Tips and Tricks

February 22, 2007 at 8:29 am | Posted in Technical | Leave a comment

We’ve all been using Windows for so long that we’re in the habit of interfacing with the computer in a specific way. You have built a relationship with Windows and with your computer, which may or may not be a healthy and functional one.

Here are some basic ways you can improve your communication style with your computer, and possibly have a happier relationship with it:

1. Lay off the mouse when you’re trying to type. If you’re performing a keyboard-intensive task, like entering data in a spreadsheet or writing a long document in Word, odds are that you’ll be more productive with both hands on the keyboard.

  • Use your keyboard to select text, copy, and paste. To select text you can hold down your shift key and use the arrow key to highlight it. To copy, hold down Ctrl and hit the “C” key. Put the cursor where you want it using the arrow keys, then hold down Ctrl and hit the “V” key. This works in most Microsoft applications, and also in most web browsers, online email and blog interfaces, and so on. It takes a little practice, but can be a valuable tool! You can also cut and paste using Ctrl+X and Ctrl+V.
  • Use the Windows button to navigate. If your hands are busy on the keyboard and you want to launch another application or another window, you can use the Windows key, which looks like a wavy set of four squares, probably near the Ctrl and Alt buttons.

2. Try to avoid using the “File” menu so much. If you’re in the middle of a document and want to save changes, hit Ctrl+S and keep typing. Ctrl+P will print to your default printer. These shortcuts are listed on the file menu as a reference.

3. Never type out a URL. Try this: Navigate to the site you want. Then click the address in your browser, and the whole thing will highlight. Ctrl+C, then flip to where you want to place the URL, and Ctrl+V. Voila. You can also drag a URL directly from the browser’s address bar into your other document. To do this, click and hold down the little icon between “Address:” and the “http://” on your browser’s navigation bar. Drag it to the window you want and drop it, or drag it to the right program on the task bar, wait until that program pops up, then drop it. It’s very easy.

4. Listen to your computer when it tries to tell you stuff. A PC doesn’t communicate like a human, so it’s useful to think of the “Computers are from Mars, Users are from Venus” analogy. As an example of bad communication from a PC, think about the ways your computer tries to tell you it has a virus.

  • Uploading anything to the Internet without your telling it to do so is a sign that there’s probably malware involved.
  • The hard drive spinning constantly when the computer is sitting idle.
  • Your antivirus software is mysteriously shut down, will not update, or locks up.
  • MSConfig and/or the Window Registry Editor will not open.

All of these things are martian for “I think I have a virus, please oh please disconnect me from the Internet and call tech support.”

5. Use content-based shortcuts in spreadsheets. How often do you insert today’s date in a spreadsheet? Ctrl+Semicolon will do it for you. You don’t even have to know what today’s date is! Ctrl+Shift+Semicolon will insert the current time. ALT+0162 enters the cent character ¢.  ALT+0163 enters the pound sterling character £.  ALT+0165 enters the yen symbol ¥.  ALT+0128 enters the euro symbol €.

6. If you’re not using a Mac, you should definitely use the right-side mouse button. Right-clicking things to pop up their menu is a great time-saver, and will help you to stay off the “File” menu.

It might seem counterintuitive at first to try these ideas, but I hope you will give it a shot sometime. Having multiple ways to tell your computer the same thing can make you a more efficient user.


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