Don’t be jealous of those friends who really get their tech.
You know, they’re always showing off this and that, “flexing” their knowledge about the latest smartphone or perhaps a camera trick to make them look years younger. Andsomehow, they spent $200 less on the exact same television you have. Sigh.
Well, it’s time to turn the tables and show off your own tech skills. Before you claim you don’t have any, the following is a look at a handful of “shut the front door” tips and tricks to impress snooty friends, family and coworkers.
From unlocking little-known computer shortcuts and secret smart speaker features to fun ways to turn regular household items into phone accessories, you can totally pull these off.
And be sure to share your own tech hacks in the comments section.
Your wireless mouse has died and you’re on deadline. Or you kid’s toy stopped working and they’re not happy.
If you’re out of AA batteries, did you know you can use a smaller AAA battery by folding up a small bit of tin foil and inserting it on one of the ends?
It totally works since AA and AAA batteries carry the same amount of voltage.
Have you ever been handed a document you need to sign and send to someone? It’s a pain, as you have to scribble your John Hancock, digitally scan it and then email to someone.
There is a better way.
iPhone users can press and hold the Notes icon on your Home Screen, which initiates 3D Touch, and then tap Scan Document. Now take a photo of any paper in front of you, tap Share button and choose Markup.
Sign, save n' send!
I show how to pull this off in a short video on Twitter.
Did you know there’s a built-in flight simulator in the free pro version of Google Earth?
Downloadable for Windows PC and Mac, Google Earth Pro lets you see our beautiful planet in all its glory, but you can also fly around it, virtually, whether you’re using a joystick or a mouse and keyboard.
Once inside the program, press Ctrl + Alt + A (on a PC) or ⌘ + Option + A (on a Mac) and choose what kind of aircraft you want to fly and which airport to leave from. When inside the simulation, click “Help” for a deep dive of what more you can do.
If you have an Alexa or Google smart speaker on your night table, you knowthey’re great for setting alarms, and listening to music, podcasts, radio stations, and white noise.
But if you wake up your smart speaker with your voice – saying “Alexa” or “OK Google” – you might also wake up a sleeping partner beside you. Based on personal experience, this isn’t a great idea.
Instead, use Whisper Mode on your Amazon Echo smart speaker. As I show in this video, whisper “her” name and Alexa will whisper back. Pure genius.
For Google Nest devices, you must first enable Night mode on your smartphone’s Home app (tap the name of the device > Settings > Night mode).
This one is crazy, but it can help you in a pinch.
Did you know you can use any pair of headphones as a microphone, to record audio on your PC?
That’s right, just plug the headphones into the microphone jack of your desktop or laptop and start recording (perhaps using free software like Audacity) or for during a live Zoom call.
Don’t expect it to have the same quality as a real microphone, but the audio works both ways.
Speaking of computers, you might use emojis on your smartphone all the time, but Windows 10 has a hidden emoji keyboard you can pop up at any time, whether it’s for use in an email, document, or social media.
To activate emojis, simply press the Windows Key + period (.) key and a pop-up emoji keyboard will appear. You’ll see your most used ones near the top, plus you can search by keyword, such as “martini” to celebrate the start of a weekend.
Calling all dog walkers. You can easily type a message on your iPhone with one thumb, while holding the device in the same hand.
Simply start a message, email or note, then press and hold the Smiley face emoji (bottom left) and choose a smaller right- or left-handed keyboard. It will be nudged to one side to easily reach each key.
Now, type what you like and when you're done, tap and hold Smiley face icon again and expand keyboard back to full size.
Now here’s something paper books can’t do: read the words back to you.
The recently updated Google Play Books app includes several new reading tools, including the ability to listen to a book read out loud.
Whether it’s to help your kids better grasp reading on their Android tablet or if you want to close your eyes on a plane and have the next chapter of your Stephen King thriller read to you on your Samsung Galaxy or Google Pixel phone, simply launch a book, tap the three dots in the top right of the screen and choose Read aloud.
The spoken text will be highlighted. You also have a choice of whether the pages turn automatically or manually.
► Reading an amazing book?Here's how to seamlessly sync between the audiobook and ebook
You likely know you can wirelessly cast content from, say, the YouTube app on your smartphone to a nearby Smart TV, but the Chrome browser also lets you send content from your Windows PC, Mac or Chromebook to a compatible TV or smart speaker/display.
Simply right-click your mouse anywhere on a webpage and choose Cast (or Cast Media). Now select where to cast to from the drop-down menu, such as Sony Android TV.
Save money on ink with Ecofont, a collection of downloadable font styles that are “perforated.”
Though it may look the same to the naked eye, these fonts have tiny holes in the letters, numbers and symbols and, therefore, when printed, can save up to 46% of your ink or toner, says Ecofont. An annual license costs about $8.25 for or a home user (more for a business).
Not only is this better on your wallet, but it also means fewer ink cartridges in landfill sites.
On a related note, also consider Epson’s cartridge-free EcoTank family of all-in-one printers (from $199) that give you up to two years’ worth of ink out of the box.