When you’re in the Finder, choosing File > New Finder Window does, as you’d expect, open a new Finder window. But what folder appears in that window? By default, new Finder windows open to Recents, which is a built-in smart folder showing recently opened documents. If you’d prefer to see items in a fixed location on your drive, go to Finder > Preferences > General and choose any location from the New Finder Windows Show pop-up menu. We’re partial to Desktop or Documents, but you can choose whatever folder makes sense with your workflow.
Vast numbers of people who previously reported for work at an office every day are now working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s sensible, and if you’re included in that group, there was probably even a little thrill of “I get to work from home!” at first. But as those who have telecommuted for years know, it’s not as simple as settling down on the couch with your laptop. Here are a few tips.
Make a Dedicated Work Space, If Possible
Particularly if you’re not home alone, you’ll want to create a space that’s dedicated to working. Otherwise, it’s difficult to focus on work instead of what’s happening in your home. A spare bedroom with a door is ideal, of course, because it lets you avoid the fridge, the TV, and your family, who may also be trying to work or do schoolwork at home.
But if you don’t have an extra room, or if you need to share it with your spouse and kids, think about ways you can create individual spaces, perhaps with bookcases or makeshift curtains.
Either way, your goal is to avoid seeing and hearing others. Your partner’s activities can be distracting, and listening to your kids discussing a school project will make focusing on your work all the harder. Sound isolation can be difficult to achieve in an open room, but that’s what earbuds are for. Those with noise-canceling capabilities, like the AirPods Pro, would be best.
Pay attention to lighting as well. Putting your monitor against a window probably won’t work well during the day, and overhead lighting can cause glare.
Set Up an Ergonomic Working Environment
It’s unlikely that your home office furniture is equivalent to what you have at work, but if you’re going to be putting in full workdays at home, you need to pay attention to ergonomics.
Many tables are slightly too high to sit at comfortably with your feet flat, your hips at a 90-degree angle, and your hands floating comfortably above the keyboard, with your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Do what you can to achieve that position; if necessary, raise the chair and add a footstool.
Good, inexpensive chairs with height adjustments can be hard to find, though the IKEA Flintan is well-reviewed and only about $80. A small pillow can provide lumbar support if necessary. Try to make sure the arms, if present, are low—you should use them only when not typing.
It’s difficult to achieve good ergonomics while working on a laptop, or, even worse, an iPad because you’re almost always looking down too far. With a MacBook, you can achieve the ideal sightline either by attaching a large monitor that you can position at the right height or by raising the MacBook and using a separate keyboard and mouse or trackpad at the proper typing height.
Potentially Upgrade Your Internet Connection
Even beyond whatever apps you need to do your work, it’s likely that you’ll end up doing a fair amount of videoconferencing. You may need to increase the throughput of your Internet connection, and it’s important to remember that upload and download speeds are separate. You usually have much higher download speeds, so focus on the upload speed when evaluating your plan.
Apps vary in their bandwidth requirements, but you can consider a 1 megabit per second (Mbps) upload speed a safe minimum, with 3 Mbps being sufficient for nearly any video calls you’ll need to make. The download speed should be at least equivalent to the upload speed, but that will almost always be true.
If your current connection isn’t fast enough, contact your Internet service provider. More throughput will usually cost more, but ideally, your ISP can just change some settings to upgrade you. In some cases, a new cable modem or similar network hardware may be necessary, and in the worst case, you may need a new cable from the street. Whatever you do, try to avoid any plan that comes with a bandwidth cap!
Don’t be afraid to compare prices if you have multiple providers, and even if you have sufficient bandwidth now, it may be worth calling to see if plan prices have dropped since you subscribed.
Upgrade Wi-Fi Hardware
Finally, if the only place in your home that you can work isn’t well served by your current Wi-Fi router, it might be time to upgrade. That’s particularly true if you’re working on old AirPort base stations from Apple.
For creating a Wi-Fi network that has the most coverage, look into mesh networking gear like Eero and AmpliFi. The beauty of mesh networking is that you can add another router or beacon to extend the network without complicated setup.
That said, contact us before ripping your network apart, because on-site visits to fix problems may be difficult or impossible for a while.
Social Media: Working from home like the rest of us? Here’s our advice on setting up a comfortable and effective workspace.
Power users like keyboard shortcuts because it’s faster to press a couple of keys than to navigate lengthy menus. If you have trouble remembering shortcuts, check out KeyCue, which displays a concise table of all currently available shortcuts. But what about menu items that lack shortcuts? Make your own in System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > App Shortcuts. Click the + button, choose an app from the Application menu, fill in the Menu Title field, click the Keyboard Shortcut field, press your desired key combination, and click Add. You can even make shortcuts for Safari bookmarks, since they appear in the Bookmarks menu. If a shortcut doesn’t work, make sure you typed its menu title exactly right, including any punctuation like three periods for an ellipsis. To edit an item, double-click its title or shortcut in the list. If you no longer want an item, select it and click the – button.
Email has been around for decades, but there are no hard-and-fast rules for how you should close a message with either the signoff or the signature block. If you’ve always wondered about the best ways to finish off a message or are uncomfortable with what you’ve been doing, here’s our advice.
Use the form of your name that you want the recipient to use. If your given name is Mohammed, but everyone calls you Mo, use that for signing most of your messages. Otherwise, they’ll have no idea you prefer the shorter version. (The reverse is true too; if you’re not sure how to address someone, look at their signoff for a hint.)
However, for formal correspondence with people or organizations who would usually refer to you as Ms. So-and-so, stick with Elizabeth instead of Betty.
Match the formality of your closing to that of your recipient. When writing business email to someone you don’t know, it’s best to stay formal at first with closings like “Sincerely” or “Yours truly.” Once you know the person a little better, you could move on to “Kind regards” or “Best wishes.”
With friends, family, and people you know well, try “Cheers,” “Talk soon” (if you mean it), or even a quick “Later.” Finally, it’s never inappropriate to use “Thanks!” if you truly are thanking them for something.
Create context-specific signature blocks. We all wear many different hats in today’s world. Your email signature should match the role you’re in for the particular email message. For instance:
- Work email should probably include at least your title, department, and formal organization name. If you work for a large organization, you may have been provided with a template for your signature. If much of your communication takes place outside of email, include your phone number and postal address.
- If you serve on a nonprofit board or have a side gig—like as an author or musician—messages you send in those contexts need their own focused signatures with appropriate links.
- For email to friends and family, there’s no need for a signature at all.
Avoid clever sayings and inspirational quotes. Although it’s tempting to instill some personality into your signature with a quote, don’t do it. The quote might be entertaining the first time someone sees it, but after that, it’s just one more thing to ignore. Part of combatting email overload is to keep messages short and to the point, so you want your signature to have less text than the message itself.
No fancy formatting or pictures. Along the same lines of avoiding quotes, keep your signature simple. Stick to plain text and links, and don’t insert your company’s logo or a picture of your pony just because you can. Just imagine how awkward it would be if someone were to look at a long email thread and see your signature repeated ad infinitum, taking up more space than your actual messages.
Don’t assume anyone will read your signature. Keep in mind that some email apps automatically hide signatures so your recipients may not see it at all. There’s usually a way to view a hidden signature, but never assume that everyone will see it.
Consider automation tools for inserting signoffs and signatures. Many email programs, including Mail on the Mac, let you create multiple signatures and attach them to messages you send from specific email addresses. For even more flexibility, think about using a macro utility like Keyboard Maestro or a text expansion tool like TextExpander to insert custom signoff and signature combinations. Such options are commonplace on the Mac but much less so in iOS or iPadOS.
Social Media: Ever wondered about the best way to close an email message or what’s appropriate to put in an email signature? Here’s our advice:
Accidents, particularly those involving automobiles, are all too common, and while no one plans to be in one, you can prepare for the eventuality. If you end up in a state where you can’t speak with emergency responders or are too shaken up to share your details clearly, your iPhone can provide them with essential medical information. Emergency responders are trained to know how to access these details.
Apple makes this possible via the Medical ID feature of the Health app, which you can use to record medical data and emergency contact information (this is sometimes referred to as “ICE information,” where ICE stands for “In Case of Emergency”). Once you’ve entered all this information, emergency responders can use your iPhone to learn about your medication allergies and other conditions, plus contact your family. This data could also help a Good Samaritan return a lost iPhone. (Unfortunately, the Health app isn’t available on the iPad.)
To set up or edit your Medical ID, follow these steps (in iOS 13; they’re slightly different in earlier versions of iOS):
- Open the Health app and tap the Summary tab at the bottom.
- Tap your profile picture in the upper-right corner.
- Under Medical Details, tap Medical ID.
- Tap Edit in the upper-right corner.
- Make sure the Show When Locked switch is on.
- Enter all the relevant details about your medical conditions, medications, allergies, and so on.
- Specify one or more emergency contacts. These must be people in the Contacts app with phone numbers; if the right people aren’t there, add them first. You can’t select your own card in Contacts, so consider making one for a fake person called “If Lost, Please Call” and listing a different phone number at which you can be reached.
- Tap Done.
Hopefully, you’ll never have to use someone else’s Medical ID information, but you should know how to do so. You should also teach family, friends, and colleagues how to find and use this information. Should you come across a bicyclist who has had a bad crash or a similar situation, follow these steps:
- With a locked iPhone that uses Touch ID, press the Home button to display the Passcode screen. For iPhones with Face ID, press the side button and swipe up from the bottom.
- On the Passcode screen, tap Emergency in the bottom-left corner to move to the Emergency screen. If needed, call 911 from this screen by tapping Emergency Call.
- Again at the bottom left, tap Medical ID to display the Medical ID screen, complete with all the details that person entered into the Health app.
- From that screen, you can share the information with EMTs or other first responders so they’re aware of any serious conditions or allergies that would affect treatment. You can also call any emergency contacts listed by tapping their numbers.
Please, enter your medical and emergency contact details into the Health app right now, and spread the word to everyone you know. It could save your life, or help you save someone else’s!
Social Media: Did you know that an iPhone can store medical information that could save your life, or help you save someone else’s? Learn how to create your Medical ID, and be sure to teach others how to work with this information in case of an emergency!
If you have a friend whom you refer to only by his nickname, it can be annoying to feel like you should use his proper first name when adding him to Contacts. Worse, then he shows up in Messages with a name you don’t recognize as easily. Here’s how to convince iOS to use his nickname instead. Open his card in Contacts, tap Edit, scroll to the bottom, tap Add Field, and tap Nickname. That puts a Nickname field at the top, under his proper name, for you to fill in. To get iOS to use it, go to Settings > Contacts > Short Name and enable Prefer Nicknames. From then on, you can enter your friend’s nickname instead of his proper name in apps like Messages and Mail, and iOS will also display it instead of his name everywhere.
An ever-increasing number of people have hearing loss due to exposure to loud noise and age. If you’re in that group, but don’t yet need hearing aids, try using your AirPods to help you hear better in certain situations. iOS’s Live Listen feature uses your iPhone’s mic to pick up specific sounds and then sends that audio directly to your AirPods, helping you focus on what you want to hear. To enable Live Listen, go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls and tap the green + button next to Hearing. Then put your AirPods in, open Control Center, tap the Hearing button, and tap to turn on Live Listen. Fine-tune what you’re hearing by moving the iPhone closer to what you want to hear and pointing the mic at the source of the sound—pay attention to the sound level meter dots—and by adjusting the iPhone’s volume controls. To stop listening, tap Live Listen again or just remove your AirPods.
“Winter Wonderland” may be a great song to listen to when the snow flies, but if you’re sweltering in the summer heat, having it pop up while iTunes is shuffling through your music feels wrong. Happily, there’s a way to prevent holiday music from playing out of season—this trick is also useful for keeping children’s songs from shuffling alongside tracks from Abba, Beethoven, and The Clash. In iTunes, select the songs you want to prevent from being included when you shuffle all tracks, and choose Edit > Get Info. In the Get Info dialog, switch to the Options pane, select Skip When Shuffling, and click OK to save your changes. Note that the easiest way to find such music may be by selecting Genres in the sidebar and then Children’s Music or Holiday in the list that appears.
Do you sometimes find it difficult to read articles on your iPhone because of ads, banners, extraneous layout, social media icons, and too-small fonts? We certainly do, and there’s often a quick fix for the myriad ills of modern Web pages: Safari Reader. Whenever you see the Safari Reader icon to the left of the site’s domain name in the address bar, tap it to switch to a cleaner view that dispenses with all the unnecessary trimmings and presents the content in a larger, more readable font. Tap the font icon at the right side of the address bar in Safari Reader to change the font, font size, and background color. Safari Reader isn’t always available, and it can occasionally fail to format an article properly, but it’s a big win when you can use it.
There’s little worse than missing an important call or text because your iPhone was in Do Not Disturb mode or because the Mute switch was engaged. If there are certain people—a spouse, parent, or child—whose calls and texts you always want to break through the cone of silence, iOS has a solution: Emergency Bypass. When enabled for a particular contact’s ringtone or text tone, Emergency Bypass ensures the sound and vibration will happen regardless of Do Not Disturb or the Mute switch position. To set up Emergency Bypass, edit the person’s contact card in the Phone or Contacts app, tap Ringtone, and enable Emergency Bypass. You can turn on Emergency Bypass separately for calls in the Ringtone settings and for texts in the Text Tone settings. And remember, you can always set someone’s tone to None and enable a vibration instead to ensure Emergency Bypass doesn’t allow a call to interrupt a movie, play, or concert.