Skip to Content
© Josepalbert13 | Dreamstime.com
Kim's column

7 clever tech tricks you’ll use time and time again

Today’s tech is loaded with features most of us never use. Why? Simply stated, there’s no real user manual.

Maybe no one ever told you that you could unsend an email. Yes, really. But you need to set up the feature before you need to use it.

Did you know you can skip the ads on YouTube? That is until YouTube realizes we’re all doing this trick. Tap or click here for the simple secret to bypass ads on YouTube.

I’ve got seven more pro tips up my sleeve to make your digital life better.

1. Use your smart speaker’s smarts

We all have things that we only need every once in a while. For me, it’s the annual hunt for the key to unlocking the pod that holds all my Christmas decorations. Now, the elusive key is always within reach.

If you’re using Google Home or Nest, say, “Hey Google, remember that (thing to remember).” For example, I would say, “Hey Google, remember that the key to the Christmas pod is in my desk drawer.” When I need it next Thanksgiving, all I need to say is, “Hey Google, where is the key to the Christmas pod?” Google Home will remind me that the key is in my desk. Nice.

This trick works similarly with Amazon’s Echo. Just replace “Hey Google” with “Alexa” in the above example.

Tap or click for 6 clever uses for an Amazon Echo that will surprise you.

2. Get Amazon on the phone

When you have trouble with an order, there are times when it’s easier to talk to a customer service representative rather than write a lengthy note or deal with a chatbot. An Amazon customer service rep will call you if you know the trick.

While logged into your Amazon account, go to the Contact us page. At first glance, it appears as only a way to chat with a representative. Here’s the secret sauce. If you look very closely underneath the yellow Start Chatting Now box, in small letters, you’ll see the “We can call you” link.

Click that, enter your phone number, and you’ll see an estimated time before you receive the call. I’ve never waited for more than three minutes. Be sure to have your order number handy to expedite getting the resolution you desire.

Did you know you can make money, not just spend it with the online giant? Tap or click for a beginner’s guide to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. 

3. Hear your TV at only the volume you want

Maybe not everyone in your home shares your love of old Westerns or how loud you like the TV’s volume. Sure, you can plug wired headphones in your TV’s 3.5mm headphone jack. If your TV has RCA stereo outputs only, use an RCA-to-3.5mm adapter. But who wants a cord strung from a TV to their head?

If your TV has Bluetooth, you can pair a Bluetooth headset. This option is usually located in the TV’s Settings menu. Alternatively, check your streaming device. For example, the Roku app offers Private Listening to stream audio to your phone or tablet, and from there, you can use your earbuds or headset. The Roku remote has a headphone jack on the side.

Here’s a smart alternative.

Wireless gaming headsets are usually affordable, comfortable, offer excellent sound, and some come with a transmitter. Make sure the wireless gaming headset you pick supports optical audio for the transmitter.

Get more out of your streaming device. Tap or click for 8 Roku tips only the pros know.

I have you covered, too, Fire TV users. Tap or click here for 10 Amazon Fire handy tricks.

4. Make your electronic signature

Even in the digital age, a handwritten signature provides a personal touch. I like to add the signature of my first name only to my email, notes to fans of my show, and on my website. For security purposes, it’s not my authentic signature that I use on legal documents.

Don’t even try to use your mouse or trackpad to get your signature in your computer. It never looks right.

To create your electronic signature, use a black ink pen, sign a white piece of paper, and scan or photograph it. Using your favorite photo editor, save the file with a maximum width of 300 pixels. Keep it at a 1:3 ratio where height is visually one-third of the width.

Also, it’s good to be mindful of the file size. Ideally, any signature graphic should be small (under 50 KB) so that it loads quickly for recipients, doesn’t delay your emails being sent, and doesn’t take up space on mail servers.

Keep in mind that if you’re signing legal documents, these documents typically require a secured digital signature using a service such as DocuSign or Adobe Sign. Microsoft Word documents can now contain electronic signature lines, too.

If you are electronically signing a PDF file, tap or click here for the simple steps on my website.

5. Turn your Apple AirPods into a makeshift hearing aid

If you have difficulty hearing someone during a conversation, Apple’s AirPods can be your on-demand hearing aid. Apple introduced a feature, starting with iOS 12, called Live Listen. Once set up, you can place your iPhone closer to the person you want to hear, and the AirPods will produce clearer audio for you.

To set up this feature, open your iPhone’s Settings and click Control Center. Select Customize Controls and tap the plus sign next to Hearing. When ready, place the AirPods in your ears, and either swipe down your iPhone X (or newer) home screen or up on an iPhone 8 or older and click the ear icon. Tap Live Listen.

Are you an Apple user? Sign-up for my free twice a week Apple tips newsletter here on my site.

6. Make an email that you send expire

Gmail has a great feature that lets you put controls on a sent email. Confidential Mode lets you set expiration dates on an email. After that date, when the person opens the email, only a “Message has expired” notice appears.

On your desktop, open Gmail and click Compose. On the bottom row of the Compose window, there is an icon showing a lock with a small clock face. Here, you can set when the email expires. Recipients won’t have the option to forward, copy, print, or download the email.

You can also make the recipient get a text message with a passcode. Go ahead, live out your James Bond dreams.

7. Send a fax or receive a fax for free

Faxing seems archaic, but occasionally you may need to send one. There’s no need to use a dedicated fax machine or multipurpose printer. You can use a fax web service.

If the document is not already on your computer, you’ll need to scan it or take a photo of it. Using FaxZero, it’s free if you send no more than five faxes per day and only three pages at a time. There’s a FaxZero ad on the cover page that’s no big deal. To send up to 25 pages per day with no ads, it’s $1.99 per page.

If you need to receive a fax, eFax gives you a virtual fax number to receive for free up to 10 faxed pages per month. There are paid options, of course, should you go over the free plan.

Bonus Trick: Make phone calls from your computer

It’s tough living far from people you love, but telephones make that distance much more manageable. Roaming and long-distance charges and using up tons of your allowed minutes can make phone calls expensive.

But if you make a phone call using your computer’s Wi-Fi, those extra costs vanish. You can even make international calls and save a ton! Learn how to make calls from your computer and keep your long-distance loved ones close.

Tap or click to see what you need and how to set everything up. It’s easier than you think!

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.

Ask me your digital question!

Navigating the digital world can be intimidating and sometimes downright daunting. Let me help! Reach out today to ask your digital question. You might even be on my show!

Ask Me