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The Awesomeness of iCloud

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iCloud is a suite of online cloud hosting and software tools available to anyone with an Apple ID.  It is free, easy to set up, and practically a requirement for anyone that owns any iDevice.  Yet, despite all of its awesomeness, iCloud remains severely underused.  In this tutorial I will show you how to:

  • Build a Numbers, Keynotes, or Pages document from any computer by only using your web browser
  • Back up your iPhone, iPad, or other iOS device wirelessly
  • Use Back to My Mac to access your home or office Mac from any other Mac
  • Use Find My iPhone to recover missing or stolen iDevices

Screencast


Building an iWork Document in the Cloud

If you have ever had the need to access a document only to realize your computer isn't with you at the moment, then this feature alone will be a virtual lifesaver!   Thanks to the magic of iCloud, you can create, edit, or even show your iWork documents from any connected computer.  Even a PC!

I'll show you how to build a Keynote presentation from scratch.

Open a web browser and head over to icloud.com.  As soon as you finish logging in with your Apple ID, click on the Keynote icon.

The Keynote icon at icloud.com

Click the + Create Presentation button and then double click on your desired theme.  You will be presented with a user interface that looks incredibly like that of the native Keynote application.

Starting a new Keynote presentation in iCloud

From here, you can edit the presentation any way you wish.  I'll add a title and sub-header.  Then I'll add an additional slide with a picture or two on it.

Keynote in iCloud continued

Once you're completely satisfied with the presentation, you can display it directly from iCloud by hitting the play button or share a copy using the share button.  Using the tools menu, you can even download, print, or email a copy to yourself.  The user interface is incredibly powerful!

In fact, there are only a few things that I have noticed are available in the native application that aren't available in the iCloud version.  They're the ability to animate specific images or text and the ability to alpha mask images.

Backup Your iDevice to iCloud

If you've ever lost all of your contacts, or other information from your phone, you know the value of timely consistent backups.  iCloud couldn't make those backups easier.  In fact, if you are dealing with a new device, you will be offered the option to both sign into iCloud and set up wireless backups as part of the setup process.  I would strongly advise you take advantage of this offer at that time.

But, you may not have a new device or you may have declined iCloud backups during new device setup.  If that is the case, you can still set things right!

On your iDevice, go to the Settings menu, then the iCloud sub menu.  If you haven't already signed into iCloud on your phone, do so now.  Scroll to the very bottom of the iCloud menu and access the Storage & Backup sub menu.

Wirelessly backing up your iDevice to iCloud

Under the Backup heading, make sure iCloud Backup is switched on.  If you aren't sure when your last backup was done, you may want to also click on the Back Up Now link to start your first one.

Use Back to My Mac for Easy Remote Access

Back to My Mac is probably one of the most valuable, yet underused features of iCloud.  If you own more than one Mac and struggle with keeping everything in sync or accessing the programs that you have on one or the other, you'll love this feature!

To set up Back to My Mac, launch the System Preferences panel and choose iCloud.  Scroll to the bottom of the list and look for Back to My Mac.  Make sure the box next to it is checked.

Setting up Back to My Mac

NOTE:  You must complete the steps listed above on all computers you wish to access via Back to My Mac.  Both the Mac you are accessing and the computer you are using to access it must be logged into iCloud and have Back to My Mac switched on.

Now that I have setup Back to My Mac on both my Macbook Air and iMac, I will access one from the other.

Launch the Finder application and scroll down the sidebar on the left until you find the Shared section.  You should see all of the computers or drives with Back to My Mac listed there.

Finding other computers you can connect to via Back to My Mac

Click on the computer you'd like to access.  Then click on the share screen button to launch a screen share session between the computer you are working on and the computer you are accessing.

Screen sharing via Back to My Mac

After the connection is established, you'll be presented with a screen that shows the current display of your other computer.  You can then use your mouse and keyboard to do what needs to be done on the remote Mac.

Also, if you happen to own a TimeCapsule you can enable Back to My Mac there as well to access any files you may have stored there.  It is a great way to ensure you have access to important files anytime you need them without taking up room on your computer's hard drive.

Use Find My iPhone to Recover Missing Devices

There are few things in life more panic-inducing than the loss of your personal electronics.  Especially those that contain personal pictures, information, or contacts.  That is why Find my iPhone is such an invaluable part of the iCloud experience.  And despite the name, it isn't just for finding lost iPhones.  You can register just about any Apple device!

To set up Find My iPhone on your Mac computer, launch System Preferences.  Then click on iCloud and scroll to the bottom of the menu.  Look for the Find My Mac option and ensure it is enabled.

Setting up Find my Mac

To enable Find My iPhone on any of your iDevices, go to Settings and then iCloud.  Scroll to the bottom of the screen and make sure Find My iPad/iPhone is enabled.

Setting up Find my iDevice

Once all of your Mac computers and iDevices are setup, they can be located via iCloud.  

Open your favorite web browser and point it to icloud.com . Log in and select the Find My iPhone option.  You will be presented with a map that has green dots scattered about it.  Each of those green dots represents one of your iDevices that is on and reporting in.  

Finding your devices on icloud.com via the Find my iPhone web application

You can click on any of those green dots, then the info icon that appears to see even more options.  You can implement safety protocols like:

  • Play Sound
  • Lost Device Mode or
  • Erase Device

All of these above options are great tools in the battle against theft of your personal devices!

Conclusion

iCloud is a powerful suite of tools that Apple gives you completely free of charge.  If you aren't taking advantage of each and every one of them, then you are missing out.  Log in, setup, and start enjoying the connected life you were meant to live!

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