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Mac Tips | Savvy Tech Tips - Part 2

December 19th 2006

Google Movies

Computer: All • Level: Novice

Want a quick way to find nearby movie showtimes? Well, you can once again use the versatile Google search bar to accomplish this task. Similar to our earlier Google weather trick, you can type the word “movies” and a zip code or city name in the Google search bar to pull up a listing of movies in and around that zip code or city.

Here are two examples:

google_movies1.gifgoogle_movies2.gif


The top return for this type of search shows a movie reel and a link for showtimes, as shown below. Click on the Showtimes link.
google_movies3.gif

Now, you’ve got a ton of handy movie information to examine. There are movie times, locations, information, and various links. Here is an example of the top portion of the resultant window:

google_movies4.gif

Most of this page is self-explanatory, but the
re are a couple of things to note. First, note that you can search the listings for showtimes for upcoming days. Second, note that you can click on the links in the top right of the window to reorganize the information by theater distance, movie popularity, movie rating, and movie title. “Theater distance” is great if you know where you want to go but don’t know what you want to see there. “Movie title” is handy if you have a particular movie you want to see but don’t know where it’s playing.Enjoy! As always, comments, suggestions, and feedback are welcome.

December 18th 2006

How Many Spaces after a Period?

Computer: All • Level: Novice

Pop Quiz: You finish typing a sentence. How many spaces do you add after the period, before you begin the next sentence?

If you’re like many people, you’ll likely say two, because that’s the way you were taught in high school.

Well, things change, and not everything your high school teachers taught you is correct. The correct answer is one space.onespace.gif


Two spaces after a period is a throwback to the typewriter days of yesteryear, when letters in typefaces were all the same width and two spaces were needed to help delineate the end of a sentence. Nowadays, computer characters have variable widths so only one space is used after a period.

Don’t believe me? Well, pick up any popular magazine or book and take a look. All professionally typeset pieces have one space after the period.

Think academic writing is exempt from this rule? Not true. The APA Publication Manual (5th edition, page 290) says this: “Space once after all punctuation as follows:…after punctuation marks at the ends of sentences.”

onespace2.gifDon’t feel too special if part of you is rebelling against this one-space rule. When I cover this in design seminars, it’s amazing to see the shock and disbelief it causes in a few participants. It’s as if they have been told the world is flat, or that Santa is not real. But times change, and it’s time to leave the 20th century behind us.

Period. Space. Next sentence.

December 14th 2006

OmniOutliner (Mac Only)

Computer: Mac • Level: Novice

Macs come loaded with all sorts of neat and virtually unknown programs. One such program is called OmniOutliner. If you’ve got a later version of OS X, you’ll likely find some version of this program in your Applications folder.

As you might guess, OmniOutliner, is a—surprise—outliner! omnioutliner.jpgBy learning its simple fundamentals you can quickly create project outlines, paper outlines, and lists of things to do.

Using the program is a snap. By default, a new file opens when you open the program.

Once you get the program open, you can type in the name of your list, paper, or project. If you hit return, you’ll create a second item in the outline. It will show up at the same level as the above item. If you select an item (click the black dot on the left), you can nudge the item one level to the right by hitting the “tab” key. Likewise, “Shift-tab” moves and item to the left. In this way, you create levels in your outlines and lists.

And that’s all there is to the basics. Elegant and simple, yet incredibly powerful. For more complex applications of the program, experiment with adding columns and take a look at the help file in the program. I use OmniOutliner to keep track of moderately complex projects, quickly write article outlines, and organize training seminar content.

Enjoy!

December 12th 2006

Selecting Words in Text Efficiently, or How to Save Two Days of Work Each Year.

Computer Type: All • Difficulty Level: Novice

Computer users are constantly typing, deleting, changing, and moving words. And one of the more common tasks we do while working with words is selecting words in order to move them somewhere or delete them. Everyone knows how to select a word on a computer. However, many people don’t realize that there may be a faster and more efficient method than the one they currently use. Today, we’ll talk about a better way to select words.

In training sessions, I’ll often watch people select a word by careword_selection.jpgfully placing their cursor at the beginning of a word, then dragging their mouse over the word, then slowly bringing it to a stop at the end of a word or words.

However, you can also select a word in text by simply positioning your cursor anywhere over the word and double-clicking. And this trick will work in almost all programs. Open up a word-processing program and give it a try. See? In Microsoft Word, when you select a word this way, it also picks up the space at the end of the word, which is usually helpful. Selecting words this way is faster and more efficient.

Well, you might say, that’s great, but often I want to select a series of words in a row. In that case, simply double-click anywhere on the first word, keep your mouse button held down, and drag across the line to the last word you want to select. In word-processing programs, selecting words this wayword_selection2.jpg picks up series of words, and will select from the beginning of the first word to the end of the last word in the series. You don’t have to fiddle with positioning your cursor exactly over the end of the last word.

If this multiple-word selection trick didn’t work for you when you tried it, chances are you released the mouse button after double-clicking on the word, then re-clicked on the word. When you want to select a series of words, don’t release the mouse button after you double-click on the first one: double-click, hold, drag.

What’s the value of a trick like this? Well, I ran a quick test. First, I timed myself selecting ten words in a Word document by positioning my cursor at the beginning of a word, then dragging carefully to the end of each word. It took me 37 seconds to select the ten individual words. Then I selected the same ten words by double-clicking on them. It took me 12 seconds to get all ten individual words. In short, it was 2.5 seconds faster per word to use the double-click method.

If you work with text a lot, you might be selecting words in this way this 100 times a day or more. Using the faster method will save you about 4 minutes/day. That’s not much, but over the course of a year it adds up to almost 17 hours. Even subtracting the time it took you to read this article, that’s more than two full workdays!

Happy clicking, and enjoy all your newfound free time!

December 11th 2006

Google Calculator

Computer Type: All • Difficulty Level: Novice

Can’t find a calculator? Not sure where your calculator is hiding in your Windows computer? Google has an easy alternative: just type your equation in the Google search bar and press return. That’s right. The Google search bar is also a calculator.

Here is an example:

google_calculator1.jpg

Here is what you get back:

google_calculator2.jpg

The asterisk functions as your multiplication sign. The forward slash functions as your division sign.Note that this works in any Google search bar, so you don’t have to be actually at Google’s site to use the calculator. If your browser has a search bar in the top of the window, and you have Google as your preferred search engine, the calculator will work just as well from the small search bar. If there is a Google search bar on a website, the calculator will work there as well.

The only caveat: the calculator only works when you are doing a “web” search. It won’t work if you try it in the image search or other search areas.

Enjoy!

December 8th 2006

Look Up a Word in Microsoft Word

worddictionary3.jpgComputer Type: All • Difficulty Level: Novice

Want a quick way to define a word or find a synonym while typing in Microsoft Word? Well, here’s a quick tip to do just that.

For Windows computers, you simply hold down the “Alt” key and click on the word. The research window will open in the task pane to the right that has definitions for the word, as well as a thesaurus entry for the word if appropriate. You can choose from a number of reference sources by using the drop down menu at the top of this window (see the screen shot on right).

Alternatively (or if you forget the “Alt” keystroke trick), you can right-click on a word, and select Look Up from the pop-up menu. From the pop-up menu, you can also select Synonyms to see a list of synonyms. Select a synonym to replace your current word with the word you select. Lastly, you can select the “Thesaurus” from this menu as well.

The screen shot below illustrates this:

worddictionary2.jpg

Macs have no direct key stroke to get to the dictionary screen, but can get to the same places by right-clicking (hold down the “Control” key and click on the word; see this tip for more info) on the word. Select “Look-up” from the pop-up menu. Alternatively, you can see synonyms for the word by viewing “Synonyms” from the same menu. To replace your current word with the synonym, simply select it from the list. Lastly, you can look up the word in the Thesaurus by selecting Thesaurus from the bottom of the synonym list. See the screen shot below:

dictionarymac.jpg

Happy word hunting!

December 8th 2006

The Missing Right-Click (Mac Only)

Computer Type: Mac • Difficulty Level: Novice

On Tuesday, we talked about the power of right-clicking on objects when you are having difficulties figuring out how to do something in a software program. Well, this works great if you’ve got a Windows computer, but what about Mac users?

macmouse.jpgAlthough Apple’s new mouse has four buttons, many Macs in use today only have a single-button mouse attached to them: using such a mouse alone there is no way to right-click. Are our Mac users left out of the right-click party?

Fortunately, no. Mac users can right-click with the best of them. To right-click on a Mac mouse with a single button, you hold down the “Control” key while you click. It’s that easy.

Agreed, it’s not as elegant as a simple right-click, but it gets the job done and opens up all the benefits of right-clicking.

Another option for Mac users is to buy a Mac-compatible mouse with more buttons, or better yet, a Mac-compatible trackball with two (or more) buttons. There are a number of excellent options on the market that can be had for less than $25.

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