How to use a mouse with your iPad

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trackpad mode
Trackpads -- not just for the Mac any more.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The iPadOS beta is out, and it has one killer feature — mouse support. Not only can you use any Bluetooth mouse or trackpad to control the text-selection cursor on the iPad, you can use the mouse just like you would on a Mac — clicking buttons anywhere in the entire iPad user interface.

The feature is not on by default. It’s not even a regular checkbox. To enable mouse and trackpad support on your iPad, you have to dig into the Accessibility settings.

How to make your iPhone read any text out loud

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Speaker grille read text
This speaker symbolizes every word spoken by your iPhone.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Today we have another great tip ripped form the iPhone’s accessibility settings. The screen reader lets you use a quick two-finger gesture to read anything on the screen. This is obviously designed for folks who have trouble reading the screen, but it is also very handy for everyone else.

You can listen to a long magazine article while you do the dishes for example, and much more.

Apple videos explain iPhone AssistiveTouch, VoiceOver, Magnifier accessibility features

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Apple video demonstrates how to use iOS accessibility features
Apple demonstrates how to use AssistiveTouch, which adds a virtual Home button that can perform multiple functions.
Screenshot: Apple

A series of videos from Apple Support walks users through setting up and using some of the features created for users with limited dexterity or vision. These explain AssistiveTouch, VoiceOver, Magnifier and inverted colors.

Watch them now:

Force Apple Music to play all songs at the same volume with Sound Check

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Sound Check evens out the volume of Apple Music songs.
Sound Check evens out the volume of Apple Music songs.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The song you’re listening to on your iPhone is a bit too quiet, so you adjust the volume. Perfect. Then the song ends, and the next one blasts your ears. You fumble your iPhone from your pocket and tap the volume down a notch or two.

Thanks, Apple Music. Why can’t you just play all the songs at the same volume? Obviously that’s what everyone wants.

Wait, what’s that? You can? How?

How to find video subtitles on Mac and iOS the easy way

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subtitles mac
Subtitles — like many accessibility features — can be useful to anyone.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Both macOS and iOS have excellent built-in support for subtitles. And many video player apps will play a subtitle file for you if you just drop it into the same folder as a movie, or even drag and drop it onto a movie that’s already playing.

But if your hearing is fine, why should you bother with subtitles? I came up with a short list:

  • The audio on the movie/TV show is unclear.
  • English isn’t your first language, and you appreciate the help.
  • You want to watch a movie with the sound low.
  • You don’t understand the accents in that British TV drama.

The good news is that subtitles are easy. And the bad news? There is none.

How to tweak 3D Touch, the beloved feature Apple looks set to kill

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3D Touch can be awesome, or annoying.
3D Touch can be awesome, or annoying.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Apple may or may not be ready to euthanize 3D Touch. My view is that it sticks around, neglected and unloved, forever more. Like Dashboard on macOS. (Yes, Dashboard still exists.)

That would be a shame, as 3D Touch really is an excellent augmentation to a touchscreen device. It’s also quite tweakable. Here’s how to adjust how it works, and — if you really hate it — how to turn 3-D Touch off altogether.

Switch on your iPad’s super-dim, low-light mode

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A glitter ball represents the concept of low-light and accessibility low-light filter
A glitter ball represents the concept of low-light and accessibility.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Turned the screen brightness on your iPad (or iPhone) all the way down? Still too much light for you? Reading in bed next to someone whose eyelids seem to amplify light the same way a magnifying glass turns the sun into a death ray for ants?

Then this tip is for you. With a simple triple-tap of the top button or Home button on your iPad, you can dim the screen way beyond its usual limit.

Although your whining, over-sensitive bed partner will likely just start complaining about the noise of those button taps instead.

How to lock your iPad into a single app

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Guided access ipad
Guided Access can avoid embarrassing mistakes.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The iPad’s main trick is that it disappears when you launch an app. Fire up a piano app, and your iPad becomes a piano. Launch YouTube and it turns into a TV for pacifying children. This is part of the magic of the iPad, but it’s not quite perfect. Kids can easily leave YouTube and start reading your sexts instead. And a musician might accidentally trigger a gesture while playing on those virtual piano keys, finding themselves back at the home screen in the middle of a performance.

What you need is kiosk mode, aka Guided Access. This locks the iPad into a single app, and disables the hardware buttons. And it’s equally good for keeping you in one app, or keeping people out of all the others.

Instagram uses AI to make app accessible to visually impaired users

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Instagram fact checking
Instagram will use fact-checking teams to identify false information.
Photo: Instagram

Instagram will be more accessible to the visually impaired thanks to new changes the photo-sharing platform launched today.

“With more than 285 million people in the world who have visual impairments, we know there are many people who could benefit from a more accessible Instagram,” the company wrote on its Info Center page announcing two new tools.

Blind surfer shows how iPhone’s VoiceOver feature is a game-changer

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Scott Leason
Blind veteran Scott Laeson paddling out to surf.
Photo: Apple

Apple gave fans a heartwarming glimpse at how the iPhone and Apple Watch have helped a blind veteran gain more independence on his path to becoming a competition-winning surfer.

In a new post on its website, Apple shared a story about longboard surfer Scott Leason. After his time serving as a signalman in the U.S. Navy, Leason lost both of his eyes to a robber’s bullet in 1993. Getting used to his new life without sight took getting used to, but when Leason got his first iPhone in 2012, it was a gamechanger.