Learn to Love Your Keyboard
Nothing saves me as much computing time as keyboard shortcuts. Think of them as gesture controls for your PC. Here are my top three keyboard tricks for saving time (and starving my mouse of attention).
Memorize the shortcuts you use most commonly: The shortcuts at your command should go far beyond Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V. Think about the actions that you frequently repeat in your favorite applications. For example, if you work with Excel, acclimate yourself to switching between worksheets by holding down Ctrl and tapping Page Up or Page Down. With a little practice, you'll find that using these shortcuts becomes second nature.
Assign new keyboard shortcuts: If the default shortcut for one of your favorite actions is unduly complicated (or doesn't exist at all), make your own. For example, Photoshop has its own keyboard shortcut mapper (Edit, Keyboard shortcuts). Windows 7 lets you map keys to program shortcuts, too; right-click the program shortcut, select the Shortcut tab, choose the Shortcut key box, and assign your own keyboard shortcut to open the program when you tap that key in conjunction with the Ctrl and Alt keys.
Stop relying on your mouse: Put it down and don't let yourself even think about it; instead, keep your hands on the keyboard, and give yourself a chance to operate your computer at something closer to the speed of thought.
--Ryan Block, Gdgt.com
Work With Windows Shortcuts
Most Windows users know about using Ctrl-C to copy, Ctrl-V to paste, and Ctrl-Z to undo. But other Windows keyboard shortcuts can be just as helpful.
Control your tabs: In a browser, press Ctrl-T to open a new tab. Use Ctrl-Tab to switch between open tabs; if you close a tab by accident, press Ctrl-Shift-T to reopen it--a lifesaver in some situations.
Quickly navigate between windows: Use Alt-Tab to bring up an overlay in the center of the screen showing all your open windows and letting you choose which to pull to the front. For Windows Vista and later, Flip 3D turns open windows into a virtual stack that you can flip through. To activate Flip 3D, press Windows-Tab. For additional control, use Windows-Left arrow or Windows-Right arrow to snap your window to the left or right side of the screen, Windows-Up arrow to maximize the window, or Windows-Down arrow to minimize it.
Use keys to open programs mouselessly: In Windows 7, press Windows to open the Start menu. Afterward, you can start typing to search through programs in the All Programs menu. Press Enter, and the top program in the search results will open. Press Windows, and type wo to bring Microsoft Word to the top in the search results; press Enter, and you'll be typing in a new Word document.
--Michelle Mastin, PCWorld
Accelerate Google Searches
You can reduce the amount of time you spend surfing the Web by using advanced Google search strings to find the specific data you're looking for.
Find films fast: To get movie times at local theaters, type movies followed by your zip code into the Google search bar; Google will display a list of what's playing at every nearby cinema. For greater specificity, type movie title followed by your zip code to narrow your search to a single film.
Follow your flight: To see your flight status without having to hunt through your airline's website, type the name of your airline and your flight number (JetBlue 846, for example) into the Google search bar. Google will provide your flight information, with an update on whether the plane is on time.
Watch the weather: To check the weather before you go, type weather and your destination ('weather Las Vegas', say). Google will supply the relevant area's four-day forecast. Now there's no excuse not to be prepared!
--Alex Wawro, PCWorld
Save Time While Shooting Photos
Learn to use burst mode, and then learn to love it: Some of the hardest things to capture with a camera can be the most memorable: a smiling baby, a pet doing something awesome, or the moment-of-impact shot of your kid getting his first Little League hit. Instead of relying on an impossibly well-timed shutter finger, set your camera to its continuous-shooting (or “burst”) mode and start snapping rapid-fire images. Not only will you have a better chance of nabbing the perfect shot, but also you will have many pictures to choose from.
Edit as you go, but not after every shot: “Chimping”--the habit of immediately checking out every image you snap on a camera's LCD screen--is frowned upon in serious photography circles, and it'll cause you to miss a lot of good shots. Once you're done shooting an event, however, take a few minutes to review your batch of pics on the camera itself and delete the ones that you know you won't use. Doing so will save you time importing photographs to your PC, but proceed with caution: If you're not sure whether a picture is a keeper, it's best to refrain from deleting it until you see it on a bigger screen.
--Tim Moynihan, PCWorld
Next: Tips for using Office more effectively, and more.