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Unlock Your Audience’s Potential With These Technical Writing Best Practices

Unlock Your Audience’s Potential With These Technical Writing Best Practices

As a technical writer, it’s important to understand your audience and the needs of the people you are writing for. Knowing your audience helps you craft content that is engaging, informative, and most importantly—relevant. Here are some tips on how to get to know your audience as a technical writer and ensure that your content resonates with them.

1.Understand Your Readers

The first step in getting to know your readers is understanding who they are. Are they tech-savvy? Are they newbies? What kind of language do they use when talking about technology? Do they have any prior knowledge or experience related to the topic? Understanding these basic facts will help you write in a manner that resonates with your audience and makes it easier for them to understand what you’re trying to convey.

2.Engage with Your Readers

Another great way to learn more about your audience is by engaging with them directly. Commenting on blog posts, participating in online forums, or joining social media groups can help you gain valuable insights into what they’re looking for from a technical writer. Additionally, this type of engagement allows you to build relationships within the industry that could lead to future collaborations or other opportunities down the line.

3.Make Use of Surveys or Focus Groups

If you need more insight into who is consuming your content or who might be interested in consuming it, consider conducting surveys or focus groups. Surveys can help you identify who exactly is reading your material, what topics they find interesting or relevant, and even their background in terms of industry knowledge or experience level if necessary. Focus groups are also helpful if you want a better understanding of how users interact with certain materials or products and what they think about them.

4.Research Your Topic

You should also take the time to research your topic thoroughly before writing about it. Use multiple sources from both online and offline materials, such as books, websites, blogs, and articles. This will ensure that you are getting an accurate account of facts about the topic so that you can provide accurate information for your readers. Additionally, researching thoroughly will give you more insight into how your readers may think or feel about the topic at hand.

5.Incorporate Stories & Analogies

Using stories and analogies is one of the most effective ways to engage with readers and make complex topics easier to understand. Incorporating stories into technical documents gives readers something tangible that they can relate to while also illustrating various points in a more concrete way than just listing off facts. It also helps make dry topics more interesting, which is key when it comes presenting technical content in an engaging manner.

6.Be Transparent About Your Purpose

When creating any kind of written material, make sure that it’s clear from the outset exactly why the document was created and what its purpose is for both readers and writers alike. For example, if someone were reading an instruction manual for using a product, then it should be evident from the start why they are reading it—to learn how to use said product—and how their experience using it could potentially improve after reading said manual. Being transparent about your purpose can help ensure that all readers actually understand what they are reading instead of just skimming through without taking anything away from the document itself.

7.Stay Up-To-Date on Industry Updates

Finally, staying up-to-date on industry updates is essential if you want to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding what your audience wants from a technical writer. Reading industry publications or attending conferences and events are both great ways of doing this. Additionally, subscribing to newsletters or other digital resources can also help keep you informed about any new developments in the field that may be relevant for your readership as well as any changes that could affect how they receive and interact with your content going forward.

Understanding your audience as a technical writer is key to ensuring that all of your written materials resonate with readers on an individual level while still providing them with valuable information that can help them improve their lives in some way or another. To get started, consider researching skills levels and goals associated with each reader group as well as utilizing surveys or focus groups if necessary. Additionally, make sure all documents have an obvious purpose stated at the beginning so that everyone knows why they are reading something before delving into its contents. Doing this will not only increase engagement but also create an overall more positive user experience when interacting with written materials produced by technical writers.

Mastering Micro-Learning for Exceptional Technical Writing

Mastering Micro-Learning for Exceptional Technical Writing

Micro-learning has been gaining popularity in recent years as a way to effectively deliver content in short, easily digestible formats. This type of learning is especially well-suited for technical writing, which often covers complex topics that can be difficult to master. In this blog post, we’ll explore how micro-learning can be used to improve technical writing skills and help writers effectively communicate with their audience.

What is Micro-Learning?

Micro-learning is a term used to describe a learning approach that delivers small, bite-sized pieces of information in a manner that is easily digestible and remembered. This approach is designed to help learners focus on one specific topic at a time and retain information more effectively. micro-learning is also well suited for busy professionals who may not have the time to commit to traditional forms of learning, such as attending a live workshop or taking an online course.

Why Use Micro-Learning for Technical Writing?

Technical writing can be a complex skill to master. Writers must be able to effectively communicate complicated information in a way that is easy for their audience to understand. Using micro-learning can help technical writers hone their skills by breaking down complex topics into small, manageable pieces. Additionally, micro-learning is an effective way to deliver training remotely, which can be especially helpful for writers who work remotely or in different locations.

There are four main elements to micro-learning: short duration, focused content, specific learning objectives, and immediate application. When creating micro-learning content for your documentation, it’s important to keep these elements in mind in order to create an effective and memorable learning experience.

Short Duration: The average attention span of an adult human is eight seconds—that’s shorter than the attention span of a goldfish! So when creating micro-learning content for technical writing, it’s important to keep videos, articles, etc., short and sweet

Focused Content: In addition to being short, micro-learning content should be focused on one specific topic or concept. Trying to cover too much ground in one go is a surefire recipe for confusing your audience and achieving nothing in the end.

Specific Learning Objectives: Every piece of micro-learning content should have a specific goal or objective. What do you want your audience to learn from this particular piece of content? Make sure your answer is clear and concise before moving forward.

Immediate Application: The best way to ensure that your audience remembers what they’ve learned is to provide them with an opportunity to immediately apply what they’ve learned. This could be in the form of a quiz at the end of a video or article, or an interactive element built into the content itself.

By breaking down big concepts into manageable chunks, micro-learning can help make technical writing more accessible and less daunting. When applied correctly, micro-learning can help writers master even the most complex subject matter. And because micro-learning content is typically short and focused, it’s easy for busy professionals to fit into their already packed schedules. If you’re looking for a way to improve your technical writing skills, consider incorporating micro-learning into your professional development plan.

Why Traditional FAQs Don’t Work

In today’s world of 3-second hook points and micro-learnings, the old FAQ just doesn’t cut it anymore. Users no longer have the patience required to read through a document to find their answer and Tech writers need to re-think the FAQ in order to hold their attention. Enter the micro-FAQ.

The micro-FAQ is a new approach to delivering information that is both concise and user-friendly. It’s designed to be read quickly and easily, without all the extra noise and fillers that you typically find in a traditional FAQ. Rather than a long list of questions and answers, the micro-FAQ, disguised as a “Beginner’s Guide” or “Welcome Guide”, delivers information in small chunks that are easy to read and understand. Coupled with engaging graphics and clip art, this format is perfect for users who are looking for quick answers to their questions without having to wade through a lot of unnecessary information.

By anticipating the questions their audience might have, the micro-FAQ allows the tech writer to craft the type of experience the user has with the product and hopefully, prevent calls to the Help Desk.

Plus, micro-FAQs are much easier to keep updated than traditional FAQs. During the pilot phase of the project, the questions that users have will change as features are are approved and enabled. With a micro-FAQ or “Beginner’s Guide”, you can quickly and easily update your answers to reflect these changes, without having to completely overhaul your entire FAQ document.

The traditional FAQ is dead. Long live the micro-FAQ! In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world, tech writers need to rethink the FAQ in order to keep up with the times. Micro-FAQs are shorter, more concise answers to specific questions that are designed to be read quickly and easily. Plus, they’re much easier to keep updated than traditional FAQs. If you’re looking for a way to improve your user experience and keep your FAQ section current, consider making the switch to micro-FAQs today.

Writing for the User Experience: The Three “E”s of Technical Writing

As technical writers, we know that documentation is vital to the user experience but, the best technical writers know that the key to a great UX is to include the three “E”s: expectations, engagement, and empowerment. By keeping these three elements top-of-mind, technical writers can produce documentation that exceeds user expectations, engages them on a personal level, and empowers them to be successful. Let’s take a closer look at each of these three “E”s.

  1. Expectations

The first “E” stands for expectations. It’s important to set the right expectations for your users from the very beginning. For example, if you’re writing documentation for a complex piece of software, it’s important to let the user know that upfront. Otherwise, they may get frustrated when they encounter difficulty using the software and think it’s due to a lack of understanding on their part.

Your users will have expectations too. They expect the document to be clear, concise, and free of errors. They also expect it to be easy to navigate and understand. If your document falls short in any of these areas, users will likely become frustrated and give up on trying to use it.

2. Engagement

The second “E” stands for engagement. In order to keep your users engaged with your documentation, you need to write in a clear and concise manner. Using plenty of headings and subheadings to break up the text will make it easier to scan and don’t forget to include plenty of examples and screenshots to illustrate key points.

In addition, it is also important to engage users on a personal level. One way to do this is by using case studies or real-world examples whenever possible After all, people are more likely to use something if they feel a personal connection to it. When writing your documentation, be sure to use a tone and style that is approachable and relatable. Write like you would speak— without using jargon or overly technical language.

3. Empowerment

The third “E” stands for empowerment. Your goal should be to empower your users with the knowledge they need to be successful. Give them the information they need to complete their tasks efficiently and effectively. Anticipate their questions and concerns ahead of time so that you can address them before they even have a chance to ask In addition, don’t forget to include links to additional resources where users can go for more help if they need it. By empowering your users, you’ll create advocates for your product or service—and for your company as a whole.

The next time you sit down to write some documentation, keep the UX in mind by including the three “E”s: expectations, engagement, and empowerment . . . your users will thank you for it!

The Importance of a UX Approach to Technical Writing

The Importance of a UX Approach to Technical Writing

As IT professionals, we are often asked to document software or hardware functionality for our users. It is important that we approach this task from a user experience (UX) perspective. When we take a UX approach to technical writing, we consider the user’s needs and goals first and foremost. By doing so, we can create documentation that is clear, concise, and easy to use.

Why UX Matters in Technical Writing

User experience is all about meeting the user’s needs in the most effective way possible. When we take a UX approach to technical writing, we think about what the user needs to know in order to use the software or hardware successfully. We also consider how best to present that information so that it is easy to find and understand.

There are a number of benefits to taking a UX approach to technical writing. First, it helps us create documentation that is truly useful to our users. Second, it makes our documentation more user-friendly, which can save our users time and frustration. Finally, it can help reduce support costs by making our documentation easier to use.

Technical writers who adopt a UX approach are better able than ever before meet the needs of their users. They understand how users interact with products and services and can design their documentation accordingly. By empathy with their audience and taking into consideration their level of expertise, task demands, motivation, values etc., technical writers can design clear, concise documentation that is easy for users find what they need and get their job done quickly without frustration. Adopting a UX approach also allows technical writers to collaborate more effectively with other members of the development team such as designers and engineers by providing them with insights based on an understanding of the user’s needs.

When Should You Use a UX Approach?

As IT professionals, we should always be thinking about how we can best meet our users’ needs. However, there are some cases where a UX approach is especially important. For example, when you are creating documentation for new software or hardware, or for complex processes with multiple steps, a UX approach can help ensure that your documentation is clear and easy to follow. Additionally, if you are working on a project with tight deadlines, a UX approach can help you save time by streamlining the documentation process.

A UX approach to technical writing is important because it helps us create documentation that is truly useful to our users. By taking the time to consider what our users need and how best to present that information, we can save time and frustration while also reducing support costs. So next time you’re tasked with creating documentation, remember to put yourself in your users’ shoes and think about how you can best meet their needs. Only then will you be able to create truly great documentation.

WIT: THIS UNLIKELY TECH QUEEN WANTS TO BUILD A NEW GLOBAL HUB IN KYRGYZSTAN

Because behind every great app there’s a great team of back-end developers. Some are where you’d least expect.

By James Watkins of Ozy.com

The blinds are pulled in all the windows of the fifth-floor office. Computer screens and cracks of daylight cast a gray-blue glow, complementing the dark grays and dark purples of mismatched furniture, seemingly thrown together yet too cool to be accidental. The only accents of color are lime greens and bright pinks that dance across screens in lines of computer code. This place has style.

One of several artsy-looking signs on the wall reads “Dance like no one is watching. Encrypt like everyone is.” If I were a location scout for HBO’s Silicon Valley, I’d film the whole damn thing here. But we’re 7,000 miles from California. We’re in Bishkek, the capital of landlocked Kyrgyzstan, at a back-end development hub behind some of Asia’s top apps and tech platforms. Another streak of color? The shock of bright-pink hair on the CEO at the center of the room: Alla Klimenko. Her company, Mad Devs, is a leader in Kyrgyzstan’s burgeoning tech scene, which is increasingly pitching itself as a cheaper alternative to Ukraine, yet more upmarket than India, in the battle to be the brains behind tech titans in Russia, Singapore, Thailand and beyond.

Mad Devs became Mad Devs only about two years ago, but the core team of developers who started the company have been working together for more than a decade. Most recently, they were the development team at Namba, a sort of Netflix-turned-Uber in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan’s most ubiquitous consumer tech company started as an online TV platform, has run an app-based ride-sharing service since 2012 and added food delivery in 2013 (a year before Uber Eats launched). Not satisfied with those challenges, the coders felt they weren’t being given enough to do, says Klimenko, so they started their own company.

It now has more than 50 employees, contracting with Namba as well as Eatigo, a Bangkok-based restaurant booking service with more than a million users across Southeast Asia; Zentist, a Silicon Valley–based dental services platform; an artificial intelligence–meets–blockchain concept called Neureal; and others as far away as the U.K. and Australia. “We don’t work with small projects,” says Klimenko, only meaningful partnerships of six months or more. They don’t have a sales team beyond Klimenko herself, with all their work coming through word-of-mouth.

Tech CEO isn’t the usual career path of 31-year-old Kyrgyz women. Almost all talented young people leave to work in Kazakhstan or Russia, where average wages are four and eight times that of those in Kyrgyzstan, respectively. Klimenko herself spent 18 months working in Almaty, Kazakhstan, returning to Bishkek on weekends. Though the business scene is more developed in Kazakhstan, the region’s economic powerhouse, almost all employees in Kazakhstan’s tech scene are Kyrgyz, says Klimenko. But now, the lack of other opportunities means that tech is one industry where Kyrgyzstan could thrive: “We are hungry,” Klimenko says. “As soon as you give people a chance to earn good money here without leaving the country, they take it.”

That same ambition has driven Klimenko personally as well as professionally. Fiercely independent since childhood, she excelled at physics and mathematics Olympiads as a high school student. Studying computer engineering at university, she was one of the best in her class, and would often be held up as an example to her predominantly male classmates — “Even the girl can do this, and you can’t?” she recalls her teachers saying, though for her it’s more a source of pride than an example of sexism.

Klimenko occupies a strange ideological position on gender politics. She is considering running an all-female intern class next year because she’s convinced that women are usually far better qualified than they say in applications, and yet she doesn’t believe the future is totally female: “There shouldn’t be more women than men” in tech, she says, else “they start to try to dominate each other.”

Klimenko left her first husband (whom she married while still at university) because he wanted her to be a stay-at-home mother; she left her second husband (the father of her 6-year-old son) because he didn’t share her ambition. She is chatty and funny, markedly different from the rest of the employees, whose eyes barely rise from their screens as they eat at their desks. Klimenko hasn’t actually coded since university, after realizing that project management in tech was her forte. It’s “unique” for someone to have Klimenko’s communications and sales skills while still being on the same intellectual level as the coders themselves, says Andrew Minkin, one of Mad Dev’s other co-founders.

Mad Devs is “one of the top local companies” in Kyrgyzstan’s tech scene, says Aziz Soltobaev, co-founder of KG Labs, an organization working to boost the country’s tech infrastructure — although there are a few other companies eyeing international prominence, including software development platform Zensoft. Many of the other leading companies have offices abroad or foreign founders, says Soltobaev, making Mad Devs one of the few to remain in Bishkek. “One of the challenges is a lack of talent,” he says — a problem that Mad Devs tackles by training dozens of unpaid interns in-house, several of whom have no formal training. The team calls their grueling program “The Hunger Games,” which ends with a “hell week” during which the office sofas become makeshift beds. Minkin leads the internship program, mainly because of his size and intimidating physical appearance, says Klimenko.

Of course, it’s still early days for the Mad Devs team, and becoming the go-to back-end development hub for the future economy is a title that emerging economies the world over are fighting for. But if there’s one thing they’ve nailed in the aspiration to bring Silicon Valley to Central Asia, it’s a tribelike company culture. Minkin even has a tattoo featuring the Mad Devs logo. Klimenko’s own tattoo covers her forearm with a “goddess of flame,” and it too was inked with the company in mind — yet another colorful selling point.

App of the Week: Alfred

Ditch Spotlight for this genius universal search bar on Mac

Spotlight is a powerful tool on the Mac, but it doesn’t even compare to the third-party app Alfred and its countless user-developed workflows.

 

By Taylor Martin of CNet

Apple’s Spotlight for Mac is a wonderful tool, but even with Siri and a third-party add-ons coming this fall, Spotlight doesn’t compare to one of my all-time favorite applications, Alfred.

Alfred looks and acts much like Spotlight. But with the add-on Powerpack, it gets a lot smarter. The $22.04 (£17.00 or AU$28.61) app adds “workflows,” which make your Mac do a chain of tasks with one command.

The best workflows for Alfred

If you’re ready to ditch Spotlight, install these add-ons to change the way you use your Mac. Seriously.

To install one of these workflows, follow the link to download it, double-click to open and the workflow will install itself.

  • Google Suggest does exactly what you would expect it to. It puts suggested searches inside Alfred. Press your launch command for Alfred (by default, it’s Options + Spacebar) and type “g” followed by a space. Then type your search query. With each keystroke, the list of suggested searches narrows. Use arrow keys or the hotkey (listed to the right of the result) to select one and load the search results in your default browser.
  • Amazon Suggest is the same thing for Amazon searches. Launch Alfred and type “amazon,” followed by your search query. Highlighting and selecting one of those results will launch the Amazon search in your default browser.
  • Curious how critics feel about a new movie? Use the RottenMovies workflow to find out. Type “rt” followed by the name of the movie. The workflow will search Rotten Tomatoes and you can see the score without ever visiting the website.
  • Sitting at a desk all day, it’s easy to let 10, 20 or even 30 minutes slip by unnoticed.
  • Sometimes you need to set quick reminders for yourself to respond to someone in 20 minutes or check the coffee pot in 5. EggTimer 2 is the perfect workflow for this. Launch Alfred and type “timer 5 Check coffee pot” to set a 5-minute timer with a reminder to check the coffee pot. You can also set alarms for specific times using the same syntax: “alarm 4:00pm Take a break” or “alarm 12:00pm Lunch.”

 

  • When writing, I’m constantly switching between my writing app and Google search for currency and unit conversions. With the Units workflow, I can make those same conversions without ever leaving my writing app. In Alfred, type “units” and type or select what you want to convert from the list of options (length, temperature, currency, etc.). Next type a number and select the starting unit from the options and finally select what you’re converting to. When you hit enter at the end, the conversion is copied to your clipboard for pasting. It will take a few tries to get the process down, but once you do, this is one of the most handy converters around.
  • The Recent Items workflow is great for helping you recall things you have been working on in the last few hours. Install the workflow and launch Alfred, then type “rec.” The workflow will suggest types of recent items, such as applications, downloads, folders or up to two custom items. Select one of the types of files from the selection (or begin typing to narrow the suggestions) and all the recent items of that type will appear. Selecting one will open it.
  • After you get used to a keyboard launcher like Alfred, it’s difficult to break the habit of launching Alfred when you want to do anything, even things that you don’t normally control with Alfred, such as adding new tasks to your task manager. Fortunately, you can add that functionality with workflows for Trello, Wunderlist and Todoist.
  • Sometimes toggling Wi-Fi will fix any connectivity issues you’re experiencing. It’s not a difficult task on OS X, especially with the menu bar icon. However, the Wi-Fi Control makes it a much faster process. You can turn Wi-Fi on or off with the workflow, but you can also restart Wi-Fi (toggle off and back on) with just a few keystrokes.
  • The Kill workflow is easily the one I use the most. If you have a rogue app that gets hung or you need to force quit, launch Alfred, type “kill” followed by the first few letters of the app and press Enter. It will immediately kill any apps or processes.
  • I also do a lot of link shortening for personal analytics. The Shorten URL workflow is fantastic. It includes support for goo.gl, bit.ly, is.gd, j.mp and more. With the workflow installed, launch Alfred and type “short” followed by a space, paste the URL you want to shorten and select the link-shortening service. The shortened link will be copied to your clipboard and automatically pasted wherever your cursor is placed.

 

  • It’s easy to use the same password over and over. But if you use a password manager, quickly generating a new password is the more secure route. With the Password Generator workflow, type “pw” followed by a number for how many digits you’d like the password to have. Press enter and the randomized password will be copied to your clipboard.
  • Sleep is a sleep timer workflow for your Mac. Just type “sleep” followed by the number of minutes you want your computer to stay awake. After the timer finished, the Mac will go to sleep.
  • Who doesn’t love GIFs? Alphy puts Giphy search right inside Alfred. Just type “gif” followed by your search term. Highlight one of the suggestions and press Shift to preview it. Pressing Enter will copy the URL of the GIF to your keyboard, Command + Enter will copy the Giphy URL and Alt + Enter will open the GIF on the Giphy website.
  • There are several ways to quickly insert emoji with a Mac. Emoj is yet another way, and this one comes with search, which means you can find a specific emoji, even when you don’t know its exact name. The downside is that this requires Node to be installed on your Mac.
  • If you’d prefer unicode emoticons over emoji, Dongers is the workflow you’re looking for. Type “dongers” and your search term for a list of relevant emoticons, like the table flip. (ノಠдಠ)ノ︵┻━┻
  • One of the first things I do if my internet connection is having problems is run a speed test. The SpeedTest workflow allows you to do this without loading the speedtest.org site in your browser. Type “speedtest” press enter and wait. When the test completes, you will receive a growl notification with your uplink and downlink speeds, as well as your ping.

Have you tried Alfred? What are some of your favorite workflows? Sound off in the comments below!!

How to: use the extra features packed into Apple’s tiny AirPods

Yes, AirPods are clearly for playing music but you can rapidly choose where that audio comes from —and just what happens when you tap on the AirPods. AppleInsider details all the options.

 

By William Gallagher of Appleinsider

You can be listening to music moments after you first put AirPods into your ear and we may never get used to how great that is. However, just because they are designed so that you can pop them in and go, it doesn’t mean this is all they can do.

AirPods don’t have screens and they don’t have tangible buttons. But, the AirPods themselves and the charging case are replete with functions. You can edit touch controls so that a tap on your right AirPod plays the next track while a tap on the left one calls up Siri.

To help you keep your iPhone in your pocket, Siri can whisper the name of your caller into your AirPods as your phone rings. You can so easily switch to listening to your phone or your iPad.

And you can only slightly-less-easily switch to listening to your Mac, your Apple TV and even your Apple Watch.

No screens

There may not be a screen on these tiny AirPods but if you open their case while you’re next to your iPhone, the phone will display information.

Just opening the AirPod case tells the iPhone to pay attention and shows battery information. You get the current charge of the case and an average of that for the two AirPods. Put one AirPod in your ear and now you get the individual battery charge for each one.

It’s worth checking this instead of relying on that average, too, because very often the two AirPods will have different levels of charge. Even though you always charge them in the case together, one may be significantly lower than the other.

That’s because one of them may have been acting as a microphone when you’ve received phone calls.

You get this information when the AirPods have been paired to your iPhone. If they haven’t been yet, find the small white button at the back of the AirPod case and hold it in.

After a few seconds, this makes the AirPods and their case discoverable over Bluetooth and your phone can find them.

Even when you’ve got them paired, though, that’s not the same thing as having them connected. To quickly connect your AirPods, swipe to bring up Control Center, then tap on the small symbol at top right of the Music section.

This is the quickest way to connect and start playing music to your paired AirPods but there is a slightly longer way around too.

With one exception to do with phone calls, you control all of your AirPods via the Bluetooth preferences in your iPhone’s Settings. Go to Settings, Bluetooth and look for your AirPods in the list of paired devices.

Next to its name there will be a Connected or a Not Connected label. It’s a toggle: tap on Not Connected and it will connect or vice versa.

There is also an Information button to the right. Tap on that and if your AirPods aren’t connected, all you see is an option to Forget this Device.

If they are connected, though, that’s when you get direct access to most of the AirPods’ best features.

Ears and throat

From here you can do the big moves like disconnecting the AirPods or, again, Forget This Device. You can also change the name of your AirPods. By default they’re called your ones, as in “William’s AirPods” or “Rachel’s AirPods”.

If William or Rachel are ever mad enough to give up their precious AirPods and they really, really like you, then you can change the name here.

Toward the foot of the settings page there is an option to have Automatic Ear Detection on. It’s the default but if it’s ever not on, switch it on. This is how the AirPods are allowed to do something with the information that you’ve just picked them up and popped them into your ear.

Similarly, it’s how they are allowed to respond when you take the AirPods out. And it rarely gets better than when you take out one AirPod and the music pauses long enough for you to hear them say “Oh, I didn’t realise you had headphones on”. That never gets old.

There’s also a Microphone option which lets you specify which of your two AirPods acts as a microphone when you’re on a phone call or recording audio.

The default is to have the AirPods themselves decide, to switch automatically to whichever one seems best. The only criteria we can think of is that if, say, the Right AirPod’s battery is low, they could switch to using the Left.

Except the reason that one AirPod’s battery will be lower than the other is that it’s been used as the microphone. So how the AirPods pick which goes first is a mystery.

It’s also hard to think of many situations where it would bother you which was the microphone. The earpiece, yes: if you happen to have poorer hearing in one ear than the other then you would of course choose the other one —except this isn’t about hearing, it’s about speaking.

So just leave this set to the default of Automatically Switch AirPods and move on to your ears.

Left ear, right ear

AirPods respond to your putting them in your ears and taking them out again. They also respond to your finger quickly tapping on them twice. Since you have two AirPods, you can tap on either —and you can choose what happens when you do.

It’s not the greatest selection of options. It would be fun to see what an AirPod equivalent of BetterTouchTool or Keyboard Maestro could do, but for now you get five options per ear.

Three are to do with music. You can set that a double tap means to Play or Pause the music, that it means to skip to the next track or that it means repeat the previous one.

There’s also a Siri option. Select this and whenever you double tap on an AirPod, it will pause whatever you’re listening to and wait for you to ask Siri to do something.

The fifth option is just Off. That may be the dullest menu item Apple’s ever done.

Not all

All of these settings are done in the Bluetooth section of your iPhone’s settings. However, there is one more option you can set for your AirPods which needs you to go somewhere else.

Go to Settings, Phone. The first option under the Calls section is Announce Calls and normally it’s set to Never.

Tap on that line, though, and you can change it to have Siri announce your phone calls in three different circumstances. One is always, absolutely every time your phone rings. The others are to do with when you’re wearing AirPods —or any headphones —or you’re driving with CarPlay.

Whenever it’s set to announce your calls, that’s exactly what it does. You hear the ringing start and then Siri says the name of the caller if they’re in your Contacts.

It’s a bit quiet, to be fair. Or our ring tone is a little loud. We’re not sure which.

However, what it means is that you can leave your phone in your pocket and not even have to peek to see who’s calling. You do have to take it out if you want to answer but then you can pop it right back in your bag while you take the call on your AirPods.

Apple Watch

Of course, if you’re fully Apple-compliant then as well as AirPods you’ve got your Apple Watch. Then a turn of your wrist will show you who’s phoning and that probably means the audio announcement isn’t very useful.

When you tap on the Watch to accept the call, though, you can take it on the Watch or you can use your AirPods. If they’re connected to the Watch.

Whatever Apple Watch you have, there is music on it if you’ve also got an Apple Music subscription. You can leave your phone at home and tell the Watch to play music direct to your AirPods.

Back to the Mac

One oddity is that it’s still hardest to link AirPods to your Mac. It’s not as if it’s actually difficult: you click on the Bluetooth icon in your menubar then select the AirPods and choose Connect.

Only, it doesn’t always work. Why this should be the case with AirPods and not other Bluetooth devices is unfathomable but it regularly takes two or three attempted connections before we can be listening to our Mac over our AirPods.

Plus when you’re used to how quickly you can go between iPhone and iPad, it’s oddly slow going to the Mac. There is a workaround, though: a $2.99 menubar app called ToothFairy sorts it out. With a click on the menubar icon or the press of a keystroke, ToothFairy connects your AirPods to the Mac immediately.

Completing the picture

When you start listing all these Apple devices out, you do wonder how you ended up paying one firm all this money. However, if you also have an Apple TV then AirPods are now able to connect to them much more easily.

Originally, you had to go through the Apple TV’s Bluetooth settings. You’d go to that, then press-and-hold the button on the AirPod case until they were discoverable. Then the AirPods would appear on the Apple TV’s list of devices and you could choose to pair them.

That doesn’t sound like a big deal, not when it’s identical to the way you pair to a new iPhone, but it always seemed to take us a few goes to get it working right.

Whereas now, you can simply press and hold the Play/Pause button on your Apple TV Siri remote. That opens up a list of all audio devices attached or reachable on your Apple TV. When you flip open the case of your AirPods, they appear on the screen and you just select them.

When you’re at that screen, you can also press and hold on the selected audio device which will then change to a volume control. Considering that just using the remote control’s volume up and down buttons will do the same thing, it’s not the most use.

Perhaps none of these AirPod options on their own is going to shake the world but it is astonishing how much flexibility and functionality these things have.

And that’s even before next year’s rumored updates.

What’s your favorite feature of the AirPods? Tell us about it in the comments below!!

Weekly Round Up 9/7/18

 

 

Especially coming from a guy as corrupt at Ajit Pai…

The FCC chief’s call for cracking down on tech companies is not only laughable, it’s the ‘height of hypocrisy’

 

Here’s hoping one of them is designed to keep the Kardashians off the air…
10 Takeaways From Variety’s Entertainment and Tech Summit

 

The red tape alone is ging to take a millenium to get through…
A 22-year Apple veteran explains why Silicon Valley’s ‘fast fail’ approach won’t work with health tech

 

We were fools to think it could.

Now We Know Tech Won’t Save Us

 

Watson, you sneaky, little bastard…
IBM used NYPD surveillance cameras to develop facial recognition tech

 

If it helps produce more “People of Walmart”, it’s all good…
Exclusive: Walmart’s Tech Arm is Adding 100+ Jobs in Reston

 

Who needs eyesight when you’ve got Alexa & Siri?
Small screen, big problem: what tech is doing to your eyesight

 

I’m sorry, what did you say? I was checking my Facebook…

Google researchers say the tech industry has contributed to an ‘attention crisis’

Tales form the Orchard: What to expect from Apple’s September 12 ‘Gather round’ event

 

 

By Christian de Looper of Digital Trends

It’s that time of year again. Apple has sent out invitations for its annual September event, where we’ll likely see a new set of iPhone devices, a new Apple Watch, and possibly a range of other devices too. The event itself is set to take place on September 12 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, though no matter where you live you should be able to live-stream it for yourself.

What exactly will Apple announce? We’ve been following rumors surrounding all the upcoming products for the past year, and we’ve rounded them up into this short, handy guide. Here’s everything we expect to see at Apple’s “Gather Round” event.

THREE IPHONES

Last year, Apple unveiled the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus. This year, rumors suggest it will announce three different models again. Apple is expected to fully adopt the edge-to-edge design seen on the iPhone X for all models of the iPhone (including the notch). Thankfully, they won’t all cost $1,000. Apple will reportedly release two successors to the iPhone X, dubbed the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, and they will be sized at 5.8 inches and 6.5 inches. Apple will also release a 6.1-inch model, which is expected to be the cheapest of the lot. It will also have an edge-to-edge display with a notch, but the main difference will stem from the use of a LCD screen instead of OLED used on the other two.

The new iPhone XS devices are expected to arrive in a new gold color model, alongside an updated processor, eSIM support, a potential Lightning to USB Type-C cable, and more. The prices are rumored to range from $650 to $1,000.

APPLE WATCH SERIES 4

Just like it did last year, Apple is expected to release a new Apple Watch alongside the new series of iPhones. The Apple Watch Series 4 will retain many of the features of the Apple Watch Series 3, but it’s expected to include a display that’s larger by as much as 15 percent — making it an edge-to-edge display, like that on the iPhone X.

Other rumors about the watch indicate Apple may do away with the Wi-Fi model altogether — leaving only the LTE model (you will likely still be able to use Wi-Fi without paying for LTE with this model). It may also feature a UV sensor, and will run Apple’s latest version of watchOS 5.0.

MACBOOK AIR

Apple has long been expected to release a new low-cost MacBook, and rumors indicate the company will introduce a refresh of the MacBook Air. The new device is expected to feature Intel’s 8th-generation processors, along with a larger display. The updated computer will reportedly get a 13-inch Retina display, and will likely feature modern ports, like USB-C.

Not much else is known about the new laptop, except for the fact that it will most likely come at a starting price of around $1,000. It’s also not totally certain the new MacBook Air will be released at this September event. Instead, it could show up in October.

MAC MINI

Apple may also be planning a long-awaited refresh of the Mac Mini — and it’s about time, considering the computer was last updated in 2014. There will likely be quite a few performance upgrades. Apple will probably adopt Intel’s eighth-generation chips for the computer, and may do away with outdated hard drives in favor of only solid-state options. On top of that, while Apple may not completely revamp the design, it will likely at least update the port selection on the computer to include a few USB-C ports.

When it comes to pricing, the new Mac Mini may start in the $1,000 price range, and will range up from there. Like the MacBook Air, however, there’s no certainty that the Mac Mini will show up at the September 12 event — it may well instead be released later in the year.

IPAD PRO 2018

Another rumor to have popped up in recent days is that Apple will update the iPad Pro. It’ll be more than just a spec-bump too — rumors indicate Apple will give the iPad Pro the iPhone X treatment, with slimmer bezels around the screen, as well an updated A-series processor, and perhaps even a little more RAM.

With the new design, there may be no more home button, which means Face ID may replace Touch ID. That may be a double-edged sword, though, as rumors suggest Face ID might only work in vertical mode — meaning you won’t be able to dock the iPad to a keyboard and unlock it with your face. Apple may move the Smart Connector to the bottom of the iPad, so manufacturers may need to build new keyboards.

AIRPOWER

Apple officially announced the AirPower charger almost a full year ago, but the charger has yet to be released. When it is, AirPower will be able to charge up to three devices at a time — meaning in the evening you can plop down your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods to charger — and they’ll be good to go in the morning. It’s using unique technology that will be able to identify the products and provide the correct amount of energy needed.

While we’re not completely certain AirPower will see the light of day at Apple’s upcoming event, we certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see it.

OPERATING SYSTEM RELEASES

Alongside new hardware, Apple will also release new software to the public. A few of those releases are all but definite. There’s iOS 12, which will be released likely on September 12 itself. You can check out our hands-on review for all the details on what’s new.

Next up is watchOS 5, which is also likely to be pushed to Apple Watch users on September 12 or soon after. The new operating system boasts a few improvements to watchOS and how it works, including better health and fitness tracking, Walkie Talkie mode, Siri Shortcuts, and more. On top of that, Siri will be better at listening to your needs — you’ll no longer need to say “Hey Siri” to activate her. Instead, simply hold your wrist up to your mouth, and Siri should be listening.

Last but not last is macOS, which is being updated to macOS Mojave. It’s expected that the new macOS will be released alongside new Apple computers — meaning it’s not a certainty that the new operating system will be released at this event. Still, if it is, macOS users will enjoy a number of new features, including a new Dark Mode, a revamped App Store, and Stacks, which are automatically arranged groups of files on the desktop.

 

What are you looking forward to the most from Apple’s upcoming Media Event? Sound off in the comments below!!

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