Open the Mac’s Control Center with This Obscure Keyboard Shortcut

With macOS 13 Ventura, Apple brought Control Center from iOS to the Mac, providing a unified interface for features that users need to turn on and off regularly or that receive frequent adjustments, like screen brightness and audio volume. Clicking the Control Center icon in the menu bar brings it up, but it’s a small, hard-to-hit target. For faster and easier access to Control Center from within any app, press fn-C. (All current Apple keyboards have an fn key, but if you’re using a third-party keyboard that lacks one, you’re out of luck.)

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

The “Hey” Part of “Hey Siri” Is Now Optional

If you use Siri, particularly on a HomePod, you’re probably accustomed to saying “Hey Siri” as the trigger phrase before your requests. In Apple’s new operating systems for 2023, you can now choose to invoke Siri using the traditional “Hey Siri” or just “Siri” (at least in Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US). You might appreciate being able to stop saying “Hey” every time, or you might find that using just “Siri” generates incorrect activations. (And if someone in your family’s name sounds like Siri, you may want to turn the feature off entirely!) There are four places to look:

  • iOS 17 and iPadOS 17: Settings > Siri & Search > Listen For
  • macOS 14 Sonoma: System Settings > Siri & Spotlight > Listen For
  • watchOS 10: Watch app > My Watch > Siri > Listen For
  • HomePod Software 17: Home app > long-press HomePod > Accessory Settings > Listen For “Siri” or “Hey Siri”

(Featured image based on an original by Apple)

Use iOS 17’s Check In Feature to Reduce Worry

We’ve all had a friend or family member say, “Text me when you get home,” because they want the peace of mind from knowing you arrived safely. But what if something goes wrong—or you forget—so they never receive that text? They’ll be worried and won’t know where you are, if you’re OK, and so on.

In iOS 17, Apple has introduced the Check In feature to provide peace of mind—or in the worst case, to help emergency services. It’s conceptually simple. Before you leave to go somewhere, you create a Check In with someone—call them a safety partner—in Messages. You specify where you’re going and whether you’re driving, taking transit, or walking. Then, when you arrive, the Check In automatically ends, alerting your safety partner that you arrived. If you’re delayed en route, Check In takes that into account and extends the expected arrival time appropriately. If you fail to arrive, Check In shares your location and route with your safety partner. Also, if you make an Emergency SOS call or your iPhone or Apple Watch calls emergency services automatically during the Check In, it notifies your safety partner.

Not all situations revolve around following a specific route to a location, so Check In also supports timers. Perhaps a college student is going for an hour-long trail run and wants a friend to check on her if she’s not back as expected. She can use Check In to set a timer for 1 hour, share it with her friend, and when the timer ends, either tap the End button if she’s back or add more time if the run is going fine but taking longer than expected.

Although Check In may seem targeted at friends and family, it could have business uses as well. For instance, a destination Check In might work well for keeping tabs on a colleague traveling to a make-or-break pitch presentation.

Before you start using Check In with someone—in either direction—explain Check In to them and discuss an appropriate response if you or they fail to end Check In successfully. Responses should probably start with a quick text, followed by a phone call. If initial efforts to reach out are met with silence, contacting other people—friends, family members, neighbors, etc.—may be appropriate. At some point, depending on various factors, it will be time to call law enforcement. Of course, if the other person triggers an Emergency SOS during the Check In, call law enforcement immediately. At least in the US, if the person isn’t in your area, don’t call 911. Instead, find the law enforcement website for where the person is and call that organization’s 10-digit number. And here’s hoping it never comes to that!

Create a Check In

To get started with Check In, follow these steps:

  1. In Messages, open a conversation with the person you want to be your safety partner (Check In doesn’t currently work with group conversations).
  2. Tap the ⊕ button to the left of the message field, tap More at the bottom, and tap Check In.
  3. The first time you invoke Check In, Messages walks you through a series of explanatory screens, one of which is important—the privacy level of the data shared with your safety partner if you don’t arrive. Select Full—we can see almost no reason why you wouldn’t want that person to be able to share your exact location and route with emergency services if something has gone wrong. (If necessary, tweak this setting later in Settings > Messages > Data.)
  4. On subsequent uses of Check In, an unsent card appears in the Messages conversation, usually set for an hour in the future. The card isn’t sent automatically so you can customize it before sending it.
  5. Tap the Edit button to adjust the timer or destination.
  6. To change the timer duration, use the time picker and tap Done. Skip to the last step in this list.
  7. To set a destination instead of a timer, tap “When I arrive” at the top of the screen.
  8. Tap the Change button, and in the map, either search for a location or find one manually by pinching and zooming—touch and hold the map to drop a destination pin. At the bottom of the screen, select Small, Medium, or Large to set the size of the area in which you’ll arrive.
  9. Tap Done to close the map and then select Driving, Transit, or Walking so Check In can estimate your arrival time based on your method of transportation.
  10. If you want additional buffer time, tap Add Time and give yourself 15, 30, or 60 minutes beyond when Check In thinks you’ll arrive. This shouldn’t usually be necessary.
  11. Tap Done.
  12. Once you’re back to the Check In card in the Messages conversation, tap the Send button to start the Check In.

Note that safety partners can’t reject Check In cards.

End a Check In

Once you trigger a Check In, it can end in a few ways. First, you can cancel it before the timer completes or you arrive at your destination. Second, it can end successfully when you tap End when the timer finishes or when you arrive at your specified location. Third and finally, there’s the core purpose of the Check In, which is to alert your safety partner if you fail to respond to a timer or arrive where and when you said you would.

  • Cancel: To cancel a Check In, tap the Details button on the Check In card in Messages, tap Cancel Check In, and agree that you don’t want your safety partner notified. Timer and destination Check Ins look slightly different but act the same way. Your safety partner will only see that the Check In card in Messages says it has ended.
  • End successfully: For a timer Check In to end successfully, you must respond when the iPhone prompts you (below left). All your safety partner sees when that happens is a note in the Check In card that the timer ended (below right). You don’t need to interact with your iPhone for a destination Check In to end successfully—just arrive at the specified location. The safety partner’s Check In card updates to say that you arrived.
  • Check In fails to end (initiator): If you don’t arrive at your destination or fail to tap End when prompted, Check In gives you the option of adding time (below left) but after 15 minutes, tells you that it has alerted your safety partner (below center and right).
  • Check In fails to end (safety partner): More interesting is what your safety partner sees if you fail to complete a Check In. They’ll be alerted and can tap Details to see your location, when your devices were last unlocked, and more. They then have to figure out the best way to respond given your setup conversation.

It can take some practice to become fluid with Check In, so it’s worth testing it in everyday situations before using it when it might really matter. Once you use it a few times, you may notice Siri Suggestions offering to start it for you, making it even easier to initiate regularly. We hope you find that it provides some peace of mind and, in the worst-case scenario, helps someone in need of emergency services.

(Featured image by

Four Solutions to Gotchas in macOS 14 Sonoma

We’re seeing an increasing number of people switching to macOS 14 Sonoma, and for the most part, things are going well. However, Apple introduced some new features—and turned them on by default—that are causing some consternation. If you’ve switched to Sonoma or are planning to soon, here are four features you might want to know about.

Hide Windows when Clicking on the Desktop

The most immediately surprising thing you’ll notice when you upgrade to Sonoma is that clicking an empty area on the desktop moves all windows off to the side to give you full access to icons and widgets on your desktop. It’s not a bad feature, but if you’re accustomed to clicking the desktop simply to switch to the Finder, it can be off-putting. To keep windows where they are, open System Settings > Desktop & Dock, and under Desktop & Stage Manager, where it says “Click wallpaper to reveal desktop,” choose Only in Stage Manager.

Apple has introduced additional interlocking settings here, so you might want to play with them to see if they support your preferred working style. In particular, note the Show Items checkboxes—if you don’t like seeing all your desktop icons, deselect the On Desktop box to make those icons appear only when you click the desktop.

Print Queue Apps Are Now Part of Print Center

For many years, when you printed from a Mac, a print queue app launched to show the progress of your print job and quit automatically once the job was completed. Some people kept those print queue apps in the Dock afterward, perhaps as a way of accessing a multifunction printer’s scanner. Upgrading to macOS 14 Sonoma broke those Dock icons because individual print queue apps have been replaced by the new Print Center app.

Print Center now launches automatically to show print job progress, but you can also open it manually from the Application folder’s Utilities folder. It also offers options to manage the printer and launch Image Capture, Apple’s default interface for scanning. If you’ve been surprised by printing changes in Sonoma, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with Print Center.

Gestures Can Trigger Fireworks and Other Effects

In Sonoma, when you’re in a video call using FaceTime, Zoom, Webex, or another supported videoconferencing app, making certain hand gestures will trigger special effects. (This works only on a Mac with Apple silicon or when using an iPhone as your webcam.) These reactions are fun… except when they’re not. A double thumbs-down gesture that generates rain during a therapy session may be utterly inappropriate, and causing balloons to fall during a serious business meeting just because you inadvertently made a V with your index and middle fingers might not be considered amusing. Here are the gestures and what they trigger.

To ensure you don’t accidentally generate a reaction with a stray gesture, click the green video camera icon that appears in your menu bar when using one of the apps that supports reactions. (You must be actively sending video—just having the app open may not be sufficient to make the green icon appear.) Then click Reactions under your preview so it goes from having a green icon to a gray icon. Reactions are now disabled. That app should remember your preference, but you’ll have to turn off reactions separately in every app where they’re available.

New Privacy Awareness Icons

That green video camera icon that appears in your menu bar when sending video in Sonoma isn’t the only one that can appear in that spot, and we’ve fielded questions from people who are surprised and confused by these icons appearing. Don’t worry; they aren’t an indication of malware on your Mac! Apple added them so you’d always be aware when an app was using your Mac’s camera or microphone, or recording the screen. You can think of them as an expansion of the tiny green LED that lights up next to the Mac’s camera when it’s in use.

The three icons you might see are:

  • Green camera, which indicates that the Mac’s video camera is in use. The microphone may also be active, but that’s not indicated separately.
  • Orange microphone, which shows that the Mac’s mic is recording audio.
  • Purple screen, which tells you that an app is recording your screen. Beyond screen-sharing apps, other apps like screenshot utilities can trigger this icon.

Click the icon to see what app is involved. You could even see multiple apps listed at the top, if several apps are recording the screen, for instance.

If you’ve switched to Sonoma already, we hope this quick tour of a few potentially confusing features has helped explain what’s going on. And if you’re still waiting to install Sonoma—which is fine!—remember to come back to this article when you decide to upgrade.

(Featured image based on an original by

Nine Tips for Switching from an iPhone with Touch ID to One with Face ID

In 2013, Apple added Touch ID to the Home button of the iPhone 5S. Taking advantage of the uniqueness of fingerprints, Touch ID combines the Home button press to wake up the iPhone with a fingerprint scan to authenticate the user. But in 2017, Apple introduced the iPhone X with Face ID, which relies on cameras and sensors at the top of the screen to authenticate the user via facial recognition. Since then, Apple has slowly been phasing out Touch ID in the iPhone line, with only the third-generation iPhone SE still supporting it. (Only the iPad Pro models have Face ID; other iPads have Touch ID in the Home button or the top button.)

We’re not here to dub one better than the other, but many people find themselves needing to upgrade from an older iPhone with Touch ID to a newer one with Face ID. If you’re trying to switch between Touch ID and Face ID, we have some tips to help.

Unlock the iPhone

Once the iPhone is awake (the screen is lit up), you unlock an iPhone with Touch ID by pressing the Home button. On an iPhone with Face ID, you swipe up from the bottom of the Lock Screen—a bar reminds you where to start—while looking at the iPhone. Face ID is fast and accurate enough that you’ll notice that authentication is happening only if iOS asks to verify your passcode (which it also does with Touch ID).

Return to the Home Screen

When you’re using an app on an iPhone with Touch ID and want to return to the Home Screen, you press the Home button—logical! On an iPhone with Face ID, you repeat that swipe up from the bottom of the screen action you use to unlock the iPhone. You’ll get really good at it.

Switch between Apps

When it comes to switching between apps, iPhones with Face ID offer a unique shortcut. On an iPhone with Touch ID, you must quickly press the Home button twice and then swipe between apps in the App Switcher. Bringing up the App Switcher on an iPhone with Face ID requires swiping up from the bottom of the screen just slightly and then continuing the swipe to the right. But Face ID experts seldom do that. Instead, swipe right and left on the bar at the bottom of the screen to switch between apps—it’s far faster and easier, if hidden.

Activate Siri

On an iPhone with Touch ID, holding the Home button activates Siri. On an iPhone with Face ID, press and hold the side button to activate Siri. Tomato, tomahto.

Open Control Center

When all we had were iPhones with Touch ID, Apple decided we’d open Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. Face ID relies on that gesture for unlocking and opening the App Switcher, so on iPhones with Face ID, you instead open Control Center by swiping down from the top right of the screen. Think of it as swiping down from the cellular, Wi-Fi, and battery status icons.

View Notifications

Because iPhones with Touch ID use a swipe up from the bottom for Control Center, they can devote a swipe down from the top of the screen to displaying the Lock Screen with notifications. The same gesture works on an iPhone with Face ID, but you must start from the left side of the screen.

Use Apple Pay

Paying for a purchase with Apple Pay requires that you authenticate, which means placing your finger on the Home button—but not pressing it!—on an iPhone with Touch ID. Getting the hang of the touch-but-don’t-press action can take some time, but once you have it, you may even have developed a habit of not looking at your iPhone to authenticate Apple Pay. In contrast, with an iPhone with Face ID, you must look at the screen when prompted so the Face ID sensors can confirm you’re making the purchase. Honestly, neither is as easy as double-pressing the side button on an Apple Watch.

Authenticate in Apps

Beyond Apple Pay, plenty of apps from the App Store, like password managers and banking apps, tie into biometric authentication so you don’t have to type lengthy passwords. As you’d expect, if you previously authenticated by touching the Home button, doing so on an iPhone with Face ID requires looking at the iPhone screen. That’s nearly always what you do anyway, so it’s even easier than touching the Home button.

Register Alternate Appearances

With Touch ID, you can register up to five fingers, which lets you use several of your own and let a trusted spouse or family member authenticate using Touch ID as well. We tend to have more fingers than faces, though, so with Face ID, Apple allows only a single alternate appearance. That shouldn’t be too limiting, but if everyone in your family had a Touch ID finger, sorry, you’ll have to pick a favorite.

(Featured image by Apple)