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Friday, December 02, 2011

6 Ways to Save Time Every Day

As a writer and a "computer guy" there are some tools that I use on a constant basis because they make me faster and more efficient. As with most things that are familiar, it's difficult for me to imagine what it's like to not know about these tools or be able to use them. Recently I was helping someone with a computer issue and I suggested using "Ctrl+F" and received a blank stare in return. I can't count the number of times I use "Ctrl+F" on a daily basis, so I was shocked. So, here are the productivity tips and tricks that I use all the time.

Ctrl+F - This is the universal keyboard shortcut to open the "Find" menu, whether it's in Word, Adobe Reader or your favorite internet browser. Press this key combination and then type the word or phrase that you want to find in the document. You can quickly get to the relevant part of the text without having to scroll through the rest of it. Just hit "Enter" to move to the next successive match in the document.

Aero-Snap - This feature of Windows 7 (also available in Windows XP and Vista with an additional program) lets you drag a window to one side of the screen and it will snap to cover half of the screen. Drag another window to the other side and you have two windows that fill the screen area perfectly. Especially when I'm writing articles from a detailed source, this is very helpful.

Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V and Ctrl+Shift+V - The first two are the universal keyboard shortcuts for copy and paste. I'm constantly copying links and titles for references and then pasting them into my articles. The last shortcut is to paste without any formatting. So if you want to quote something from a site or document that has formatting that will conflict with your current document, use Ctrl+Shift+V to paste in just the text by itself without any formatting.

Phrase Express - This is a small program known as a text expander. If you've ever written documents in a program like Microsoft Word, you've used a text expansion tool. Word will automatically replace commonly misspelled words for you, and it allows you to set up rules for expanding abbreviations, if you want it to. Tools like Phrase Express take that show on the road. You can have the same text replacement features in any program on your computer. Since most of my writing is happening in a web browser, this is hugely important to me. It also has the ability to show me the last twenty items on my clipboard so I can go through and copy a bunch of information and then paste it all into my document at one time rather than having to switch back and forth for each copy and paste actions.

Google-fu - There are lots of power search tools that let me get right to the resources I need. Google allows you to tailor your search using text modifiers. So, if I want to search for an exact phrase, I enclose it in quotation marks. If I want search within a site, I type "" after the search string. If I want to search for only PDF files, then I type "filetype:pdf" after the search string. This is a useful way to find the manual for a product that may not be listed prominently on a website.

Drag-and-Drop Search - Google Chrome has a feature that I use constantly. You can highlight text on any site and then click and drag that text up to the tab bar at the top of the window. A little arrow will appear to let you know what's happening. If the arrow points directly to a tab, then releasing the mouse button will start a new search for that text on that tab. If the arrow is pointing between tabs, a new tab will be created at that spot for the search. 


Will Conley said...

Shared! Good stuff, James.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the CTRL+SHIFT+V -- I had no idea and that will definitely come in handy!