCloud Photo Library

The iCloud Photo Library will store all your photos and personal videos and has no limits, as long as you have the iCloud storage space available (you may end up having to purchase more storage to accommodate your photos and videos). The iCloud Photo Library is accessible from your iPhone, iPad, Mac and even on a Windows PC by logging into The iCloud Photo Library can store full resolution photos and supports the most common photo types including jpg, RAW, png, and gif.

Photo Stream

Photo Stream is great because it does not count against your storage you can stream up to 1000 photos or the last 30 days of pictures. Photo Stream is compatible across all devices including iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Mac. You can store the optimized version of your photos on your devices, meaning the the viewable quality of the photo on that device may be reduced, but the full resolution photo is still in the cloud and it will require less storage on that device.

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