Time Saving Computer Tricks

Time Saving Computer Tricks

Blog post by InspireNet's project manager, Pat Atherton

Busy work and personal lives mean we often have trouble finding the time to fully explore the powerful technology that’s available to us. A few tips and tricks outlined below can help you maximize your time when using your computer. Taking a few minutes to learn about these tips could save you time in the long run.

Most InspireNet members use Microsoft Windows on PCs so these tips are focussed on using this platform and not on Macs or smart phone devices.

Are you an InspireNet member who uses a Mac or smart phone with tips for others? Contact us to write a blog post with tips for those platforms.

The Basics

What are browsers, search engines and operating systems?

Web browsers: software applications that allow you to access information on the internet, such as web pages, images, videos, audio etc. The most popular web browsers currently in use on PCs are Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer (or IE) and on Macs are Opera and Safari.

Search engines: software programs that search for web content based on keywords that the user enters. The most used currently are Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Operating systems: a collection of software that manages hardware resources and is a vital component of the system software in a computer. Computer applications (apps or software programs) need an operating system to function. Popular operating systems include Microsoft Windows on PCs and Mac OS X on Macs.


How can I get stuff done faster?

In many applications hold down the Control key (labelled Ctrl) and click another key to shorten your work, for instance:

Finding things

Ctrl+F: Most people don't know about the Ctrl+F trick: if you enter a large webpage anywhere on the internet, or are viewing a document page, you can find specific content by holding down the Ctrl button then pressing the F key. This will pop open a finder in your web browser where you can enter the word or term you're looking for. More about this is available in this article.

Undoing things

Undo your last keystroke(s) (multiple clicks undo as many keystrokes): Ctrl+Z

In your browser, to:

  • Move to the next tab: Ctrl+Tab
  • Move to the previous tab: Ctrl+Shift+Tab
  • Open the last closed tab so you don't have to go looking for it again: Ctrl+Shift+T

In Word, to:

  • Select a word: double click on it
  • Select a whole sentence/paragraph, triple click on it
  • Move word: Ctrl+left/right arrow
  • Delete word: Ctrl+backspace

Copy things

  • Cut text: Ctrl+X
  • Copy & paste text: copy to your clipboard, out of sight Ctrl+C and paste it from the clipboard: Ctrl+V. So if you wanted to copy a sentence in a document, you would highlight the sentence, hold down the Ctrl key, and press the C key to copy the text to the clipboard. You’d then move you mouse to point to where you wanted to paste the text and hold down the Ctrl key and tap the V key to paste it. Or if you wanted to move a paragraph, you would highlight the paragraph, hold down the Ctrl key, and press the V key to cut the text out of the its original place and add it to the clipboard. You’d then move you mouse to point to where you wanted to paste the text and hold down the Ctrl key and tap the V key to paste it.

Use Equations

If you use Word for papers with equations, you can open the equation editor using Alt+= hold down the Alt key then press the equal sign key). Here's a link to a helpful video.

Cite references

Word 2010 makes citing references easy. Tips are available in this video.

Zotero is free and has a MS Word plug in for citing. When you find the reference you want online, it's one-click to fill out all the source's metadata - here's a helpful video.

In Excel, to:

  • Enter the current date into a cell: Ctrl+; (hold down Ctrl and click the semi-colon key)
  • Enter the current time into a cell: Ctrl+Shift+; (hold down Ctrl and Shift and click the semi-colon key)
  • Force a new paragraph within a cell: Alt+Enter
  • Insert the Sum() function: Alt++ (hold down the Alt key and click the plus key)

In PowerPoint slide show, to:

  • Turn the mouse cursor into a red laser pointer, hold down Ctrl key and hold down the left mouse button
  • Show a black screen, press B
  • Show a white screen, press W

In Windows, to:

  • Minimize everything: WinKey (which looks like the Windows logo)+M
  • Lock your computer:WinKey+L
  • Snap the window to half of the screen: WinKey+right (or left) arrow; WinKey+uparrow to go back to fullscreen
  • Open a new Internet Explorer window: WinKey+E
  • Take a screen shot
  • Open files saved to your Desktop: click the the little square in the far bottom right corner of your screen

What are some Google Search tricks?

You can use the search for doing math calculations and all types of conversions. Just do a search for stuff like:

  • 4*6-24
  • 5 USD to CDN
  • 2 gal to litres

Google will provide the result on the fly.

You can also use Google to quickly define words by adding 'define' before the word you want defined:

define:irony provides a short definition of the word 'irony'

And you can restrict your search to a specific location by adding the following to the front of your search:

location:Vancouver "walk-in clinic" provides a list of walk-in clinics in Vancouver.

Here's a link to an overview of Google's Tips & Tricks.

Here's a link to Google's Advanced Search.

A fun trick: Type "Do a barrel roll" into Google

What are RSS Feeds?

RSS feeds save you time in finding new content on the web. You set up a feed reader which will go out to the web and fetch new content for you, adding it to your feed reader putting everything you're interested in on one page.

This quick YouTube provides an overview.

(Note that Google Reader is being discontinued. Another free and good option is Feedly.com.)

Want to reference this post in the future?

If you find this blog post helpful, you can add it to your browser’s Bookmarks so you can go back to it easily. Or you can add it to your InspireNet.ca account’s Library by clicking that link below, then, when you have time, when logged into InspireNet.ca click View My Content, then the My Library link in the left hand navigation to review your previously bookmarked content on this website which will appear in a table display.

A printable copy of this Blog Post is available here.

InspireNet members:

What other tips or tricks do you use and find helpful in your study or work? Use the Comments section below.

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