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Apple TV Useability – Enabling Captions

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Apple TV devices can provide access to a wonderful assortment of movies and TV shows, from a range of different streaming services.

And the great thing is that most of the content available on these streaming services now contains subtitles or closed captions.

Mister Icon on TV with closed captions

This is ideal for people who are hearing impaired, but can also benefit anyone, particularly if you like watching shows starring actors with thick accents, or if you like watching TV late at night with the volume turned down low.

But one thing that has always annoyed me about the Apple TV is that there is no dedicated button on the remote to toggle captioning on or off.

After Play/Pause and Volume Up/Down, that's probably the function I use the most.

Other devices sometimes have a dedicated subtitle button just one push away, so it has always bugged me a little that subtitle access on Apple TV isn't as easy as it could be.

But, silly me, I was missing out on a wonderful Accessibility feature that could make my Apple TV so much more useable than ever before!

Mister Icon sitting on a couch watching TV

Now, I always thought the only ways to toggle subtitles on/off on Apple TV were to:

  1. Activate the on-screen controls and navigate around to select your desired caption language, Automatic, or Off.
  2. Ask Siri to turn captions on/off for you.

Usually, these two different options work well and are pretty quick to activate. There's even the additional Siri trick of asking ‘What was that again?’ and Siri will automatically rewind a few seconds and turn captioning on temporarily so you can understand what someone said if it was a bit unclear.

Anyway, I was exploring the Apple TV Settings app a while back and came across an Accessibility setting that I'd never realised existed before. And it really made my day!

Did you know that you can set an Accessibility Shortcut to make the Apple TV do something when you triple-click the Menu/Back button?

Well you can in the Accessibility Settings. And you can make a triple-click of that Menu/Back button function as a subtitle on/off toggle.

Apple TV Siri Remote Triple-click Accessibility Shortcut

That is by far the easiest way to way to turn subtitles on/off. No need to talk to Siri and disrupt the peace and quiet, and no need to partially cover your picture by activating the on-screen controls with the subtitle information.

A quick triple-click is all that is needed. Why had I not known about this feature before? It sure pays to look through the Settings once in a while.

The only potential issue with this shortcut is that it usually only works with apps that use Apple's native video player. Some streaming services use their own interfaces for playing videos and do not support the triple-click shortcut. That's a shame, but those third-party services sometimes have alternative ways to quickly enable captions, which are sometimes superior to Apple's standard interface to begin with.

But that triple-click shortcut, when it works, is brilliant.

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