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6 iPhone hacks to make you more productive

There are so many productivity tips for iPhone users. Here’s a brand new collection of them.

Save (almost) anything as a PDF

The easiest way to save anything you can print from your iPhone or iPad as a PDF isn’t particularly clear, but this is a great way to gather copies of almost anything and is as simple as:

  • Open the item you want to save.
  • Tap Share and select Print.
  • When the print dialog appears you’ll see a preview of the item you wish to print. Tap this with two fingers and spread them out.
  • The preview should grow to fill the page. Congratulations – you just made a PDF.
  • Tap the Share icon and you can now save this item to Files.

Create meeting transcripts the easy way

Are you responsible for writing the minutes of meetings? Perhaps you’re a student wanting accurate lecture notes, or a researcher trying to transcribe lengthy discussions?

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The easiest way to transcribe on your iPhone is to use the app.

This works using the microphone on your device, uploading recordings to the service which then transcribes them in real time.

Once fully transcribed you’ll receive a notification and you can search and surf through those transcriptions on your device. You can also export them in various formats. It is also possible to upload recordings (such as recorded calls) to the service for transcription.

While I do find it necessary to work through and correct transcriptions this is way easier than doing the task manually and I find it incredibly useful.

[ Further reading: The wireless road warrior’s essential guide ]

Say it don’t write it

Your iPhone isn’t just good for asking Siri silly questions, it’s a quite capable dictation device. You can even use it to dictate letters, scribble thoughts or write for other reasons while on the move – just ask Siri to open your writing app (Word?) and then tap the microphone icon on the keyboard that appears and dictate away. Yes, you’ll probably need to learn Apple’s built-in dictation commands (there’s a handy list of these here), and you will need to double-check your document for accuracy, but using this feature frees you to work in different environments in places you choose.

NB: Don’t neglect that you can also use Siri to write and send mail and messages, but I imagine most of us already do that, at least to some extent.

Automate the simple things

The number of emails we receive that state “Sent from my iPhone” is the number of people who have not yet managed to set their device up to automatically write a signature at the end of their email. It’s simple to do:

  • Open Settings>Mail>Signature.
  • Choose if you want to use the same signature from All Accounts or Per Accounts for emails sent from your device.
  • You must then create a relevant signature for each account, or one generic signature for each account using the dialog boxes you’ll find.

This one simple step will make your communications look more professional. And leads you nicely onto another form of automation that makes sense:

Text Replacement (Settings>General>Keyboard>Text Replacement).

This lets you create text shortcuts for complex phrases or sentences.

Open it and you will see some of Apple’s oven-ready Text Replacement set ups. Choose a Shortcut, such as “Monitoring form question 3” and then in the Phrase box you can create the block of text for the task.

Neutralize Notifications

Why not trim your Notifications?

For example, I only receive email notifications from people I keep in my VIP list, and only see on-screen app notifications from the apps I most need to know about, primarily communications but also project-related apps, such as Slack or Trello.

To achieve this I thought about the nature of notifications.

  • Urgent apps I set to provide notifications on the Lock screen, Notification Center and Banners with (perhaps) Sound and Badges enabled.
  • Less urgent apps get granted Lock screen and Notification Center privileges, with (perhaps) Sound and Badges enabled.
  • Any of the remaining apps that are slightly worth watching are only granted Badges with everything else disabled.
  • And all the other apps have all notifications disabled. And I’ve probably disabled Location services for them, too.

It is a little tedious setting this up if you have a lot of apps – you need to open Settings>Notifications and then set the relevant permission for each app. You should then make sure to set this up for any new apps you install.

The beauty is that once you have done this then you’ll never miss an important notification and will know that if you are alerted by an app then it is probably one you want to know about.

It really is time to use Do Not Disturb mode

Shut everything out while you try to focus.

Open Control Center, tap the half-moon icon to silence calls, alerts, and notifications until you tap to switch them on again. Better yet, given you might forget to exit Do Not Disturb mode, tap and hold the Do Not Disturb icon and then choose a duration to silence it all.

  • For 1 hour.
  • Until this evening.
  • Until I leave this location.
  • Schedule your own

You may also benefit from using the Be Focused focus timing app to help you optimize the work you get done while in Do Not Disturb mode with its concentration tips.