How to resurrect your Mac’s startup chime

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startup chime
Chimes and bongs: not just for hippies.
Photo: Arturo Rey/Unsplash

When you start up a Mac, it goes “bong,” and that’s the way the world should be. Unless, that is, you bought a Mac in 2016 or later, when Apple removed the Mac startup chime. These days, a Mac starts up silently, with only a whisper of fan noise (or the din of a whirring, clicking hard drive on an iMac) to let you know something is happening.

But what if you miss the good old Mac startup chime? Or — if you’re new to Macs — you just fancy a bit of retro charm? Today we’ll see how to bring back the bong.

How to use Apple Maps public transit directions

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Stockholm's excellent public transit.
Stockholm's excellent public transit.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Apple Maps offers surprisingly great public transport features. It recently expanded transit directions across Europe, so you can get “turn-by-turn” directions for metro, tram and other modes of public transit.

Even if your city isn’t yet covered by these directions, there’s still a whole lot of really useful information available. For instance, just tap a station on the map, and it will show all upcoming departures.

Let’s take a look at Apple Maps public transit features.

How to replace Apple’s Music app with something better

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Yes it does landscape, too.
Yes it does landscape, too.
Photo: Marvis

Like almost all of Apple’s built-in iOS apps, the Music app is capable but hard to use. Apple’s habit of hiding key functions behind multiple button-taps is in full force here, and it’s getting worse. Want to “heart” a track? You used to be able to do it from the lock screen player. Now you have to access the Music app’s share menu, and find it there.

And what if you want to view your recently added items as a list, or your list of songs as a grid? Tough. On the other hand, if you use features like the For You… playlists, and Apple Music’s excellent More by… recommendations, many alternative music apps don’t support them.

The answer to this digital music conundrum is Marvis Pro, a 1-year-old music app that offers everything you need — and nothing you don’t.

How to wash (and dry) your hands properly

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dirty sink
This is a lot cleaner than many public bathrooms I've been in.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

With the COVID-19 coronavirus spreading around the world, it’s worth taking a moment to learn how to wash your hands. Official government advice says that touch is not the most likely way for transmission of the deadly virus. But in general, touch is more likely to spread disease than kissing, according to Bill Bryson in his latest book, The Body. Which means that washing your hands is one of the best ways to guard against catching a cold or something worse.

You probably wash your hands plenty of times throughout the day. But unless you’re a surgeon, you probably don’t do it properly.

This post contains affiliate links. Cult of Mac may earn a commission when you use our links to buy items.

How to use Apple TV app’s new data-saving features

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The Apple TV app gets a raft of new features in iOS 12.3.
The Apple TV app just added new data saving features.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Binge-watching your favorite Apple TV shows on an iPhone is a great way to run through your data plan limits if you’re not careful, so Apple is introducing a way to wrangle in your data slurping habits.

iOS 13.4 beta 2 introduced some new settings to the Apple TV app for iPhone and iPad, giving users the option to control the size of downloads as well as lowering the amount of data used while streaming content. If Apple’s TV app is one of your major entertainment hubs, you’ll want to know how to take advantage of the new features.

Use the hidden autocomplete in Apple Watch’s Scribble to send text messages

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fountain pen
Autocomplete metaphor.
Photo: Aaron Burden/Unsplash

Unless you hate yourself, or you have an uncommonly close relationship with Siri, anytime you need to reply to a message on your Apple Watch, you pull out your iPhone. Scribble, the watch’s laborious handwriting-recognition input, is fine for very short replies, but it takes so long for anything else that it makes T9 text input look appealing.

But what if there was some kind of iPhone-esque Scribble autocomplete? What if I told you that this hidden feature is already there, and that you just never noticed it? Prepare to have your mind blown.

Yes, you can still take photo bursts with iPhone 11. Here’s how.

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balloons photo burst mode
Any one of these balloons could burst at any time.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Before the iPhone 11, holding down the shutter button in the camera app would capture a burst of photos. That was great for capturing action, or for making sure you get a group photo where everyone has their eyes open (and is grimace-free). But press and hold the shutter on the iPhone 11, and you get a QuickTake video.

Fortunately, burst mode is still there. It’s just hidden behind a secret gesture.

How to get free TV in any hotel

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Hook that giant hotel TV up to your iPad
Hook that giant hotel TV up to your iPad.
Photo: Paul Postema/Unsplash

Switch on a hotel TV, and you’ll likely run into its paywall very quickly. You probably don’t want to view any of the hotel’s stupid pay channels, but maybe you do want to hook up your iPad and watch some of the shows you brought along with you.

You’re typically still out of luck, though. These locked-up TVs won’t let you access their HDMI ports. Nor will they let you connect via AirPlay, if they even support Apple’s streaming protocol. However, there’s an absurdly easy way to disable all this dumb “security” and watch video from your iPad or iPhone to a hotel TV.

This shortcut mutes iPhone audio when you enter Do Not Disturb

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mute audio orange speaker
Quiet!
Photo: Oleg Laptev/Unsplash

The Do Not Disturb mode built into iOS is excellent. It hides incoming alerts, and generally stops you from being disturbed by outside forces. But it won’t save you from yourself. What if you accidentally click on a YouTube link or — more likely — that GIF you clicked in Tweetbot turns out to be a noisy video? The sudden racket will surely wake your spouse.

Today we’ll see how to make a shortcut that automatically silences your iPhone whenever it enters Do Not Disturb mode.

How sneaky kids use AirPods to ‘talk’ in class

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fake AirPods talk in class
Totally legit Apple AirPods.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

When I was a kid, we communicated in class by writing notes on pieces of paper, and passing them to other kids. It was called “passing notes,” and is now probably taught in schools as an artisanal pastime, along with “going outside” and conkers. In 2020, kids use insane workarounds to avoid actual writing.

Today we’ll see how to “pass notes” using nothing but two $700 iPhones and two $160 pairs of AirPods.

How to add attachments from the Files app in Gmail for iOS

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Gmail iOS iPhone X
Google has been giving Gmail for iOS a lot of love lately.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Gmail is finally adding the ability to add attachments to emails straight from the Files app for iOS, giving users another crucial productivity tool.

Until now, the only way to send stuff from your Files app via Gmail was by using the sharing tool inside the Files app and creating a new email with it. Now users can reply to emails inside of Gmail for iOS and add attachments from Files without having to jump between apps. We’ll give you a quick rundown on how to use the nifty feature that’s starting to roll out to users globally.

How to stop all those App Store subscription-renewal emails

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subscription-renewal emails
This is how subscription-renewal emails used to arrive.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

If you have any App Store subscriptions, you will be familiar with the emails you get every time one renews. And if you subscribe to more than a few monthly plans, then maybe you even get annoyed by them. If your tolerance to this kind of thing is particularly low, we have good news for you: You can now opt out of App Store subscription-renewal emails that Apple sends.

MacBook vs. iPad: Which one is right for you?

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Ableton on Mac and iPad.
iPad vs. MacBook: Which platform is better for your needs?
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Looking for a portable Apple computer? You have two choices — a MacBook or an iPad. Both excel at different things. The iPad is super-portable, silent and cool. The Mac is more flexible, offers more connections, and can run much more complex software.

It may be that you already know whether you need a Mac or an iPad. If you use apps that only run on the Mac, or if you need to hook up a lot of extra hardware, then a Mac is your only option. But if you desire the ultimate in portability, or you want to use a touchscreen or an awesome Apple Pencil stylus, you need an iPad.

If you’re on the fence, wondering which portable Apple computer best fits your needs, this article will help you decide. The MacBook vs. iPad battle is on …

Finally — a YouTube download shortcut for iOS that actually works

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download youtube shortcut
In the olden days, we had to download videos through our eyes, and we couldn't even save them.
Photo: Sven Scheuermeier/Unsplash

I’ve made several attempts at creating/repurposing iOS shortcuts that download YouTube videos and save them for offline viewing. The problem is, most of the shortcuts broke after a while, or proved so unreliable that I gave up on them. And, judging by the responses I get via Twitter, you folks are also very interested in downloading YouTube videos.

Well, this weekend I finally found a way to make it work reliably. And because it uses a third-party service to locate the downloadable video link, it means that someone else is making sure that it all keeps working. Hopefully. For now. Fingers crossed.

How to customize Apple Watch iMessage smart replies

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Change the lame Apple Watch smart replies by adding custom replies.
Change the lame smart replies on your Apple Watch.
Image: Apple

You know when you reply to a message on your Apple Watch, and it’s such a pain to write it out a letter at a time or to dictate your reply (only to have Siri mishear you)? The alternative is to use one of Apple Watch’s canned responses. Unfortunately, they all sound like your account got hacked, or that you don’t care about the sender enough to come up with a proper reply.

However, you can customize those replies to make them much more useful. And with one clever trick, you can make Apple Watch smart replies sound just like you really wrote them.

iPadOS 13.4 lets you (finally) use a PC keyboard with your iPad

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remap iPad keys
Finally, you can remap that stupid globe to an escape key.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Using a keyboard with your iPad is a beautiful thing. It seems like every iOS update brings more and more keyboard shortcuts. But until now, you’ve been stuck using Mac-compatible keyboards only. If you hooked up a PC keyboard to your iPad, then the ⌘ and ⌥ keys would be the wrong way around.

On the Mac, thats always been easy to fix, thanks to a preference screen for switching these keys via software. And now, in iOS 13.4 beta, you can finally remaps modifier keys, too. And, yes, you can even remap the stupid globe icon on Apple’s Smart Folio Keyboard.

One Switch gives you a single toggle to control everything useful on your Mac

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One Switch: One switch for your Mac's menu bar.
One Switch: One switch for your Mac's menu bar.
Image: Fireball

One Switch isn’t a new app, but it does look like one of the handiest Mac apps for anyone who follows our Cult of Mac how-tos. The app puts a drop-down list in your Mac’s menu bar, offering instant access to all kinds of great hacks and tweaks, from toggling Dark Mode to connecting AirPods.

Unmount noisy hard drives to stop them driving you crazy

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A hard drive, fully
A hard drive, fully "unmounted."
Photo: Vincent Botta/Unsplash

If the main disk in your Mac is a spinning hard drive, you should probably upgrade to a solid state drive. Swapping in an SSD is the cheapest way to make your old computer feel like a brand-new Mac. But for backups, and for lesser-used internal storage in a Mac Pro or iMac, a hard drive still gives you the best value. You will pay far less per megabyte of storage.

The problem is that hard drives are noisy as well as slow. If you’re used to enjoying the silence of an SSD-based computer environment, then those whirrs, whines clicks and pops will drive you nuts. Which is why you should unmount your noisy hard drives. That way they’re still available to the apps that need them, but otherwise they’re sleeping.

How to use Mac menus from the keyboard

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help menu shortcut
Help!
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

There’s nothing a Mac nerd likes more than using keyboard shortcuts. Actually, there’s one thing — telling people about Mac keyboard shortcuts. Either way, you’re going to love this tip, which lets you access the menu bar menus of any and all Mac apps, using just the keyboard.

Hit the magic key combo, and you can quickly type to find any menu command by name.

This Siri shortcut scans and translates text on any photo, sign or menu

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translate scan shortcut
What could this possibly mean?
Photo: Jon Tyson/Unsplash

I live in Germany, and even though my German is fine, I often get beaten by notices and signs. In my native England, signs and notices are snappy. They use few words, and often annoying slogans, to get the point across. In Germany, an A4 (legal-size) sheet of paper with densely spaced type is the norm. And that’s just from neighbors complaining about people leaving their strollers on the wrong side of the entrance hall.

So, I decided to do something about it. I wrote a Siri Shortcut that scans one of these German essays using the iPhone’s camera, translates it, and shows it to you. There are apps that can do something similar, but my shortcut is way better, for several reasons.

How to use Mac-like hot corners on the iPad

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iPad hot corners
A corner.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

On the Mac, hot corners are essential — and amazingly useful. You can put your display to sleep, trigger Mission Control and more, just by flicking the mouse to a screen corner. If you’re one of those people who likes to use a mouse with your iPad, you can utilize these same flick-to-activate gestures on the tablet. And there’s a bonus: Hot corners on the iPad are way, way more powerful than on the Mac.