Modern technology is great, but it can be even better if you learn how to use it to its full potential. The top 15 tech tips described in this article are guaranteed to take your productivity to the next level, and you can use them every day regardless of whether you’re working on an important presentation or casually browsing the internet.
1. Lock Your Computer Instantly
You should never leave your computer unattended without locking it first, even when making a quick run to the coffee machine. The good news is that both Windows and Mac let you lock your screen instantly by pressing a simple shortcut:
- Windows: Win + L
- Mac: CTRL + CMD + Q
Before you know it, you’ll be using these handy shortcuts without even thinking about it whenever you step away from your computer, making it impossible for an intruder to use it.
2. Autofill Domain Names
Most modern web browsers have merged the URL bar and the search bar together, allowing users to visit specific websites and search for information online from a single place. When entering a URL, many users these days hit Enter or Return as soon as they type the name of the website and select the first search result from the default search engine to avoid entering the domain name extension, such as .com, .org, or .net.
What these users don’t know is that it’s possible to autofill domain names using the following three shortcuts:
- CTRL + Enter/Return = autofill the .com domain name extension
- SHIFT + Enter/Return = autofill the .net domain name extension
- CTRL + SHIFT + Enter/Return = autofill the .org domain name extension
3. Create Word Templates
If you find yourself constantly creating the same Word documents from scratch, you should consider turning them into templates, which are pre-designed documents that can be quickly filled in or edited.
To create a Word template in the latest version of Microsoft Word:
- Click File > Save As.
- Double-click Computer or This PC.
- Enter a name for your template in the File name box.
- Choose Word Template in the Save as type list.
- Click Save.
To use a Word template, all you need to do is open the template file and make your changes.
4. Control YouTube Playback the Smart Way
YouTube has become the go-to destination for everything from cat videos to business presentations, but not many users are familiar with basic YouTube shortcuts:
- Fullscreen = F
- Exit Full Screen mode = Escape
- Pause/resume video playback = K or spacebar
- Go back 5 seconds = Left arrow
- Go forward 5 seconds = Right arrow
- Increase volume 5% = Up arrow
- Decrease volume 5% = Down arrow
Visit this page for a complete list of all YouTube shortcuts.
5. Backup Your Entire Computer
Experts have been preaching the importance of backups for years, and more and more users are starting to listen. If you’re among them, you may not be aware that you can easily backup your entire hard drive, including your personal files, applications, settings, and even the operating system, using disk cloning software like Clonezilla.
Should something go catastrophically wrong (a ransomware infection encrypting important files, your hard drive experiencing a critical failure, and so on), you can simply restore the backup to a working drive and continue from where you left off.
6. Record Your Steps
Explaining how to do something on the computer to someone who has limited experience with technology can be an exhausting ordeal. Microsoft knows it better than any other company, which is why all versions of Windows from 7 up include a little-known utility called Steps Recorder.
With this utility, you can record all your steps, and have them automatically turned into a nicely formatted step-by-step guide with screenshots and detailed explanations. You can then email this guide to the person you’re trying to help and save yourself a lot of time.
7. Use a Password Manager
A password manager is an application that lets you safely store your passwords and other login credentials in an encrypted storage area. When you need to log in to a website, your password manager can automatically enter the correct password for you, saving you time and making it significantly easier to use a strong, unique password for each website.
Popular password managers include LastPass, Bitwarden, and 1Password. Regardless of which password manager you choose, you will always be asked to set up a master password and encouraged to enable two-factor authentication.
8. Easily Highlight a Single Word or Paragraph
Have you ever struggled to highlight a word or sentence because the cursor kept overshooting or missing out? Most people have experienced this problem, but the solution is actually quite simple: just double-click the word you want to highlight. And if you want to highlight an entire paragraph, double-click the highlighted word again.
9. Take Your Text Editing to the Next Level
You're probably familiar with the basic text editing shortcuts: CTRL + C and CTRL + V. However, there are many other incredibly useful text editing shortcuts that can make it much easier and faster to edit documents:
|Move the cursor to the beginning of the previous word CTRL + Left Arrow||CTRL + Left Arrow|
|Move the cursor to the beginning of the next word CTRL + Right Arrow||CTRL + Right Arrow|
|Delete the previous word||CTRL + Backspace|
|Delete the next word||CTRL + Delete|
|Move the cursor to the top of the text entry field||CTRL + Home|
|Move the cursor to the bottom of the text entry field||CTRL + End|
|Select words||Select words SHIFT + CTRL + Left or Right Arrow Keys|
|Select paragraphs||Shift + Ctrl + Up or Down Arrow Keys|
On Mac, use the Option key instead of the CTRL key.
10. Mute Distracting Notifications
Both Windows and macOS make it possible for users to easily mute distracting notifications:
- Windows: Select the action center on the taskbar and enable Focus assist. Keep clicking it to cycle through available modes.
- Mac: Hold the Option key and click the Notification Center icon to enable Do Not Disturb. The Notification Center icon should turn gray.
Without notifications disturbing you on a regular basis, you should find it much easier to focus on your work and get things done.
11. Learn to Use the Middle Mouse Button
The middle mouse button, also known as the scroll wheel, isn’t just for scrolling. You can also press down on it to middle-click. Why would you want to do that? Because the middle-click enables you to easily do a lot of useful things, especially when browsing the web:
- Middle-click on a link: Open the link in a new tab.
- Middle-click on a tab: Close the tab.
- Middle-click on a bookmarks folder: Open all bookmarks in the folder as new tabs.
- Middle-click on a web page: Enable auto-scroll.
- Middle-click a taskbar icon in Windows: Open a new instance of the application.
12. Run Another Operating System Inside Windows or Mac
Thanks to software like VirtualBox, anyone can easily run another operating system inside their current one. Virtualizing an operating system is useful for opening potentially dangerous links, troubleshooting software problems, or creating a safe environment for a particular application. As long as you have a decently powerful CPU and enough RAM, you should be able to achieve satisfactory performance for all common tasks.
13. Take Screenshots Like a Pro
You can’t call yourself a poweruser if you don’t know how to take screenshots. But there’s more to taking screenshots than pressing the Print Screen button. Here are several useful keyboard shortcuts that can help you take screenshots more efficiently:
|Take a screenshot of the entire screen Print Screen Shift + Command + 3||Print Screen||Shift + Command + 3|
|Take a screenshot of a screen region||Windows + Shift + S||Shift + Command + 4|
|Take a screenshot of a specific application||Alt + Print Screen||Shift + Command + 4 + Space|
14. Improve Your Google-Fu
It doesn’t matter if you’re developing software applications, creating Excel spreadsheets, preparing business presentations, or researching the cure for cancer, Google is the best way to find information on the web. The following Google search tips can help you get the search results you want on the first try:
- Search for an exact match:: Put a word or phrase inside quotes. Example: “United States Presidential election”
- Exclude words from your search:: Put - in front of a word you want to leave out. Example: cat weight -construction
- Combine searches:: Put “OR” between each search query. Example: android OR ios
- Search for a specific site:: Put “site:” in front of a site or domain. Example: site:medium.com
- Search social media: Put @ in front of a word to search social media. Example: @reddit
15. Quickly Insert Emojis
Like it or not, emojis are now as common as the exclamation mark, and more and more people are using them outside personal correspondence. Instead of limiting yourself to the most basic emojis, you should learn how to quickly insert them in Windows and Mac:
- Windows: Win + period (.) or Win + semicolon (;)
- Mac: CTRL + CMD + Space
All of these shortcuts open a special emoji window, allowing you to pick any emoji you want and insert it with a single click.
At BCA, we have a wealth of knowledge and helpful tips to assist end users with the use of technology.