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Become Tech Savvy: Navigating iOS with ease – 9 to 5 Mac


First time checking out this series? You’ll get the most value by starting at the beginning, however you can also use the series overview if you’d like to go buffet style.

Note for regular readers, the already tech savvy, and IT professionals: this series is designed as a resource you can share with those you are helping or for those looking to become tech savvy on their own.

How to navigate iOS with confidence and ease

Background, Expectations, & Best Practices

Now that we’ve got the priorities of backing up your information and password management addressed it’s time to focus on becoming more confident in the everyday use of your devices. In today’s post we’re going to focus on the iOS user interface.

If you’re not already familiar, iOS is the operating system for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Apple is often known for having the most friendly and easy to use mobile operating system on the market. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a learning curve or that everything is obvious.

One of the issues we’ll address in this article is understanding the different features that are a part of iOS so you can use them intentionally instead of finding yourself frustrated by accidentally invoking them.

One quick tip before we dive in, if you feel like your touch screen doesn’t work as well as you think it should, try tapping with more finesse. Apple’s touch screens are so responsive often times people have issues when tapping or pressing too firmly. Also, the images below show an iPhone, but the exact same steps apply for iPad, it will just look a bit different on a larger screen.

Home screen

As the name implies, the Home screen in iOS is what you’ll see every time you press the Home button to unlock your phone. If you have a passcode and Touch ID is not set up or have an iOS device without Touch ID, you’ll need to enter your passcode each time.

If you have Touch ID or no passcode, pressing the Home button will take you from the Lock screen to the Home screen as shown below (or for that matter wherever you happen to be in iOS).

iPhone Home screen

In the first image above you’ll notice the lock symbol at the top showing your iPhone is locked. Below you’ll see Press home to unlock. Note the small oval highlighting the two dots and small camera icon at the bottom. If you slide from left to right or vice versa you’ll go directly to Today View or the camera respectively, right from the Lock screen.

When you press the Home button you’ll be taken to the Home screen as seen in the second photo above. At the bottom you’ll notice there are three dots. You may have more, which means you have more pages of apps.

Swipe your finger on the screen from right to left to see your other pages. The third photo above shows my second page of apps and the dot on the right reflects that in a bold white highlight. From any page, pressing the Home button once will take you back to the Home screen (your first page of apps).

Today View and Search

Today View and Search are highly useful features in iOS. As discussed above you can access this feature from your Lock screen and also from your Home screen.

Today View and Search iOS

From the Home screen as seen in the picture above on the left, swipe from left to right to go to Today View and Search. Once invoked, you can tap Search in the top portion of your screen to search most anything on your phone (another quick way to pull up Search is by swiping downward on the Home screen). Press the Home button to exit Today View or Search.

Notification Center

This feature will show you all of your notifications in one place. To see Notification Center swipe down from the very top (almost off the screen) which will bring up Today View. Next swipe from right to left to see your notifications.

Notification Center iOS

Control Center

From the Home screen swipe up from the bottom edge of the display to launch Control Center. This is a really useful tool for quick access to settings like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, the flashlight, clock, calculator, and more. This can also be accessed in the same way from the Lock screen and even within apps.

Control Center iOS

If you have an iPhone 6s/6s Plus or iPhone 7/7 Plus you can perform a firm press (3D Touch) on the bottom row of icons like the flashlight for quick options.


From the Home screen or any app double-press the Home button to launch the app switcher/multitasker. This feature shows you all of the apps that are currently open on your device. You can quickly switch between apps by swiping left or right and tapping on the app you’d like to use.


Swipe up from the middle of an app to close it out (although iOS is efficient, this is good to do as some apps may continue to use data or your location in the background). Sliding from right to left will show you your Home screen. Let’s look at one useful feature to help with navigating your iPhone or iPad with ease.

Button Shapes

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to press or look for when navigating. iOS 10 is so clean and minimal sometimes it’s not that intuitive which words in apps are actually buttons. If you find yourself curious about this, give a shot to turning on Button Shapes to provide an easier experience.

Tap the Settings app on your device. Next tap General → Accessibility.


Now tap on the toggle next to Button Shapes. You’ll now see a shadowed shape around words that are buttons (this doesn’t apply to all third-party apps, but is still very useful to build your navigation experience and exposure in many parts of iOS).

Button Shapes iOS

Notice the difference in the top area of the screen between the left screen above and the other two. This feature should make it easier for you to navigate through iOS and build your confidence.

Do This

1. Go through each of these features 3-5 times to get a good feel for them (remember pressing the Home button at an any point will take you back to the Home screen).

2. As you continue to use your device, keep your eye out for features like these. Especially if you’re not sure what you did, try and replicate what gesture you performed to try and re-create it.

3. Have questions on these features or others that you’re not quite confident in yet? Let us know in the comments below!

Next week: How to navigate the macOS user interface with ease

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