Make more of El Capitan & iOS 9: essential tips and tricks

T3 digs even deeper into the latest versions of OS X and iOS to bring you a second helping of tips and tricks

We didn't quite have room in our earlier feature for every great feature of El Capitan. So, we've picked the best of the rest that are worth explaining in greater detail – among them, amendments to AutoFill, some extra settings for Safari's Smart Search, and a means to get rid of files without first putting them in the Trash. We'll also show you how to get back a gesture that appears to be missing if you've done a clean install.

Enhanced Autofill

AutoFill's convenience is undeniable, but there are times when it doesn't recognise that you've saved sign-in details for a form on a site you're viewing. If this happens in Safari 9, look for a key icon at the right-hand side of the password field.

Clicking the key reveals a menu that gives you the ability to choose from known credentials – not just those you've saved for the site you're using, but also from your entire AutoFill keychain; so, if you use the same credentials for more than one site (a potential security risk, though many of us do it), this enables you to easy enter them on a site whose sign-in form AutoFill works poorly with.

Similarly, Safari sometimes would not recognise the field for entering a new password on a page for entering a new one, and so it would not offer a suggested strong one. In that case, click the key to find an option to generate one.

Make Safari 9 work better for you

Hide frequently visited pages

The previous version of Safari introduced a new way of presenting your favourite sites, displaying them as site icons when you clicked the Smart Search field. Below those sites you purposefully added to your list of favourites, the app presents your frequently visited sites. You're able to remove pages that appear in that area, but they might return after repeated visits. While Safari 9 lacks an option to, you can now disable the list of frequently visited pages by clearing the check mark next to Bookmarks > Show Frequently Visited in Favorites.

Repeat last search

After entering search terms into Safari 9's Smart Search field, the browser shows suggestions of what you might be looking for. If none of them looks suitable, press [Return] to submit your terms to your chosen search engine, just like in previous versions of the app. What's new is that if your search engine returns results that look worse than Safari's original suggestions, click the Smart Search field again (or press [Command]+L if you're a fan of keyboard shortcuts) and you'll find that Safari has remembered your previous input and displays its previous suggestions again.

Make more of Markup, Maps and more

Split View of one app

Although Apple describes Split View as being a way to put two apps side by side with an appearance similar to full-screen mode, this new feature doesn't restrict you to showing two different apps; you can put two windows from the same app side by side.

This is useful with Finder when archiving contents from your Mac's internal storage to another drive, to look at two revisions of a Pages document together, or to refer to a copy of a Numbers spreadsheet to look up and type cell references in the master.

Rotate annotations

You have a greater degree of control over the presentation of any annotations you add to images or PDFs in Preview or using the Markup tool in Mail – provided your Mac has a trackpad. Select all or just some of your annotations and then twist two fingers on the trackpad's surface to rotate them through 360 degrees. There are no shortcuts to snap to multiples of 90 degrees, but this should make it easier for you to squeeze notes into margins so they can be printed.

AirPlay from QuickTime

HTML5 video in Safari isn't the only kind of video that can be streamed to Apple TV using AirPlay. This capability is also available in QuickTime Player 10, so any video you can open in that app can be streamed over your network to a very large screen. With a file open in QuickTime, look for the familiar AirPlay icon towards the right-hand side of the playback controls. Click it to see a list of AirPlay video receivers on your network, then click the name of one of them to start broadcasting to it.

Station maps

In the Maps app, switch to the new Transit view and search for a station in London, which is currently the only city in the UK to offer the feature we're going to look at – (or another city listed here). In both the 2D and 3D views, zoom in close enough to a station or stop – for bus or rail, in London's case – and you'll see a peach-coloured outline of the station building, as well as any underground tunnels it incorporates. It's not just the names of the station and businesses within it that are marked – entrances are also shown to help you spot which is nearest – potentially handy for avoiding the drizzly weather.

Clicking on the station's name will reveal the station's place card, complete with departure times. However, make note that some stations display more than one icon next to their name for the different networks that serve them. London Victoria, for example, displays icons for national rail services and the underground. However, when you click on it and then click the i in a circle on the popover that appears, the station's card displays the number of minutes until the next few trains on the Gatwick Express. Further down the card, look for Connections and click the i next to it to see times to departures for each of the underground lines that run through the station. All of these features are available on iOS 9 as well.

A missing trackpad gesture

If you've performed an in-place upgrade, you might not even notice this change. However, if you've done a clean install or just bought a Mac, you might wonder why the three-finger drag gesture has disappeared from your Trackpad's preferences pane. It hasn't been removed from OS X altogether; Apple simply moved it to the Accessibility pane, despite it being yet another of those settings that is more broadly useful than that location suggests. In that pane, click Mouse & Trackpad, then Trackpad Options, turn on Enable Dragging and set it to 'three finger drag'.

System Integrity protection

This new security measure is intended to protect OS X – its system files and running processes – from modification, either by malicious software or accident. This has consequences for certain software.

On the more obvious end of the scale, software such as WinClone can still make a backup image of a Mac's Boot Camp partition easily enough, but when you try to restore the image you might see a warning that System Integrity Protection must be disabled.

Tools whose impact would seem less dramatic are also affected. For example, it's no longer permitted for processes to attach to system-level ones, so tools like TotalFinder can't piggyback on the Finder to enhance it.

System Integrity Protection can be disabled, though it's not recommended on a permanent basis. Start your Mac in its Recovery system by holding [Command]+R at the startup chime. Choose Utilities > Terminal from the menu bar, then enter csrutil disable; reboot. Perform whatever you needed in OS X proper, then return to the Recovery system to re-enable the feature using the command csrutil enable; reboot. If you're uncertain that you turned System Integrity Protection on again, open Terminal in OS X proper and type csrutil status. Apple's technical documentation for System Integrity Protection is here.

Speedier syncing of iCloud Drive

OS X Server 5's Caching service has a new feature that's easily overlooked because it has no visible controls in the management app. However, if you're a heavy user of iCloud Drive, especially if it's to move very large files from your iMac to a MacBook before you head out with the latter, this feature stands to save you a lot of time – and possibly internet bandwidth, too – on waiting for things to sync up to iCloud and then back to your other devices. That's because the Caching service now automatically caches some personal data from iCloud for use by devices on your local network. Just as there's little mention of this in OS X Server itself, there's also little documentation about it besides a brief mention here. You can see how much disk space cached iCloud data takes up in the Caching service's capacity bar.

New Dictation workflows

Last issue we mentioned that El Capitan includes a bunch of new Dictation Commands, including some for not only searching with Spotlight, but for navigating and inspecting whatever results it finds – and there's more! First, make sure you have turned on Enhanced Dictation in System Preferences > Dictation & Speech.

Next, go to the Accessibility pane, scroll down to Dictation, optionally set a dictation phrase, then click Dictation Commands. Put a check mark next to 'Enable advanced commands' and click the + button that then appears above it. Now you can define a custom phrase that, when you say it, will trigger a workflow. That's not what's new, though.

Set the command to work in all apps or a specific one, then click the pop-up next to Perform and select Run Workflow. You'll see a list of premade workflows that are newly provided by Apple as part of El Capitan. The first three, for starting a new audio, video or screen recording in QuickTime, might save you clicking about in that app if you use those capabilities a lot. It's the ones that control iTunes that are perhaps of broader appeal, especially if you use a Mac as a media centre in your living room.

If you're interested in learning about AppleScript to expand upon these behaviours, select one, click the Save Workflow As button that appears, then open the workflow in Automator.

Bypass the Trash when deleting files

Want to permanently get rid of files without putting them in the Trash and emptying the whole thing? Select the things you want to delete, hold [Alt] and then pick File > Delete Immediately, or simply press [Alt]+[Command]+[Backspace] to remove the selection. However the latter can be a little too easy to trigger, so if you tend to mix up shortcuts you might want to assign a key combination you're less likely to press by accident. To do that, go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > App Shortcuts, click the + button, pick Finder, enter 'Delete Immediately…' (use [Alt]+; to type the ellipsis) and assign a more complex combo.

Write a disk image to a CD or DVD

If you're used to burning disk images to optical media using Disk Utility, you might already have noticed the revamped version of that app no longer includes such functionality – but you don't need it there because it can be done from Finder. When you [Ctrl]-click an item in Finder, the wording of the option to burn whatever is selected changes when a disk image, such as a .dmg or a .iso file, is selected. Rather than 'Burn Items to Disc', the wording of the option will change to 'Burn Disc Image to Disc' – that is, not the image as a file, but its contents.

Hey Siri on the iPhone 6s

The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus have a big advantage where Siri is concerned. On those models, the ability to interact with the voice-controlled assistant by saying “Hey Siri” doesn't require the iPhone to be connected to an external power supply. (Fitting a battery case to older models gives the same result.) This makes Siri more convenient when you need to, say, add something to your shopping list and your phone is across the room.

However, there will be times when you don't want Siri to listen – many of us have, at some point, said something that the handset thinks sounds like “Hey Siri”, even if you know those definitely aren't the words you spoke. There's also the risk that someone nearby might utter the phrase, maybe even as a joke, causing your phone to respond; the short training sequence that Siri undergoes when you enable “Hey Siri” states it'll help Siri to recognise your voice when you say the magic words – but that isn't to say it'll pair Siri to only respond to you.

The way to ensure no scenario of this kind can play out is, quite simply, to lie your iPhone 6s or 6s Plus face down.

Quick access to Music

When you connect headphones with a cable or using Bluetooth, iOS recognises that you might want to listen to some music. So, for your convenience it will display the Music app's icon at the bottom-left corner of the Lock screen (swipe up to go to the app) or, if your iPhone is already unlocked, open the App Switcher (with a double-click of the Home button or a hard press or swipe in from the left edge of the screen on an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus). At the bottom of the App Switcher, tap the shortcut to the Music app, which shows which headphones audio will be sent to.

Live Photos gets smarter

The Live Photos feature introduced on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus initially recorded video either side of the still photo even if you were raising or lowering your phone. That could potentially ruin some otherwise nice shots. Rather than giving you the option to manually trim unwanted bits, iOS 9.1 analyses data from your phone's sensors to determine movement that you're unlikely to want to see and will excise those frames, making your Live Photos something you want to watch from start to finish. Say goodbye to seeing your feet on an otherwise attractive Lock screen.

Set the initial style for Notes

The much improved Notes app includes a selection of predefined text styles, enabling you to prettify text with a title, headlines, body text and three list styles. If you go to Settings > Notes, you can choose which of the first three of those styles is automatically applied to the first line of any note you create. With Title or Headline selected, pressing Return at the end of the first line will switch to typing subsequent lines in the Body style until you choose another by tapping the + and then the Aa symbol above the keyboard to choose a style.

Save a web page to iBooks

When you tap the Share icon in Safari, you can save the current page to iBooks as a PDF. This won't necessarily preserve the page's formatting. If you want that and don't care about keeping pages around in the long term, it's still better to add them to Reading List, which stores a copy for reading offline. Don't be put off saving a page as a PDF. It's not as accurate as Safari on the Mac's option of saving a proper archive, but view a page in Safari Reader (using the paragraph icon in the Smart Search field) then save that view as a PDF and you'll get a nicer looking document.

Knock notifications into shape

Just like in El Capitan, there are three different ways to sort items in Notification Centre. However, these options are presented slightly differently in iOS.

Go to Settings > Notifications and tap the Sort Order item. You have a choice of two settings: Recent and Manual. The latter is equivalent to Manually by App in OS X, of course. If you choose it, a list of apps appears lower down on the same page. Drag from the grab handles to the right of each app to set the order in which you want their notifications to be listed in Notification Centre. Notifications are then grouped by app, and displayed in reverse chronological order in each group.

It's the other option that works slightly differently in iOS – rather than there being two additional sort order options like in OS X (Recents and Recents by App), there's just one plainly labelled Recent. With this selected, go back to the main page and you'll see a Group by App switch just below the Sort Order setting.

So, iOS does have the same two additional options, but the result you get is a combination of two intertwined controls. When Group by App is off, the sort order is equivalent to the plain Recents option on the Mac, putting your notifications in strict reverse chronological order. When it's on, a new notification from Messages, say, will move all of its unattended notifications to the top of the list. You might prefer the latter if any notification from a particular app is important, rather than rigidly attending to things by time received.

3D Touch's Quick Actions

Many of the items that show up in Quick Actions (when you press hard on an app's icon on the Home screen when using an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus) are predefined shortcuts to features. However, for some apps what is listed can be changed. This ranges from Reminders – where all four items are links straight to lists in the corresponding first four positions within the app – to Mail, where the fourth item alone can be customised by tapping Edit at the list of mailboxes, followed by Add Mailbox, picking one and then dragging it to the top of the list of mailboxes.

Picture in Picture

Though it's hard to discover, there's a slightly faster and less frictious way to switch from full-screen video playback in Safari or the Videos app to Picture in Picture mode video (available on the iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4 and iPad Pro). Rather than tapping once on a full-screen video to reveal playback controls and then again on the specific control that pulls it out of its parent app into a small thumbnail in the corner of the screen, simply double-tap on the full-screen video with two fingers. Repeat the gesture on the shrunk-down video to return to full-screen playback.

Frequently visited sites

Just like Safari on the Mac, there might be times when you don't want friends or other family to see what pages you've been visiting a lot – perhaps because you don't want to give away what your kids are getting for Christmas, for example. So, you can hide the frequently visited sites that are listed below your favourite sites when you tap the Smart Search field. Open Settings, scroll down to and tap Safari near the bottom of the fifth group down, then scroll down to the group headed General and turn off the switch labelled Frequently Visited Sites.

Home Sharing

Home Sharing allows you to browse and stream music and video stored in iTunes on a Mac or PC to your iPhone. Sadly, the ability to use it for music was removed in iOS 8.4. Apple promised it would return, and that's the case with iOS 9. Go to Settings > Music on your iOS device, scroll down and look for your Apple ID's email address under the Home Sharing heading, or tap Sign In there and enter your credentials. Once signed in, open iTunes on your Mac, switch to the Music app's My Music tab, tap where the current view (Artists, for example) is listed, select Home Sharing, then choose a library.