How well do you know the phone in your pocket? How about the computer you’re using or the browser you’re reading this article with? Despite the best efforts, many people don’t know the gadgets and software they use half as well as they should.
And why would they? With services like Apple’s Genius Bar available to answer questions, there’s always a temptation to put our brains on autopilot when it comes to tech gear. Tap or click here to see how to make a Genius Bar appointment.
There’s a lot more going on with most of your tech than you realize. Developers put all kinds of secrets, shortcuts and hidden tricks in the gadgets you own that can make your tech more fun and productive. Here are some of our favorite hidden tech gems.
1. Master the ‘back tap’ on iPhone
Did you know you can teach your iPhone new tricks? Thanks to iOS 14, you can now tell your phone to perform a range of new commands with the help of the back tap gesture.
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 assigned gestures at any time by following the same steps.
2. Beautify your Zoom calls
Daily Zoom meetings can be a drag — especially if you’re not confident about how you look on a webcam. Fortunately, Zoom gives the option to do away with poor lighting and blemishes: Touch Up My Appearance.
Turning Touch Up My Appearance on gives you an “airbrushed” look during video calls. It’s also free, so there’s no need to upgrade your 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, don’t worry — there’s still a way for you to beautify yourself. Snap Camera is a free program from the makers of Snapchat that lets you apply filters to Zoom, Skype and Google Meet calls.
To get these filters on your computer, download Snap Camera for Windows or Mac here and install it. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete installation.
Once Snap Camera is installed, you need to change the camera settings for your video chat app of choice. Usually, this is as easy as going to preferences and changing the camera input to Snap Camera. If you need more help, Snapchat’s support menu has you covered.
When you change your default camera to Snap Camera, you’ll see a search bar over a selection of filters. Search for categories like “beauty” or “funny” to add some more personality to your next meeting.
Here are two of our favorite filters that make you look more polished:
- The VSCO G6 filter by Tyler Allen
- The Smooth Look filter by Snap, Inc.
To find these filters, just type the bolded terms into the search bar.
3. Enhance your video call audio
Nobody likes crackly audio or background noise in their video calls. It’s embarrassing and distracting. That’s where the Krisp app comes in. Krisp uses machine learning algorithms to detect excess noise and remove it. The result is clearer calls and audio for you and your teammates — and no barking dogs in the background.
Setting up Krisp on your computer is similar to setting up Snap Camera. Here’s how to do it:
- 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. See which apps are spying
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.
Now, 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.
Once you download the app, open it and toggle the icon next to the logo to the on position. Then, tap Allow giving the app permission to access your device. You can also change the color and position of your indicator icons inside the app.
5. A quick way to mute your music
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 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.
You can perform this same trick in Safari, too. Click the speaker icon to mute any audio coming from a tab.
6. A better way to copy and paste
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 text replacement
Here’s a powerful trick that can save you lots of time and annoyance: Text replacement. This 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. Luckily, 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. It will take you right to the bottom of what you were previously reading, so you won’t miss anything. Press Shift + spacebar to scroll up.
You can use this trick in every web browser on both Windows 10 and macOS. Just make sure you’re not clicking on a text box or link when you do it. If it doesn’t seem to be working, click the background of the webpage you’re on and try again.
9. Manage incoming notifications 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. You’ll also see a shortcut to the settings menu in case you want to dive deeper.
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. Schedule dark mode on Android
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. And with new iPhones and Androids coming just around the corner, now’s the time to start saving.