No, I’m not going to talk about “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,” although I do feel the raindrops on roses thing has a lot going for it. But I am going to talk about are a few of my favorite computer things—things that make my computer work for me. Computers excite geeky girls like me but, honestly, they are really just tools that should make work life easier. Problem is, too often I watch people go to work for their computers, rather than the other way around. I’m on a mission to upend that scenario, starting with the simple things.
- Windows logo key. The logo key is that key, right there on your keyboard, with the Windows symbol on it. Press it and see what happens. Your Start menu should pop up with your cursor flashing in the Search box. Now, start typing the first few letters of a program you work with often, say, Outlook. You shouldn’t be able to get past the “out” before seeing the Outlook icon at the top of the search results list. Press Enter and Outlook will start. This works for every program in your Start menu. Hands on keyboard, not reaching for mouse and click, click, clicking, are faster hands. That’s just the beginning of what the Windows Logo Key can do. Visit this link for more Windows Key goodness and click on “Windows Logo Key Keyboard Shortcuts.”
- Jump lists. See that Windows Task Bar at the bottom of your monitor? You should see some program icons pinned to it. (If not, pin a program to it by right-clicking on a program’s icon on the Start menu, and then clicking on “Pin to Taskbar.”) Now, right-click on a program icon on the Task Bar and you’ll see a list of all of your recent items. This is your jump list. Jump lists are huge time-savers, giving you easy access to stuff you’ve worked on recently. Hover your mouse over any one of the items and you will see a stickpin appear to its right. Click on the stickpin and that item is now “pinned” to the jump list. It will stay there until you choose to unpin it. Pin the files you access all the time so you can get to them quickly. Microsoft has a 45-second overview video here. (Note that some programs have more jump list functionality than others.)
- Flags. Flags are your friends, if you’ll just let them be. Look at the list of email in your Inbox. To the far right (generally), you should see a column of tiny transparent flags. Click on a flag—right on top of it. Watch it turn red. Click again. Watch it change to a checkmark. Right-click and see all the flag choices available. This is flagging. When you flag Outlook email for follow-up, you’re telling Outlook this is email you want to pay extra attention to. The flags are quite visible and easily sortable (click on the flag column heading and bring all the flagged email to the top). Once you’ve paid the flagged email proper attention, just click the flag to mark it done. The flag will change to the checkmark, giving you a nice visual of a finished task. If you want to get fancy, and I hope you do, right-click and choose “Custom” flag to set the flagging details exactly the way you want.
- Autocorrect. I watch too many people watch their keyboarding. They see that little red squiggly line on the monitor indicating a typo then they backspace to fix it manually, or correct with spell-check. But both actions are one-off fixes and, really, you might as well be using a typewriter. Don’t just correct—Autocorrect. When spell-checking, look at the options available. One of them will be Autocorrect. Choose your correction from the Autocorrect list so that the next time you make the same typo (and you will), Word will fix it for you. (For more Autocorrect tips, read “Don’t Touch That Typo,” here.)
- OneNote. Over the past year I’ve fallen in love with this planner and note-taking program (thankfully my husband isn’t threatened by my software affairs). If you have Office 2010, you already have OneNote. OneNote is easy to use, easy to search, easy to share. You can store pretty well anything in it you like: Text, Pictures, Files, links to files and webpages, audio, video, drawings and more. You can organize it any way you like and share it, or not, as you like. Think of it as a spiral notebook with divider tabs for each subject area, and pages within each subject tab, and you’ll be well on your way to understanding it. Fora fabulous quick read, getting straight to the point of the program, see Microsoft OneNote in One Hour for Lawyers by legal technologist Ben Schorr.
- Deskpins Utility. The Deskpins Utility program is small, simple and does only one thing (for free!), but I can’t do without it. Simply, it pins one program on top of another and forces it to stay there until you unpin it. Just click on the program pin, then click on the program’s task bar to pin it. No more slipping underneath. Little things can mean a lot.
- Dragon Dictation. I confess, I have fallen for the New IPad. I’m having fun with a lot of apps, but I find one particularly helpful: Dragon Dictation. Even with the keyboard split (which makes keyboarding so much easier) the virtual keyboard is still uncomfortable and slow. With Dragon Dictation, I don’t type so much but I talk a lot. The transcription is amazingly accurate (without a headset!) and it’s easy to send to email, the clipboard or social media. Saves a ton of time and aching thumbs. And it’s free!
These are some of the simple things that make my computing day just a little easier and more efficient. If you have some favorite things that help put your computer to work for you, drop them in the comments. I’d love to hear about them!
Vivian Manning is the IT Manager at Barriston Law LLP in Barrie, Bracebridge and Cookstown, Ontario. Prior to moving into IT, Vivian practiced law at Barriston LLP (formerly Burgar Rowe PC) primarily in the area of Municipal Land Development, with a total of 17 years in private practice before switching to the IT side of the law office. She currently indulges her love of teaching tech through her blog Small City Law Firm Tech, where she provides “tips of the day.”
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