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How to use iCloud like a pro on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or PC

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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 iCloud Keychain.

Photo Stream

PhotostreamPhotos has been around for a while now, and it’s only gotten more useful and feature-rich since its inception. Once properly set up, the cloud-based service allows you to access your photos on any iCloud-enabled device, ditching the need for active downloads and allowing users to share photos and videos with one another via iCloud. It can also store 1,000 of your most recent photos in iCloud for 30 days and currently supports JPEG, RAW, PNG, GIF, TIFF, and MP4, while remaining immune to the 5GB cap other services within the suite must adhere to.


If using an iOS-compatible device, enable Photos by accessing the iCloud options within Settings, clicking the Photos option and toggling on the My Photo Stream and iCloud 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 Photos, 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.


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 to 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 above) or Mac OS X (or above) 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.


If using an iOS-compatible device, enable Find my iPhone by accessing the iCloud options within Settings and toggling on the Find my iPhone option near the bottom of the list. 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.


Once you’ve lost your device, access the main iCloud Web interface and log in with your Apple ID and password. Afterwards, 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, log in with their respective Apple credentials and choose their Apple device from the resulting list to perform similar functions. If you have Family Sharing set up, a member of your Family group can also locate your missing device.

iTunes Match

music-newDespite the $25/year 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 to 25,000 songs in the cloud and providing a simple means of accessing and downloading said content on up to 10 iOS or Mac OS X devices. 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.


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 SettingsMusic. Afterwards, scroll to the bottom of the page and tap the blue Subscribe to iTunes Match option to begin the setup process and storing your music in iCloud.


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 set up, 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.


If using an iOS-compatible device, enable automatic downloads by tapping Settings > iTunes & App Store. From there, you’ll see the Automatic Downloads section, where you can toggle on/off the various components you wish to automatically download on other iCloud-enabled devices, whether it be music, apps, books, or updates. If using a PC, click Edit at the top of the iTunes window, then 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.


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.


If using an iOS-compatible device, enable Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Notes, and Reminders by tapping Settings > iCloud, and there you can toggle 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.


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 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.


If using an iOS-compatible device, enable Safari by tapping Settings > iCloud 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.


Once set up, Safari automatically syncs any reading list items and bookmarks you create across devices. If using a device running iOS 7 or later, tap the book icon located at the bottom of any Safari window to access your bookmarks, reading list, and shared links, 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.

iCloud Drive

Google 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. Apple replaced Documents and Data with iCloud Drive with the introduction of iOS 8, but it still serves the same purpose as its predecessor. Once set up, iCloud Drive will allow you to store and sync documents across all enabled devices, which includes any edits made along the way. With iOS 9, you can start working on a document in one app, and then work on that same document in another app, with no progress lost. The iCloud Drive app for iOS makes it even easier to access, organize, and share documents, and that same ease of use extends to Mac OS X and Windows. 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.


If using an iOS-compatible device, enable iCloud Drive by tapping Settings > iCloud > iCloud Drive. Tap Upgrade to iCloud Drive or, if you’ve set it up previously, toggle iCloud Drive on. Mac users can access the various iCloud services within the System Preferences panel under iCloud. Select iCloud Drive, then select Continue. PC users need to open iCloud for Windows, select the checkbox beside iCloud Drive, and then select Apply in the bottom-right corner. On iCloud.com, choose Pages, Numbers, or Keynote, and you’ll be asked to upgrade to Google Drive.


Once set up, documents can be directly uploaded to iCloud through iCloud.com. To do so, navigate to the site, enter your Apple login credentials, and select the iCloud Drive icon. Afterward, drag and drop the desired documents from your desktop into the browser window ,or click the Upload icon at the top of the window. The software will automatically save and sync document edits as you make them, ensuring the file is always up to date on any iOS or Mac OS X device that accesses it. If you had devices set up for Documents & Data before you upgraded to iCloud Drive, those documents and data will automatically be copied to iCloud Drive when you upgrade. Those documents and data are then available on all your devices set up for iCloud Drive. Documents can also 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 information.


Apple_Wallet_iOS_9_iconDigital wallets are an overlooked novelty to say the least, even if they can’t replace the real deal. Apple’s Wallet utility — previously known as Passbook — 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 devices. 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 Wallet app. Each pass functions differently, but iCloud will keep all of them up to date on any Wallet-enabled device in your arsenal.


If using an iOS-compatible device, enable Wallet by tapping Settings > iCloud, then toggle on the Wallet option found near the bottom of the page.


You can add passes to Wallet in several different ways, such as by using the Add Credit/Debit Card link in the Wallet app, scanning a bar code, or through a web browser. When it comes to using them, it depends on what kind of pass you’re dealing with. Some automatically appear at the appropriate time or place because they include information based on your time or location (provided you enabled location services). If you’re using an iPhone with iOS 9 or later, however, there are even faster ways to use a pass. For instance, you can open Wallet with a double-press of the Home button and use a card that works with Apple Pay, or enable Automatic Selection and hold your phone near a contactless reader with your finger on Touch ID sensor. To turn Automatic Selection on, open the Wallet app, tap the required store or rewards card, and tap the information icon before you toggle on the Automatic Selection option.

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