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Take Control of Apple TV
Apr 07, 2016
The Author

Josh Centers is the managing editor of TidBITS and a freelance writer who has written for Macworld, the Magazine, Boing Boing, and the Sweethome. He has been featured on Daring Fireball, the Loop, TUAW, and Scientific American, and is a frequent guest on MacVoices and the Tech Night Owl. He lives in Tennessee with his wife, Hannah, and their son, Harris.

Take Control of Apple TV, Second Edition

Everything you need to know about the Apple TV!

Whether you’re considering an Apple TV or you already have one, you can more fully enjoy Apple’s entertainment device with this ultimate guide by TidBITS managing editor Josh Centers. You’ll learn how to set it up and use it to watch movies and TV shows, play music, display your photos, give presentations, and run all manner of apps on the big screen.

Josh walks you through cables, ports, and setup, and explains how to use gestures and spoken commands with the Siri Remote—yes, you can talk to your TV! He helps you navigate and customize the Home screen, plus describes getting-started settings such as inputting your Apple ID and enabling parental controls.

The book, which is organized to make it easy to find the topic you need now, also shows you how to use the built-in apps for playing iTunes Store video and describes how to download apps for Comedy Central, Disney, ESPN, HBO Go, Hulu, Netflix, PBS, YouTube, and more—complete with clickable Web activation links for 50 video apps, so you don’t have to type those Web URLs by hand! But you’re not restricted to commercial video: Josh explains how you can best view home movies and any DVDs or Blu-ray discs you own.

The book also looks at using an Apple TV to listen to your music or Apple Music, download and play podcasts from iTunes, and browse your photos. An important new feature of the Apple TV is its App Store, and you’ll find recommendations for apps that bring fitness, food, mapping, shopping, art, gaming, and more to your big screen.

Bonus! A special cheat sheet summarizes key Siri Remote tips and spoken commands so that you can easily try them from the couch.

Compatibility? This book covers the fourth-generation Apple TV, but after you buy it, you can visit the Ebook Extras topic to download of the first edition, which focuses on the second- and third-generation Apple TV models.

More Info

In Take Control of Apple TV you’ll read about:

  • The easy Siri Remote shortcut for sleeping your Apple TV
  • Checking the battery level and charging your Siri Remote
  • Three ways to rewind on the Siri Remote
  • Alternatives to the Siri Remote
  • Connecting your Apple TV to iCloud Photo Library, iCloud Photo Stream, iCloud Photo Sharing, or to photos stored on your local computer
  • Beaming the display of your Mac or iPhone screen to your TV
  • Making Mac or iOS audio play through your TV’s speakers
  • Ripping DVDs and Blu-ray discs
  • Running iTunes Home Sharing to play media from a local computer
  • Using Plex Media Server to take your media library beyond iTunes
  • Essential items to pack if you’ll be giving a presentation via an Apple TV
  • What you can do with Conference Room Display mode
  • How to tell if an iOS app includes a free copy of its Apple TV version
  • How to reset or restore an Apple TV—useful for troubleshooting or for handing your device to a new owner
What's New

What’s New in the Second Edition

This edition has been revised for the fourth-generation Apple TV, released in late 2015. Here’s an overview of the major changes:

  • Because this edition is being released nearly immediately after tvOS 9.2, I’ve added What’s New in tvOS 9.2 to help you quickly come up to speed on the new features in this important update, including support for Bluetooth keyboards, Dictation, and the capability to display your iCloud Photo Library.

  • Set Up Your Apple TV has been overhauled to reflect the process on the fourth-generation model, as well as the lack of an optical audio output on the fourth-generation Apple TV.

  • Control Your Apple TV has been reworked to include the new Siri Remote and its capabilities.

  • The chapter “Discover What’s on Offer” has been replaced with a new chapter: Meet the Apple TV, where you can organize your Home Screen, learn about the Apple TV App Store, and discover Searching with Siri.

  • Apple TV at the Movies has been revised to describe the video controls used in the fourth-generation Apple TV.

  • Information about Bluetooth speakers and an overview of the new Music and Podcast apps have been added to Rock Out with the Apple TV.

  • Information on working around Netflix’s regional restrictions has been removed, out of respect for Netflix’s efforts to stop such practices, as described in this Netflix blog post.

  • Since the fourth-generation Apple TV features an App Store, the chapters “Play Games on Apple TV” and “Do More with Apple TV” have been replaced with a new chapter: A Look at Apple TV Apps.

  • The printable Cheat Sheet is updated with tips for using the Siri Remote.

Update Plans

October 11, 2016 - Now that tvOS 10 and the new Remote app on the iPhone are available for the Apple TV, enough has changed to warrant an update to this book. We hope to have the update available in 2016, but a firm date has not been set. So, stay tuned! To find out what’s new and what will be covered in the updated book, take a look at the book’s Blog (just below). Josh is working on the update, but we are deliberating over whether to publish in November/December and then do yet-another update to cover the due-in-late-December TV app, or whether to just hold off until January.

Posted by Tonya Engst

  1. Single Sign On News

    At Apple’s recent “Hello Again” event, the company announced that Single Sign On is coming to the Apple TV at last, and the feature is available in the most recent tvOS betas. Unfortunately, it works with only two major providers so far: DirecTV and Dish. Thankfully, my earlier prediction about Single Sign On being based on TV networks was wrong — you’ll authenticate with your TV provider during setup or in the Apple TV’s Settings, under Accounts, and that will activate all apps you’re entitled to access. Even better news: this feature is also coming to iOS, per Apple Insider.

    Posted by Josh Centers (Permalink)

  2. The TV App Is Coming to tvOS

    At Apple’s October “Hello Again” event, the company announced a major paradigm shift for tvOS, in the form of the soon-to-be-released TV app.

    The TV app will aggregate content from multiple apps, help you track your favorite shows, and suggest new content. Unfortunately, Netflix isn’t on board in the app and Amazon is still nowhere to be found in tvOS.

    One interesting aspect of the TV app is that you’ll be able to access it via the Home button on the Siri Remote. Even more interesting, the icon for the Home button on the Siri Remote is the same as the app icon for the TV app. Was this the tvOS front end that Apple always intended?

    Based on the demo, it appears that the TV app will be the tvOS equivalent of watch faces in watchOS. In watchOS, the “main” screen is the watch face, and while you can launch some apps from there, you have to drop down to an app launcher to see them all. However, the trade-off makes sense because when you raise your wrist, you want to see the time, not a swarm of app icons. Likewise, when you fire up the Apple TV, you probably want to watch a movie or TV show. But without Netflix on board, that could be a frustrating experience if you primarily stream from there.

    I covered the TV app announcement in detail in the TidBITS article Apple’s TV App Seeks to Unify the Apple TV Experience.

    Posted by Josh Centers (Permalink)

  3. What’s Interesting in tvOS 10?

    tvOS 10 has a few new features that are worth knowing about. To make sure that your fourth-generation Apple TV is running tvOS 10, open the Settings app and go to System > Software Updates. If tvOS 10 is installed, you’ll see the version number at the lower left of the screen; otherwise, you should see update instructions.

    With tvOS 10 installed, stay in the Settings app and consider these features:

    • Automatically Install Apps: Found in Settings > Apps, this setting makes it so if you buy an app in iOS that has an Apple TV counterpart, the Apple TV version will download and install automatically on your Apple TV. I recommend turning this on for convenience.

    • Dark Mode: If you find white backgrounds in the Apple TV interface too bright, visit Settings > General > Appearance and select Dark to switch to an overall darker color scheme, not only for the Home screen, but also within some apps. I like this feature because I found the white backdrop to the Home screen so bright that I often had to squint. You can easily try the Dark setting to see whether you like it; if you do, great! If you do not, it’s easy to come back and revert to Light.

    Also new in tvOS 10, the Music app gains a new look, the Photos app picks up the Memories feature from Photos in 10.12 Sierra and iOS 10, some HomeKit-related commands now work with Siri, and developers may create games that require a dedicated game controller.

    One thing that was expected in tvOS was Single Sign-On, a feature that would make it easier to sign in to different apps where you must have an activation code or in some way log in. Apple’s What’s New on Apple TV marketing page indicates that Single Sign-On is “coming soon.”

    For more details about using the new features in tvOS 10, see Josh’s TidBITS article, tvOS 10 Adds Dark Mode and More.

    Posted by Tonya Engst (Permalink)

  4. Apple Releases New Remote App

    Apple has released its new Apple TV Remote iPhone app, designed specifically to emulate the physical Siri Remote that controls the fourth-generation Apple TV. Because the new Apple TV Remote app controls only the fourth-generation Apple TV, it does not replace Apple’s previous Remote app, which remains in the App Store with a new name: iTunes Remote. Unlike the Apple TV Remote app, iTunes Remote can access iTunes libraries and control older Apple TV models.

    However, Apple TV Remote can do almost everything the Siri Remote does, with the exception of volume control. It includes a Siri button so you can issue voice commands to your Apple TV with your iPhone. It also features a game controller mode optimized for playing games.

    For more information, see my TidBITS article Apple Overhauls the Apple TV Remote App.

    Posted by Josh Centers (Permalink)

  5. Changes to Plex Authentication on Apple TV

    When we published “Take Control of Apple TV, Second Edition,” the Plex app still required you to enter your username and password to sign in to your Plex account. Thankfully, Plex has now been updated to use browser authentication instead, so you don’t have to type or dictate your credentials with the Siri Remote. When prompted, visit and enter the code on your TV screen.

    Posted by Josh Centers (Permalink)

  6. Now Playing on MacVoices: The Josh and Chuck Show, Season 2

    Apple has new gear for the biggest screen in your home, and that means a new edition of Josh’s Apple TV book and a MacVoices interview. So pop some popcorn, put your feet up, and tune in to watch Josh and Chuck Joiner chat about all the new features found in the fourth-generation Apple TV, including apps and Siri. And, if you have an Apple TV you can watch the interview right on that system (the “Master AirPlay” chapter in the book tells you how)!

    Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)