Month: December 2017

Customizing your iCloud settings on iPhone

Customizing your iCloud settings on iPhone

If you’re using an iPhone or iPad, it is beneficial to have a basic grasp of which iCloud services are available to you on those devices, and how to turn each setting on and off. When you use iCloud on your iPhone, you are allowing Apple to back-up some of your information to the Apple servers somewhere in the US. Once the initial back-up is done, you can also ask iCloud to sync all your Apple devices so that you will the same information across all devices.
In this video, I cover all the different settings which are available to you on iPhone / iPad, and how to customize them for your needs:

Over the years, iCloud has grown to include a broad set of features which are all pretty useful, but you may not necessarily want or need to use all of them. So, we’ll look at what each service does, and you can decide whether you want to turn it on or not.

  1. iCloud Drive: This is Apple’s answer to other cloud services such as DropBox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. This service allows you to easily back-up files and documents from your computer and mobile devices to the the Apple servers. Those files an documents are then synced across all your devices on which iCloud drive is turned on. If you tend to save a lot of large files onto iCloud Drive, you may at some point need to buy extra storage space for iCloud.
  2. Photos: This allows you to sync either some of your photos and videos, or all of your photos and videos to iCloud. If you turn on the iCloud Photo library, all your pictures and videos will be stored on iCloud and then synced across all your devices on which iCloud photo library is turned on. Turning on the iCloud Photo library can help clear space on your devices, particularly on iPhone and iPad if you’re running out of room.
    But it is important to keep in mind that if you turn on the iCloud Photo library on all your devices, once you delete an image or video from one device, it deletes from your other devices as well. Your Photos library will be identical on all devices on which this feature is turned on.
  3. Mail: This feature is available if you have one of the Apple supplied email addresses that are available for free to anyone. These addresses end in,, and
    If you use one of these email addresses, your emails will then be synced across all devices. You can also save previous emails in folders as a back-up should you ever need to retrieve anything.
    These use the IMAP protocol, just like a Gmail address or a Yahoo address, which means that when you delete an email from one device, it also deletes it from everywhere else.
  4. Contacts: When you use the Contacts application (formerly known as Address Book) on your Mac, you can either save contacts to your Mac or to iCloud. The advantage of saving your contacts to iCloud is that your contacts will always be in sync on all your devices, and also become available on For the vast majority of people, you will probably be using the cloud to back up and sync your contacts. But it can also be used in conjunction with contacts you may have stored with Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Exchange and many other providers.
  5. Calendar: The Calendar app lets you can create events, appointments, and to do’s in a simple scheduling app. You can create calendar events either just on your Mac, or create them using iCloud, which will then sync across all your devices. Again, I strongly recommend that you use iCloud for your calendar events so that everything syncs across all your devices.
  6. Notes: Same as the previous two, most people should store their Notes in the cloud, unless you are really worried that someone could gain access to your iCloud account. You can create super simple notes, or far more intricate notes with tables and attachments in the latest version. It’s a pretty powerful tool which many people are starting to use instead of something like EverNote because it integrates so well with all your Apple products.
  7. Siri: Turning on Siri in the iCloud panel allows Apple to learn your voice across multiple devices. The way that Siri is supposed to work is that it learns your voice over time and gradually gets better at recognizing your voice and the way you ask it questions. If you’ve been using on iPhone for some time, and you get a new device, having Siri turned on in iCloud means that it doesn’t have to start from scratch and learn your voice all over again on that new device. Slightly spooky maybe, but pretty useful …
  8. Keychain: Keychain is password manager built into Apple products, which allows you to save only certain passwords. When you create or enter a username and password on a website while using Safari, you can save that username and password to your Keychain so that Safari will enter it automatically for you the next time your visit that sit. Your Keychain can also remember wi-fi passwords and various other internet related usernames and passwords. You cannot use it to store just any passwords like you can in some other applications like 1Password or LastPass. But it’s still a very handy feature.
  9. Back to My Mac: Hardly anyone uses this feature, because it hasn’t always worked very well. But, in theory, if you have 2 or more Macs using the same Apple ID, you can access your Macs remotely. So, if for example you’re on the road with your MacBook Air, and you have an iMac at home… If both are turned on and using that same Apple ID, you can access and operate you iMac from your MacBook Air. You can grab files from your home computer while you’re away basically. Again, it’s not used much, but it can be very useful for some people.
  10. Find my Mac / iPhone / iPad: With this feature turned on, you’ll be able to track down your Apple devices and see them  on a map when you log into, or by using the Find my phone feature on one of your mobile devices. Of course, your device needs to be turned on and within reach of a network for this feature to work. For most people, I’d recommend you have this feature turned on in case you ever lose your device.
Posted by Ian Van Slyke in iCloud, iOS, iPhone, Learning, Tips & Tricks, Training, 0 comments
3 tools to cut out distractions on your Mac

3 tools to cut out distractions on your Mac

There are times when you really need to get things done on your Mac, and you need to make sure you can avoid distractions as much as possible. Notifications, pings, emails, and other intrusions can put a severe dent in your productivity. Fortunately, there are tools that can help you specifically resolve that problem.
In this article, I’ll show you 3 things you can do to cut back on those pesky distractions:

First off, your Mac already has one very useful tool built-in, which is the DO NOT DISTURB feature. This is similar to the DO NOT DISTURB feature on the iPhone. This feature is available on the Mac in Control Center, which you can access from the very top right of your screen. When you click on the 3 little bars icon at the right top corner, that will open up Notification Center and by default you should be in the Today tab. At the very top, you should see today’s date listed, along with the weather forecast and some calendar information. If you scroll UP, you’ll see the DO NOT DISTURB on and off toggle switch. Using this switch, you can turn on DO NOT DISTURB for however long you need, so that you’re not getting notifications on your Mac. Very useful !

The second tool I’d like to recommend is an app for Mac called Focus. Focus gives you a lot of flexibility to block certain distracting websites, and you can even block certain distracting apps for a set amount of time. This way, you can block sites like Facebook, Twitter or whatever other site you may find yourself going to compulsively for a set amount of time. You can also block apps like Apple Mail or Outlook if you find yourself checking your email too often when you should be working. So, any distracting website or app can be blocked for a short or long period of time. Focus is not the only app capable of doing what it does, but with it, you do get a lot of options such as scheduling, statistics, and the ability to take breaks.
You can purchase the Focus app for $20 on their website by clicking here. I’m not associated with this company whatsoever, I just love this product.

The third and final tool I want to bring up is called Self-Control, which is very similar to the Focus app, simply with less options. But this one is free, with an option to donate if you choose to. But you get the same functionality of being able to block both distracting websites or apps on your Mac. It’s simple and to the point and a great little app. You can download it here.

Alright, so those would be my picks for 3 of the best ways you can help yourself stay on track and get stuff done without getting caught up with distractions on your Mac. If you have any other recommendations, please them below.


Posted by Ian Van Slyke in Mac, Productivity, Recommendations, Software, 0 comments
Gift cards available

Gift cards available

Just in time for the holiday season, I have some Mac Learn gift cards available for purchase. If you know anyone that is struggling and needs help with any of their Apple products, this could be a really useful gift. Theses egift cards are super easy to purchase, and even easier to redeem for the person receiving it. All they need to do is give me the 16 digit code they receive with the virtual gift card.
Anyone who receives this gift card can use it to book an appointment with me in the Atlanta area, for both tech support and training with their Apple products.
Even if they’re outside of the Atlanta area, I can still provide support and training remotely, which is how I work with a good chunk of my clients nowadays.

The minimum amount for these gift cards is $50, which is my rate for 1 hour, so you can easily buy one or more hours of my services for anyone. There is no expiration date on these cards, so they can use them whenever they’d like… as long as I’m still alive of course 🙂

If you have any questions about the cards , or if you have any special requests, feel free to call me or reach out  via email and I’ll get right back with you.
The Mac Learn egift cards can purchased through Square, which is the company that processes my mobile payments when I work with clients at their homes and businesses.
You can purchase the Mac Learn gift cards right here


Posted by Ian Van Slyke in iPhone, Learning, Mac, Mac Learn, Training, 0 comments
Clean up your iPhone storage

Clean up your iPhone storage

Today, I want to go over something which is sometimes confusing for some of the clients I work with. And that’s the issue of storage on iPhone.
The issue of running out of storage on the phone is probably one the biggest complaints that I get from clients I work with. And there seems to be a lot of confusion with this problem about how to make sure your don’t run out of storage. So, when we’re talking about your iPhone and iPad, there is two types of storage you need to stay on top of. The actual storage available on the phone itself, and the iCloud storage that you can use to store some of your files online and sync your devices.
In this video, I explain how you can check on your iPhone storage and clean things up if needed. Or you can read the instructions listed below the video.

First, there is your iPhone’s storage, which is how much physical storage space you have on the iPhone itself. And that’s something that you choose when you purchase your phone, and that storage size cannot be changed later on. It’s a fixed amount which cannot be altered, or added to, from then on. So, if you purchased an iPhone with 16GB of storage, that’s all it’s ever going to be able to hold. Which is of course different than what you can do with most computers, where you can usually add a bigger hard drive and more RAM.

And then you have your iCloud storage, and that’s how much storage space you have available on Apple’s computers that is reserved specifically for you, using your Apple ID. And that iCloud storage is something that you can upgrade later on, and buy more space for a fee, if you need to. And the reason you may want to do that is to be able to remove certain items from your phone to clear some space, and store those items on the cloud instead. So, I’ll show you how to check how much space you are currently using on your iPhone and iPad.

First, we’ll look at your iPhone storage to see how much room you have left on the phone itself, since usually, that’s going to dictate whether or not you might need to purchase extra iCloud storage. And you can find that information under Settings, then under the General section. Then if you scroll down a little bit, you’ll see the iPhone storage section. When you click on that, the phone will scan itself, and essentially take an inventory of everything on it, which might take a few seconds, or a few minutes depending on how full your device is. Once it’s done, you’ll see a colored graph that tells you exactly what is taking up space on your phone. You’ll see different colored sections for Apps, Photos, Media, Mail, and so on.

At this point, you’ll be able to easily see what’s taking up space, and exactly how much room you still have left on your device.
Underneath that, you’ll see a section called Recommendations which is a new feature in iOS 11. And the way this feature works is that, if for example you downloaded a game a few months ago, and it’s taking up quite a bit of space but you haven’t played that game in quite a while. If you Enable “Offload unused apps”, it will remove that game from your device, as well as anything else you haven’t used in a while, but it will keep your settings. So, at some point in the future, you can just re-download the game if you want to play it again, and all your preferences and any progress you’ve made will still be there, so it’ll be exactly the same as the last time you played it.

Underneath that, you’ll see a list of everything that is taking up space on your device. The apps taking up the most space will be listed at the top of this list, and this is going to give you a very clear indication of what exactly is gobbling up your storage on your device. The main thing to be aware of is that the number you see to the right of the App’s name is the combined size of the app, as well as any content that’s within the app. So, for example with me, I use an app for listening to podcast called Overcast, and if I click on it, I can see that the app itself is really quite small at only 12 MB, but it’s the podcasts themselves which I’ve downloaded to the phone, those are what’s taking up a ton of space. I listen to a lot of podcasts, so there’s a full 20 GB of audio podcasts currently stored on my phone. If I were to delete the Overcast app from my phone, that would remove both the app and all the podcasts, and therefore clear up 20GB of space. Or, in this instance, I don’t really want to do that, so I could just go to the Overcast app and delete certain episodes to make room, now that I know that this is what is taking up a lot of the space on my phone.

Typically, the apps that tend to take up the most space are going to be anything containing videos and photos, and sometimes also music up to a certain extent. Some of the apps to keep an eye on are going to be the Photos app, or any other apps that you use to shoot pictures and videos with. And if you’re completely filling up your device with images and videos, you might want to consider using the iCloud Photo library, which we will look at later.

The Messages app is also one definitely worth checking on, because the files in there can really sneak up on you. A lot of people don’t really think to look there, but if you’re someone that sends and receives a lot of pictures and videos with friends and family through the Messages app, you can end up with tons of space being taken up by those files until you delete them. And one of the best new features in iOS 11 is the ability to check exactly what is taking up space in your Messages app. Mine is not a great example because I’ve already tidied up in here, but you can now click on the Messages app and you’ll get an exact breakdown of which files are taking up space. Then, you can click on Photos for example and see all the pictures that you currently have in the Messages app. You can then choose Edit at the top right of the screen and add little check-marks to each image you’d like to delete before hitting to trash can icon to actually get rid of them.

Now, keep in mind, if there’s an image that you see listed here that you want to save, you would need to go to the Messages app first, and click and hold on the image until you see the Save option, which will save that image to your Photos library. And it works the same way for the videos.

So, spend some time in here and look around, and see exactly what is taking up space on your phone. You might find that there are some apps that you never use, and probably no longer need to be there. So,  if you need to clear up space on your phone because it’s getting full, this is the first place you should look to understand what exactly is taking up the most room.

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in iPhone, Productivity, Tips & Tricks, 0 comments