Developers put all kinds of secrets, shortcuts and hidden tricks into the gadgets you use every day. Here’s one I bet you didn’t know before now.
Grab any USB cable sitting around your house. That symbol on one side isn’t just branding or decoration. It will point up if you’re plugging in horizontally; if you’re plugging a cable vertically, the USB symbol will face right. Nice.
Make 2021 the year you become more tech-savvy. Over 350,000 people get my tips delivered right to their inbox. Sign up here while you’re thinking about it. Prepare to be amazed.
1. Teach your iPhone a new trick
Thanks to iOS 14, you can now tell your phone to perform a range of new commands with the back tap gesture’s help.
When this feature is turned on, your phone interprets taps on its back like the push of a button. But unlike the old home button, back taps can do much more than lock your screen. You can customize the gesture to open your Wallet app, mute volume, snap a photo, and much more.
Back taps are only available on iPhone 8 models and newer with iOS 14 installed. Here’s how to set it up:
- On your iPhone, open Settings, followed by Accessibility.
- Tap Touch.
- Scroll to the bottom and choose Back Tap.
- Tap Double Tap or Triple Tap to pick an action. You can have up to two back tap gestures assigned at one time.
Tapping the back of your phone twice will activate the Double Tap gesture you assigned. Tap it three times and the Triple Tap gesture will activate. You can switch the set gestures at any time by following the same steps.
You can also identify a song with one tap on your iPhone. Here’s how to do that on my site.
2. Look much better during Zoom calls
Daily Zoom meetings can be a drag. At least you can look your best by turning on Touch Up My Appearance.
It’s free to use, so there’s no need to upgrade to a paid Zoom account. Here’s how to set it up:
- Open Zoom on your desktop and click your profile picture. Then, click Settings.
- Click the Video tab.
- Under Video Settings, click Touch Up My Appearance.
- Use the slider to adjust the effect. Zoom will remember your preferences the next time you log in.
You can also turn on Touch Up my Appearance in the Zoom iOS app:
- On your Zoom app, tap Settings.
- Tap Meetings.
- Tap Touch up my appearance.
- Toggle this option to display your video with and without the touch-up.
If you don’t use Zoom for your video calls, you can still use this trick. Snap Camera from the makers of Snapchat that lets you apply filters to Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet calls. Tap or click here for instructions and a direct download link.
3. Get better audio during video calls
Nobody likes crackly audio or background noise in their video calls. It’s embarrassing and distracting. The Krisp app uses machine learning algorithms to detect excess noise and remove it.
Here’s how to set it up:
- Tap or click here to create an account and download the Krisp app. Follow the installation instructions.
- Open Zoom and click Settings.
- Open the Audio settings. In the dropdown box, select Krisp for your microphone and Krisp for your speaker.
- In the Krisp app, choose the microphone you want to use and the speakers you want to use.
Krisp is compatible with Skype, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. Look for the preferences or settings menu in your video service, and choose your microphone input and speaker output. If you need more help, Krisp has support for Mac and Windows users here.
4. Know how apps are spying on you
When Apple released iOS 14, it included a new feature that warns users when the camera or microphone is in use. These indicator icons are a huge privacy boost.
Android 11 doesn’t have the same feature built-in, but you can get the same alerts with the free Access Dots app for Android. Once you install the app, you’ll see a green icon if your camera is on or an orange icon when your mic is in use.
When you install Access Dots, it will ask you for full control permissions over your phone. This is safe to approve since the app needs permission to check if other apps are using the mic or camera.
Tap or click here to download Access Dots and for steps to take when an app is watching your every move.
5. A quick way to mute your music in a cinch
If you’re playing music or audio in another tab, you don’t have to stop what you’re doing to quiet it down. Instead, you can mute the tab with just a click.
In Google Chrome, right-click on a tab with audio playing and choose Mute site. This step will stop any audio from playing in the tab until you unmute it.
In Microsoft Edge, it’s even simpler. Just click the speaker icon. The same step goes for Safari.
6. A better way to copy and paste that gets rid of the junk
Have you ever copied text and watched the format get all messed up when you tried to paste it? Nobody wants Frankenstein documents from copying from different sources, which is why a clean paste is the best way to keep all your text consistent.
To do this, just press Ctrl+Shift+V on PC or Option+CMD+Shift+V on Mac. This will paste the text you’ve copied and remove whatever formatting it had. If you paste your text into a document, it will now match everything else.
7. Speed up your typing with easy text replacement shortcuts
Here’s a powerful trick that can save you lots of time and annoyance: Text replacement. This trick allows you to set up shortcuts to replace longer phrases, like “GM” for “Good morning!” You can do this with common phrases or customize them.
Just think of the possibilities. The @ symbol becomes your email address, and something like “myhome” can shortcut your address.
On an iPhone:
- Go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement
- Tap the plus icon, then enter your phrase and shortcut. Tap Save.
For Android, you can do this using the Google Keyboard:
- Open Gboard’s Settings > Dictionary > Personal dictionary and choose your language.
- To add, tap the plus sign. In the first field, type in the word or phrase you want Gboard to remember. In the second field, type in the shortcode you want to pull it up.
8. The secret scroll you wish you knew about
Not all of us have a fancy mouse with a scroll wheel. There’s an easy way to scroll built right into your keyboard: Just press the spacebar with your browser open and you’ll move down the page.
To scroll back up, press Shift + spacebar.
You can use this trick in every web browser on both Windows 10 and macOS. If it doesn’t seem to be working, click the web page’s background you’re on and try again.
9. Manage incoming notifications simply on iOS and Android
Managing notifications for every single app on your phone can be a royal pain in the neck. But the latest versions of iOS and Android let you change these settings on the fly. The next time a notification comes in that you want to opt-out of, you can adjust the settings right there in the window.
On iOS, press and hold the notification when it appears on your phone. The window should expand slightly. Then, tap the three-dot icon to change the settings for that app.
On Android, touch and hold the notification, and then tap Settings. You can choose to turn notifications off by tapping Notifications off or tap Advanced to allow more in-depth notifications like notification dots.
10. Use Dark Mode to save your eyes
Android 11 included a new dark theme that’s easier on your eyes when viewed in low light. You can even schedule when the dark theme turns on, in case you don’t want it on all the time. Here’s how to set it up:
- Swipe down from the top of your screen to see the Quick Settings menu.
- Long press on the Dark Theme icon. It looks like a half-moon.
- You’ll see the three scheduling options: “None,” “Turns on from sunset to sunrise” and “Turns on at custom time.”
- If you pick “Turns on at custom time,” pick and choose the times you want the Dark Theme to start and end.
Now that you know these handy tech tips, you can get more out of your devices without spending any extra cash. You can’t beat that.
Using an iPhone? Tap or click here for the steps to use Dark Mode along with new animated wallpapers, ways to clean up your Home Screen and more.
NEED A HAND WITH A SLOW PC, PRINTER OR A SOFTWARE PROBLEM YOU CAN’T CRACK? Post your tech questions for concrete answers from me and other tech pros. Visit my Q&A Forum and get tech help now.
What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television, or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.