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“Take Control of iCloud” Answers Your iCloud Questions

We’re not proud of this, but of everything Apple has done over the last few years, nothing has caused us more confusion and consternation than iCloud. We’ve had long staff discussions about problems with multiple Apple IDs, old Apple IDs, how to switch while maintaining MobileMe calendar sharing with spouses whose Macs don’t run Lion, and more. We’ve even started drafting an article about common (because some of us had them!) misconceptions about what iCloud can and cannot do.

Throughout all this, Joe Kissell has been our ace in the hole, since although he can’t help with things that are Apple’s problem (like the inability to merge Apple IDs), he probably knows more about iCloud than anyone outside Apple, thanks to spending months with betas of Mac OS X 10.7.2 Lion and iOS 5 while writing his latest book, the 143-page “Take Control of iCloud.” In it, he explains how you get started with iCloud regardless of whether or not you used MobileMe, helps smooth the transition to iCloud for MobileMe users, and teaches you how to use iCloud’s features once you’re up and running.

Regardless of whether or not you used MobileMe before, you’ll learn:

  • Exactly what capabilities iCloud provides today and how they compare to previous online offerings from Apple.

  • How to prepare your computers and devices for iCloud. (You’ll need iOS 5 and Mac OS X 10.7.2 Lion, so you might want to read Joe’s “Take Control of Upgrading to Lion” as well.)

  • What to do if you have multiple Apple IDs, and how to associate your primary email address with the desired Apple ID.

For those upgrading from MobileMe, Joe explains:

  • Which MobileMe features will disappear instantly once you upgrade to iCloud, and which will stick around until June 2012, when Apple has announced it will shut off MobileMe.
  • The best ways to handle old data stored on MobileMe, such as photos in Gallery and files in iDisk, and what alternatives you can use to replace that functionality.

  • How to migrate MobileMe Family Pack accounts to separate iCloud accounts.

  • How you can replicate MobileMe-based group calendar sharing in iCloud, especially if not everyone in your group can upgrade to iCloud.

Either way, once you’ve made the move to iCloud, “Take Control of iCloud” covers iCloud’s core features, including:

  • iCloud Web site: Learn what you can and can’t do in iCloud’s Web-based interface for Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Find My iPhone, and iWork documents.
  • iTunes in the Cloud: Learn how to turn on automatic downloads so nearly anything you buy from Apple — music, apps, and ebooks, though not TV shows or movies — appears on all your devices. You’ll also learn how to re-download previously purchased items (including TV shows, for those with accounts in the U.S. iTunes Store).

  • iCloud Backup: Find out what data on your iOS device backs up, how to handle your backup, and — most importantly — how to restore your backup after a problem!

  • Photo Stream: Having all your recent photos appear on all your devices sounds great, but there are gotchas. Joe explains how the 1,000-photo and 30-day limits work, as well as what’s necessary to get a truly embarrassing photo out of your Photo Stream.

  • Documents in the Cloud: Start changing your habits and expectations as your documents begin living in the cloud and within apps instead of on a local disk. But beware, since Documents in the Cloud isn’t always seamless, with both manual effort required and data loss possible at the moment.

  • Calendar and Contacts: Joe provides directions for working with iCloud’s Calendar and Contacts Web applications, along with pointers on the relatively few ways they differ from the Mac’s iCal and Address Book and from iOS 5’s Calendar and Contacts apps. You’ll learn how to handle invitations to calendar events, plus get guidance on how reminders work within iCloud’s calendaring system.

  • Mail: As with Calendar and Contacts, Joe explains how to set up and use iCloud’s Web-based Mail app, which is similar to the iPad Mail app.

  • Find My…: Learn how to use Find My iPhone/iPad/iPod touch/Mac to locate a device that’s gone missing, and get an overview of how you can keep track of friends and family with the new Find My Friends iOS app.

  • Back to My Mac: With Back to My Mac, you can connect to your Mac at home or the office over the Internet and use both file sharing and screen sharing just as though you were on the same network. Joe explains the basics.

Take Control of iCloud” covers every platform that iCloud supports, which includes Mac OS X 10.7.2 Lion, iOS 5, Windows Vista and Windows 7, and even the second-generation Apple TV. If your computers and devices aren’t running — or can’t run — those operating systems, they won’t be able to participate in iCloud, but the ebook offers some workarounds.

We won’t pretend that “Take Control of iCloud” is comprehensive; iCloud is too new and changing too quickly for that, both in terms of support from developers and bug fixes from Apple. But this is the book that we at TidBITS are all reading right now to learn the best ways to transition from MobileMe and get our devices talking to iCloud.

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