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Monday, August 25, 2014

How to Send a Group Email from Your iPhone or iPad

How to Send a Group Email from Your iPhone or iPad

Launch Center Pro icon small

(And a mini-introduction to Launch Center Pro, which is on sale for $2.99.)

Ever send a message to a group of people from your Mac? If you have, you know it's easy if you've created a "Group" in your Contacts app, and then addressed the email to the Group. (Even better: address the email to nobody, and put the Group's name in the BCC box so the email addresses aren't advertised to each recipient.) Having a Group set up in the Contacts app saves you the time it takes to add each person as an email recipient individually every time you want to send to the whole group. If you send mail to the same sets of people frequently the time savings can really add up.

Not sure about "Groups"? Need an example? Here's one: a group containing the members of your softball team. Here's another: your immediate family. One more: the members of a committee you're on. And one more after that: the members of the City Council. You have to send emails to the members of those groups all the time, and it's a pain to add each recipient every time. So, on your Mac, you go to Contacts and make a Group for the softball team, and another one for the family, and another one for the committee, and another one for the City Council, and when you want to send an email to the people in a Group you just address the email to the Group and everybody gets a copy. Easy. At least it's easy on the Mac.

Then you go to to your iPhone or iPad, and you try to do it there. Turns out it doesn't work, even though the Groups you made on the Mac transfer over to the iPhone and iPad. It's not because you're doing it wrong. Apple's Mail app on the iPhone and iPad is just not as good as Apple's Mail app on the Mac. Yes "someone should do something about this," but as of iOS 7 that's the way it is.

Now, if you search the internet for "how to send a group email from your iPhone or iPad" you will find some clever ways of doing it, most of them (like this one) based on stuffing all of the email addresses into a single card in the Contacts app. It works. And if all we wanted to do was send an email to multiple people without having to type their names over and over, and if I wasn't trying to teach you something new that will help you ten times over, I would advise you to do it that way.

But we have bigger goals.

How would you like to send an email to a group of people, have the subject already filled in, as well as a head start on the message itself, all in a couple of taps? Wouldn't that be awesome? Of course it would be.

And how would you like to do all of the above in a groovy iOS app, and know you had only begun to scratch that app's surface, giving you something new to play with as you wait for Apple's iOS 8? I think you'd like it very much. I know I do.

Without further ado, I give you Launch Center Pro.

Launch Center Pro is the best way to speed up and automate the things you do over and over on an iPhone or an iPad. It's extremely powerful, and extremely well done. I'll give you the mini-introduction by showing you how to do the Group Email thing. If you want to learn more I've put a list of websites and tutorials for further study at the bottom of this post.

Note: The regular price for Launch Center Pro is $4.99 and that's what I paid. This blog post took so long to write that the price changed before I was done!

(Note #2: I'm going to give screenshots from the iPhone version but the iPad app is similar. You can take what you learn in this blog post straight to the iPad without any trouble.)

Here's Launch Center Pro's main screen, the first time you start the app.

Launch Center Pro main screen

Sort of looks like the iPhone's Home screen.

I don't know who Jon and Anna are but we are going to replace them with our own stuff. Note the Settings button at top left, and the Edit button at top right. We're going to use the Edit button soon. But first, let's tap on that button at bottom right, the one that says "Email Anna." When you do that, you get an email, pre-addressed, pre-subjected, and pre-filled in. That's almost exactly what we are trying to do, except it's addressed to only one person.

Sample Email message from Launch Center Pro

One of the neat things about Launch Center Pro is that it doesn't replace the Mail app. Instead, it (somehow) controls the Mail app and tells it what to do: make an email addressed to Anna, with a particular subject and a particular message body. You can of course edit the message before sending it, and it will show up in your Mail app's Sent folder-- in fact, everything about this message is just like every other mail message, except that we used a shortcut to get this one started.

Very nice, but we want to make our own. Here's how we do it. Tap the Edit button at the top right. You'll see this:

IMG 0026

Tap the X in the corner of the Email Anna icon and you'll see this:

Launch Center Pro Edit mode

You'll be asked whether you want to delete the "Action" and the answer is yes. So delete it.

Now we can tap the "+" where Email Anna used to be, and make our own shortcut, or "Action." You get a choice between making an Action or a Group-- we'll make an Action.

The first time I did this I thought "I'll bet this is going to be complicated." Wrong (again)! What could have been complicated is made easy-- all we do it make choices from a list, and bingo, our Action is built for us. Tap the "+" at the bottom right corner, where Email Anna used to be, and you'll see this screen:

Launch Center Pro Action Composer

(Lots to see here but remember, this is the mini-introduction to Launch Center Pro, not the full-on tutorial, so we are going to focus on the stuff we need for our Group Email project and leave the rest for you to explore.)

The Action Composer is where we build our Actions, and it's what makes Launch Center Pro usable by regular people as well as high-end users. We're going to start by tapping System Actions, which bring us to this screen:

Launch Center Pro System Actions

It's a long list. Scroll down until you see Mail (not "In-App Email" in this case). When you tap Mail you get some more choices, and here they are:

Launch Center Pro Mail screen

We're going to choose Email with Body & Subject. Tap that and we get this:

Launch Center Pro email with body and subject

Now this is easy. Let's fill in the blanks with something I use every day, in Real Life.

In Real Life, I make appointments to help people with their Macs, iPhones, and iPads. When I make those appointments it's imperative that I alert my Office Manager, Dee, so that she knows right away what I've done. Otherwise, she might schedule another appointment for the same time period, leading to a conflict.

Over the years we've developed a system where I send Dee an email with "Appointment Alert!" as the subject (so she can pick it out from the millions of other emails she gets) as soon as I make an appointment. I like to get a copy of the email too, for reference. Writing that email is not a giant task, but on an iPhone it's a little bit clumsy, and it's something I have to do all the time. When I realized I could create, title, and address those emails in two taps using Launch Center Pro I was sold.

Here's how the screen looked after I typed everything in-- for the last time! The "Name" field at the top is just for me to remember it by-- I could have called it "AA" or anything else.

Launch Center Pro sample email options

Tapping Done at top right takes us back to this screen, and if you look at the URL you'll see why the Action Composer is such a cool thing. Yes, Launch Center Pro actually works via URLs, but no, you don't have to know anything about them. The Action Composer does it for you.

Launch Center Pro email action filled in

You can choose another icon if you'd like. You can use one of Launch Center Pro's, you can build your own, and you can choose a photo from your iPhone's photo library. Plenty of options there but I chose the regular Mail icon. Tap Done to show that you're done with the Action, and Done again to get out of Edit mode.

Here's how it looks over here.

Launch Center Pro appointment alert

From now on, if I want to send that email to Dee and to me, with the subject line already filled in (and possibly with some standard text in the body-- I should think about that), all I have to do is launch Launch Center Pro, and then tap the Appointment Alert! button. That's two taps, and zero typing. Pretty nice.

Launch Center Pro Appointment Alert in action

So... if you want to send a Group Email from your iPhone or iPad, get yourself a copy of Launch Center Pro. Make a new Action that makes a new Mail message with Body & Subject. Put in the desired recipients-- even make some of them CC or BCC-- and you are all set.

And if you think that's cool, remember: we are only scratching Launch Center Pro's surface.

For further study:

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

iPhone 5 Battery Replacement Program

iPhone 5 Battery Replacement Program


Maybe there's something wrong with your iPhone 5's battery after all. Apple has found that a "very small percentage" of iPhone 5 units (the 5, not the 5s, and not the 5c) "may suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently." If that sounds like your iPhone, check out Apple's serial number checker on their iPhone 5 Battery Replacement Program page and see if your phone qualifies. Apple will replace the battery at no charge.

Note: this program went into effect on August 22nd, 2014 in the United States and China. It will be active worldwide starting August 29th, 2014.

If your iPhone doesn't qualify for the battery replacement program, and even if it does, check out my post on stretching your iPhone's battery life for some tips.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Get Full-Screen Preview using Quick Look with the Option Key

Get Full-Screen Preview using Quick Look with the Option Key

Right when you think you know everything you learn something new. You already know about Quick Look, the Mac's handy feature that lets you pop open a preview of images, movies, and many other kinds of documents by pressing the space bar (of course it only works if you've clicked on an icon in the Finder first).

Here's a screenshot showing plenty of icons. It's my desktop. Yes I know I should clean up.

Screen Shot 2014 08 15 at 9 50 41 AM

I click on one of those icons (once) and want to pop it open. So I press the spacebar, and I get this:

Screen Shot 2014 08 15 at 9 50 51 AM

It opens in a second-- Quick Look's fast! But there's still this distracting mess of icons around the picture. So I press the spacebar again (to close the picture), and this time I hold the Option key when I press the spacebar. Voila! I get a full-screen picture and no distracting mess in the background. Perfect for showing the picture to someone else, for example Mom.

Screen Shot 2014 08 15 at 9 50 57 AM

This works with everything that Quick Look can open. Really handy, and I am guessing it's been there for years, just waiting for me to accidentally have the Option key down while pressing the spacebar. Yes, I found this one by accident. Sometimes it happens that way.

BONUS: If you select multiple picture files, and then you activate Quick Look while holding the Option key, you get a full-screen slide show. It will advance by itself and loop until you stop it.

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

How to Add Storage Space to MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Retina

How to Add Storage Space to MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Retina

I get a lot of calls from people asking "How can I get more space on my MacBook Air?" and "I need more room on my MacBook Pro Retina." Until recently, all we could do was remove stuff from the disk in order to free up space. Now, however, we have options.

Option Number 1: Transcend JetDrive Lite

Transcend JetDrive Lite

Many MacBook Airs and all MacBook Pro Retinas come with an SDXC card slot on the side. It's there so you can take the card out of your camera and stick it right into the laptop for transferring photos to the Mac. Turns out almost nobody uses that slot, so it's just sitting there doing nothing... until now. Transcend makes a product called the JetDrive Lite in 64 GB and 128 GB sizes and all you do is pop it into that unused SDXC card slot, instantly increasing the storage capacity of the machine. The JetDrive Lite is designed to fit absolutely flush with your laptop rather than stick out a little, like a normal SD card would, and since the various Apple laptop models use different SDXC slots it is important to get the card that's made for your machine. That's not hard: just go to the Apple menu, then About This Mac, and then More Info. You'll see your model's official name there.

Here's how it looks on my MacBook Pro (non-Retina):

Screen Shot 2014 08 10 at 2 23 50 PM

You can read all about the JetDrive Lite at Transcend's website. They have good info there to help you pick out the right model for your laptop.

The JetDrive Lite will cost you about $40 for a 64 GB card and about $80 for a 128 GB card if you buy it from Amazon.

The JetDrive's main competitor, PNY's StorEDGE card, is also very good. However, it's a little more expensive, and it does not sit flush with the side of the laptop. For those reasons I favor the JetDrive Lite.

Note: the space provided by the JetDrive Lite (and by the StorEDGE) is separate from the space on the original SSD. So, if you have a 256 GB SSD, and you add a 128 JetDrive Lite, you don't end up with a 384 GB drive. Instead, you'll have a second hard drive (128 GB) in addition to your original 256. Practically speaking, what this means is you have to find something that you can stash on the JetDrive Lite, such as your iTunes Music folder, and use it more or less exclusively for that.

Thrill-seeking advanced users can back up their entire hard disks and then use Disk Utility to create a single partition from the combined internal disk and the JetDrive Lite, and then copy everything back, but this makes it impossible to use the SDXC slot for anything else because that card has to stay in if the machine is going to work properly. If you do it "my way" (put the iTunes Music folder onto the JetDrive Lite) you can still pull the card out and use the slot for importing pictures from a camera if you ever feel like doing that.

Option Number 2: Transcend JetDrive

Transcend Jet Drive

The easy way to increase storage involved sticking a card into the SDXC slot. That's the "JetDrive Lite." The harder way, but perhaps better-for-you-in-the-long-run way, is to take out the original too-small SSD and replace it with something bigger-- namely, the "JetDrive" (not "Lite"). This requires opening up the case but that's not all that hard, and Transcend has a great video that shows you how it's done. (You may have to scroll down a bit to see the video.)

The JetDrive comes in 240 GB, 480 GB, and 960 GB models, and as with the Lite cards you have to get the right one. Use Transcend's website (or this very nifty Transcend Quick Finder tool) to figure out which one's the right one for you, then head on over to Amazon and get the part.

Bonus: Transcend includes an enclosure for your old SSD, so you end up with the new, larger SSD inside the Mac and your old SSD in a case that you can use as an external hard disk. Nice. The cost for the 240 GB kit is about $190, the cost for the 480 GB kits is about $350, and the cost for the 960 GB kits is about $600 at Amazon as of this writing.

Note: long-time Mac upgrade supplier Other World Computing sells a line of SSD upgrades at prices comparable to Transcend's JetDrive at Amazon. They don't make products for as many models as Transcend does but they're still worth a look. Here's a link to Other World Computing's SSD page. Note: While we're discussing the MacBook Air and its SSD, it might interest you to know that some of Apple's MacBook Air machines had a problem with their SSDs and Apple has recalled those machines for a free SSD swap-out. You can read about Apple's "MacBook Air Flash Storage Drive Replacement Program" here.

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Three Super Mail Tips for Mac OS X

Pasted Graphic

Three Super Mail Tips for Mac OS X

Note: these tips work for Mac OS X 10.9, 10.8, and 10.7. Apple's Mail program is by far the best way to read email, and it's even better when you know how to use it better. Here are three of my favorite Mail tips. Give them a try. If they don't help you right away I'll give you your money back.

Tip #1: Add Labels to Mail's Toolbar Buttons

Mail's toolbar buttons have two problems: first, it's not obvious what they do, and second, they're too small. You can fix both of these problems by showing labels under the buttons. Here's how the toolbar looks without the labels:plaintoolbar

Here's how it looks after adding the labels.

With the labels it's easy to tell what the buttons do. You'll notice that the buttons are larger when the labels are showing, and a larger button is a button that's easier to click. Turns out you can click on the words too, so the actual "target area" for each button is quite a bit larger than it is without the label.

Now all you need to know is how to add the labels to your own Mail program. You can do it in one click: just hold the Control key down, click in the toolbar, and slide down to "icon and Text." That's it. Here's how the contextual menu will look:

Note: the toolbars for the main Mail "Viewer Window," the Compose Mail window, and the window that pops up when you double-click an email are all different and all controlled separately. That means you get to Control-click on each kind of window and choose "Icon and Text" on each one. That's just the way it is.

Tip #2: Customize the Toolbar and Add the Larger-Smaller buttons

There's plenty of room on Mail's toolbars and you can put that space to use by adding buttons to them. My favorite button is the "Smaller-Bigger" button (especially the "Bigger" part): one click on the "Bigger" part and the message you're viewing gets bigger. Click it again and the text gets bigger yet. Add the button by Control-clicking on the toolbar, same as before, but this time slide down to "Customize Toolbar…" When you do that, you get a big selection of buttons, and you can drag them up to the toolbar and they'll stay there forever (or until you take them off). Put the buttons anywhere on the toolbar, and rearrange the buttons you already have there until they're ordered the way you like them. As before, you get to customize the the toolbars for Mail's Viewer Window, the Compose Mail window, and the window that pops up when you double-click a message in the list.

Tip #3: Forward Multiple Emails at Once

I just discovered this last week. I had to forward a couple of emails to the same person so I selected them both in the list (hold the Command key down while clicking on the messages) and then clicked the Forward... button. Voila! A single email message showed up but it was forwarding both messages. How cool.

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