15 secret ways to get more out of Apple’s new software

People queue to try out the new iPhone 11 Pro smartphone at an Apple store. Apple has released new phone, computer, tablet and smartwatch software. Picture: NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP

With the launch of new software for Macs overnight, Apple has officially killed off its long-time music program and moved on to something fresh.

But MacOS Catalina is just one of four operating system overhauls for Apple over the past month, with new features delivered to all of its devices, iPhones to iPads.

And among the more obvious software additions, such as Dark Mode, are hidden gems with the power to transform your experience (assuming you know about them).

This is our guide to getting the best from the new (and free) additions.


— Sidecar: You can finally use your iPad as a second screen for your Mac. Once connected, users can type on either machine, use the Apple Pencil for desktop apps, or add extra real estate to whatever they’re working on. Both devices must use the same Apple login to use the Sidecar, and they connect via the AirPlay menu.

— Voice control: All parts of the Mac can now be operated by voice alone, in an addition designed for users with mobility limitations. It even adds advanced text selection and editing features so users can correct words lost in dictation.

— Mail control: Three new features can quiet email chaos. Users can now mute a noisy thread from within the native Mail app, block a bothersome sender, or unsubscribe with a handy button above the email’s header.

— Password advice: Apple’s web browser, Safari, will warn you if you’ve created an account with a password that is easy to guess. It will also suggest a stronger one and store it, if that’s what you’d prefer.

— Tunes: There is no iTunes installed with this software package but there is a Music app. It’s designed for use with the subscription service Apple Music, of course, but users can also buy songs from the iTunes Music Store, find them in the Library of this program, and play them.


— Text shortcuts: New Minority Report-style gestures make it quicker to copy, cut, paste, undo or redo text. Swipe three fingers left on the screen, for example, and you’ll undo what you’ve just written. Swipe three fingers right, and you can redo it. Pinch with three fingers and you can copy whatever you’ve selected. Reverse the action, and you can paste it.


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— Widgets: iPadOS takes advantage of the iPad’s big screen by letting users add ‘Today Widgets’ as a permanent home screen feature. You can see these handy programs by swiping from the left of the screen. Tap Edit to choose your favourites and you can select ‘Keep on the Home Screen’ if you want to see them all the time.

— Signing documents: It is much easier to sign, scribble, or capture a document in iPadOS … if you know the shortcuts. With an Apple Pencil, swiping up from the left bottom corner will instantly capture a screenshot and let you draw on it. To mark-up a document, there’s now an option from the Share menu. You can also capture a full screenshot of a web page from within Safari by selecting Full Page in the screenshot preview.

— Multi-tasking inception: Even if you know how to open multiple apps on your iPad at once, you can now go one better. iPadOS lets users open multiple Slide Over apps. If you drag more than one app on to the side of the screen, you can flip between them simply by swiping over the bar at the bottom of the screen.

— Import choice: If you plug a camera or a memory card directly into an iPad, you can now choose where those images are stored. While they had to be added to the iPad’s Photos app previously, you can now open the app of your choice (hello, Adobe Lightroom) and add them just once.

iOS 13

— Dark days: iPhone’s new software not only delivers Dark Mode, but it can do so when it suits you. In the phone’s settings, you can decide whether you want your phone to go dark when the sun sets each day, or set your own customised schedule.

— Portraits rebooted: iPhone photographers have more control over their portraits with iOS 13. In addition to choosing a Portrait Lighting mode, they can now customise the intensity of its lighting, ensuring nothing looks washed out (unless that’s what you’re going for).

— Ignore calls: If you’re sick of getting spam calls from unknown numbers, your iPhone can send them straight to voicemail. This option silences the phone call rather than blocking it, ensuring you can call someone back if their number was just unfamiliar.

— Anonymous login: You can finally use privacy-protecting ‘Sign in with Apple’ option with iOS 13, assuming you can find an app that allows it. The addition lets you choose how much information you share with another company, and will even let you hide your email address and have Apple forward messages to you.

— Overshare warnings: The new iPhone software not only prevents apps from using your wi-fi and Bluetooth information without your consent, but it warns you when apps are trying to do so. You can choose to deny the Facebook app access to your Bluetooth connection, for example, and it won’t affect how you listen to videos on the network.