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Tech tips

5 simple tech tips that will make your life easier

Everybody loves shortcuts, but sometimes we need a nudge in the right direction to find them. Follow these quick and easy tech tips for adding up numbers, getting a handle on your many browser tabs, simplifying your smartphone typing, seeking out keywords, and wrangling frustrating USB connectors.

1. Google your equations

You need to add up some numbers fast. What do you do? You could dig around in your desk drawer for a calculator. You could fish around on your computer for a calculator app. Or you could just use that Google search box you already have open in your browser. Google’s search box doubles as a quick and easy calculator. It’s pretty flexible about how you phrase your equations. For example, typing “12 x 2” or “12 times 2” will get you the same result. Google helpfully opens up a full in-browser calculator above the usual search results so you can keep going in your calculations.

Google’s built-in calculator can also handle some fancier equations. Try asking it for square roots or string together a series like “12 + 18 + 36 – 9.” If you get into more elaborate queries, remember to use parentheses so it knows what you’re asking. Searching for  “12 + 5 – (2 x 2)” will get the answer you’re looking for: “13.”

2. Control your tabs in Chrome

Windows users are familiar with the concept of the task manager, a program that shows everything running on your computer. The Mac version is called the activity monitor. Google’s Chrome browser has a task manager of its very own and it’s a good way to keep a handle on your tabs.

If you have 30 tabs open, it can be hard to remember what’s where. Access the task manager through the settings (it’s under “more tools”) or use the shift + esc keyboard shortcut on a Windows machine. The task manager lists all your open tabs. Double-click on a tab’s description to make it pop up in view in the browser. There is also an “end process” option that lets you close tabs you no longer need or shut down a misbehaving tab.

3. Embrace your smartphone space bar

Keep the flow of your typing running smoothly by tapping the space bar on your smartphone keyboard twice to end a sentence. You get a period, a space, and the next letter you type will be capitalized. This can work for everything from text messaging to writing emails on both iPhone and Android devices.

4. Find keywords in long pages

You’re staring at a multi-page document or a website that feels like it goes on forever. You know what you’re looking for, but you don’t want to waste time scrolling and scanning. Give yourself a break and summon up a word finder tool by hitting Control + F with Windows or Command + F on Mac. This works with programs like Chrome and Word and gives you a handy search box, usually in the upper right-hand corner of the window. Now you just plug in the word or phrase you’re looking for and can go directly to it within the page.

5. Plug USB cables in the right way

USB cables are everywhere. You probably have a stash of them curled up in a pile somewhere, as well as USB cables snaking around your computer and other gadgets like tentacles. Most of us have spent at least a few frustrating moments trying to plug a USB cable in with the wrong side up. It’s such an annoyance that some specialty reversible USB cables have been on the market for several years to avoid this problem.

But don’t worry. There’s a quick way to figure out which side of your normal old USB connector is up. Your first clue is to look for the small trident-like symbol. That’s up. If your cable is missing the symbol, then look for a small seam running down the outside metal part of the connector. That’s down. It just takes a glance and you won’t end up trying to jam the cable in the wrong way.

Your USB frustrations won’t be around forever. The newer USB Type-C standard finally brings us reversible connectors, so we can look forward to better days ahead as more devices embrace USB-C.

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