5 digital tricks you'll use almost every day

December 13, 2014

5 digital tricks you'll use almost every day

Did you know that the quickest way to open a link on a Web page in a new window or tab is to click the link with the middle button on your mouse? If you're a laptop person, in Windows, press the Control button and click the link. On a Mac, use the Command button and click the link.

There are plenty of great time- and effort-saving tricks in the digital world that not a lot of people know. I've rounded up five that you'll love. Enjoy!

1. A COOL WAY TO CONTROL YOUR PHONE

Any smartphone or tablet usually includes a set of earbud headphones. Apple and sometimes Samsung include ones with inline controls. These have buttons on the earbud cord that let do a bunch of great things without forcing you to reach for your phone or tablet.

Usually there are three buttons - one for volume up, one for volume down and one in the center for play/pause. But, these buttons do much more.

On Apple gadgets, pressing the center play/pause button twice, for example, jumps to the next song and three times jumps back a song. Pressing twice and holding will fast forward a song, while pressing three times and holding will rewind a song.

The buttons aren't just for music, though. Press and hold the center button to get Siri's help without taking your phone out of your pocket.

Want more? If a call comes in, press the center button once to answer and again to hang up. Press and hold the center button until you hear two beeps to send the caller straight to voicemail.

Tired of blurry pictures because you moved the phone while tapping the shutter icon? With the Apple camera app open, press the "Volume Up" button on your earbuds to take a picture. This is really handy for taking shots at awkward angles when you can't see the screen.

Android doesn't have quite so many fancy options for headphone controls. It does the basic volume control, play/pause and answering calls. Like Apple, one press of the center button to start a call, another press to end and hold the button to send to voicemail. Outside of calls, a long press on the center button will activate Google Now or Samsungs S Voice - the Android and Samsung versions of Siri.

Android isn't always as simple to use as Apple, but it can often do more if you know where to look. Here are five Android apps that iPhone owners wish they had.

2. IMPROVE NETFLIX VIDEO QUALITY

If you're paying for a hyper-fast Internet connection and getting lousy Netflix video quality, here's how to find out what's the culprit.

Open Netflix and search for "Example Short 23.976." This video is an 11-minute series of random clips. It's not very entertaining, but it does hold the keys to one major secret.

If you look in the corner of the video, it shows your video bit rate and resolution. The bit rate is how fast the video is streaming and the resolution is the quality. The faster the bit rate, the better the quality you can get.

Typically, Netflix streams 1080p resolution at 3 Megabits per second (3,000 kilobits per second). That's ideally what you want to see.

Make a note of the highest numbers you see during the clip. Then, check the bit rate against what Netflix says your provider averages. Click here for Netflix's ISP speed averages. This will tell you if you're getting the streaming speed that Netflix thinks you should be.

If your bit rate is much lower than Netflix says it should be, then it might be a problem with your Internet. Run a speed test to see if you're getting the Internet speed you're paying for.

If you aren't getting the speed you're paying for, call your provider and let it know. Once your provider gets your speed where it should be, Netflix streaming should improve.

If you are getting the speed you're paying for, and it's faster than the Netflix bit rate, call your provider and let it know there's a problem with Netflix streaming. You might find out that you're being throttled, or it could be a problem your provider can fix.

3. FIND THAT WEBPAGE AGAIN

You're surfing the Web and find a story you don't have time to finish but want to read later. Then when you are ready to read it, you can't find it again. That's the time to fire up your browser history.

In Firefox and Chrome, either hit CTRL + H or click the icon with the three horizontal lines and select History. You'll see the most recent history in chronological order. If you want to view more, at the bottom of the list in Firefox click See All History and in Chrome click Older. For Internet Explorer, hit CTRL + H or click the star icon and go to the History tab. In Safari, go to History in the menu bar at the top of the screen.

On an iPhone or iPad using the default Safari browser, tap the bookmark icon next to the address bar - it looks like an open book - and tap History. In the default Android browser, tap the bookmark icon - it looks like a flag with a star - and then tap History.

Of course, if you really want to save something for later, bookmark it by pressing CTRL + D in any computer browser. In the iPhone and iPad default browser, tap the Share button at the bottom of the screen - a box with an arrow coming out of it - and tap Bookmark. In Android, go to Settings>>Add bookmark. Click here to learn more about creating and managing bookmarks.

4. STOP FACEBOOK FROM DEVOURING YOUR DATA

This tip isn't one you'll use every day, but you'll appreciate it every day. A while back, Facebook turned on autoplaying videos in your news feed, both for the Facebook website and Facebook app.

It's annoying enough on the Facebook site, but in the app it can put a dent in your cellular data for the month, and your battery life.

Fortunately, it's easy enough to turn off. For Android, open the Facebook app, go to Settings and switch "Video Auto-play" to "Off." For Apple, go to Settings>>Facebook>>Settings and turn "Auto-play" to "Off."

On your computer, open Facebook in your browser and log in. Click the arrow on the far right of the screen and then click the "Settings" button. Click the "Videos" link in the left column. From there, select the drop-down next to "Auto-Play Videos" and set it to "Off."

That isn't the only annoying setting Facebook sneaked in. Click here for more Facebook settings that you'll want to change right away.

5. TAKE STEADY PICTURES WITHOUT A TRIPOD

You brought your camera to the family gathering to snap some candid shots, but suddenly everyone wants to do a group picture. You really need a tripod, but you don't have one.

Don't worry; as long as there's a lamp with a lampshade in the house, you're covered.

The standard bolt that holds a lampshade to a lamp is the same size threading as the tripod mount on a camera. Simply take the lampshade off the lamp and screw your camera to the bolt.

Now you've got a lamp-turned-tripod for steady or timed shots. Once you have your photos, check out four online photo editors that will make your photos sparkle.



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