Authored by:
Leslie Gordon
Senior Editor,
leslie.gordon@penton.com

Before purchasing an iPhone about a year ago, I had pooh-poohed such technology as a fad or as mere entertainment. My sister then insisted I try hers — and I was almost instantly hooked. After getting the basics down, I began to notice that there were lots of engineering apps for the iPhone. Currently, there are hundreds and hundreds — if not more. The list keeps growing and, no surprise, the engineering-related apps are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

The iPhone is easy to use and intuitive. That said, the phone’s Quick Start guide helps you get going. You can also download an iPhone User Guide, which describes in greater detail how to download iTunes, sync the phone to iTunes, and how to use the phone. However, I learned a lot more from fellow engineering iPhone users than from the User Guide’s less-than-helpful Search function and PDF-hyperlinked layout. Because iTunes is mostly intended as a backup should your phone crash or get lost, I mainly use it as a helpful way to search for apps. I find it much easier to see the large iTunes window on a computer screen than the App Store stuff on the iPhone touchscreen.

It seems many do not realize you can get almost any app directly from the phone’s App Store, with no need to use iTunes. Say you have heard about a cool app such as WolframAlpha you want to try. Just tap the App Store icon, enter your iTunes password (you set up an account after downloading iTunes onto your PC), and click the Search icon at the bottom of the iPhone touchscreen. Start typing in “Wolf...,” and before you are even finished, a list appears containing several apps from this particular technical software company. Tap the “WolframAlpha” icon and to purchase it, just tap the Free (or, as the case may be, the dollar amount) button. This changes the button to an Install button. Tapping Install downloads the app into your phone (no need of iTunes), ready to use once it finishes loading.

Useful things to know, which are either hard to find in the User Guide, or not even mentioned there, include that it is smart to clean out your iPhone’s cache and reboot it at least once a week. Otherwise, the phone gets slower and slower and eventually freezes. For a long time, I used a memory-cleaning app called Activity Monitor that let users clean out the memory cobwebs as well as see how much battery life was left. Eventually the app quit working, so I searched the phone’s App Store and got a new (free) cleaner. Users can also perform iPhone housekeeping under Settings > Safari > Clear History, Clear Cookies, Clear Cache.

To reboot the phone, hold in the Sleep/Wake button (on the very top of the phone, next to the headset jack) and the Home button (directly under the main touchscreen) at the same time, and keep holding them in until a white apple on a black screen displays. Let the phone sit for a minute or two and it restarts by itself.

I like that it is easy to eliminate apps that you tire of or that prove useless. Just push down and hold on any icon that is not one of the “built-in” apps (such as Camera, Clock, or Maps). This causes all the removable apps to jiggle and a black “X” appears on the icon’s upper left-hand corner. Tapping the black “X” uninstalls the app. To stop the icons from jiggling, just push the Home button.

The iPhone is great at keeping you connected to engineering social networks, with apps for Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. For example, after you set up a YouTube account on your PC, you can take videos with your iPhone camera, save it to Photos, and tap a Send to YouTube button to upload a video. There are countless Twitter apps, but I use the “official” version, built by the company itself. I prefer it to others such as Twitterrific, which seemed to have a lot of extra and unnecessary “window dressing,” which just slows down the app. In addition, a nifty LinkedIn app lets you do things such as connect instantly with nearby LinkedIn iPhone users (make sure Bluetooth is enabled by tapping Settings > General > Bluetooth).

Eventually, you will probably want to take screen shots of the iPhone touchscreen. After I had my phone for a while, I found that the information on how to do this resides in the User Guide. But at the time, I searched and searched and no luck. For problems like this, the Apple Discussions forum proves invaluable. Ask a question, and it’s not long before users help you. The forum is at http://tinyurl.com/33objt.

Turns out that to take a screenshot, all you have to do is hold in the Sleep/Wake button, wait a short time, and then hold in the Home button. After a second or two, let both buttons go at the same time. When you hear the sound of a camera clicking, you have successfully taken the screenshot. Find it in Photos to e‑mail or MMS it.

Purchase an iPhone at any local Apple Retail Store.

© 2011 Penton Media, Inc.