Check out our Thanksgiving tech support survival guide (2019 edition)

Holiday advice for ID theft prevention
Adam Levin, chairman of Cyberscout, talks with Tonya Hall about how to protect your identity, especially as the holiday season quickly approaches.

It’s that time of year again…

Thanksgiving is a time of year which sees “the techies” and “the non-techies” come into contact. And chances are that you, being the techie, will be spotted an hunted down — The Walking Dead style, albeit these zombies are slower and sleepier thanks to all the tryptophan — by the non-techies in search of “help.”

And why not?

Must read: Best gifts: IT pro toolbox & Tech gadgets for non-techies

Don’t doctors get asked for advice on boils and sores at every get-together they attend? Don’t all lawyers help friends and family members with their latest crop of legal problems? No… well, we must be in the wrong line of work.

With this in mind, I’ve put together what I call a “Turkey Day” tech support survival guide. I’ve called it a “Turkey Day” guide — though it will work just as well at other times of year — because this seems to be the time of year when the techie’s superhero skills are in greatest demand.

The first rule of Thanksgiving tech support is…

Don’t needlessly or recklessly take on huge projects. They will end up sucking away all your time, and you’ll be back at work wondering where Thanksgiving went.

Only take on projects that you can finish in a short amount of time. Also, if you’re not making any headway with an issue, know when to give up.

Collect several high-capacity USB flash drives

The foundation of the “Turkey Day” tech support survival kit is several large USB flash drives. 4GB is good, but 8GB or more is better. Make sure you have several of them on hand.

Not only are they a must-have for storing your “superpowers” (software tools) on, but they also come in handy if you have to move or back up any files.

Download updates in advance

You know that PC that you worked on last year? The one that hadn’t been updated in a year? Chances are it has not seen an update since the last time you laid hands on it.

Be prepared and download updates in advance. You know better than I do what operating systems your family (and any nearby friends) are running, but here are some quick links:

Alternatively, if you’re going somewhere that has a fast internet connection, use the operating system’s own updater to bring in the updates (this is usually quicker and needs less hand-holding).

Top tip: Thanksgiving is NOT the right time to be upgrading operating systems — remember that first rule? If family and friends start asking you about Windows 10 or macOS Catalina, my advice is to tell them you’ll talk about that another time. Upgrading OSes is the sort of timesuck to avoid if you want to relax.

Other patches and updates should be small enough for you to be able to download them over a poor connection. If not, then impress your family and friends by setting up a Wi-Fi hotspot using your smartphone or tablet and download them that way.

Secure your bases

In my experience, about half of what I would affectionately call “home users” don’t run any security software (unless it was pre-installed), and the other half are running an outdated package.

As for a comprehensive, nag-free antivirus for both Windows and Mac systems, I recommend you take a look at Sophos Home, which offers commercial-grade antivirus to consumers at no cost.

I also find it handy to have a scanner that I can install and run to clean up any infected Windows PCs I stumble across. For this I use VIPRE Rescue, which is a superb tool for on-the-fly malware removal.

Remember to check that all installed browsers are up-to-date (along with any add-ons). This is a good time to be on the lookout for any random toolbars or dodgy add-ons that need removing.

Another good security tip is to determine which program is the default PDF reader on the system. If it’s not an up-to-date version of Adobe Reader then I’d recommend uninstalling it and adding FoxIt Reader, a move that will make the system in question safer.

I used to recommend Flexera Personal Software Inspector scanner for identifying programs that were insecure or in need of updating, and it could also automatically update many commonly used applications. Unfortunately, this product has been discontinued and direct alternatives are not available. Two of the alternatives that I’ve tested are SUMo and Patch My PC.

Install this now, and next year you might actually get to watch the game.

Prepare for battle… erm… troubleshooting

My favorite portable troubleshooting utility is, and has been for years, the Ultimate Boot CD.

Ultimate Boot CD now allows you to run the .ISO disk image from a USB flash drive, which is more convenient and a lot easier to keep updated than a disc (although for older systems it’s still wise to have a CD in your bag, just in case it won’t boot from a USB drive).

This is without doubt the best collection of tools and utilities available, and has saved my bacon more times than I care to remember.

Get ready to fight crapware

For any relatives who might have a new PC (that’s more than likely stuffed full of ‘crapware’), then PC Decrapifier is a handy tool to have nearby. Running this on a new PC can make it feel like an even newer PC.

Then there’s all the other stuff!

It’s not just PCs these days. It’s also everything else: iPhones, iPads, Android devices, set-top devices, etc.

This is where life gets extra complex and it’s wise to pick your battles here.

Make sure you have some basic tools

You need to be packing hardware as well as software. I find that at minimum it’s good to carry the following:

  • A #2 Phillips screwdriver (or a good multitool)
  • An anti-static wrist strap
  • A few anti-static bags
  • Some spare screws (drive screws and motherboard screws are especially handy)
  • A spare Lightning and micro USB charger cables for smartphones and tablets
  • Spare USB charger

If you have a decent everyday carry kit with you, you should be OK for tools.

Thinking on your feet

Don’t waste time (remember, this is your time too). If you don’t know something, don’t bother trying to reinvent the wheel; instead hit up your favorite search engine to look for answers. Jumping straight to this stage (as opposed to going through long-winded troubleshooting procedures) can save you a lot of time.

Alternatively… just say no!

Toss aside the keyboard, frisbee the boot CD into the garbage can, and just gorge yourself on giant slabs of turkey and pumpkin pie.

Thinkgeek may be gone, and that means no more fantastically passive-aggressive t-shirts to get the message across that you’re not in the mood to fix PCs? But fortunately others have picked up where Thinkgeek left off.

2019-11-26-15-09-56.jpg

Have a good Turkey Day, folks, and try to find time to have fun!

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iOS 13.2.3: Does this fix the battery drain bug?

Does iOS 13.2.3 fix iPhone battery drain issues?
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes says the short answer — and one that you might not be hoping for — is “maybe.” Read more: https://zd.net/37pHmcI

The other day Apple released iOS 13.2.3, an update that amongst other things, addressed bugs in Mail, Files, Notes, and Messages. But what the release notes didn’t mention was the battery drain bug that seemed to have made into the iOS 13.2.2 release (which was pushed out to patch a serious multitasking bug).

Must read: Best gifts: IT pro toolbox

So, does iOS 13.2.3 fix the battery drain bug?

Maybe.

My testing seems to suggest that iPhones do seem to exhibit better battery life, although I’d still say that battery life is not as good as it was pre the 13.2.2 release.

Also, Apple’s support forums seem to be quiet with regards to any battery issues related to iOS 13.2.3 (although it’s still early days).

However, a search of social media seems to suggest that for some users the problem may be as bad as ever.

So, my advice would be to take the gamble and install iOS 13.2.3. It seems to have worked for me on my daily driver and test devices, so it might work for you. What have you got to lose (unless there’s a new bug in there somewhere ready to bite us!)?

Let me know your experiences in the comments section down below.

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Microsoft kills off its Cortana iOS and Android app for some users

Microsoft drops out of home speakers race: What’s Cortana’s future?
Microsoft fought a late start in trying to establish Cortana as a premiere voice agent. But the lack of a Trojan horse for distribution made it the company’s latest casualty. Read more: https://zd.net/2TrCWKV

Microsoft is killing off its Cortana app for Android and iOS in a number of countries around the world from January 31. 

The company announced the change in a support document for affected markets. Microsoft says it is integrating Cortana into Microsoft 365 apps and as part of that shift it’s ending support for the Cortana app on iOS and Android. 

“After January 31, 2020, the Cortana mobile app on your phone will no longer be supported and there will be an updated version of Microsoft Launcher with Cortana removed,” it states.  

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to ZDNet sister site CNET that it will drop support for the Cortana mobile app in the UK, Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Mexico, and Spain. It’s not clear what Microsoft’s plans are for the US.

Cortana content such as reminders and lists will no longer function in the Cortana app or Microsoft Launcher. However, these can be accessed through Cortana on Windows. 

Additionally, Cortana reminders, lists, and tasks are automatically synced to the Microsoft To Do app.

Microsoft released the Cortana app for iOS and Android in December 2015. Cortana had about one million downloads from Google Play, so it wasn’t a hugely popular app with Android users. 

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella this January explained how Microsoft saw Cortana, saying it should be considered a “skill” available to Alexa and Google Assistant users rather than a direct competitor. By that stage Microsoft already was working on an integration between Alexa and Cortana for Windows 10 PCs and Amazon Echo devices.    

On Windows 10 Microsoft has also recently separated Cortana from Search and stopped allow Cortana to be used through a headset on an Xbox.  

Microsoft officials in May said Cortana would be powered by “conversational data” based on usage data for Microsoft 365 and Office 365, and working with the group that builds the Microsoft Teams chat app. The goal is turn Cortana into a multi-skill service for Microsoft 365. 

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Best tech gadgets of 2019

Iphone 11 Max Pro over yellow background

(Image: gargantiopa / Getty Images)

As the year comes to an end, it’s time to sit back and reflect. This year we saw Samsung almost fold the Fold, the Motorola Razr make a comeback, and Apple impresses with the iPhone 11’s camera. We also saw gadgets from tech companies, large and small, that made a splash over the past year. 

Also: See Black Friday coverage at CNET

Surely, as we head into the season of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, along with the many promotions we’ll see before the holidays arrive, so be sure to keep on an eye out for the best deals. 

Some of 2019’s best tech gadgets

DisclosureZDNet may earn a commission from some of the products featured on this page.

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Apple AirPods Pro $235

Since the AirPods first launched in 2016, users and critics alike have been asking for noise cancellation and replaceable tips for a better fit. Apple finally delivered all of that and then some with the new AirPods Pro. The new design sounds better, will drown out background noise in noisy environments, and comes with three different sized tips to ensure you get the right fit.

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Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Lite $200

The smaller, more portable Nintendo Switch gives up the ability to slide into a dock and game on your TV, but it gains battery life and fun new colors. The screen has been shrunk to 5.5-inches, and the Joy-Cons are permanently attached to the device. But outside of that, it’s still the same old Switch that users love and embrace. 

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Sonos

Sonos Move $400

Sonos speakers have long been considered some of the best home entertainment speakers available, but they all had one problem — they weren’t portable. With Sonos Move, the company created a speaker that sounds as good as the rest of its lineup, but it’s completely portable. You can use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or Apple’s AirPlay 2 to stream music through the Move, regardless of how close the nearest power outlet is. 

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Amazon

Amazon Echo Buds $130

In many ways, 2019 was the year of wireless earbuds. Amazon’s Echo Buds have been well received and cost far less than Apple’s AirPods Pro. The earbuds have Alexa built-in, have active noise cancellation, and work with iOS and Android devices. 

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Apple iPhone 11 Pro. 


Apple, Inc.

Apple iPhone 11 Max Pro $999

The iPhone 11 Pro Max wasn’t supposed to blow us away, but that’s exactly what it did. Apple not only caught up with its camera features, but it’s done an amazing job with new features like Night Mode. Then there’s the fact that battery life on the 11 Pro Max is simply the best on any phone you can get this year. 

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus $840

Arguably the best Android phone of 2019, the Note 10 Plus is well designed, has a long list of features and capabilities, and is powerful enough to keep up with whatever you throw at it. It has plenty of cameras to harness your creativity, and, of course, it has that S-Pen that users know and love. 

mavic-mini.jpg

DJI

DJI Mavic Mini $399

The Mavic Mini is the ideal combination of a capable drone in a small package. With a range of up to 4km and battery life of 30 minutes, it’s pretty hard to believe it’s priced at $399. It’s perfect for those new to drones and enthusiasts who love shiny new things. 

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Fossil

Fossil Hybrid HR smartwatch $195

The Fossil Hybrid HR is billed as a smartwatch, but could easily pass as a normal watch. Underneath the physical watch hands is an energy-efficient display that sips on battery yet still provides notifications from your connected phone, as well as weather and calendar details. 

wyze-sense-yellow.jpg

Wyze

Wyze Sense Starter Kit $20

Know when a window or door opens, or whenever there’s motion in the hallway with the Wyze Sense starter kit. You’ll need one of Wyze’s security cameras to connect it all to the internet, but those are just as cheap as this kit. 

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Amazon

Amazon Echo Dot with clock $45

One of my top requests to Amazon’s Alexa is to ask for the current time. The new Echo Dot with a clock eliminates that by adding a small digital clock to the side. You can still ask for the time, of course, or use Alexa to control connected devices, ask questions or play music. 

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Ring

Ring Indoor Cam $60

Ring security cameras are some of the best, but up until now, they’d all been made primarily for outdoor use. The new indoor camera is affordable and capable of helping you monitor your home. 

Let’s be honest, distilling down the past year’s worth of gadget launches into a shortlist is hard. Really hard. Surely, we left some of your favorite gadgets off of this list. Leave a comment and let us know what your favorite gadget of 2019 is.

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iOS 13.2.2: Does it fix the multitasking problem? Does it bring new bugs?

Apple has released iOS 13.2.2 (and a corresponding iPadOS 13.2.2) update to tackle an annoying — no, totally frustrating — bug in iOS 13.2 that broke multitasking on the iPhone and the iPad.

But does it fix the problem? And does it introduce new annoying problems?

Must read: iOS 13 has a huge bug that makes me want to dump my iPhone and iPad

I’ve been running iOS 13.2.2 and iPad 13.2.2 since yesterday’s release — about 18 hours — on a number of devices, and initial tests suggest the multitasking bug has been fixed. Switching between apps feels fast, in fact, multitasking feels faster and smoother than it did on earlier iOS 13 releases. Also, apps appear to remain in memory after the device is locked and unlocked — a problem that seemed to be present on the iOS 13.3 developer release I tested the other day.

But it’s not all good news.

One downside seems to be battery life. It’s early days, but over the past 18 hours my iPhones and iPads have been hammering at battery life. I’ve recharged my main iPhone twice, and my iPad is running down considerably faster than previously. This could be just a side-effect of installing an update (I always recommend going through a couple of charge cycles before passing any judgment on battery life), or it could be a new bug. I guess time will tell.

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AirPods Pro review: Noise cancellation and improved design are valuable additions Review

Happy Podoween! Let’s compare the latest wireless earbuds
What do Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have in common? Jason Cipriani and Jason Perlow discuss in this week’s Jason Squared the fresh crop of noise-canceling Bluetooth earbuds from tech’s biggest companies. Read more: https://zd.net/2pu7kuC

Must-see offer


Apple AirPods at Amazon

Now with more talk time, voice-activated Siri access — and a new wireless charging case — AirPods deliver an unparalleled wireless headphone experience.

Read More


Apple’s $250 AirPods Pro
do all of the things that
the standard AirPods do
. But, with a new design and new features, do they do it better? The Pro model includes noise cancellation — something users and reviews have asked Apple for since the AirPods launched — and a new design.

I’ve used AirPods from day one, and they’re still one of my favorite gadgets of the past five years. The ease of pairing, auto-pausing music if you remove an earbud, extended range, battery life, and built-in Siri have made them indispensable for me.

So, when Apple unexpectedly announced the AirPods Pro, a significant upgrade over the standard AirPods, I immediately ordered a pair and anxiously awaited their arrival. I wasn’t sure what to expect; the wireless earbud market is suddenly flooded with options from some of tech’s biggest players, and the AirPods Pro are simply catching up with some of the newest products. And they’re more expensive than regular AirPods. 

For the past week, I’ve been using the AirPods, Pro and all of the hype is justified. They’re great.

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Design

The AirPods Pro now have shorter stems and have ditched the one-size-fits-all earbud found on previous generation AirPods. The Pros have soft ear tips that can be replaced and swapped out, providing a tighter and more secure fit.

Preinstalled on the earbud is the medium size ear tip, with small and large included in the box. Also included in the box is a USB-C to Lightning charging cable.

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On each stem is a flat spot that serves as an indicator of where you should squeeze to control playback or switch between noise cancellation and transparency modes. When you squeeze one of the stems, it feels like you pressed a button that clicks, but nothing actually moves. It’s one of those psychological tricks that Apple has mastered.

The case is roughly the same size as the standard AirPods case, only sideways. Actually, it’s slightly larger but still compact enough that I haven’t noticed a difference when it’s in the front pocket of my pants. The charging case comes standard with Qi-wireless charging support, or you can use a Lightning cable to charge it.

Thanks to the new ear tips, I’ve found the AirPods Pro to be more comfortable than the standard AirPods. I’ve used both the small and medium-sized ear tips, and the AirPods Pro haven’t fallen out or felt loose.

Even though I’ve used AirPods since they launched in 2016, I would often experience slight discomfort in my ears after extended use (on a long flight, for example). I haven’t flown with AirPods Pro yet, but I have worn them until the battery ran out of power and that same discomfort was absent.

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

New features and performance

In addition to the new design, AirPods Pro also pack some new features. They’re now IPX4-rated for water and sweat resistance. Apple also added Active Noise Cancellation and a Transparency Mode to the wireless earbuds. Meaning, when noise cancellation is enabled, the amount of ambient noise you hear will be minimal. Transparency Mode will allow some ambient noise in, making it possible for you to hear vehicles as you walk along a busy street or overhear announcements in an airport.

I’ve spent a lot of time using noise cancellation on the AirPods Pro, and it’s some of the best I’ve used. I can go from transparency – hearing every word someone across the room is saying – to turning on noise cancellation, and then I can only see their lips moving. The heater in my office is loud and noisy, but with AirPods Pro and noise cancellation, the only way I know that it’s running is when I feel the air it’s pushing out across my hands.

I didn’t expect noise cancellation to be impressively good, but just good enough. However, it is impressively good. I wish I could have tested them on a plane before writing this review, but I suspect they’ll do a decent job drowning out the white noise of the engine and loud passengers. 

Apple puts the AirPods Pro battery life at five hours with noise cancellation turned off, and 4.5 hours with turned on. In combination with the charging case, you should expect around 24 hours of use. I haven’t been able to test the full 24-hour claim, but I can say that my AirPods Pro have had no issues reaching Apple’s estimates.

Of course, sound quality is a big part of the added cost for AirPods Pro. The Pros sound better than the standard AirPods, with more bass, and a little more depth to the sound quality overall. Some of that is likely due to the seal the new tips offer, along with the improved hardware.

To make sure you have the right ear tips installed on your AirPods Pro, there’s an Ear Tip Fit Test built into iOS 13.2 (required to use the AirPods Pro) that will play some sound through the earbuds, and using the microphones to listen, it will determine if you’re getting a proper seal between the ear tip and your ear. I was able to use both the small and medium ear tips and pass the test. Ultimately, I have been using the small ear tips because I found them more comfortable.

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Which AirPods are the AirPods for you?

If you had a hard time keeping the original AirPods in your ears, or you wish your AirPods had noise cancellation to cut down on distractions while traveling or in a noisy office, the AirPods Pro are the only way to go.

For someone who wants the flexibility of AirPods, but doesn’t care about wireless charging or added features, then the standard AirPods for $159 make the most sense.

For me, noise cancellation combined with the improved fit justify the added cost for the AirPods Pro. And I’d be willing to bet you’d feel the same way after trying them.

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iOS 13 has a huge bug that makes me want to dump my iPhone and iPad

The ability to switch between apps is a functionality that we’ve come to expect across the board. Windows does it. macOS does it. Linux does it. Android does it. And iOS, well, iOS used to do it pretty well.

But no more.

Must read: iOS 13.3 beta: Apple appears to be working on a fix for frustrating memory bug

iOS 13.2 is a pretty solid release. Performance is good. Stability is almost flawless. And battery life is OK-ish.

But when it comes to memory management, iOS 13.2 — and iPadOS 13.2 for the iPad — is bad. Really bad. Appallingly bad.

So, what’s the problem? Well, put simply, you fire up an app, do some work in it — perhaps load a page, or a document, or whatever function the app is supposed to do — and then switch to another app to do something. OK, so far, everything is fine. But now try switching to the first app and see what happens.

If you’re lucky, the first app fires up, and you’re back where you started. However, with iOS 13, more than likely the app will reload, and you’ve lost whatever you were doing. iOS was never really that good at multitasking between apps — it always had a tendency to forget what apps in the background were doing — but iOS 13 and iOS 13.2 has taken this and elevated it to new heights of awfulness.

Multitasking has gone from being sometimes annoying to a continual slog of frustration and irritation. I’ve had this happen across a variety of apps on a number of different platforms, so it isn’t limited to select apps or devices.

The problem appears to be across the board. 

The issue appears to be down to memory management issues, with iOS not retaining the app’s information in memory long enough when it is sent to the background. This could be a bug, or it could be a feature and Apple being overly aggressive in maximizing the amount of RAM available for apps in the foreground so as to improve performance.

iOS now fails to deliver a basic feature that you have come to expect from any modern operating system.

On the iPhone, this bug is hugely annoying, but on the iPad, a platform that Apple boasts as being a replacement for a laptop — presumably one running Windows or macOS and is capable of multitasking correctly — it’s a huge, embarrassing failure. Not only that, but it’s a huge disappointment for those who have invested money in the iOS platform.

The fact that Apple hasn’t spotted and fixed this glaring problem hints that the company doesn’t take the needs of heavy, high-end and professional users seriously, and as such, it is becoming hard to recommend the platform to professionals looking to do real work with it.

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Eight things I love about iOS

The best new features in iOS 13
With iOS 13 set to roll out on September 19, ZDNet’s Beth Mauder walks you through her five favorite new features and how you can add them to your iPhone. Read more: https://zd.net/2QbuNNR
https://www.zdnet.com/

I might have my fair share of issues with iOS 13 (issues that are currently driving me bananas), and I might have had a summer love affair with Android, but at the end of the day, I keep coming back to iOS.

Here are some of the reasons why.

#1: No bloatware

After my love affair with Android, I do appreciate the simplicity and cleanliness of iOS. No bloatware, random junk, or bundled apps. Sure, iOS comes with its own apps, and the integration around iMessage, iCloud, and Safari is quite tight, but you can still work around these quite easily. While some would consider the bundled apps as bloatware, they are all useful, aren’t stuffed with ads, and most can be deleted and removed.

Overall, the fact that I don’t have to uninstall a whole bunch of crap off of an iOS install is a massive win for the platform.

#2: Privacy

I’m continually impressed by the privacy features Apple bakes into the platform. New features such as blocking apps from using location services and Bluetooth to surreptitiously track you are much welcomed in this era of everyone wanting in on your life.

The tight integration with third-party password managers is another iOS feature that I value, and this goes a long way to improving user security and safety.

#3: Dark mode

I’ve used dark mode on a number of devices, but the implementation in iOS feels the best. There’s a lot more to dark mode than just making everything black, and Apple has clearly put a lot of thought and effort into building a dark mode theme that works, and allowing app developers to make their apps compatible.

#4: Video editing on the iPhone via the Camera app

This is a super useful. No more do I have to mess around with iMovie or some third-party app to make simple edits. I can do them directly from the app after shooting.

#5: Split View and Slide Over on iPad

The ability to have two or three apps up simultaneously on the iPad is a huge productivity booster. It’s not as smooth as multitasking on say Windows or macOS, but it allows me to get more work done on an iPad than ever, and means that I need to lug around my MacBook Pro a lot less.

#6: The on-screen keyboard just works

I’ve tried and tested more on-screen keyboards than I can count (or remember), and every time I keep coming back to the stock iOS keyboard, I’m always pleasantly surprised. And now that the iOS 13 keyboard has swipe support, I feel like what used to be a good keyboard has become even better.

I can literally type tens of hundreds of words on my iPhone without much effort, and if I switch to my iPad, my productivity is boosted even further. While I still believe that you can’t beat a good physical keyboard, on-screen keyboards are now giving their physical counterparts a run for their money.

#7: Stunning photography with a single click

It always impresses me how good photos taken on the iPhone are, especially considering how there are smartphones out there with far better camera hardware. If I want to take one-click photos that I can use with a limited amount of faffing about with sliders and post-processing, I always turn to my iPhone.

#8: External flash drive storage on the iPad Pro

As much as I like storing my digital stuff in the cloud, nothing beats being able to move data about on external drives, and having the ability to plug these into my iPad Pro.

Maybe it’s a throwback to my old sneakernet days, or maybe it’s that I work with a lot of big files that are cumbersome to move to and from the cloud (especially when I’m away from my desk), but external storage drives are still a big part of my life.

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iOS 13.2 and iPadOS 13.2 productivity secrets

The best new features in iOS 13
With iOS 13 set to roll out on September 19, ZDNet’s Beth Mauder walks you through her five favorite new features and how you can add them to your iPhone. Read more: https://zd.net/2QbuNNR
https://www.zdnet.com/

I’m amazed how many features Apple builds into iOS, and then just leaves them hidden for me to find. Here are a crop of tips and tricks for working with words on your iPhone or iPad.

All of these are spectacularly useful, and once you’ve used them a few times you’ll be amazed how easy and natural they feel.

Must read: Eight things I love about iOS

Tip #1: Text selection

iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 gives you very fine control over text selection using taps:

  • Double tap: Select a word
  • Triple tap: Select a sentence
  • Quadruple tap: Select a paragraph

Tip #2: Undo and redo

These often-used functions get a long-awaited revamp:

  • Swipe left with three fingers to undo
  • Swipe right with three fingers to redo
  • You can also use a three-finger double-tap to undo, which feels a little bit awkward initially but soon becomes second nature.

Tip #3: Copy, cut, and paste

Now we’re getting advanced. I recommend practicing these on some scrap text before using them.

  • Pinch in with three fingers to copy
  • Pinch in with three fingers twice to cut
  • Pinch out (or unpinch!!) with three fingers to paste

Tip #4: Moving the cursor

Just place your finger on the cursor and move it. Think of it as picking it up and dropping it down somewhere else. So simple, yet it took me a while to figure it out (I was jabbing at the screen too hard).

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Microsoft starts embedding Cortana in Outlook Mobile

cortanaplaymyemails.jpg

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is continuing to pivot Cortana from a typical digital assistant to more of a productivity aide. At Ignite this week, the company unveiled some of the new Cortana features it is starting to turn on for users, starting with those with Outlook mobile on iOS devices in the United States. These features will come to Android device users in the U.S. in the spring of 2020.

Microsoft’s plan is to try to make Cortana an integrated part of a number of Microsoft apps and services, and will turn it on by default.

Microsoft is starting to roll out a Cortana-powered Play My Emails service in Outlook on iOS. Cortana can read aloud new emails in curated way. This means Cortana will not simply read emails in a rote manner, including header and footer information. Because Cortana is integrated with the Microsoft Graph centralized application programming interface, it will be able to take advantage of knowledge about users’ contacts, documents, calendars and more, said Andrew Shuman, Microsoft’s Vice President of Product for Cortana.

Microsoft is adding a masculine voice option for Cortana as of this week. (It’s available as a setting in Outlook for iOS as part of Play My Emails.) Microsoft also says the masculine and traditional feminine voices now use Neural Text-to-Speech, which makes them sound more natural.

Microsoft did debut the ability for Cortana to read emails aloud for the Harmon Kardon speaker a year ago. But this capability was linked to consumer Outlook mail, not business mail, said Shuman. Microsoft’s first priority these days is to integrate Cortana with business services and apps. That’s why Microsoft is touting that Cortana has met requirements set in the O365 section of the Microsoft Trust Center and Online Services firms.
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Microsoft also announced at Ignite that Scheduler (the service formerly known as Calendar.help) is available in preview in Outlook. This service helps users schedule meetings by coordinating with participants using Cortana.

Starting next month, Microsoft also will offer users the option of receiving a daily briefing email which will include a summary of upcoming meetings, relevant documents for the day and reminders to follow up on commitments made in email. I’ve had an older version of the Cortana commitments feature for some time working in my Outlook business email and I have not found it to be useful, but I know a number of users who swear by it.

At its Build conference this year, Microsoft said it is working on making Cortana work in “turn-by-turn” way, which is more of a natural way of interacting with an assistant. That work, which makes use of technology that Microsoft acquired as part of its Semantic Machines purchase, is still a work in progress, Shuman said.

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