Accessibility features in iOS everyone should be using: Have your iPhone read out loud to you with Speak Selection

Accessibility features in iOS everyone should be using: Have your iPhone read out loud to you with Speak Selection

So you just found an interesting article online but have your hands full cooking dinner? Why not have your iPhone read that article to you? iOS users with Dyslexia have been enjoying the Speak Selection feature as way to have your device read text from apps like Safari and iBooks out loud. Click READ MORE for step-by-step instructions.

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Accessibility features in iOS everyone should be using: Make nighttime reading easier with inverted colors

Accessibility features in iOS everyone should be using: Make nighttime reading easier with inverted colors

Apple has always made a great effort to make their technology accessible to as many people as possible. This includes leading the way with built-in accessibility features. With iOS 7 not only did they add new features like Switch Access and customizable subtitles, they also moved the Accessibility menu from near the bottom of the General menu in the Settings App to near the top, showing that Accessibility is a priority.

The great thing about building accessibility into technology like the Mac, iPad, and iPhone is that many of these features can be enjoyed by just about everyone. Over the next few posts I’ll teach you about some of the great accessibility features anyone can enjoy, courtesy of Apple’s accessibility team.

Make Nighttime Reading Easier with Invert Colors

If you have played around with reading apps like iBooks and Kindle you might have notice these come with a night reading mode. With night reading turned on the screen displays a black background with white text rather than the traditional white background with black text. At night a black background is easier on the eyes and the screen is significantly less bright making it a lot easier to read. With Invert Colors you can add a nighttime reading mode to any app you want. Click READ MORE for step by step instructions.

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Keep a child on task with Guided Access for the iPad/iPhone

Keep a child on task with Guided Access for the iPad/iPhone

So you found a really great educational app for your child and can’t wait to see it in action. Unfortunately little Billy would rather play Angry Birds and knows how to quickly switch to the app he would rather be playing. Sound Familiar?

The good news is you don’t have to delete all the other apps on your iPad to limit distractions when it is time to learn with the iPad. Guided Access is a feature built into the iPad that allows you to lock a single app in place, essentially locking out the home button. Not only that you can even lock out portions of the screen to prevent them from tapping certain buttons or ads.

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iPhone Emergency Alerts - Your 1 AM Wake Up Call

We've had some stormy weather the last few days here in Minnesota. A tree fell over a neighbor's house and another neighbor had their garage destroyed by another fallen tree. So it wasn't a big surprise when the emergency alerts feature kicked in on our iPhones.

Emergency Alerts

A while back Apple added a neat feature to the iPhone. If the government issues an Amber or Emergency Alert in your area your iPhone can alert you through the notification center feature. As we discovered the alert will light your phone up and will play an alert tone not all that different from the alert tone you would hear on your television. If your iPhone is on silent mode it will vibrate instead.

Excited At First

At first I was excited to discover this great feature when it alerted us to a government issued flood warning in our area. It was about 8 pm and the alert was in effect till about 2 am. What a great feature I thought.

Then the alert went off again at about 11 pm. The flood warning was extended till 3 am and it was giving us an update. This wouldn't have been a problem except my wife had just gotten to sleep and we keep our phones next to our bed. Like many people, we use our phones as an alarm clock. Also, sometimes you want to play a game or check the news before getting out of bed.

1 am Wake Up Call

Near 1 am the alert went off for a third time which is when my wife asked me how to stop it. At first I though I would have her turn on the Do Not Disturb feature but then paused. Do Not Disturb is designed block calls and alerts but it also lets emergency calls through. These alerts, by their very name, are considered an "emergency" and might be let through. Since I had no way of easily testing this because I can't create my own emergency alerts, I showed her how to turn the alerts off entirely so she could sleep in peace through the night. She then suggested that I share this story with all of you.

Turning Off Emergency Alerts

Obviously for safety I don't suggest just turning Emergency Alerts off casually. But we really needed the sleep and our home is not in an area that floods. So we checked local news websites for information about the storm to be safe and decided we no longer need the updated alerts through the night. If you are in a similar situation here is how to turn the alerts off.

  • Go into your settings on your iPhone and find the Notification Center section.
  • Scroll down the very bottom of the menu and you'll a section marked Government Alerts which you can toggle on and off.
  • Switch these off and remember to turn them back on again later if you wish.

Be safe everyone one, but also try to get some sleep.

 iPhoto Notification Settings Menu with an arrow pointing to the Government Notification section

Organizing Apps and Creating Folders on the iPad

Who doesn't love apps? Considering how cheap they are you probably have more than a few on your iPad or iPhone.  The first time you download a new app on your favorite iOS device you get a quick pop-up tutorial on how to organize apps, but who can remember that?  Don't worry because in today's tutorial we'll walk you step by step through the process of rearranging and sorting your apps into folders.

The first step to organizing your apps is to put your device into organization mode. To do this simply press and hold your finger on top of any app in the home menu till all the apps start to shake. This is organization mode where you can sort and delete apps. I like to think the apps are shaking because they are afraid you might decide to delete them off your device.

While in organization mode you can move an app by touching and holding your finger on any app and dragging it across the screen. The other apps will move aside to make room for the app wherever you want to place it. If you want to move the app to another page or create a new page for apps just drag your app to side of the screen and hold it for a moment and you'll be taken to a new page.

To create a folder drag an app directly on top of another app and hold it there for a moment. An app folder will be created and it will automatically be given a name based on the apps that are in it. To change the name of the folder just tap on the name and type in a new one. To exit the folder just tap anywhere outside of the folder.  If you change your mind and want to move an app out of a folder just open the folder by tapping on it, enter organization mode by touching and holding an app, and drag the app outside of the folder area.

When you enter organization mode you will see a small "X" in the top left corner of the app, tapping on this will delete the app from your device. Although you can easily download the app again from the App Store for free, you will lose all the information saved inside the app.

When you are done organizing you can leave organization mode by pressing the home button. All the apps will stop shaking and the iPad will return to normal use.

One more thing.  Apps can be stored on several pages which can be navigated by swiping across the screen.  There is a section of apps the bottom of the screen that are visible on every page. This is called the doc and if you have an app you use all the time this is a great place to store it. You can keep a total of 6 apps in the doc.

 iPad screen with a folder holding 2 apps

iPad screen with a folder holding 2 apps

iPhone Silent Caller ID or Custom Vibrations - Tutorial

By turning on "Custom Vibrations" in the iPhone accessibility menu you can create custom vibration patterns as a form of caller ID.  This way you can tell who is calling you without taking your phone out of your pocket.

This trick only takes a moment to setup.  All you do is go to your iPhone's Settings and turn on "Custom Vibrations" under General - Accessibility.  Once this feature is turned on you can setup a custom vibration pattern for that caller by viewing them in your contacts list and tapping edit.  From now on there will be an option in the editing view to assign a custom vibration.  It's that easy and very useful, especially when you phone starts ringing and its not appropriate to check who is calling.

 Custom Vibrations

Custom Vibrations

Visual Coin Calculator - Tutorial

Love It To Bits just launched its first app the Visual Coin Calculator.  What better way to promote this accomplishment than to create a special tutorial showing how it works.  Sure, it's shameless self promotion, but we also really love our app.

The Visual Coin Calculator is an easy to use app for counting coins. It has two different modes - one for simply adding up the coins you have, another for adding and subtracting groups of coins. This app is great for anyone from children learning to count currency to adults who just want an easy way of tracking the change in their pocket.

Make Your Own iPhone Ringtone/Alert Tone with Garageband - Tutorial

Ringtones are a multimillion dollar industry, but did you know you can easily create your own?  If you have an iPhone and a copy of Garageband it only takes a minute.  This video goes step by step through the process.

If you want to create a ringtone out of a song that you purchased from iTunes there is one important thing to note:

Songs purchased from iTunes before April 2009 will not show up in the Garageband Media Browser.  Up until April 2009 Apple used DRM (Digital Rights Management) on all of their music files.  This restricted the files from being played on more than 5 computers and from being edited or manipulated.  It was put in place because the music publishers wanted to prevent piracy.  But the reality was that there were a lot of different ways for pirates to get around this (for example burning the music onto a CD then importing it back into iTunes).  So Apple managed to convince the music publishers that the DRM was only making it more difficult for good people (like you and me) to use the music they purchased legally the way they wanted to.

When did this happen?  You guessed it on April 2009.

So, you're probably thinking, "Great, how do I update my old music files so they are DRM free?  I bet it's only a button.  After all with iCloud I can re-download my music anytime, I know, I'll just do that!"

 iTunes Plus

iTunes Plus

Unfortunately that won't work.  You see, at the same time Apple dropped the DRM they created a new service called iTunes Plus which offered songs DRM free and at a higher audio quality.  These songs also cost about $0.30 more.  Now all songs are technically iTunes Plus songs, but your older songs need to be upgraded to get the new DRM niceness (along with the higher quality audio file). To find out about upgrading your older music files go to the iTunes store and click on the "iTunes Plus" button.  Of course there always is the CD method, but I didn't suggest that.