If you’re new to the Mac platform and have never purchased anything from the iTunes Store before, then you’ll need to set up an Apple ID. You’ll be prompted to enter some basic information such as name, address and data of birth, as well as set up a password and some security questions.
To begin using iCloud, sign in with your Apple ID (it will already be signed in if you just created your Apple ID) and you’ll be prompted if you’d like to use iCloud’s services as well as Find My Mac. All of these features can be enabled and disabled through System Preferences by toggling the checkbox for each one.
The great thing about the iCloud preference pane is that when you enable one of the services it automatically sets it up so you don’t need to.
Calendars is also a feature that’s been around since .Mac but just like contacts, it was heavily updated to new server-based technologies rather than the more unreliable syncing service it previously used. As you hover the cursor over the calendar you wish to share, you’ll see a “share” icon appear.
You can enter multiple email addresses and you can modify whether that person can read and write to the calendar, or just read it, by clicking the down arrow next to their address. With the Reminders app, you can ensure your to-do list is always up to date, and the Reminders app in OS X is very capable. Notes is now a completely separate app in OS X and looks almost identical to Notes for iOS. Any bookmarks you add to Safari are automatically pushed to all of your other devices and Macs that are signed in to iCloud. Whenever you have an open tab or window in Safari, iCloud syncs what the address is and makes it available to any of your iCloud devices. If you’re a Reading List user, a feature of Safari that can temporarily save web pages for offline access to read later, then iCloud will also sync your reading list to all your iCloud devices automatically.
If you do have an iPhone then Photo Stream is the perfect way of syncing photos from your iPhone to your Mac since you don’t even need to connect them together. Using any number of iCloud-enabled apps, or within Mountain Lion, you have the ability to save a file directly to iCloud. However, if you were to do the same with Pages, you can access it using either OS X or iOS, since the app is available for both platforms. This service is one that’s often overlooked simply because it requires a lot of configuration to work.
Back to My Mac on a basic level is simply a way of always being able to access your Mac that’s at home or in the office over the internet. For a service that’s of little benefit to most users, the time and knowledge needed to ensure things like ports are forwarding, NAT is traversing, and all these other bits of technical jargon make it a service that is probably best left alone.
Just like Find My iPhone, iCloud is also able to let you track your Mac should it go missing.

Since it’s a service that requires knowing your location, it has to be explicitly turned on - that’s why there’s two options when setting up iCloud for the first time. Tip: If you enable Find My Mac, ensure you have a very strong password and security credentials only you will know. It originally started life as MobileMe (which started out as .Mac, which started out as iTools) as a paid-for email service and method to keep more than one Mac in sync with regards to certain data such as calendars and contacts. The main difference is that iCloud is predominantly a free service that provides a 5GB account, with the option to pay an annual subscription to increase this, depending on the space required.
The reason is that not everyone can sign up, you have to be using at least one Apple device that’s iCloud compatible. If you’ve ever purchased anything from the App Store or iTunes, you already have an Apple ID. You can specify if you’d like to create a new email address with iCloud or if you already have an email address you’re happy to continue using. You will also be able to use this for any iTunes or app purchases you might like to make in the future. The great thing about this preference pane is that when you enable one of the services it automatically sets it up so you don’t need to. If you already had an Apple ID or just created one but opted to still use an existing email address, you can still use an iCloud email address if you wish. What this means is that any person you add to Contacts in OS X, their details will remain in sync across any devices you also use iCloud. This sharing isn’t limited to just reading the calendar either, you can share calendars with other users who can also make changes. Select this and then enter the email address of the person you wish to share the calendar with (just remember they need to also be an iCloud member).
It works in the same way as Calendar and you can even share reminder lists in the same way too. If you often find yourself switching between Macs or Mac and iOS device and would like an easier way of continuing reading a web page without having to enter the address again, this is how to do it.
For example, if you were reading this on your Mac and decided to switch to an iPad, you could simply open Safari, tap on iCloud Tabs and then see what pages were currently open on your Mac.
Again, just like with Safari Tabs, it requires no interaction and means your content is always available.
Just launch iPhoto or Aperture and all your photos will be there and downloaded from your Photo Stream automatically. Now, whether or not iCloud has the best implementation of file syncing, for those users who are fairly new to technology then it seems quite a simple solution. Add to this that services such as Dropbox and to a certain extend, iCloud’s Documents in the Cloud feature, then it is almost redundant (it’s not even listed as part of iCloud’s features).

It works just like a network connection to a server, except when you’re signed in to iCloud then the Mac will always appear under the Shared tab in the Finder. If you would like to look further into Back to My Mac then Apple has an excellent setup guide that you can follow. What’s more, you can even remotely lock and wipe your Mac if you think it’s fallen into the wrong hands.
The only thing worse than misplacing a Mac is if someone is able to gain access to your iCloud account and remotely wipe the Mac! I use iCloud for my personal email as well as contacts and calendar services all the time and have done since the days of iTools. The responsive website allows users to sign in to iCloud to access email, contacts, calendar, notes, reminders, Find my iPhone, Pages, Numbers and Keynote.
This meant you could add a contact to one Mac and it would appear on another Mac or iOS device if you were signed in. If you’re running OS X Lion or Mountain Lion then you can sign up very easily through System Preferences.
Simply sign in with your existing Apple ID information (this will be the email address and password you use for making iTunes or app purchases) and you’ll be prompted to create a new iCloud account. So if you have an iOS device as well as your Mac then as soon as you add a contact to either, it will appear on the other device. It’s a feature that has no configuration, no customisation but it’s an example of a feature that genuinely makes life that little bit easier! Whilst this feature is seen as a benefit just to iPhone users who take photos, this also applies to iPhoto and Aperture.
But you’ll be able to access it using TextEdit on any other Mac you are signed into iCloud with.
Apart from this additional service, there’s nothing about it that’s any different from setting up file sharing on the Mac.
It’s a service I couldn’t see myself without and one that, despite its flaws, I’d continue to use if it was ever charged for again. Let us know (as well as any feedback or even requests for future articles) in the comments below!
In this guide, I'll show you how to set up and begin using iCloud on your Mac, as well as the features and benefits it provides.

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