Imagine if you drove a car for years, but never knew that by lifting the little thing on the side of the steering wheel, you could let other drivers know that you planned to turn left or right.
Or if you thought that you had to use the up and down arrows on your TV remote to change channels, rather than simply clicking on the numbers.
Yeah, laugh now. When it comes to computers, laptops, smartphones, e-readers, printers, browsers, email and social networks, we all don’t know certain basics.
- Hitting the space bar is the same as clicking on the scroll bar — and a lot easier.
- You can silence your cellphone immediately by clicking any button — volume, the on/off switch, whatever.
- Google can act as a currency translator, flight tracker and Roman numeral converter.
You probably knew some of that. You probably did not know all.
And — until now — no has one collected all that “basic-except-no-one-ever-told-me” information in one place.
The job fell to David Pogue. The Westport resident — who has spent his career explaining technology to the masses, via books, videos, the New York Times and now Yahoo — has just written “Pogue’s Basics: Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) For Simplifying the Technology in Your Life.”
It will be published tomorrow (Tuesday, December 9). The tips are a lot shorter than the title.
Pogue first realized the need for a manual — a “driver’s ed course” for tech — a decade ago. He watched in horror as a receptionist agonizingly tried to highlight one word in a Word document. Her cursor kept missing it.
Finally, Pogue asked, “Why don’t you just double-click on the word?”
“Oh my God!” she screamed. She had no idea.
In 2008, Pogue wrote a Times piece on his 25 favorite tips. The comments section exploded, as readers shared their own I-thought-everyone-knew ideas.
Two years ago, Pogue gave a TED talk. In 6 minutes, he raced through 10 tips. It was clear that very few folks in the highly educated, high-functioning audience knew that during a PowerPoint presentation, hitting “B” on a keyboard blacks out the screen, allowing everyone to focus on you and not your slide. (Bonus tip: Hitting “W” whites out the screen.)
The book followed. Now everyone — well, everyone who buys it — will know that hitting the space bar twice on a smartphone automatically inserts a period and space, then capitalizes the next letter you type. (You knew that, right?)
I told Pogue that I don’t know 95% of what Microsoft Word does. I can create columns, insert tildes and Greek letters, and get word counts, all of which I’ve been asked to share by clueless others. But they know other Word tricks I don’t even know I don’t know.
“That’s fine,” Pogue says. “No one uses more than 5% of Microsoft Word. It’s not your fault. My job is to make sure you know which 5% to use.”
Click on Pogue’s Basics to order this immensely helpful guide. It’s available in print or as an e-book. And if you don’t know all the ways to get the most out of your e-reader — well, what are you waiting for?
PS: I’m sure you know this, but on the very off chance you don’t:
- “Airplane mode” charges your phone twice as quickly.
- Both iPads and Androids have ways to keep your tablet screen from rotating.
- On YouTube, hitting “J” on your keyboard jumps the video back 10 seconds; “L” moves it ahead 10 seconds.
(Click on this TED video to see the talk that started it all.)