RLST Post #1: Lifehacking with Hotkeys

[Editor’s Note: These blog posts are from a class at Lawrence University, RLST 245: Apple, Google, Facebook, which examined those companies from a religious studies viewpoint. We were required to keep a blog for the class. The class was taught by Martyn Smith, and I highly recommend it to any Lawrence student.]

“Similarly, the relatively affluent twentieth-century American could reorganize habits and styles of life experimentally to achieve a more gratifying private life.” –R. Bellah et al. “Habits of the Heart”, pg. 46.

Introduction

I consider myself a nerd, born and bred. I grew up alongside the internet, tottering along as a child to the buzz and beeps of a dial-up modem, and had my parents called into a meeting with my preschool teachers because all I talked about on the playground was a computer game. Perhaps I don’t have as much “cred” as, say, a child of the 80’s, what with the BBSs and the phreaking and the old protocols, but as far as our modern internet goes, I think I can safely say that I’ve lived with it for all of my life. As a hacker (white-hat, of course) and programmer, the internet and I are integrated far more than your average surfer.

(As a side note, I actually offer computer consulting as a business, so if you want to learn how to use a computer more efficiently, contact me.)

Growing up alongside this global monstrosity, and integrating myself into it and the culture surrounding it, through sites like reddit, google code, github, stackoverflow, etc., I have over time picked up a lot of “best practices”, hints, and most importantly, comfort with technology. Which brings me to my (*cough*assigned*cough*) topic for this first blog post: lifehacking.

“Lifehacking”. What a Web-2.0™ word. I prefer to think of it as mundane transhumanism – augmenting your life with technology to achieve more than a normal person can. But “Lifehacking” is much more user friendly, and so it persists. And yet it really is hacking. It’s beating the system in ways that most people don’t know how to use.

Did you know that according to Google, 90% of people don’t know that you can use “ctrl+f” to find text on a page? If you didn’t, I won’t blame you – reading manuals (known affectionately among the tech crowd as “RTFM”) is becoming a lost art. And yet that’s thousands of hours wasted by people who didn’t know a simple shortcut.

Hotkeys

So for today I want to talk about lifehacking through hotkeys. Take a moment to read this comic by /u/neonnoodle (click to enlarge):

watching someone else use a computer

 

 

How did you get back here? Did you hit backspace? Did you hit alt + left arrow? Do you have a macro on your mouse (my preferred method)? Did you actually move your mouse cursor all the way to the top left of the page, and laboriously click the back arrow.

Edit: You could also have a plugin installed that allows you to hover over images and make them larger, saving the time of opening a new tab and coming back!

Did you know to hold control while clicking the image so that it opened in a new tab? Did you middle click on it, which accomplishes the same thing? But I digress.

We already covered ctrl+f, which on mac is the little mac loopy thing + f, which allows you to search for text on a page. This works in most applications. You can also hit f3 to do exactly the same thing.

If you’re using any sort of modern browser, try ctrl+t (mac+t), which opens a new tab. Knew that one? Close the tab, then hit ctrl+shift+t (mac+shift+t) and watch your last closed tab reappear. Really handy when you accidentally hit ctrl+w. You can also middle-click on tabs to close them, removing the need to hunt down that tiny x.

Meanwhile in windows, experiment with the windows key. If you’ve never used it before, you’re really missing out on some great functionality. Hit it in combination with: d (desktop), p (projector settings), l (lock), x (laptop mobility center), and especially e (open windows explorer). Try windows + tab if you’ve got a high-end graphics card, for a fancy version of alt+tab. Just hitting the windows key opens your start menu, which can then be navigated with the arrow keys + enter.

Don’t hit alt+f4 until you’re done reading this article!

Edit: You can also use ctrl+c (copy), ctrl+x (cut) and ctrl+v (paste) to save yourself time when moving around text. These are probably my most used hotkeys outside of the browser. Mac users can just replace “ctrl” with the little loopy mac thing.

What?

What I’m really saying here is that there are tons of ways to speed up your experience with something as everyday as your web browser.

(Oh! Try tap-holding on the left and right sides of the top bar on your android device for a quick way to switch screen brightness!)

If you pay attention to your devices, they try to tell you these things – Open up any menu and you’ll most likely see the hotkeys “Ctrl + P for print, Ctrl + H for history”, in unassuming grey text next to or under the command. Learn these, and you’ll find your experience with any technology improve. It now bends to your will quickly and effortlessly. Or at least it should, if the programming is any good.

Tying this to religious studies

I mentioned up top a word that describes something I subscribe to, which is the idea that humans can use technology to better themselves: Transhumanism. When Prof. Smith asked the class, “who wants Google Glass?”, I was the only one to enthusiastically raise my hand, which honestly surprised me. Perhaps my techological liberalism has made me more apt to enjoy this kind of human augmentation, AR-type stuff.

There are plenty of other people like me (and someday I hope to have a magnet implant as well). Yet many are repulsed at the idea of augmentation. It seems to go against the natural human idea, and yet I say it goes exactly along with the natural human idea – innovation, creativity, adaptability, and striving to be better. We don’t balk when people pierce their ears, and I hope that it is only a few years until people can replace parts of themselves with technology that makes us better, stronger, faster.

What do hotkeys have to do with bionics? For me, it’s learning to become familiar with technology. That way if you have your eye replaced, you’ll be comfortable with it, instead of struggling to figure out something that has become part of you.

Conclusion

In my humble opinion, learning how to properly and efficiently use the technology you already have is one of the greatest lifehacks you can accomplish. Plus it looks really sweet and your friends will all be impressed by how you can switch tools in photoshop without having to move your mouse.

And who doesn’t want that?

Further Reading

Comprehensive List of Windows Hotkeys

Comprehensive List of Mac Hotkeys

(For linux, you’ll have to find a list for your specific flavor)

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