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Take Control of iCloud, Second Edition
Understand its features and limitations, get set up, and enjoy iCloud!
iCloud is a simple idea—all your data on all your devices, via the cloud—that often becomes complex in real-world situations, such as when you want to share your contacts list, or when you want to open a document stored in iCloud in an app other than the one that created it. In this best-selling title from Joe Kissell, you'll start by learning what iCloud can do, how it differs from other cloud services, and what hardware and software you need to use iCloud successfully on Macs, iOS devices, the Apple TV, and Windows-based PCs.
Update note: With 10.10 Yosemite and iOS 8.1 now available, a great deal about iCloud has changed since we updated this book last spring. Joe is preparing a new edition, which we plan (but do not promise) to publish in November. If you buy this title now, you will get a free update to then new edition.
Joe walks you through setting up iCloud (whether you have one or more iCloud accounts), and then explains the key aspects—and hidden gotchas—of iCloud's core features, all while helping you understand what iCloud is trying to do and why it might not match your expectations. Features covered include Apple Store integration, iTunes Match, My Photo Stream, iCloud Photo Sharing, Documents in the Cloud, Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, browser data, iCloud Keychain, Find My iPhone, Find My Mac, Find My Friends, and backing up and restoring iOS data.
You'll be flying high with iCloud as you learn how to use:
You'll also find the answers to questions such as:
iPad & Kindle
About the Author
Joe Kissell has written numerous books about the Macintosh, including many popular Take Control ebooks. He's also Senior Editor of TidBITS and a Senior Contributor to Macworld, and previously spent ten years in the Mac software industry.
Table of Contents
Read Me First
iCloud is the latest incarnation of Apple’s suite of Internet services, in the lineage of MobileMe, .Mac, and iTools. This book helps you make sense of iCloud, configure it for your needs, and choose the best ways of using each feature. Take Control of iCloud was written by Joe Kissell, edited by Kelly Turner, and published by TidBITS Publishing Inc.
In October 2011, Apple launched iCloud, a collection of online services in the lineage of MobileMe, .Mac, and iTools. Although a number of features carried over from MobileMe, iCloud approaches online storage and syncing differently than its predecessors did. The basic concept of iCloud is that your documents, music, photos, contacts, calendars, and other data should propagate to all your devices so immediately and automatically that you never think about where your data is anymore. It’s always everywhere; why wouldn’t it be?
In this model, manual syncing becomes a distant, unhappy memory, and users are largely freed from worrying about files as such. You go about your daily activities, like taking photos or creating spreadsheets or buying TV shows, and wherever you go, there they are.
What could be easier?
But after two years of using iCloud, reading countless articles about it, and talking to other iCloud users, I’ve realized that lots of people have only a vague idea of what iCloud truly is, let alone how to use it well. For example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard iCloud referred to in the same breath as services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft SkyDrive, as though they’re all pretty much the same thing from different providers. Sure, there are a few points of overlap, but iCloud tries to solve a different set of problems than any other service.
Apple’s main goal for iCloud is that your personal data syncs transparently across all the Apple devices you own. There’s an implicit assumption that you own more than one Apple device, of course! And, to be sure, if you have a Mac or two, an iPhone, an iPad, and an Apple TV, iCloud ties all those devices together in powerful ways that make them much easier to use. But as soon as you step outside that default usage case, things become muddier.
A handful of iCloud’s features are available on Windows, and a smaller subset can be used (after a fashion) on Linux and Android devices. But whereas companies like Dropbox and Google are in the business of selling services to anyone and everyone, Apple is in the business of selling hardware—so it stands to reason that iCloud works best on Apple devices. Recent-vintage Macs, iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch), and Apple TVs are the best tools with which to experience iCloud.
And, although iCloud is great at synchronizing information among your own devices, it’s less good at sharing data between users. You can share an arbitrary contact record, photo album, or document, for example, but you can’t easily share a whole address book with your spouse, a folder full of mixed documents with a work group, or a keychain containing usernames and passwords with your family.
I mention these limitations to set your expectations correctly. iCloud isn’t supposed to be a file synchronization and sharing tool like Dropbox. It also has many features found in no other online service (namely, those capabilities that require direct hooks into Apple operating systems and software). You’ll get more out of iCloud if you understand how it is, and isn’t, designed to be used.
In this completely revised second edition of Take Control of iCloud, I focus on what I think of as the interesting parts of iCloud. I show you what iCloud is capable of, how to think about it, and how to put its key features to good use. In the process, I hope to expose you to useful capabilities you never new existed. But I also point out cases in which iCloud may not be the best tool and occasionally mention other options you can consider.
iCloud is constantly changing. Apple regularly adds (and sometimes removes) features, alters the user interface, and alters the behind-the-scenes rules that govern how iCloud works. Therefore, I don’t even attempt to give you specific instructions for using every last feature—I have complete confidence that you can figure out how to send an email message or delete a contact, even if the exact steps change tomorrow. But I do aim to help you grasp what iCloud is capable of and decide how to put it to the best possible use.
For the most part, this book assumes your operating system(s) are recent—namely, OS X 10.9 Mavericks or later, iOS 7 or later, Windows 7 or later, and Apple TV software version 6 or later. In addition, I assume all your iCloud-connected apps (such as iTunes, iPhoto, and Pages) are up to date. Some iCloud features aren’t available (or operate differently) on older systems or in older app versions, and although I occasionally call attention to differences in operating systems, I don’t give detailed instructions for using iCloud with older software.
Although you can skip around freely in this book to learn about the topics that interest you most, I strongly encourage you to read (or at least skim) the first two chapters—Get to Know iCloud and Set Up iCloud—before moving on to the rest. Those chapters provide you with important foundational information, without which much of the material later in the book may not make sense.
Learn about iCloud features in Get to Know iCloud.
Set up your Mac(s), PC(s), and iOS device(s) to use iCloud. See Set Up iCloud.
Use iTunes in the Cloud—and related capabilities for other media—to access your purchased media (including music, movies, TV shows, books, and apps) everywhere. Read Keep Your Media in Sync.
Use My Photo Stream to put your recent photos on all your devices, and iCloud Photo Sharing to share photos with other people. See Manage Your Photos.
Keep your documents and app data current everywhere using Documents in the Cloud and other forms of in-app syncing. See Keep Documents & App Data in Sync.
Make sure your major forms of personal data (email, contacts, and calendars) are automatically mirrored across all your devices. See Keep Mail, Contacts & Calendars in Sync.
Learn about syncing Reminders, Notes, and browser data. See Sync Other iCloud Data.
Keep usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers in sync across devices, generate new random passwords, and edit your saved credentials as you Work with iCloud Keychain.
Access Web-based versions of the core iCloud apps on nearly any platform. See Use the iCloud Web Site.
Locate a wayward Mac or iOS device, or find a friend or family member. See Find My Nouns.
Learn how iCloud can back up and restore crucial data from your iOS devices in Back Up & Restore iOS Data.
Apple TV owner? Find out which iCloud features your set-top box can use and how. Read Use iCloud on an Apple TV.
Access stuff on a faraway Mac. Read Use Back to My Mac.
Update account details. See Manage Your Account.
Version 2.0.1 of this book is an extremely minor update, just to address the following matters:
Added a sidebar, Local Sync for Contacts & Calendars, about a new option in OS X 10.9.3 Mavericks and later to sync contacts and calendars between an iOS device and a Mac without going through iCloud, if you prefer.
Included a tip about troubleshooting Documents in the Cloud in Use Documents in the Cloud on a Mac.
Updated the discussion of Safari’s preferences to note that you can no longer opt to override sites that block iCloud Keychain from autofilling your credentials. See Autofill Passwords.
Noted in View and Edit iCloud Keychain Contents that, as of 10.9.2 Mavericks, Keychain Access supports secure notes.
This heavily revised second edition covers changes in OS X 10.9 Mavericks and iOS 7, as well as feature changes in the iCloud service and Web site since the last version of the book was published. It also removes obsolete material. Numerous topics were rearranged and, in some cases, rewritten. Here are the highlights:
Removed details of MobileMe features and discussion of upgrading from MobileMe accounts
Rewrote the discussion of how to Manage Your Photos to match the significantly changed My Photo Stream and iCloud Photo Sharing features
Combined information about email, contacts, and calendars into a single chapter called Keep Mail, Contacts & Calendars in Sync
Expanded the chapter previously devoted to Documents in the Cloud to encompass other types of in-app data syncing (see Keep Documents & App Data in Sync)
Moved the discussion of syncing Safari data (Bookmarks, Tabs, and Reading List), reminders, and notes to a new chapter called Sync Other iCloud Data
Added a completely new chapter about how to Work with iCloud Keychain
Consolidated the discussion of using iCloud’s Web-based apps into a single, new chapter called Use the iCloud Web Site
Moved all the information about using iCloud with an Apple TV to a new chapter called Use iCloud on an Apple TV
There are lots of great ways to read our ebooks on these devices. For more details, please read our latest Device Advice.
Feel free to ask us if you have a question about this title!
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"I just read Take Control of iCloud cover to cover, and it helped me sort out several problems and clear up my confusion on how iCloud works with my iMac, MacBook, iPad, and iPhone. Your book has helped me get more out of my devices and I can see it'll make my life easier. Thanks for a job very well done!" —Andy Staab
"Brilliant and concise information on using current iCloud systems. I love TC books, they teach me real-world how to make the most of my Apple stuff." —Brian Murray, Dec. 2013
September 5, 2014 -- We have begun work on a new edition of this ebook that will cover both iOS 8 and Yosemite. We plan (but do not promise) to release the new edition in (possibly) October and (likely) November. Anyone who purchases this ebook now will receive a free update to the new edition. [31-Oct: This update is Joe's front-burner project right now, and editing has begun on the first batch of chapters. I am optimistic about a November release.]
—Tonya J Engst
February 4, 2014 --
Listen to (or watch) MacVoices #14040 as Chuck Joiner at MacVoices interviews author Michael E. Cohen about what all the fuss is about Pages 5, and why Apple has changed so many features in the transition from Pages 4 to 5. Michael also talks about why we've initially published Take Control of Pages in a pre-book format.
—Tonya J Engst
March 28, 2013 --
Chuck Joiner and Joe Kissell got together on MacVoices recently to talk about iCloud: the good, the bad, and the what's-up-with-that? Listen or watch.
—Michael E. Cohen
July 20, 2012 --
If you haven’t yet had the time or temerity to move from MobileMe to iCloud (and you really should, since MobileMe has been MobileDeadToYou since June 30th, 2012), you can find helpful migration tips and observations in the TidBITS Presents event that Joe and Adam hosted live on on June 16th. A TidBITS article, Watch Joe Kissell and Adam Engst in TidBITS Presents: Adieu MobileMe, describes the event and provides some useful links; the event itself can be viewed on YouTube.
—Michael E. Cohen
October 21, 2011 --
When it comes to flying through the clouds, it helps to have good navigational aids. Watch, or listen, as Joe fires up his in-flight radar to show you the shape and direction of Apple's iCloud in an interview with Chuck Joiner via MacVoices and MacVoicesTV about Joe's latest book, Take Control of iCloud.
—Michael E. Cohen
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