Here I offer some small, but significant, tips that will enhance your computer use. They may make your use of the computer faster – possibly saving you money in internet cafes. They may bring to your attention features you didn’t know existed – helping you to learn about the computer you use. I hope that you find them useful.
1. Magic Tab
The tab key is your friend. It is the key on your keyboard above Caps Lock. It may say Tab on it, or it may have a picture of two arrows pointing in opposite directions. You may have wondered what this key is for. It is usually used in word processors for inserting a small amount of white space and lining up text. However, for the average user, the tab key speeds use of the computer. If you are on a web site with a form (this can be for registration, or merely logging in) you can use the tab key to jump from one field (place where you type) to the next. Rather than reaching for the mouse, moving the pointer over the next field and clicking, you just hit the tab key.
Hold down the Alt key and press Tab to move through the windows you have open. Handy at work if you are looking at a web page you shouldn’t be and the boss walks in. Quickly Alt Tab back to your spreadsheet before he sees!
2. The other mouse button
Your mouse has two buttons. Normally you only click the left hand one. The right hand one is very useful too. When you click it, a menu is displayed showing common things you might like to do depending on where you clicked. This means you don’t have to search through menus for the function you need. You can also learn about useful functions you might not have known about by reading the “right click menu”.
3. Single and Double Clicks
I have noticed that a lot of people click twice on everything. Some things are meant to be clicked only once. For example, links on web pages and buttons on menus. If you click twice, you may accidentally click on a link on the page you are trying to get to, and thus move on to another page. In the case of a button you may well run the function twice – this could be disastrous. So when should you double click? As a general rule you only need to double click to open a file or programme. An exception to this is if you are opening a file or programme from the Start menu, in which case you should only click once to avoid opening the programme multiple times.
4. Keyboard short cuts
You can use the Ctrl and Alt key with other keys to access common functions. For example, to copy something, select it and then press Ctrl and C. To paste use Ctrl and V. To select everything on a page or in a document use Ctrl and A. Keyboard shortcuts are often displayed next to the corresponding function in menus.
In internet explorer you can scroll down a web page without using the mouse by simply pressing the space bar. Alternatively use Page Up and Page Down to scroll in any programme.
In Word, the Home key will move the cursor to the start of the current line. Conversely, the End key will move it to the end.
5. Change your home page
Do you use your computer to access the internet everyday? Do you always see the MSN page when you start Internet Explorer? Do you ignore it and move on to another page immediately? If you answered yes, then why haven’t you changed your home page? To do this, go to the page you would like to see everyday, then open the Tools menu, select Internet Options and click the Use Current button. Bye bye Microsoft. You could open to a news page (have you tried news.google.com?), your web mail, your business’s web page or just a page with pretty pictures which calm your mind. It is your choice. There is no need to stick to the default.
Proxomitron web filter
I have just discovered that the programmer of the highly recommended Proxomitron web filter (for removing adverts from web pages you visit) has ceased development of the software. You can still get this software for free from www.proxomitron.info and it is well worth the download.
Originally published in Arusha Times 292