Get Organized: 10 Simple, Time-Saving Computer Tricks
If you don't know these 10 basic tips, you could be wasting a lot of your time. They're easy to learn, and the payoffs are big.
When I watch inexperienced computer users scroll a Web page using the down arrow on their keyboard or look for specific information in a PDF by running their eyes down each page, I realize just how many tiny tricks and tips there are that make more experienced computer users faster at what they do.
Here are ten of those tricks that anyone can—and should—learn. Chances are you know some of them, but even if only a couple of them are new to you, it's worth checking out the list and the video below.
1. Use Ctrl+F to Search a Web Page or Document When there's a specific word you want to find on a webpage or in practically any kind of document (PDF, Word docs, etc.), hit Ctrl+F, and a little search bar will appear in the upper right or left corner (depending on which application you're using). Type the word you want, and the program will bring you to the first instance and, in some cases, highlight all instances. Depending on the application, if there are multiple instances, you can jump ahead to the next or previous one by using arrows that usually appear in the search box.
Say, for example, your friend sent you a link to a news article that references her daughter, and you want to jump ahead to that part of the story. Hit Ctrl+F and type in the daughter's name. There you go.
2. Use Spotlight Search, Menu Bar, and Taskbar to Start Up New Programs
In both Windows and Mac computers, the fastest way to launch a new application is not by finding the desktop shortcut icon and clicking it. No, no, no!
In OS X, hit Command+spacebar, and your cursor will automatically go to the Spotlight Search bar in the upper right, where you can type the first few letters of the program you want (such as OUT for Outlook), and it'll show up at lightning speed. Hit enter when you see the app you want.
In Windows 7, you can do a similar quick search from the Start button. Or you can just pin your most frequently-used programs to your Taskbar. Just launch the programs you want in your old-fashioned way, and then right-click on the icons that appear in the Taskbar. Select "pin this program to the taskbar" and now it will always be there.
Mac users can similarly go to their Applications view in Finder and drag any program icon into the Menu Bar. It will also stay there, within easy reach the next time you want to launch the program. In both Mac and Windows, you can rearrange the order of these icons any time by dragging and dropping them.
3. Scroll Faster Using the Space Bar
Scrolling through a long Web page (like a Buzzfeed listicle) takes ages using the mouse wheel, cursor on the scrollbar, and certainly the down arrow key. Instead, use the space bar to jump down one full screen at a time. Add Shift to the equation (Shift+spacebar), and you'll scroll up a full screen with each press. Hold down the space bar, and reach the bottom of the page fast as can be.
If pressing the space bar doesn't seem to do anything, make sure that the cursor isn't in a text field on the page.
The only thing worse than people who still use double spaces after a period in their word processing files are people who complain about double-spacers. Why? Because it's simple enough to clean them up with a simple find/replace.
In Word, the tool is called Replace, and it's in the Home menu tab all the way on the far right. Or you can just press Crtl+H for an even shorter cut. In the dialog box, put two spaces into the "find" field and one space into the "replace" field. It doesn't look like anything, but it works. Hit "replace all" and you're done.
I always run this command twice back to back just to make sure I catch any triple spaces that might have gotten past me the first time around (because Word would read that as one double space, which it would correct to a single space, followed by one more single space).
5. Don't Type Usernames and Passwords
You should never have to type your username or password to log into any online account. Why? Because you should be using a password manager, and the best password managers auto-complete those details for you. Using a password manager is much more secure than trying to remember and type all your passwords. Plus, it speeds up your online activities, whether you're noodling around on Facebook or checking your bank statements.
There are other tools that can remember your usernames and passwords to auto-fill them for you, too (Apple's iCloud Keychain, AutoFill in Chrome, and many others), but we at PCMag recommend using a password manager because they come with many other benefits.
6. Correct Poor Spelling Nearly Everywhere With a Right Click
Many people know that a red squiggly underline in Microsoft Word means a word is spelled incorrectly (or at least that Word doesn't recognize it). But fewer realize that the same spellcheck convention is used in many browsers, including Chrome and Firefox.
If you see that red squiggly warning while you're typing in Facebook, Gmail, or any other site, just right-click on the word for suggested corrections. Mac users should also note that OS X can auto-correct your spelling error, underlining them in blue to call your attention to them (so you can make sure the change is correct). Another Mac trick: right-click on any word (or three-finger tap the Trackpad) to pull up a dictionary definition of a word.
7. Search From the Browser Bar
Don't go to the browser bar and type in "google.com" when you need to search for something online. Just type your search terms right into the browser bar. Most browsers' URL bars automatically double as an online search bar, and those that don't have plug-ins you can install to it so. Typically, you can decide which service it will use to carry out the search: Google, Bing, Yahoo! Search, DuckDuckGo, and so forth. You can set this as a preference in your browser.
8. Look Up! Use Type-Ahead Suggestions
Here's another search tip: Use the type-ahead suggestions that appear as you key in your search terms. People who turn their eyes down at the keyboard instead of up at the screen routinely type for way longer than they need to. Try it. Look at the search bar as you type "When did the" and watch as suggestions appear. If the one you want turns up, use the down arrow keys or your mouse to select it and hit enter or click. For searches that are long or use hard-to-spell names, type-ahead suggestions save loads of time.
9. Drag a Browser Tab Out
During a Web-conference the other day, the presenter said to me, "I'm sorry, but you're going to see a lot of other tabs open when I share my screen." My thought was, "Why doesn't she just drag out the tab she wants? That way I won't see whatever other pages she has open."
If you have 20 tabs open in your Web browser, and there's one that you really need to focus on for a time, just click on that tab and drag it out. It will become its own window. Enlarge it to be the full screen size, and you'll be able to focus on that site alone. (Or you can learn how to control tabbed browsing in the first place.)
10. Add "site:" to Search Specific Domains
Let's say you remember that The New York Times published a killer no-knead bread recipe a few years ago, and you want to find it. You could search online for "no-knead bread" and hope the right recipe comes up, or you could add to your search this phrase "site:nytimes.com" to get results only from the Times.