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You can use your email for iMessage, plus it’s more identifiable

By default, your iCloud account is your iMessage to/from address. If you own an iPhone, your phone number is enabled for iMessage and, as far as I can tell, becomes the default to/from address on every device.

You can also attach extra email addresses to your iCloud/iMessage to use as your default to/from address. I added my personal email (at chartier.land) and set it as the default on all devices. I think it’s easier to identify and remember than some random string of numbers, especially when I’m messaging someone new.

To do this:

  • iOS: Log into appleid.apple.com with the iCloud account you use for iMessage. Under the Account > Reachable At section, click Add New and add any other email addresses you want to use with iMessage.
  • Mac: Open Messages and go to Preferences > Accounts > your iMessage account. In the Reachable At section, click Add New. You can also use the iOS method if you prefer.

**Important Note**: Any email addresses you attach to your iCloud/iMessage account are no longer eligible to become Apple IDs. However, you _can_ detach these addresses later at appleid.apple.com to make them eligible again.


To set an email address as your default from for new conversations:

  • iOS: Open Settings > Messages > Send & Receive, then make your selection in the Start New Conversations From section.
  • Mac: Open Messages and go to Preferences > Accounts > your iMessage account. Make your selection in the Start New Conversations From section.

Now, when you iMessage someone new, or start new conversations with existing contacts, your messages will come from your email address instead of a phone number. Bonus points: if you set an email address you actually use, now your contacts also know your email address for sending more email-y stuff.

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A guide for switching from Dropbox to iCloud Drive

A while ago, I switched from Dropbox to iCloud Drive. I did it mainly because I realized I was paying for too many clouds and, between the two, iCloud had become more indispensable to me than Dropbox. People asked me for a guide on how to do it, and I think I have something fairly straightforward for you.

This could probably work for switching between just about any Cloud Service A to Service B. The main requirement of my method is that you have on-disk file access to both services; not just silly web apps in a browser. In other words, their apps are installed and you have local/synced access to all files.

Naturally, before diving in, I recommend you back up everything and triple check them just to be sure. Here are the steps I took:

  • Find a file cloning utility like ChronoSync. I’ve owned a copy for years, and it’s always performed beautifully, including for this recent switch
  • Set up the file copy source as the root of your Dropbox folder
  • Set up your destination as the root of iCloud Drive
    • As far as I can tell, the Finder doesn’t reveal the actual directory location of your iCloud Drive. In the File selection sheet, iCloud Drive should be in your Finder sidebar. If not, Command-Shift-I will select it
  • (Optional) Exclude any folders you don’t want copied. For example, I have a “Family” folder in Dropbox for stuff I share with Jessi. Sadly, iCloud Drive still doesn’t support this in iOS 11 and High Sierra, so I didn’t see a point (yet) in copying that folder over
  • (Optional, but highly recommended) Do a trial run first. ChronoSync has a ‘test’ option that will display all the changes it intends to make. This helped me feel better that I had the sync set up properly
  • Run the copy. As long as you have the space for it, I recommend doing a copy, not a move, just to be safe. But if you’re short on space, a move might be your only option. Proceed with caution, backup backup backup, etc.
  • Check that everything is in iCloud Drive
  • Delete everything from Dropbox
  • (Optional, if possible) Uninstall Dropbox. It’ll free up a decent chunk of CPU and memory. I’ve seen people with big powerful MacBook Pros mention a slight, but notable increase in performance once they got rid of Dropbox’s sync client
  • (Optional) If your goal is to save money like me, don’t forget to downgrade your Dropbox account. I dropped back to the free tier, so that’s around $100/year back in my pocket

The end.

Of course, I still collaborate on documents with other people, moreso these days since I freelance for multiple clients. Your mileage likely varies, but most collaboration I do happens in Google Drive (unfortunately) and Quip, so I simply have less of a need for a shared raw file space.

Overall, it’s gone pretty well. I haven’t lost files, and the iOS 11 iCloud Drive Files app is a big leap forward. If Apple ever bothers to catch up to competition with shared folders, I might close my Dropbox account entirely.

I hope this helped. Hit me with any questions, and I’ll answer best I can.

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[iOS 11] One-handed multitasking on iPad

I really like the new multitasking features in iOS 11. It’s also time that I start making videos again, so here’s the first—a quick tip on how to put apps in Split View with one hand.

I don’t publish a lot of videos on my YouTube channel yet, but I do have more planned. Feel free to subscribe there, but I’ll blog them here, too.

The music is Moonlight Jive by Proleter.

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One reason I stick with Apple stuff: respect

A big reason I often stick with Apple stuff is that the entire tech industry is racing to see who can treat us with the least respect. The latest challenger is Sonos with its new “give us your data or your stuff stops working” privacy threat policy.

I don’t always want to stick with Apple stuff just because it’s Apple. I may like Apple, and most of my career is based in Apple’s ecosystem. But we also have a couple Sonos speakers, I generally like them, and there are all sorts of great companies and products out there not made by Apple. My problem is that this trend of treating us like data batteries from The Matrix deeply disturbs me. It increasingly gives me pause about trusting many new companies and products.

For example, now I’m thinking about selling our Sonos for an alternative. To be fair, the thought crossed my mind a little while ago because I don’t like being limited to apps and services Sonos directly supports. The announcement mostly compels me to consider it more seriously. Maybe I could go with a HomePod or something else AirPlay compatible. I don’t know, but now I have to spend real time on researching a new product I can (hopefully) trust instead of… just about everything else I’d rather spend time on.

I don’t like companies that believe they have some kind of right to every single little thing I do. They don’t. They especially don’t when they sell premium products, then suddenly decide to further cash in by violating my privacy and selling my data to an already woefully corrupt data brokerage industry.

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📱 How to make Notification Center your “inbox for apps”

Note: this is a sample article from my weekly Finer Things in Tech Newsletter. Subscribe to get quick tips, occasional longer walkthroughs like this, and links to good reads from others in the community.

I had an idea a while ago that helped me in dealing with push notification and email overload. In short: I realized there are a number of things I want to be aware of, but I don’t need to be alerted in real time. I decided I wanted a place that:

  • is not my email inbox. I’m trying to improve the signal vs. noise balance in there
  • did not alert me in real time as things are happening, because that’s distracting
  • is easy to triage and go on about my day, and doesn’t clutter things like search when I need to find important things later

After some testing with Notification Center on my iOS devices, I found a configuration that has helped me a lot, so maybe it can help you too. For each app and service that fits my description above, try this:

  • Turn off all available email notifications. You might be able to do this in-app, but you might have to tediously log into their website because the company still thinks it’s 2002
  • Opened Settings > Notifications > name of the app
  • Turn off the app badge
  • Turn off sounds
  • Turn off banners
  • Turn off the lock screen option
  • Keep “Show in Notification Center” enabled

This way, I avoid noisy emails cluttering my inbox and push notification banners popping up and distracting me. But—and here’s the important part—I can still get notifications about things that are important, and check them on my own time in Notification Center.

Any notifications I tap get cleared automatically. All others can be wiped out with a quick 3D Touch on the (X) button on iPhone, as that offers a “Clear All Notifications” option. On iPad, it’s only two taps to clear a day’s notifications.

This can work for everything from sports scores to updates from your favorite bloggers. For example, I follow a lot of people on Tumblr, including a few artists whose work I thoroughly appreciate. I turned on notifications for those artists, but I certainly don’t want to be alerted about their posts while I’m working.

Now, with this setup, I can catch up on stuff like this on my own time, without it getting lost in the stream of my day to day work and life.

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iOS 11: An alternative to swiping notifications, and why Apple changed this behavior

In iOS 11’s Notification Center, Apple removed our ability to swipe left on a notification in order to reveal buttons for Clear and View. I found an alternative, I think I know why Apple changed this behavior, and I like it better now.

Solution: 3D Touch or tap-and-hold

Previously, swiping left on a notification felt slightly problematic. It was sometimes easy to swipe too far or not far enough, resulting in unintended behavior.

In iOS 11, you can either 3D Touch a notification or, for those on devices without 3D Touch, including iPads, tap-and-hold. This has two advantages.

First, the notification is now displayed with all available functionality. Instead of having to choose whether to clear or interact with the notification (say, to reply to a message or mark a task complete), you now get to see the notification’s full content, all available actions, and a convenient and easy to tap (X) in the upper right of the notification box.

The Why

I think the second advantage is easier navigation. Now, a swipe left anywhere in Notification Center results in launching the Camera app. A swipe right anywhere takes you to the Today widget page. From my testing, it seems impossible now to accidentally swipe a notification when you wanted the camera, and vice versa.

In short, navigating between Notification Center, Today, and Camera is now much simpler. As with any muscle memory change, this will probably take some adjustment. But after being deliberate about it the last couple days, I’m getting in the habit, and I definitely appreciate the easier navigation.

If you like my writing, subscribe to my weekly newsletter. It’s bite-sized tips for getting more out of your iPhone, iPad, and Mac, as well as occasional links to good reads about tech culture, self-reflection and improvement, art, and more.

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Subscribe to my next newsletter all about Messages, iMessage tips

As you may know, I now publish a weekly Finer Things in Tech Newsletter alongside this site, and you should totally subscribe. In addition to a handful of bite-sized tips that are almost entirely exclusive to the newsletter, I also include a few links to insightful and inspiring reads from around the web. 

For example, last issue I linked the brilliant 100 Demon Dialogues about impostor syndrome and self-doubt, and this great piece from Benedict Evans exploring the cognitive dissonance and statistics around which traditional and modern devices have actually been used for creation versus consumption.
I’m experimenting with focusing some issues on a particular topic or app, and next week’s issue will be all about Messages and iMessage for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Be sure to subscribe now to make sure you get it, and share the signup link with friends and coworkers who could use help in the messaging department.