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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How to Take a Picture of Your Mac or iPad Screen

How to Take a Picture of Your Mac or iPad Screen

I use a lot of screenshots when writing tutorials like these for the blog. Screenshots are essentially photos I have my Mac or iPad take of what ever is currently being displayed on my screen. Recently a friend sent me an email asking how I took screenshots on my Mac. They had a video slide show from a trip they recent took but the original photos where accidentally deleted. Their plan was to take screenshots of the video to recapture some of the photos they had lost (albeit in a lower quality than the originals).

Here's how you can quickly take screenshots on your Mac or iPad.

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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

Removing App Numbers or "We don't need no stinking badges!"

My wife and I recently updated the podcasts app on our iPhones. Although I enjoy the new features with the update I don't need the red number telling me how many new podcast episodes I have. It gives a certain sense of urgency. Since I am almost never caught up with all the podcasts that I subscribe to it means there will always be a bright red number staring back at me whenever I look at the podcast icon. So I decided to turn it off.

If you have an app that displays a number when you don't need it to there is an easy way to remove it.

  • First go to the Settings app on your iPhone and tap on Notifications.
  • Find your app in the list, in this case I'm choosing podcasts.In this menu you can adjust how the app is allowed to send you notifications.
  • Scroll down until you see the option Badge App Icon and change this setting to off.
  • Now hit the Home button and you'll see that the app no longer displays the red numbers.

Send questions and request to:

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.