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Accessing iCloud, Email, and the Web on Your MacBook

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In this chapter, you learn how to use your MacBook to access Online Services such as the World Wide Web, email, and Apple's iCloud.
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The Internet has de-shackled us from our desks. We can communicate instantly with family, friends, and colleagues no matter where we are in the world as long we can access an Internet connection. Your MacBook comes with everything you need to keep in touch when you’re on the road or kicked back on your couch.

In this chapter, you learn how to use some of the unique features of the Mountain Lion’s Mail and web applications as well as how to establish and configure iCloud accounts. Even if you’re working in a Microsoft-centric environment, you’ll find that your MacBook’s tools are up to the job.

Setting Up iCloud

One of the most convenient features of using multiple Apple devices is the difficult-to-describe iCloud service. iCloud provides data syncronization between your computers and iOS devices (such as syncronizing your web browser bookmarks), and also gives you free email, contact storage, and even the ability to connect to your home Macintosh from your work computer. Best of all, all you need to do to use iCloud is establish an account and click a few checkboxes.

Configuring iCloud for the First Time

The first step in using iCloud is configuring your MacBook to log into your account. If you have an Apple ID, chances are you already have an iCloud account. If not, the setup process will guide you along the way. Note that you will only need to follow these steps once—after that, you’ll remain logged in even if you reboot your MacBook.

To access your iCloud account, follow these steps:

  1. Open the iCloud System Preferences panel.
  2. A Sign-In window appears. Enter your Apple ID and Password, or Click Create an Apple ID to generate a new safe ID.
  3. Click Sign In to log in to the iCloud service.
  4. iCloud prompts to automatically install basic services—contact, calendar, and bookmark syncing as well as Find My Mac. You can either enable these now, or by following the instructions in “Activating iCloud Services.”
  5. Click Next.
  6. If prompted to allow Location Services and you want to be able to locate your Mac on a map, click Allow. You can always change this later in the Security & Privacy System Preferences panel.
  7. You are shown the list of active iCloud services. Close the System Preferences, or proceed to the next section to learn more about the available services.

Activating iCloud Services

Your iCloud account comes with many free services that work across your OS X systems and iOS (iPhone/iPad) devices. A summary of the available services at the time of this writing is available here:

  • Mail—When activated, Mail sets up a Mountain Lion email account associated with your iCloud account. This will be an “@me.com” address that you established when registering for an Apple ID. (Discussed later in “Using Mail.”)
  • Contacts—Moves your contacts to iCloud storage, making them accessible and editable on any device that has iCloud configured. (See Chapter 6, “Keeping Contacts, Appointments, Reminders, and Notes,” for more details.)
  • Calendars & Reminders—Sets up shared calendars and todo lists (reminders) that, once again, are shared between all iCloud devices. (See Chapter 6 for more details.)
  • Notes—Connects your MacBook Notes application to iCloud storage, making all your notes available across your MacBook, desktop Mac, and iPhone/iPad. (See Chapter 6 for more details.)
  • Safari—Enables syncing of your Safari bookmarks and your reading list across devices as well as providing a list of open Safari tabs on other devices. This makes it possible to start browsing in one location and finish in another. (Discussed later in “Continuing Browsing with iCloud Tabs”)
  • Photo Stream—If you have iPhoto installed on your MacBook, Photo Stream automatically makes the photos you take on your iPhone or iPad available on your Mac. It also transfers imported photos from your Mac to your iOS devices. (Discussed later in “Using Photo Stream”)
  • Documents & Data—This makes it possible to save files to iCloud rather than your local hard drive. Using this feature, you can start editing a document on one machine and finish it up on another. (Discussed later this in “Using Documents and Data”)
  • Back to My Mac—When activated, this unique iCloud feature makes your computer visible to any other computer where you have activated Back to My Mac. Using this, you can access your home computer from any other network-connected Mac—no network configuration required. (See Chapter 7, “Sharing Devices, Files, and Services on a Network,” for details.)
  • Find My Mac—If your MacBook is lost or stolen, Find My Mac will attempt to locate it. Using the icloud.com website, you can track your MacBook on a map and even lock or erase it. (Discussed later in “Using Find My Mac”)

    To activate an iCloud service, first make sure you have completed the task “Configuring iCloud for the First Time”, and then follow these simple steps:

  1. Open the iCloud Preferences panel.
  2. Click the checkboxes in front of the services you want to use. If prompted to provide access to additional system services (Find My Mac requires you to grant access to your location, for instance), click the appropriate response.
  3. Close System Preferences when satisfied with your selections.
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