10 Hints, Tips, and Shortcuts about Your iPhone

Your iPhone is capable of performing so many things. The more you use your iPhone, the more helpful you'll find shortcuts and other timesaving tips about it. Here are some faves.

Do the slide for accuracy and punctuation

This first time can help you type more accurately and enable you to type punctuation and numerals faster than ever before.

You know how to tap, double-tap, and even double-tap with two fingers. Here's a new gesture, the slide.

To do the slide, you start by performing the first half of a tap. That is, you touch your finger to the keyboard screen but don’t lift your finger up. Now, without lifting your finger, slide it onto the key you want to type. You’ll know you’re on the right key because it pop ups and enlarges.

First, try the slide during normal typing. Stab at a key. If you miss, rather than lifting your finger, backspacing, and trying again, do the slide onto the proper key. After you get the hang of the slide, you’ll see that it saves a lot of time and improves your accuracy as well. Get in the habit of not lifting your finger until you’re certain it's on the correct key.

Now here’s the best part: You can use the slide to save time with punctuation and numerals, too. The next time you need to type a punctuation mark or number, try this technique:

  1. Start a slide action with your finger on the 123 key.

    The 123 key is to the left of the space key when the alphabetical keyboard is active. This is a slide, not a tap, so don’t lift your finger just yet.

  2. When the punctuation and numeric keyboard appears on-screen, slide your finger onto the punctuation mark or number you want to type.

  3. Lift your finger.

The cool thing is that the punctuation and numeric keyboard disappears and the alphabetical keyboard reappears — all without tapping the 123 key to display the punctuation and numeric keyboard and without tapping the ABC key (the key to the left of the space key when the punctuation and numeric keyboard is active).

If you slide onto certain characters and your finger lingers for a couple of seconds without lifting, your slide will be spoiled. A set of alternate characters will appear, as shown in the following figure, preventing you from continuing the slide action. The keys that react this way are all vowels and some consonants, including N, Z, and L.

Press certain keys for too long and your slide will end in a flurry of alternate character options.
Press certain keys for too long and your slide will end in a flurry of alternate character options.

Practice the slide for typing letters, punctuation, and numerals. If you remember not to pause when your finger is pressing a character with pop-up alternatives, you’ll be typing faster and more accurately in a few days. The trick is to get in the habit of sliding your finger fast enough that the alternate characters don’t pop up. Just practice until it feels natural; you won’t be sorry.

Autocorrect is your friend

Here are two related tips about autocorrection that can also help you type faster and more accurately.

Auto apostrophes are good for you

First, before moving on from the subject of punctuation, you should know that you can type dont to get to don’t. Put some faith in the iPhone’s autocorrection software, and that applies to contractions. In other words, save time by letting the iPhone’s intelligent keyboard insert the apostrophes on your behalf for these and other common words.

The iPhone cannot distinguish between it’s, the contraction of it is, and its, the possessive adjective and possessive pronoun. It has the same issue with other contractions such as won’t (wont) and can’t (cant) because the words (sans apostrophes) exist in the iPhone’s dictionary.

Make rejection work for you

If the autocorrect suggestion isn’t the word you want, reject it instead of ignoring it. Finish typing the word and then tap the x to reject the suggestion before you type another word. Doing so makes your iPhone more likely to accept your word the next time you type it (or less likely to make the same incorrect suggestion the next time you type the word).

The way-cool audio scrub speed tip

Here’s the situation: You’re listening to a podcast or an audiobook and trying to find the beginning of a specific segment by moving the scrubber (that little red line on the scrubber bar) left and right. The only problem is that the scrubber isn’t very precise and your fat finger keeps moving it too far one way or the other.

Never fear — your iPhone has a wonderful fix (albeit usually hidden by your finger). Just press your finger on the scrubber, but instead of sliding your finger to the left or right, slide it upward toward the top of the screen (see the following figure). As you slide, the scrubbing speed changes like magic and the amount of change is displayed below the scrubber bar. The default (normal) speed is called high-speed scrubbing; when you slide your finger upward, the speed changes to half-speed scrubbing, then to quarter-speed scrubbing, and finally to fine scrubbing as shown. This scrub trick is easier to do than to explain, so give it a try.

Press on the scrubber and slide your finger downward to change the scrubbing rate.
Press on the scrubber and slide your finger downward to change the scrubbing rate.

While you’re sliding, keep an eye on the elapsed time and remaining time indicators because they provide useful feedback about the current scrubbing speed.

Tricks with links and phone numbers

The iPhone does something special when it encounters a phone number or URL in e-mail and text messages. The iPhone interprets as a phone number any sequence of numbers that looks like a phone number: 1-123-555-4567, 555-4567, 1.123.555.4567, and so on. The same goes for sequences of characters that look like a web address (URL) and e-mail addresses. When the iPhone sees what it assumes to be a URL, it appears as a blue link on your screen.

If you tap a phone number or URL sequence, the iPhone launches the Phone app and dials the number for a phone number, or it launches Safari and takes you to the appropriate web page for a URL. That’s useful but somewhat expected. What’s more useful and not so expected is the way Safari handles phone numbers and URLs.

Let’s start with phone numbers. When you encounter a phone number on a web page, give it a tap. A little dialog appears on the screen displaying that phone number and offering you a choice of two buttons: Call or Cancel. Tap Call to switch to the Phone app and dial the number; tap Cancel to return to the web page.

Here’s another cool Safari trick, this time with links. If you press and hold down on a link rather than tapping it, the following buttons appear: Open, Open in New Page, Add to Reading List, and Copy the URL. There’s also a Cancel button in case none of these appeals to you.

You also see the underlying URL if you press and hold down on a URL in Mail or Messages. Having this information in Mail or Messages is even more useful because it enables you to spot bogus links and phishing attempts without switching to Safari or actually visiting the URL.

Finally, here’s one last Safari trick. If you press and hold down on most graphic images, Save Image and Copy Image buttons appear. Tap Save Image and the picture is saved to Camera Roll in the Photos app. Tap Copy Image and the picture is copied to the Clipboard so you can paste it into any app that accepts pasted images, including but not limited to Messages and Mail.

Share the love . . . and the links

Ever stumble on a web page you just have to share with a buddy? The iPhone makes it simple. From the site in question, tap the action icon at the bottom of the browser. Then tap the appropriate button to share via Mail, iMessage (or SMS), Twitter, Facebook, or AirDrop.

What happens next depends on which button you tap. For example, if you tap Mail, a new mail message appears with the Subject line prepopulated with the name of the website you’re visiting and the body of the message prepopulated with the URL. Just type something in the message body, supply your pal’s e-mail address, and then tap the Send button.

Choosing a home page for safari

You may have noticed that the iPhone version of Safari does not have an option to specify a home page, though the popular option exists on Mac and PC versions of the Safari (and for that matter, every other web browser in common use today). Instead, when you tap the Safari icon, you return to the last site you visited.

The trick to having Safari open to the page of your choosing rather than to the last page you visited is to create an icon for the page you want to use as your home page. This technique is called creating a web clip of a web page. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open the web page you want to use as your Home page and tap the action button (shown below).

  2. Tap the Add to Home Screen button.

    The Add to Home screen appears.

  3. (Optional) Change the name of the icon if you like.

  4. Tap Add.

    An icon that will open this page appears on your Home screen (or one of your Home screens if you have more than one).

  5. Tap this new web clip icon instead of the Safari icon, and Safari opens to your Home page instead of the last page you visited.

You can even rearrange the icons so that your Home page icon, instead of or in addition to the Safari icon, appears in the dock, as shown in the following figure.

The BL.com icon now replaces the Safari icon in the dock (between Mail and Music on the dock).
The BL.com icon now replaces the Safari icon in the dock (between Mail and Music on the dock).

Storing files

You can get an inexpensive piece of OS X software called PhoneView ($29.95), which lets you copy files from your Mac to your iPhone and copy files from the iPhone to a Mac. Better still, you can try the program for a week before deciding whether you want to buy it. Go to www.ecamm.com to fetch the free demo.

The big deal here is that while automatic backups protect most of the files on your iPhone, you can't manipulate them. They’re backed up and restored, but heaven help you if you want to extract one or more individual iMessages, SMS, and MMS messages, specific songs, videos, notes, or other types of data from your iPhone. The bottom line is that there’s no easier way to manage files on your iPhone than by using PhoneView.

Here’s how PhoneView works. After downloading the software to your Mac, double-click the program’s icon to start it. Then do one of the following:

  • To transfer files and folders to the iPhone (assuming that you have room on the device), click the Copy to iPhone button on the toolbar and then select the files you want to copy. The files are copied into the appropriate folder on the iPhone. Alternatively, you can drag files and folders from the Mac Desktop or a folder into the PhoneView browser.

  • To go the other way and copy files from your iPhone to your computer, highlight the files or folders you want to be copied and then click the Copy from iPhone button on the toolbar. Select the destination on your Mac where you want to store the files and then click Save. You can also drag files and folders from the PhoneView file browser to the Mac desktop or folder. Or you can double-click a file in the PhoneView browser to download it to your Mac’s Documents folder.

If you need access to the files on your iPhone or if you want to use your iPhone as a pseudo-hard drive, PhoneView is a bargain.

Create ringtones for free in GarageBand

Creating free iPhone ringtones with Apple’s GarageBand application (which is bundled with every Mac) is relatively easy. Start by launching GarageBand on your Mac and creating a new iPhone ringtone project. Then:

  1. Click the Media Browser button to reveal the media browser pane.

  2. Click the disclosure triangle to reveal the contents of your iTunes library.

  3. Click your iTunes music library to reveal its contents.

  4. Select the song you want to turn into a ringtone and drag it onto the timeline ("Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah!" in the following figure).


    You can’t use songs purchased from the iTunes Store for ringtones if they're protected by Apple’s digital rights management copy protection. GarageBand won’t let you drag a protected song onto its timeline.

    Apple stopped using copy protection for music files in April 2009. If you purchased the song after that, you’re good to go. If you purchased the song before then, you can pay a small upgrade fee (30 cents) to convert the song to iTunes Plus, Apple’s new higher-quality, non-copy-protected format.

    The bottom line is that you can make ringtones only from songs you’ve ripped yourself from CD or downloaded without rights management or other copy protection (such as MP3s from Amazon.com or files in Apple’s iTunes Plus format) — or sounds you record yourself on your iPhone or computer.

  5. Click the cycle region button to enable the cycle region.

  6. Click in the middle of the cycle region and drag it to the portion of the song you want to use as your ringtone.

  7. Fine-tune the start and end points by clicking and dragging the cycle region’s left and right edges, as shown in the next figure.

    For best results, keep your ringtones under 30 seconds.

  8. Click the play button to hear your work. When you’re satisfied with it, choose Share→Send Ringtone to iTunes.


If you have a microphone, you can record ringtones featuring voice recordings such as the following. “Yo! It’s your bro!” “This is your mother. Pick up the phone right this moment.” “Ed Baig calling.” “Incoming! Incoming!” “This is your iPhone and I’m ringing.” And so on. You get the picture.

The next time you sync, your new ringtone becomes available on your iPhone. To use it as your ringtone, tap Settings→Sounds→Ringtone, and then tap the ringtone in the list of available sounds. To associate the ringtone with a specific contact or contacts, find the contact in either the Contacts app or the Phone app’s Contacts tab, tap Ringtone, and then tap the specific ringtone in the list of available ringtones.

You can also assign ringtones as text tones, so you can associate custom ringtones with text messages from a specific contact. The procedure is as just described, but you tap Text Tone instead of Ringtone.

Getting apps out of the multitasking screen

iOS 7’s multitasking is great, but sometimes you don’t want to see an app’s icon in the multitasking screen. Don’t worry — it’s easy to remove any app that’s cluttering up your screen.

To get rid of an app icon in the multitasking screen, here’s what you do:

  1. Double-press the Home button.

    The multitasking screen appears. Don’t forget that you can swipe the screen from right to left (or left to right) to see additional icons representing other multitasking apps.

  2. Slide the screen proxy of the app you want to quit upward and off the top of the screen, as shown in the following figure.


    The app disappears from the multitasking screen (note that the Notes app was slid in the figure). To fill the gap onscreen, apps slide to the left, as shown in the next figure. Icons from the group of apps you’d see if you swiped from right to left on the screen slide onto the screen as needed.

    After quitting the Notes app, the Safari and App Store icons slide to the left to fill the gap.
    After quitting the Notes app, the Safari and App Store icons slide to the left to fill the gap.
  1. Press the Home button or tap any app to dismiss the multitasking screen.

The most useful application of this trick is to stop an app that’s running in the background. For example, if Pandora Radio is playing in the background and you decide you’ve had enough Pandora for now, just follow the preceding steps, sliding Pandora up and off your screen, and it will shut the heck up. Without this trick, you’d have to open Pandora, tap the Pause button, and then press the Home button to close Pandora (the Pandora icon would still remain in the multitasking screen).

The bottom line is that using this tip is an easier, faster way to quit any app (including the one you’re using), and the only way short of restarting your iPhone to remove an icon from the multitasking screen.

Taking a snapshot of the screen

Press the sleep/wake button at the same time you press the Home button, but just for an instant. The iPhone grabs a snapshot of whatever is on the screen. The picture lands in the iPhone’s Camera Roll; from there, you can synchronize it with your PC or Mac, along with all your other pictures. And from there, the possibilities are endless. Why, your picture could wind up just about anywhere, including in a For Dummies book.

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