How to turn off Mac webcam video reactions in macOS Sonoma


Fireworks are fun, but occasionally, inappropriate for the situation.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

How do you turn off the webcam video reactions on your Mac in macOS Sonoma? This feature, which puts full-screen animated effects on your video calls, made a good demo when it was introduced, but has since confused many people who trigger it accidentally in serious situations.

The Off button isn’t where you would expect — it’s not hiding in Skype, Google Hangouts or Zoom at all — it’s in the Mac’s menu bar.

Let me show you what’s going on and how you can turn it off.

Check In: Every parent should know this essential iOS 17 feature


Where Did You Go?
A smarter way to keep tabs on your loved ones’ travels.
Image: Boonlert Aroonpiboon/Wikimedia Commons/D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Check In is a new iOS 17 feature that tracks your travels and lets contacts know when you’ve safely reached your destination. It’s great for traveling, or kids going to and from school, or even going on a date. You no longer have to count on remembering to text someone when you make it home safely — your iPhone will let them know for you.

Check In is like sharing your ETA in Apple Maps, but tweaked for personal safety. Friends, family and loved ones will be automatically notified if you’re stopped for any reason before reaching your destination. It also has timer-based check ins, which come in handy for situations like meeting a stranger from Craigslist. If you don’t check in after a set time, your contacts will be alerted.

Here’s how to use it — frankly, every parent should know how this works.

How to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown for free


Peanuts holidays specials are already starting to debut on Apple TV+.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is already streaming on Apple TV+.
Photo: Apple

Families with a tradition of watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown can enjoy the classic Peanuts special on Apple TV+ for free this weekend. And it’s available to subscribers of Apple’s streaming service at any time. 

It can be viewed on a very wide variety of streaming boxes, like Roku and Amazon Fire, not just Mac or iPhone.

6 tricks to master Preview on the Mac


6 Secret Features in Preview
Make the most out of the app you use all the time without a second thought.
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

You might only use Preview on the Mac when you need to read a PDF or zoom in on a picture, but there’s much more than meets the eye. It’s a pretty robust editor, too.

I’m going to show you the six features that will let you make the most of Preview, a handy tool that’s an overlooked benefit to the Mac. I have three tips for working with documents and three for editing pictures.

Save your iPhone by unlocking with an old passcode


Can I Get A Little Help Here?
In iOS 17, you have an easier path forward if you forget your iPhone's new passcode.
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac/Pexels

If you forget your new iPhone passcode, you can reset it with your old one for up to three days later. This can save you hours of trying to remember the new passcode, or worse, resetting your phone from a backup.

You just have to tap Forgot Passcode? on the Lock Screen after you enter it several incorrect times.

Keep reading for a detailed walkthrough. And don’t worry — if you change your passcode intentionally to keep someone out, you can instantly expire your old one.

Apple Watch widgets: How to use the hot new feature


Work The Widgets On Your Watch
Make the most out of your widgets.
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Editing and customizing the widget stack in watchOS 10 on your Apple Watch is a great way to clean up your watch face. If you have a Tim Cook-esque watch face full of complications, you can use widgets to pare it down to a simple, classy design with the same quick access to your apps and activities.

Today, I’ll show you how to make the most of your smart stack of widgets.

10 tweaks to make iOS 17 awesome


What Do I Do Now?
Finally, you’re on iOS 17. What’s next?
Image: Apple/D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

There are a lot of awesome features in iOS 17 — Contact Posters, StandBy, Safari profiles, shared passwords and much, much more. Here’s a simple to-do list on how to make the most of Cupertino’s latest and greatest iPhone operating system.

How to stop Siri from randomly activating all the damn time


An Apple Watch with Siri Activated and the caption:
Siri always interrupts at the wrong time.
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

How can you stop Siri from randomly turning on? As if Siri’s unhelpful answers were not irritating enough when you actually want them, Siri often interrupts a conversation, meeting or TV show when you haven’t asked for anything at all.

Yes, Siri can be helpful — we previously covered six surprisingly useful things Siri can do — but it can oftentimes be an unwelcome guest, activating when you want it to zip it. And now in iOS 17, it’s going to activate every time it hears “Siri,” not just “Hey Siri.”

How do you stop Siri from activating all the time?

Speed up Haptic Touch with this hidden iPhone setting in iOS 17 [Pro Tip]


Make your phone snappier
Speed up this common gesture on your iPhone.
Image: Apple/D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Pro tip bug This hidden setting in iOS 17 will speed up Haptic Touch, the fantastic feature that lets you preview links and bring up option menus on your iPhone.

If you use Haptic Touch all the time like I do, changing this setting will make your iPhone feel supercharged. It brings up handy shortcuts — hidden actions, content previews and contextual menus in a flash, saving you precious time as you tap around your screen.

Alternatively, if you find Haptic Touch annoying and trigger it accidentally all the time, you can slow down the time needed to activate the gesture. That way, a tap won’t be mistaken for a tap-and-hold.

Hands-on with 5 powerful accessibility features in iOS 17


Awesome Features for the Rest of Us
What’s new in iOS accessibility? You might be surprised.
Image: Antonio Cruz/Wikimedia Commons/D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

If you haven’t looked at any of Apple’s accessibility features because you’re not blind or deaf, and don’t think they would make your life easier, you might be surprised.

Apple built a handful of accessibility features into iOS 17 that let people with various disabilities use the iPhone in new and unexpected ways. However, absolutely anyone can take advantage of these tools, which prove surprisingly helpful in certain situations.

You can already get live captions to watch videos silently, lock your phone into one app to keep people from snooping around, play soothing ocean or forest sounds and more.

In iOS 17, five accessibility features take things even further. Assistive Access simplifies your phone to its bare features to make it easier to use; Live Speech and Personal Voice let you type on the keyboard to speak using your own voice; Detection Mode and Point and Speak help you get around using your iPhone camera.

Our hands-on demo will show you what these features can do for you.

Check how many times your iPhone 15 battery has cycled


iPhone 15 battery cycle count
Look in Settings to see the iPhone 15 battery cycle count.
Image: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The iPhone 15 series shows the battery cycle count, helping users track the long-term “health” of the battery. Displaying this data is simple, though it’s somewhat hidden.

In addition, it’s also possible to see when the device was manufactured and first activated.

How to turn your iPhone into a smart display with StandBy


The Smart Display You Already Own
Turn your iPhone into a smart display on your desk.
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

StandBy is a headline iOS 17 feature that turns your iPhone into a smart display on your nightstand, at your desk or in the kitchen. It’s an attractive way to put your phone to work as a small information board or digital clock when you’re not using it.

Of course, it works best if you have a phone with an always-on display like the iPhone 14 or 15 Pro. However, it works on any iPhone with MagSafe running iOS 17. Best of all, StandBy remembers different preferences for different rooms, so you can set it up as a bedside clock in the bedroom, a digital photo frame in the living room, or a music controller in the kitchen. Here’s everything you can do with StandBy on your iPhone.

How to stop macOS Sonoma from flashing your desktop


macOS Sonoma brings widgets to the Mac desktop.
macOS Sonoma brings widgets to the Mac desktop, but maybe you don't want to see them every time you click.
Photo: Apple

Upgraded to macOS Sonoma? You probably noticed by now that clicking on your Mac’s desktop automatically hides all open windows, with the focus moving to your widgets and desktop shortcuts.

This is the new “Click wallpaper to reveal desktop” feature in the new Mac operating system. If you find this functionality annoying, here’s how to turn it off. That way, you can safely click your Mac’s desktop again.

How to stop your iPhone from blaring out emergency alerts


Feds test nationwide phone emergency alert system
The U.S. government recently tested its emergency notification system. You can opt out of these messages.

There’s a way to prevent your iPhone from blaring out a loud alarm whenever the feds or local governments use the Wireless Emergency Alerts system. Setting your device so it ignores these alerts is actually quite easy, though it is more complicated than putting your iPhone in Silent mode.

Here’s how.

How to find your lost Apple TV remote


Where’s The Clicker?
A modern solution to an age-old problem.
Photo: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

How can you find a lost Apple TV remote? Whether it’s wedged between the cushions or kicked far under the couch, a handy-dandy new feature in iOS 17 and tvOS 17 lets you find the remote using your iPhone.

The mind races when one imagines how many hours of human life might have been saved if everyone had this feature 30 years ago.

Sure, you can take the L and simply use your iPhone or Apple Watch to control your Apple TV. But I like having the physical remote on hand, too. Let me show you how to find it.

How to access a USB drive with iPhone or iPad


How to access a USB drive with iPhone or iPad
Using a USB drive with iPhone or iPad is much easier than it used to be.
Image: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The world is full of USB drives, from portable thumbdrives to full external SSDs. Happily, you’re not closed off from these just because you use an iPhone or iPad. Connecting to external drives has gotten much easier than it used to be.

And you’ll have full read/write access to everything on the drive. You won’t even need to install any software, as the app you need comes preinstalled on your device.

Save Home Screen space with two shortcuts in one small widget [Pro Tip]


Two for the space of one
Double the shortcuts in the small widget.
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Pro tip bug

You can fit two shortcuts into one small widget in iOS 17, a significant change for power users of Apple’s time-saving Shortcuts app. A lot of shortcuts I make are in pairs — and now, you can put two shortcuts of a kind in one small space on your Home Screen.

Shortcuts, if you’re not aware, let you automate the things you do most often on your iPhone, Mac, iPad or Apple Watch. For instance, you can create a shortcut that sets a Focus mode when you get to work, one that suggests easy-to-remember passwords, one for converting units — the possibilities are endless. (Read Apple’s helpful Shortcuts guide if you want to familiarize yourself with the powerful app.)

Home Screen widgets are a great way to launch the shortcuts you use every day. On the iPhone, where space is limited, fitting twice as many shortcuts without losing any icons could be a game changer for your Home Screen. Let me show you how to set it up.

8 super-cool things you can do with the iPhone 15 Pro Action button


What Else Can You Use It For?
The Action button opens a world of possibilities.
Image: Apple/D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

What can you do with the iPhone 15 Pro’s new Action button? Lots of things, if you customize it: You can make a fart sound, or get ChatGPT to help you write an email.

Apple lets you assign the iPhone’s Action button to one of eight preassigned things — or, if you set it to Shortcuts, you can do a lot more. Shortcuts are a way for you to reach inside an app and automatically run a feature without opening it. With the Action button, you have a physical button you can press no matter where you are, adding an extra layer of convenience.

Let me show you what some power users are doing with Apple’s latest hardware innovation — and how you can trick your phone into assigning two or more Shortcuts to the single Action button.

Apple explains how to use Roadside Assistance via satellite


Apple explains how to use Roadside Assistance via satellite
Watch a walkthrough of using the new Roadside Assistance via satellite feature on recent iPhone models.
Screenshot: Apple

Recent iPhones offer Emergency SOS via satellite, but not every mishap is life threatening. When non-emergency help is needed, Roadside Assistance via satellite is available. It’s a feature that debuted with the new iPhone 15 series but the iPhone 14 series can use it, too.

A video from Apple Support demonstrates how to use it.

Use Apple Health to track your mental well-being


How do you feel, pointy or circular?
Apple’s mental health tracking feature makes it easy to log your feelings and see what’s bothering you most.
Image: Duke kgomotso/Wikimedia Commons/D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Here’s how to keep track of your mental health using the new mood-tracking feature in iOS 17. Logging how you feel throughout the day, your iPhone will help you identify what’s causing you trouble or what works for you, whether it’s work, family, exercise, sleep or other things.

In order to make any kind of meaningful change, you need to understand fully what helps, what doesn’t, and what you can do. Starting your log is easy. Set it up once, and your phone will ask you every day so you don’t forget.

Let me show you how to start a log of your mental wellness in iOS 17.

macOS Sonoma is out — here’s how to install it on your Mac


Apple software chief Craig Federighi laid out what's new in macOS Sonoma.
Time to update your Mac to Sonoma!
Photo: Apple

The next major macOS release is here. Dubbed macOS Sonoma, the update packs several usability changes that will help further boost your productivity.

macOS Sonoma is now available as a free software update, bringing a rich set of new features to the Mac that make work and play even more powerful,” Apple said in a press release Tuesday. “With macOS Sonoma, desktop widgets unlock a new way to personalize the Mac and get more done, while stunning new screen savers, big updates to video conferencing and Safari, along with optimized gaming make the Mac experience better than ever.”

Apple typically drops major new macOS builds in October. But this time, it is releasing macOS Sonoma in September, possibly because it is a relatively minor update.

How to block unsolicited dick pics in iMessage in iOS 17


Text: “Don’t Send Me That” with screenshot of blocked image in iMessage
Block unwanted images from iMessage.
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

If you’ve ever been the victim of unsolicited dick pics, or “cyberflashing,” you can now automatically hide obscene images in iOS 17. Censoring NSFW sexts can give you an extra line of defense against unwanted, creepy texts. This feature, new in iOS 17, puts suspected nude images and videos behind a blurred gray background.

Unsolicited dick pics are a widespread problem. Among adults who reported receiving nude images, 91% of respondents say they were sent without their consent, according to Indiana University research. And one shocking study published in the Journal of Sex Research found 50% of heterosexual men admitted to sending them!

This new Sensitive Content Warning feature in iOS 17 isn’t just for protecting children. A lot of people likely will find it useful.

How to create a great Contact Poster in iOS 17


Text: “Make a killer contact card” next to a screenshot of an iOS 17 Contact Poster
When I say “killer,” I mean in the awesome way. I do not endorse committing murder with your contact card. But if you can figure out how that works, I’d be curious.
Image: Apple/D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

How do you create a Contact Poster in iOS 17? Contact posters are a brand-new feature that lets you customize how your contact card looks to other people. If you call someone — and they have your contact info in their address book — your Contact Poster appears on their screen. It looks great; way better than the old thumbnail that was displayed. You set it up once, and everyone with your matching phone number and/or Apple ID will see your chosen contact picture and personalized poster.

It’s really easy to turn an ordinary picture into a gorgeous-looking contact poster. Let me show you how it works — the process might look familiar if you’ve set up a custom Lock Screen.