40 Helpful Computer Hacks We Wish We Learned Sooner
By Steve P
Hacks and shortcuts can make a huge difference when navigating the computer landscape. Whatever you’re doing, it can always be done more quickly — and it’s often true that the simpler the tips and tricks are, the better. That’s why we’ve compiled these 40 smart hacks, which won’t boggle your mind but will give you time to focus on more important stuff. You’ll wish you knew these tricks years ago!
1. The tab came back
Closing the tab you’re looking at is easy. A little too easy, in fact — meaning it often happens by accident before you’ve finished what you’re doing. Did you know you can get it back? On Windows, press “Ctrl” + “Shift” + “T”. Or on Mac press “Cmd” instead of “Ctrl”. Remember, while it looks like something has vanished into the ether, it usually hasn’t.
2. Screenshots done smarter
Screenshots are convenient, but you probably only need part of what you’ve grabbed. Don’t tinker, just follow this hack. Hit the Windows “Start” key, or the one with the Windows logo on it, before you make a shot, and search for the Snipping Tool. Alternatively hit “Windows” + “Shift” + “S”. Then hit “New” on the Tool: you can isolate what you want with your cursor. With Mac, do “Cmd” + “Shift” + “4”.
3. YouTube simplified
YouTube is already pretty simple to use and explore, but navigating inside a video can be tricky. Did you know that “K” on your keyboard pauses stuff more efficiently than the spacebar, which can scroll you away from the action? Plus, if you need to go forward or back ten seconds, that’s easy. The “J” key reverses, while “L” zaps you ahead.
Separate windows have a habit of piling up: that’s why they call it Windows, we guess! “Windows” key + the directional arrows are the shortcut you need to shunt clutter to the edges of your screen, be it up, down, left or right. If you’re using another monitor, say, to your right, do “Windows” + “Shift”, plus the “right” arrow to send the window there.
5. Cache clearout shortcut
Put simply, the cache is assorted data collected online by your computer behind the scenes. Why does it do this? It uses the data from the cache to recognize and load things faster. That’s fine, but still, all the data can pile up and slow things down. So sometimes you should probably have a clearout. A quick way of doing this is “Ctrl” + “Shift” + “R”.
6. Don’t wait for lockdown
If you leave your computer, it can take the machine a while to go to sleep and lock. Want to lock it faster? “Windows” key + “L”, or “Cmd” + “Option” + “Eject” on Mac, will stop people snooping while your back is turned. For Macs without an optical drive it’s slightly different: you should press the “Power” key instead at the end.
7. Zooming marvelous
Has your browser zoomed in and you don’t know how to get it back to normal? This is especially irritating, because important icons can vanish offscreen. Use the “Ctrl” key and add “-” to zoom out. For Mac users, press “Cmd” first instead. Obviously the “+” button zooms you back in and, if you need to totally reset, do “Ctrl”/”Cmd” + “0”.
8. Turn off autoplay on Facebook videos
How irritating is it when a video starts playing when you’re scrolling through Facebook? Some of them can be seriously loud and inappropriate! Thankfully you can stop this awkwardness happening via your settings. Check out “facebook.com/settings”, accessed via the menu. From here, go to the “Videos” section to the left. That reveals “Autoplay” and how to disable it.
9. Use “f.lux”
Digital eye strain is a major problem for screen users. You may have experienced pain, dry eyes, and other symptoms connected to the issue. One way of handling it is to manage the brightness of your device. F.lux is a software download that reportedly alters screen color to help your body relax. Plus, it’s free.
10. Get to different tabs and programs fast
Another way to save strain on your eyes, plus time generally, is to cut down on clicking between tabs. In Chrome, press “Ctrl” + “Tab” to shuttle you through your open tabs from left to right. Meanwhile, “Ctrl” + “Alt” + “Tab” brings up a little display showing everything you have open. You can then click on the thing you want for fast, easy access.
11. Neverending YouTube
YouTube can be very addictive, with users wanting to replay the same track or cat video over and over: if only there was a loop button to save some time. Actually, there is, kind of. If you change the “youtube” in your url to “listenonrepeat”, you’ll be enjoying your new favorite video without having to repeatedly restart it.
12. Dino distraction
There are few things more disappointing than when the internet goes down. Chances are, Chrome users haven’t paid much attention to that little dinosaur symbol. But if you click the “Windows” key, then the “up” arrow at the same time, the dino becomes part of a game. You can then have fun moving it around with the arrow keys.
13. This hack will be your undoing
Sometimes it can be fiddly when you make a mistake and need to undo it. Maybe you squint to find the little icon at the top of the screen? Or you search for it in the menus? Stop doing that, because we have a very fast solution. On Windows, “Ctrl” + “Z” will undo, whilst “Ctrl” + “Y” puts it back if you change your mind.
14. Wi-fi password hack for Windows
While necessary, your wi-fi password is awkward if you have to find it quickly. Typically you’ll see it stamped on a little card, but did you know you can access it on your computer? Go to “Network & Sharing Center”, find the wi-fi icon and right-click on it. From there, select “Wireless properties”, then “Show characters” to reveal the password.
15. What about Mac?
Yes, you can do this on Mac also. The “Spotlight” search can be used to find “Keychain Access”. This is an app in which your wi-fi password is stored. There’s an extra layer of security required, where you need to enter your OS level password to see the information. So, not the quickest, but certainly good to know!
16. Grab images off a Word doc fast
By altering the name of your Word file, you can access any images you might need from the document. You do this by renaming the file, taking out “.docx” and inserting “.zip”. Then click to open the file and the pics are placed in a directory for you to check out sans text. A whole lot quicker than trying to extract the images another way.
17. Use “Space Sniffer”
Computer running slow? Could be there’s too much stuff on there weighing you down. How do you see what’s taking up space, so you can work out what to dump and what to save? SpaceSniffer on Windows is free file-scanning software that shows you the chunky items that are clogging up your system. It could be something you forgot about that’s now totally redundant.
18. Ditch formatting for copy and paste
There are times when you want to copy the text from a source so you can paste it into a document for your own personal use. How do you avoid taking all the pesky formatting with it? For a plain-text paste on Windows, use the shortcut “Ctrl” + “Shift” + “V”. For Mac, use “Cmd” at the start instead. Be warned, this doesn’t work with certain Microsoft programs.
19. Delete a whole word quickly
Few things slow you up whilst typing than making small adjustments to text. A word here, a word there. How do you ditch a whole word in one fast motion? Make sure your cursor is behind the word, before doing “Ctrl” + “Backspace”. You’ll be grateful for this one, which saves you having to correct your spelling one letter at a time.
20. Rapid cursor shift
There’s a fast way of moving your cursor between words, without pointing and clicking with your mouse. Press “Ctrl” + the “left” and “right” arrow keys. Going left will take you to the beginning of the previous word, while going right takes you to the following word. On Mac, use the “Option” key. A speedy and convenient alternative to swirling your mouse all over the shop.
21. Emoji menu
Emojis maybe aren’t something you associate with your desktop computer. Yet they are available for you to use via this handy shortcut. The “Windows” key + “full stop” brings up a menu of emojis. For Mac, “Control” + “Ctrl” + “Space bar” does the trick. If you’re wondering what the Control button is on a Mac, it’s the one with a pasta-style symbol on it!
22. Windows character map
Want to know a fast method of finding accents and symbols from territories other than your own? Don’t copy and paste from a Google search, like we’ve been known to do. There’s a Character Map within easy reach on your Windows desktop. Locate it via the search bar at the bottom of your screen for an easy copy-and-paste action: you can even pin it to your taskbar if you’ll use it regularly.
23. Program shutdown
Don’t have time to close a program by going to the ‘x’ with your mouse? Well, you probably do on the whole, but let’s say you want things even faster. By pressing “Alt” + “F4” you can clear that program off your screen in slightly less time. This makes total sense if you need to shut down programs a lot over the course of your day.
24. Minimize like a pro
It’s easy to open lots of windows and have a long row of tabs all along the top of your screen. Let’s say you want to access an icon on your desktop and you want to minimize the tabs. Do you go through each of them one by one, clicking that dash symbol at the top right? Or do you minimize them all in one go with the “Windows” key + “D”? You decide.
25. Shut that window
You don’t need to find the ‘x’ top right in order to close a window on Windows. Press “Ctrl” then “W” to remove it instead. These shortcuts are fast and direct ways of completing tasks efficiently, rather than grabbing your mouse and having to shift your focus away. They are quite literally the key to success, you might say.
26. Web page shortcut
We have a great time saving hack for websites new to your browser that need a “www.” and “.com”. If you can’t be bothered to type out the whole address, then all you have to do is enter in the name before hitting “Ctrl” + “Enter”. The full info is then added as quick as a flash. Type “Ctrl” + “Shift” + “Enter” for a “.net” site.
27. Spacebar scrolldown
Does it irritate you having to scroll slowly down pages searching for information? Using the mouse and the slider, or the little wheel, can be annoying. How about this hack, where you hit the spacebar to jump through a whole page. Perfect if you know the info you need is many pages ahead. If you need to go back, then press “Shift” + “Space bar”.
28. Image search shortcut
Should you need to explore an image you see on a webpage and you’re using Chrome, you can hold down “S” then right-click on the pic in question. The “Google Lens” sidebar opens up so you can look for an image source. Plus there are similar results displayed beneath. You need never wonder where a pic came from again!
29. Private browser tip
You don’t necessarily need a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for going under the radar.
By pressing “Ctrl” + “Shift” + “N” on Chrome you go “Incognito” where your machine doesn’t track every keystroke. Meanwhile, you can do the same thing on Firefox and Microsoft Edge by pressing “Ctrl” + “Shift” + “P”. This is ideal for something like shared computer use, where you don’t want folks snooping on your clicks.
30. You don’t need to name your bookmarks
Bookmarks have been incredibly useful for decades, but did you know that the names of your fave sites on Chrome don’t need to be on there? You can simply delete the names and the icons remain to show you what’s where on the list. This saves space and can be done by right-clicking on the bookmark before going to “Edit” then delete and hit “Save”.
31. Wheelie effective
The scroll wheel on your mouse can do more than you think. Sure, it makes scrolling a bit faster and smoother, but it has some other purposes. You can use it as a button to click on links. Also you can close tabs with your wheel by simply pushing on it. This is also worth bearing in mind if you have issues with your mouse buttons.
32. Rename a file faster
There are few things more fiddly than file-renaming. You have to right-click, then find the “Rename” option, which is usually toward the bottom or even so far down it’s offscreen! An easier way is to select the file before pressing “F2”. You can then “Tab” to change other file names efficiently. Use “Enter”, then “Cmd” + “O” on Mac.
33. Check in on your router
Cybersecurity will always be a hot topic and one that’s not cooling down anytime soon. It’s arguably never been simpler for criminals to compromise your router. So why not regularly log into it to see everything’s in order? You do this by entering your router address into your browser and then check if someone hasn’t hitched a ride on your bandwidth.
34. How to log into your router
How do you find your router address if you need to log into it online? Simple — it’s typically printed on the router itself. Failing that, your provider probably gave you a handy card with the relevant information. No card? Using your search bar, enter “CMD” then choose the “Command Prompt” window. Type “ipconfig /all”: Your ip address will be the “IPv4” address.
35. Make Word go wide
Microsoft Word is a go-to program, but it’s fair to say that the screen has a fair amount of stuff on it that can distract you. Should you want to work on a less cluttered canvas, then check out this hack. Go to “View” then “Zoom” followed by “Text Width”. Click “Ok” and your horizons are well and truly expanded.
36. Read PDFs quickly with Chrome
When you read a PDF, you’re probably doing it using a PDF reader which needs to be installed on your machine. This isn’t an essential tool, because you can read one without the reader. How? Simply drag your PDF file icon onto the Chrome icon. Chrome will then automatically open the document for you. We think you’ll agree that’s a Pretty Damn Fine tip.
37. Project option
Do you want to show a public presentation or something else direct from your computer? On your PC, you can project your display to a projector or second screen using Project Option on Windows. Use the “Windows” key + “P” to see your options for this. You can present what’s on your desktop to another source, such as a TV or other wireless display.
38. Simplify your System Information Window
Your System Information Window provides a convenient overview if you need to check something fast. If you want a rapid method of accessing it, then press the “Windows” key + “Pause/Break” button. The window is then available to view instantly. Your computer is a complex box of tricks, so the faster you can do this kind of stuff the better.
39. Make sure you’re using the Cloud
You’ve no doubt heard of the Cloud, but do you actually take advantage of it? It’s tempting to rely on things like memory sticks: they can be very useful. Yet if you lose it and something happens to your machine, you’re in trouble. Google Drive is just one cloud-based service you can work on that stores your documents. Plus, it’s free!
40. Steps Recorder
Do you have an issue with your computer that requires outside help? If you do, your chosen expert will need an explanation, which can be tough to articulate. Steps Recorder for Windows is designed to make things a bit easier. It details everything you’re doing with the machine, which you can send to the helper. Access it via the Windows search bar: press the “Start” button, then select “Windows Accessories” and then “Steps Recorder.”