Glenn Fleishman answers your most vexing Mac problems
WHAT’S THAT WEIRD APP FOLDER DOING IN YOUR ICLOUD STORAGE?
There’s nothing more disturbing than finding files on your hardware that come from an app you are sure you never installed. Macworld reader Kevin wrote in asking about a video-management app. It’s an app he is positive he never installed on his iOS device, and he was shocked to find a folder in the iCloud Storage view in iOS (Settings > account name > iCloud > Manage Storage).
He noted that the information seemed quite personal, as it had images that seemed to represent
all his network devices. I suggested this might be something related to an app he purchased and forgot, but the explanation Kevin uncovered is only slightly related.
After examining other apps he purchased, he discovered that the developer of a network scanning app he did purchase also makes the video-management program (or at least did in the past). His explanation, which I deem correct, is that the software programmers didn’t change all the metadata when they created a new app from what must be a template or an existing project. As a result, the old app’s name appears in iCloud Storage, even though it belongs to the new one.
I don’t know that Apple examines that during its review process for adding programs to the App Store, but you’d think it would be a good thing to check to avoid developers accidentally giving readers palpitations about malware.
DISABLE OPTIMIZED ICLOUD DRIVE STORAGE WITH A SINGLE CLICK
A big problem with iCloud Drive’s Desktop and Documents Folders synchronization feature is that,
by default, iCloud Drive automatically deletes local copies of files when you start running out of storage – by whatever definition of ‘running out of storage’ macOS internally relies upon. The file still appears to be available, but it’s in iCloud, and if you want to access it, macOS downloads it when you try to open or otherwise manipulate it.
Because any given file could be deleted, you can’t make a full local or cloud-based backup separate from iCloud of all your files. This means you’re relying entirely on Apple, and if you had a problem with your Apple ID or iCloud account, you could wind up losing access to files or having to go
through a tedious problem to regain them. However, there’s a way to avoid this, so long as you have enough storage. In the iCloud system preference pane, click the Options button next to iCloud Drive. At the bottom of the Documents tab’s dialog box, there’s a checkbox labelled Optimize Mac Storage. When this box is checked, which is the default option when enabling iCloud Drive, macOS deletes files as need be. This applies to all iCloud Drive files, including items you place in the folder, apps that use iCloud Drive (and have their box checked in the Documents tab’s list), and Desktop and Documents Folders. But if you uncheck the box, all files remain stored locally. This does defeat one of the major points of the feature, which is managing storage automatically. Since I disagree with that feature from a backup standpoint, I think this is dandy. Your opinion may differ.
The other main benefit of iCloud Drive sync is making these files available in iCloud Drive on other Macs, in iOS, and via iCloud.com.
If you’re going to use the option for sync, I highly recommend disabling Optimize Mac Storage. If you have multiple Macs, you should disable it on all of them, but first be sure that you have sufficient storage on each Mac to handle the full Desktop and Documents folders combined of all your Macs.
CONSOLIDATE MEDIA FROM OLD APPS INTO A SINGLE PHOTOS LIBRARY
If you’ve used previous tools such as iPhoto and Aperture for managing your photos and videos, you
can wind up with many libraries and miscellaneous files, and be unsure whether you have a definitive set of photos that’s not full of wasteful overlaps.
That’s the case for Macworld reader John, who has libraries across several software programs and piles of backups to boot. He’d like to consolidate everything in one place and de-duplicate, so he has an authoritative set. He wonders if he’ll wind up needing a huge drive to manage all this, too.
Apple offers no real help with this, except recognizing duplicates of certain kinds when importing images from another source. You need to turn to third parties for help. My best recommendation here is PowerPhotos from Fat Cat Software, a unique app that contains a lot of tools you might have hoped Apple would have built
into Photos by now, including library merging and de-duplication of media. It’s $30 (around £23) from fave.co/2QtgqQd and it’s worth every penny.
We last reviewed the software at version 1.1 and gave it five stars, and it’s only got better since then. Its developer continues to update it for each macOS release, and is preparing a Mojave version after its release later this year.
Because John (and many of us) have a mix of older libraries and unsorted media, his best option is to upgrade all his iPhoto and Aperture libraries that he believes contain different media to Photos. Photos will create a separate library for each, which is fine. He should also import any miscellaneous images and videos into his main Photos library.
With all these libraries and imports, he should first use PowerPhotos to merge all the libraries into a single massive one via Library > Merge Libraries. John noted he has nearly 3,000 videos and over 60,000 photos already in his Photos library. So this will take a long while.
Once PowerPhotos has merged all the libraries, its de-duplication feature (Library > Find Duplicates) will help find many of the extra copies. In some cases, duplicates are hard to find, because file formats or other characteristics vary. But it’s easy to match files, names, and other characteristics on set of images that are really just copies of each other.
TRANSFER MUSIC BETWEEN TWO iOS DEVICES
File transfers between iOS devices typically rely on iCloud, which can be inefficient if all you have are iOS devices and no desktop to act as a conduit.
Macworld reader Patty wrote in with one such quandary. She has a bunch of music files on her work iPad, but she’s leaving that job and returning it. Patty wants to transfer that music to her personal iPad, but doesn’t own a computer. What to do?
The only way I can think of to transfer without a desktop system is to use iTunes Match, which is £21.99 for a one-year subscription. Even then, this won’t work without a Mac or Windows copy of iTunes in the mix, but I’ll tell you why in a moment.
All the music uniquely on Patty’s work iPad would then upload however quickly her Internet
connection allows. When the upload is complete, as long as the same iCloud account is used on her iPad, she can use the Music app to download music from iCloud Music Library, which contains her whole library. (iTunes Match replaces songs it matches with high-quality versions from the iTunes Store, or uploads the original music files for ones it doesn’t. There are a number of provisos about file size, quality, and other bits you should read to make sure it meets your needs.)
However, and this is a big however, Apple has never provided a ‘download all’ feature in iOS for music file. For photos, you can opt to have iCloud Photo Library download all the original files. But iCloud Music Library lacks a similar option.
There’s a trick that involves temporary use of desktop iTunes, however, that doesn’t require downloading all the music to that Mac. That’s because you inexplicably can’t create smart playlists in iOS, but they sync.
1. Log in to iTunes using the Apple ID associated with the iCloud account used for iTunes Match. (This can happen in a separately created macOS account to avoid any other problems.)
2. In iTunes, select File > New > Smart Playlist.
3. For conditions, set it to Match Music with Time, Is Great Than, 00:00. Make sure the Limit box is unchecked. Check Live Updating.
4. Name it All Songs and click OK.
5. This list now appears in iOS in the Music app, and you can click the Download All cloud button.
6. You can now log out of iTunes (Account > Sign Out).
Apple doesn’t offer a free way to copy personal music from iOS to iTunes on a desktop system – only purchased songs. However, if Patty could gain access to a Mac or PC with iTunes for a little bit, she could purchase and use the iMazing app (£34.99 for a single-user license from fave.co/2x6kajo), which can copy media from iOS to a Mac or PC and back again. It’s expensive for a one-time use, but it may be invaluable here.
USE IOS 12 TO ENTER PASSWORDS ON AN APPLE TV
There’s one Apple TV issue that Macworld readers have dealt with for years: entering passwords. Many tvOS apps rely on a round-trip with a browser instead of a password, providing a code that you enter after using a desktop computer or mobile browser to log into an account. That’s just fine.
With apps that want actual text entered, it’s been frustrating. A few releases ago, Apple linked tvOS and iOS, so that when a text entry field appeared, you received an alert on iOS devices logged into the same Apple ID, and could at least type in from your iPhone or iPad.
You could also enter a password by tapping it in with the keyboard or switching to a password manager app in iOS, finding the account and password, copying the password, switching back, and pasting it in.
In iOS 12, we can finally graduate from that dance or tedium. Apple improved the way in which the QuickType bar above the keyboard works to let you fill in passwords in Safari for iOS and iOS apps – and for tvOS.
Now, when you switch to a password or account entry field in tvOS, your iOS device pops up with a text-entry field and displays the best-matched password in the QuickType bar. You can tap it and then use Touch ID or Face ID to authenticate yourself, or tap the key icon and bring up other passwords, including passwords stored in thirdparty password managers that have released updates to work with iOS 12’s QuickType password feature. That includes LastPass and 1Password.
The next step Apple could take, of course, would be to let tvOS synchronize appropriate iCloud Keychain entries. But this is a very nice step up, especially if you generally use the Remote app for Apple TV instead of the Siri Remote. You’ve already got your iPhone or iPad nearby.
Names have been blurred
You can opt to uncheck Optimize Mac Storage and always keep all iCloudsynced files stored locally
Find Duplicates in PowerPhotos offers a lot of controls for refining what you consider to be a copy
PowerPhotos found a number of matches, and provides details about the nature of them
Make a Smart Playlist that can force iOS to download all iCloud-synced music