7 hidden gems in iOS 7

You may not discover these features quickly on your own, but you'll be happy when you do

Last week, I detailed the seven best features in iOS 7 and explained how its new management capabilities are a game-changer for business. But there's more to iOS 7, including some easily overlooked enhancements that make your life easier. Here are the seven best hidden gems.

1. Backup to multiple computers
Apple has long tied an iOS device to one PC's or Mac's iTunes, as a way to ensure that media files weren't copied, violating the commitments Apple made to get the music and movie industries to distribute their wares via iTunes. But as iPads and iPhones have become less satellite devices and more stand-alone units, such as through iCloud media and app syncing across multiple devices and even computers, the limitation of backup to one computer grew more and more awkward. iCloud backup is convenient and avoids the issue, but it doesn't back up everything.

[ Discover the 7 best new features in iOS 7. | Apple has reinvented app management in iOS 7. Learn what it brings to your business. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights via Twitter and with the Mobilize newsletter. ]

Now, you can back up the same iOS device to multiple computers, as long as their iTunes use the same Apple ID. (You'll need iTunes 11.1 or later for this to work.) The first time you connect, you're asked whether to trust the computer, which means allow its use for backup. Reminder: You back up by clicking the Back Up Now button in your device's Summary pane in the computer's iTunes or by clicking the Sync button in iTunes. And if you go to the Settings app's General pane and tap iTunes Wi-Fi Sync, you should see a list of the multiple computers you've trusted.

Keep in mind that if you sync an iOS device to a computer other than the one running your master iTunes library, you'll still lose all the checked content from the previous iTunes library on your iOS device if you sync. (Uncheck the various sync options for the device in those other iTunes libraries!) Multi-iTunes backup doesn't let you sync multiple media libraries to one device.

2. On-the-fly mail groups
Sadly, iOS 7 doesn't let you address emails to groups, a shocking omission that has survived multiple iOS versions. But iOS 7 does notice when you tend to send messages to the same group of people, and when you address a new email to a person in such an ad hoc group, it shows that ad hoc group in its suggestions.

For example, if you often send emails to John, Aimee, and Peter, and you type in "Peter" in one of Mail's address fields, you'll get a menu of all Peters in your Contacts app and all Peters you've emailed previously. In addition (this is what's new), you'll see "John, Aimee, and Peter" in the list of suggested recipients. (Credit to reader Drew Saur for alerting me to this gem.)

3. Smart mail account selection
Saur also tipped me off to this other cool Mail gem: If you use multiple accounts, you've probably noticed that Mail will reply from the account in which you received the email, no matter what your default account. But when you create a new email, Mail uses your default account, so you may need to change the From field, an easily overlooked step. iOS 7 notes who the addressee is and what server it came from, then automatically adjusts the From field for you. When you send an email to someone in your corporate Exchange directory, the email is defaulted to come from your corporate email account, even if your default account is your personal account.

4. Zoom-level calendar navigation on the iPhone
The Day, Month, and Year buttons are gone in iOS 7's Calendar app on the iPhone (and iPod Touch). Instead, you navigate the same way you do in the revised Photos app: by zooming. (The iPad still uses these buttons, but has no zoom-level navigation -- pity.)

For example, if you're in month view, tap a date to zoom into that date, or tap the year to zoom out to year view. From day view, you can slide through the weeks and zoom out to the month. From year view, you can zoom into a month by tapping its name or to a day by tapping its date. As with iOS 5 and 6, rotate the iPhone to get the week view; there are no zoom navigation controls here, though you can scroll through the weeks.

I do wish that iOS 7 let me preview a date's events by holding on it, as Photos works for collections. Still, it's a faster way to get around, and it frees up screen real estate.

1 2 Page 1
Page 1 of 2