Computer Science

By Brandon Telle

July 21, 2014 5 min read

The personal computer began revolutionizing the way work was done more than 20 years ago. Programs such as word processors and spreadsheets made everyday office tasks easier and more efficient than ever before. The creation of the Internet made collaboration and sharing of information across huge distances commonplace. The rate of innovation hasn't slowed since those early days of computing. In today's offices you can leverage computers and the Internet to accomplish tasks workers 20 years ago could only dream of.

Yet despite the massive leaps and bounds in efficiency computing resources have made, users, on average, are not utilizing computers and the Internet to their full abilities. Here are a few simple tips to help you use your computer more efficiently:

*Stop Clicking and Use Keyboard Shortcuts

It is possible to do almost anything you can do with your mouse using only the keyboard. All programs have keyboard shortcuts that perform actions within the application. Some simple examples are: Ctrl C copies text to the clipboard; Ctrl V pastes the text from your clipboard. In a browser or other tabbed application, Ctrl W closes the current tab; Ctrl T opens a new one.

Most applications have more advanced and application-specific shortcuts. To discover them, look for shortcut descriptors in the menus of the program. For example, when you open the View menu in a Web browser, you will see the "Full Screen" option has the shortcut F11 next to it.

*Use Lesser-Known Built-In Tools to Automate Repetitive Tasks

Many features in office software can be automated if you take the time to learn how to use some of the more advanced tools. Among these is the ever-useful find-and-replace option, which allows the user to replace all instances of a word or phrase with another one. Find and replace can turn hours of tedious searching for changes in a Microsoft Word document into a simple two-second process.

Other convenient tools that are often underutilized in office settings are functions in Microsoft Excel or other spreadsheet software. Most people probably know that "AVG()" can be used to compute the average of cell values, but many don't know that there are dozens of functions available to make creating dynamic spreadsheets quick and easy. Excel offers functions for everything from trigonometry to database access to simple programming operations. Effectively using these functions in your spreadsheets can make many tasks much easier.

*Web-Based Productivity Solutions

If This Then That (http://ifttt.com) is a Web service that can tie together various online accounts. IFTTT lets users create recipes in the form of "If this happens, then do that." It links with various social media platforms and other online accounts and detects events such as a new video's being created or someone's liking a post. When an event happens, the "that" portion of the recipe is performed. IFTTT can be used to automate many online tasks, from automatically posting tweets to a Facebook account to storing Instagram photos in a Flickr account.

Feedly (http://feedly.com) is a Web-based feed reader. It lets users aggregate content from multiple sources across the Internet and read it all in one place. Feedly is a great way to stay up to date with news, blogs and even professional resources.

*Use AutoHotKey to Automate Your Life

AutoHotKey (http://www.autohotkey.com) is a scripting language for Windows computers that lets users automate various tasks. What sets AutoHotKey apart from many other scripting languages that run on Windows is its focus on being easy to use for beginners. With AutoHotKey, you can automate many tedious or repetitive office tasks, from filling out a Web-based form to copying or renaming files.

The things outlined here are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to computer efficiency and literacy. One final tip is this: Use Google to search for better, more efficient ways to do things. Odds are that if you think a task could be done a different or better way, it probably can.

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