We’ve all been there at one time or another:
- “Hey, what’s your cell phone number and email address?”
- “Can I have that picture?”
- “I wish I had that file on my Mac.”
And we all know what we’ve usually done:
- Open Contacts, find or create a new contact card, and tap, tap, tap (or click, click, click) to laboriously add all the details.
- Tap the photo, tap Mail, tap in an email address and subject (so we don’t have to tap through a dialog box asking for one), and send it.
- Open a Mail message, drag in the file as an attachment, address it, give it a subject (yep, for the same reason), and send it. Then go to the Mac and open the Mail message, drag the attachment to the Desktop, and start working on it.
These are the short versions! We left out plenty of intermediate taps and clicks in the interest of making your life better, faster.
So, what can remedy all this tapping and clicking?
One (compound) word: AirDrop. AirDrop is a spectacularly simple way to exchange data between Macs and iOS devices. There’s nothing complicated to set up–no wireless networks to join, no wi-fi passwords to hunt down, remember, or enter. It’s meant for short range wireless communication between devices that are in the same room, rather than across the country.
What you’ll need:
- An iOS device running iOS 7 or later.
- An iOS device running iOS 8 or later to share with a Mac running OS X 10.10 or later.
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth both turned on.
- Sign into iCloud with your Apple ID.
We’ll use macOS 10.12 and iOS 10 for our examples. If you’re using earlier versions, some of the wording or a minor feature may be different, but the steps are essentially the same.
Turn on AirDrop on your Mac
1) In the Finder, choose Go > AirDrop. If you don’t see this menu choice, your Mac is too old to use AirDrop. If Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth are off, you’ll be prompted to turn them on.
2) In the lower left-hand corner of the window that appears, click Allow me to be discovered by: and choose one of the following:
- No one – This setting turns off AirDrop.
- Contacts Only – This limits your AirDrop exchanges to only those people in your Contacts app.
- Everyone – This allows anyone nearby to see that you have AirDrop turned on and are ready to receive data via AirDrop from everyone.
On your iOS device
1) Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to show the Control Center. 2) In the left-most of the three Control Center panels, tap the AirDrop button.
You now have three options:
- Receiving off – This turns off AirDrop.
- Contacts Only – This limits your AirDrop exchanges to only those in your Contacts app.
- Everyone – This allows anyone nearby to see that you have AirDrop turned on and are ready to receive data via AirDrop from, well, everyone.
These three settings provide varying levels of discoverability of your device. No One/Receiving Off keeps your device from being seen by anyone who wants to share things via AirDrop. Contacts Only essentially allows only people you know (that is, those in your Contacts app) to see your device and send you information via AirDrop. Everyone allows anyone to see your device and send you things via AirDrop.
If you’re like me–the kind of person who wants to turn on AirDrop and not worry about it–opt for the Contacts Only option. That will make AirDrop readily available at all times, but also keep people who are unknown to you from sending you things. Regardless of the setting you choose, all data that is transferred is encrypted. Also, you will be notified when someone else is trying to send you something via AirDrop and you’ll always have the option to accept it or decline it.
Now, let’s share something via AirDrop.
Using AirDrop on your Mac
You access AirDrop through the Finder or through the Share button in various apps.
Via the Finder
1) In the Finder, choose Go > AirDrop. The window that appears will show all devices in the immediate area that can receive an AirDrop transmission.
What if the window is empty? Make sure your recipient has AirDrop turned on. And note that if you’re trying to send an item to an older Mac, but one that is still capable of using AirDrop, try clicking the button to Search for an Older Mac.
2) Drag the icon of the item you want to share to the icon of the recipient.
Via the Share button
1) In the app you’re using (and this goes for the Finder, too), select the items you want to share (a note, pictures, etc.) and click the Share button (it’s the button that looks like a square with an up arrow).
2) In the drop-down menu that appears, choose AirDrop.
3) In the share sheet that appears, click the person you want to share the item with. You can stop the transmission by clicking the person’s name a second time.
Using AirDrop on your iOS device
1) In the app you are using, select the items you want to share (a contact card, photos, etc.) and tap the Share button. Devices within range will appear in the share sheet.
2) Tap the person you want to share the information with.
Receiving an AirDrop transfer
Whether you’re using AirDrop on a Mac or an iOS device, if the receiving device is not signed into your iCloud account (that is, it belongs to someone else), the recipient will receive a message indicating that an AirDrop transmission is ready to be received and have the chance to accept or decline it. (What this means is that–assuming you’re signed into iCloud on all your devices–you can quickly send items between all your own devices without having to accept the transfer.) Click or tap Accept to receive the transfer.
On your Mac, depending on the type of item being transferred, you may have a choice about where to put it. For example, if you receive a photo, AirDrop will ask if you want to merely accept the photo (which will put it in the Downloads folder, the default behavior) or add it to Photos.
On your iOS device, the transferred item will be added to the app. For example, if you share your contact card with someone else via AirDrop, the card will be added to the recipient’s Contacts app automatically. Shared notes go into the Notes app, while shared webpages go into Safari.
Share and share alike
The share button, particularly on the Mac, is easy to overlook. But now that you know it’s there, you can make your life easier by using it. AirDrop makes it even easier by cutting several steps out of the process of sharing information with nearby friends and devices.
How have you used AirDrop to make sharing information easier? Tell me in the comments below.