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How to use iCloud

Overview of iCloud services

Apple’s iCloud suite does more than just sync calendars and contacts (though it does do that too). The service can automatically integrate with multiple applications, such as iTunes and iPhoto, as well as locate your iPhone by tapping into its highly-accurate location services. Additionally, users can save browser bookmarks and access various iWork apps, as well as save and encrypt passwords directly from within the cloud with the upcoming iCloud Keychain.

Photo Stream:

PhotostreamiCloud Photo Stream might still be in its humble beginnings, but the photo sharing service has already shown robust capabilities when it comes communal albums. Once properly set up, the cloud-based service allows users to access their photos on any iCloud-enabled device, ditching the need for active downloads and allowing users to share photo albums with one another via iCloud. It also stores photos in iCloud for 30 days and currently supports JPEG, TIFF, PNG and most RAW formats, while remaining immune to the 5MB cap other services within the suite must adhere to.

Setup

If using an iOS-compatible device, enable Photo Stream by accessing the main iCloud options within the settings panel, clicking the Photos option and toggling on the My Photo Stream and Photo Sharing options. Mac users will want to to access the various iCloud services within the System Preferences panel and select the checkbox directly left of Photo Stream, while PC users merely need to select the checkbox directly left of Photos within in the iCloud Control Panel. PC users can adjust Photo Stream options by clicking the Options button to the right of the  Photo Stream checkbox.

Use

Photo Stream requires little in the way of action on your part once set up. Photos you capture using an iOS device will be automatically uploaded to your stream when you close the camera and connect to Wi-Fi, while any new photos you upload to iPhoto or Aperture will do the same assuming you’re connected via Wi-Fi or an Ethernet line. PC users are required to manually add photos to their stream by individually adding them the My Photo Stream folder housed within the main pictures library or another previously-specified save location.

Find my iDevice (or Mac): 

Find_my_iphone_icon copyI hate to break it to you, but losing your iPhone, iPad, or Mac is bound to happen sooner or later. Thankfully, Apple’s Find My iPhone, iPad, and Mac software has made it easier than ever before to hone in and access your Apple device no matter your location. Once properly set up, users can lock, locate and track their device, force it to play a sound, or remotely erase all of its content while using the iCloud Web interface or the same software on another iOS 7-compatible or Mac OS X device. The latest version of the mobile software even comes coupled with an Activation Lock feature, requiring users to input their original Apple ID and password in order to reactivate their device after it’s been remotely wiped. Check out our comprehensive guide on how to use Find my iPhone for more information.

Setup

If using an iOS-compatible device, enable Find my iPhone by accessing the main iCloud options within the settings panel and toggling on the Find my iPhone option or a similar version thereof. Mac users will want to access the various iCloud services within the System Preferences panel and select the checkbox directly left of Find my Mac. Keep in mind the setup must be done prior to losing the device.

Use

Once you’ve lost your device, access the main iCloud Web interface and login with your Apple ID and password. Afterward, click the Find My iPhone button in the bottom-left corner, click the green Devices option at the top of the page and select your device from the resulting drop-down menu. Once you’ve chosen your device, additional options for forcing your device to play a sound, initiating Lost Mode and remotely wiping the device will appear in the top-right corner of the page. Alternatively, iOS users can download the Find my iPhone app, login in with their respective Apple credentials and choose their Apple device from the resulting list to perform similar functions.

iTunes Match

music-newDespite it’s $25 price tag, iTunes Match is a step in the right direction. Once properly set up, the software is convenient and effortless, allowing users to store up 25,000 songs in the cloud and providing a simple means of accessing and downloading said content on any iOS or Mac OS X device. The supported file formats are robust, automatically upgrading songs matched by the iTunes Store to 256 kbps, and service even allows ad-free listening when using iTunes Radio. Google Music and Amazon’s Cloud Player offer similar services, but none of them integrate quite as flawlessly in the iCloud ecosystem as iTunes Match.

Setup

Begin by updating or obtaining the latest version of iTunes for Windows or Mac OS X. If using Windows, click the main iTunes preferences icon in the top-left corner, select iTunes Store from the resulting drop-down menu, followed by the Turn on iTunes Match option. Afterward, click the blue subscribe button, sign in with your Apple credentials and follow the on-screen instructions to verify payment options and agree to the iTunes Match Terms and Conditions. A status indicator will appear charting iTunes’ progress as it scans, matches and uploads any unmatched songs to the cloud with additional updates available via the Update iTunes Match option located in the main iTunes Store drop-down menu.

If using an iOS-compatible device, enable iTunes Match by tapping the main Settings menu located on your device’s homescreen and selecting the Music option midway down the menu. Afterward, scroll to the bottom of the resulting menu, toggle on the iTunes Match option and tap the red Enable option to replace the music library on the device.

Use

Once setup and synced, a process that can take several moments depending on the amount of music you have housed in the cloud, simply tap the cloud icon when viewing an artist, album or song within the Music app to download the specific audio file to your device. Afterward, play them as you would normally, but remember you can only download as much music as you have available storage for.

Automatic Downloads

Physical connections are a thing of the past thanks to iCloud. Once properly setup, users can automatically download previous purchases from the App Store, iTunes, and the iBook Store instantly, regardless of which iCloud-enabled device you’re using. It’s incredibly convenient — download a game on your iPhone and it will automatically download directly onto your iPad — and the software even additionally remembers to sync your bookmarks and viewing location across devices.

Setup

If using an iOS-compatible device, enable automatic downloads by tapping the main Settings menu located on your device’s homescreen and selecting the iTunes & App Store option midway down the menu. Afterward, scroll to the bottom of the resulting menu and toggle on the various components you wish to automatically download on other iCloud-enabled devices, whether it be music, apps, or updates. If using a PC, click the main iTunes preferences icon in the top-left corner of the application, select Preferences from the resulting drop-down menu and toggle on the various components you wish to automatically download on other devices beneath the Store tab. Mac users will do the same, except click the main iTunes menu in the top-left corner prior to choosing the Preferences option.

Use

As the name implies, automatic downloads require little of the user once set up. Everything you download in iTunes or on any of the mobile stores will automatically download across all devices on which you have the feature enabled. Just carry out your day-to-day tasks as you would normally and your purchased content will appear alongside the rest of your app, book, or music library without lifting a finger.

Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Notes and Reminders

Mail iOS 7The tools we use day in and day out are the ones most crucial in terms of productivity and resourcefulness — they’re also the ones constantly being updated to reflect changes and new developments. The mobile, Web, and desktop versions of the applications all function in a similar manner, allowing you to carry out tasks such as forwarding emails and setting calendar reminders, while simultaneously syncing across platforms so even the most minute details are always up-to-date. The best part is none of the applications, whether it be mail or notes, require much setup and usage instructions aside from those provided in the initial iCloud setup process.

Setup

If using an iOS-compatible device, enable Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Notes, and Reminders by accessing the main iCloud options within the settings panel and toggling on the various services. Mac users will want to access the various iCloud services within the System Preferences panel and select the checkbox directly left of the various services, while PC users merely need to select the checkbox directly left of Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and Tasks within in the iCloud Control Panel. Additional options specific to each service are available within each app’s respective settings panel.

Use

Once set up, updates and changes to the service suite will automatically sync while using the software on any available platform. Though dependent on the designated refresh rate, any iCloud-enabled reminders and calendar events you edit on the iPhone will appear updated on your Mac, and vice versa. The rest of the services seamlessly work in a similar manner—make adjustments as necessary and the changes will reflect on all devices on which you have the features enabled.

Safari

Safari iOS 7 Icon 2Safari is certainly not the top dog when it comes to browsers, but the comprehensive iCloud integration makes the software more appealing than ever before. Once properly set up, the browser provides automatic, cross-platform syncing for maintaining bookmarks, reading lists and the like without the requiring any additional setup aside from that reserved for your initial iCloud account.

Setup

If using an iOS-compatible device, enable Safari by accessing the main iCloud options within the settings panel and toggling on the Safari option. Mac users will want to access the various iCloud services within the System Preferences panel and select the checkbox directly left of the Safari option, while PC users merely need to select the checkbox directly left of Bookmarks within in the iCloud Control Panel to sync Chrome bookmarks across devices.

Use

Once set up, Safari automatically syncs any reading list items and bookmarks you create across devices. If using an iOS 7 device, tap the book icon located at the bottom of any Safari window to access your bookmarks and your reading list, or swipe down when viewing your open tabs to access any additional tabs that may be open on other devices using Safari. The same can be done in the desktop version of Safari by clicking the book, glasses. or cloud icons housed to the left and below the address bar.

Documents and Data

SCOI0069-summary-icon-100x100Google Drive and Dropbox may have become the renowned method for storing documents and data in the cloud, but that doesn’t mean other alternatives don’t exist. Once properly set up, iCloud will allow you store and sync documents and data across all enabled devices. The software is seamlessly integrated with both iWork and Microsoft Office suites — allowing users to quickly upload and edit documents created in programs like Pages, Keynote and Microsoft Word — while additionally allowing users to share the documents as a page, pdf, or word document via iCloud Mail. The utility may function better on iOS and Mac OS X platforms, but the Web-based version of iCloud is always accessible regardless of platform.

Setup

If using an iOS-compatible device, enable Documents and Data by accessing the main iCloud options within the settings panel, clicking the Documents & data option and toggling on the Documents & Data option. Mac users will want to access the various iCloud services within the System Preferences panel and select the checkbox directly left of the Documents & Data option. Currently, uploaded documents cannot be accessed or edited with Windows’ iCloud Control Panel.

Use

Once set up, documents and data can be directly uploaded to iCloud through the iCloud Web interface. To do so, navigate to the site, enter your Apple login credentials and select the type of document you wish to upload from the homescreen, whether it be a presentation, spreadsheet, word document or other. Afterward, drag and drop the desired document from your desktop into the browser window or click the enlarged addition sign in the top-left corner to create a new document. The software will automatically save and sync document edits as you make them, ensuring the data is always up to date on any iOS or Mac OS X device from which access it. Additionally, documents can be shared via your iCloud email by clicking the share icon in the upper-right corner when viewing a document, selecting the output format and entering the necessary email information.

Passbook:

passbook_ios7_ios_7Digital wallets are an overlooked novelty to say the least, even if they can’t replace the real deal. Apple’s Passbook utility supplies a convenient location for storing all of your precious coupons, boarding tickets, movie tickets and the like within a central hub on all your iOS devicse. Some passes include time or location-based activation, meaning the pass will automatically appear at a designated time or when you arrive at a particular location, while others will need be brought up manually from within the Passport app. Each pass functions differently, and though the current of selection is somewhat sparse, iCloud will keep all of them up to date on any Passbook-enabled device in your arsenal. Check out our guide on how to use Passbook for a more in-depth look at the utility.

Setup

If using an iOS-compatible device, enable Passbook by accessing the main iCloud options within the settings panel and toggling on the Passbook option.

Use

Using Passport requires a tutorial in and of itself, but the iCloud component of the software works effortlessly. Passbook will automatically update on all your iOS devices whenever you manually add a pass from the App Store, Safari or your email, thus ensuring the most up-to-date passes without physical syncing. Just remember to toggle on Automatic Downloads as outlined above.

Next Page: Backing up & Restoring with iCloud

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