Tech Savvy

Being tech savvy helps you being well informed about the use of technology. Here’s a few tips to help you speed up using technology and get things done, that bit easier.

Taking screenshots

Screenshot of Mac OS X

There may be times when you want to explain or show something that’s happening on your computer screen or mobile device. Knowing how to take a screenshot—or a picture of the screen—can be handy in a variety of ways, like:

  • When you’d like to capture an error message to show tech support
  • If you’re on the phone with someone who needs help finding something on his or her computer, you can send a screenshot of your computer to show that person what to look for
  • If you’d like to save the confirmation number of a purchase rather than printing it or writing it down

Screenshots are captured by using keyboard shortcuts or a screenshot application. There are a few screenshot options available, depending on how much of the screen you want to capture. You can choose to take a screenshot of the entire screen, the active window, or part of the screen. In this lesson, we’ll share how to take screenshots for Windows and macOS computers, as well as for mobile devices.

Taking screenshots in Windows

When taking a screenshot in Windows, you’ll use the Print Scrn key in your keyboard shortcuts. The image will copy to the clipboard. It’s important to note that only one image at a time can be copied to the clipboard.

Screenshot of PC Keyboard
  • Print Scrn: This copies the entire screen.
Screenshot of Windows 7 desktop
  • Alt+Print Scrn: This copies the active window or dialog box.
Screenshot of Word 2010

Once you’ve taken a screenshot, you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+V to paste it into applications like Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Paint, and Photoshop. You can then edit and save the image.

Taking screenshots in macOS

When taking screenshots in macOS, these keyboard shortcuts will automatically save the picture to your desktop as an image file.

  • Shift+Command+3: This takes a screenshot of the entire screen.
  • Shift+Command+4: The mouse changes into a crosshair icon. You can then choose from two options:
    • Click and drag the mouse to take a screenshot of part of the screen.
Screenshot of Mac OS X
  • Press the space bar. The mouse changes into a camera icon. Then click on a window to take a screenshot of that window.
Screenshot of Mac OS X

Screenshot apps

Screenshot of Snagit

An alternative to using keyboard shortcuts is to use a built-in screenshot app, such as the Snipping Tool (included with many versions of Windows) or Grab (included in all versions of macOS). 

Taking screenshots on mobile devices

  • To take a screenshot on an Apple mobile device, all you have to do is press the Home button and the Sleep/wake button at the same time. This will take a photo of what’s on your screen, and the image will save to your camera roll (in the Photos app).
Graphic of iPhone
  • To take a screenshot on most Android mobile devices, just press the Volume Down button and the Power button at the same time. This will take a picture of your screen, and the image will save to your gallery.
Graphic of Droid Razr M

Finding your downloads

Screenshot of Google Chrome Downloads Folder

While you may spend a lot of time browsing the Web, you can also use the Internet to download files to your computer. From email attachments to photos, music, movies, applications, and more, you’ve probably downloaded lots of different files from the Web.

Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to locate those files after downloading them. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to find your downloads easily on both Windows and macOS computers.

Using the Downloads folder

By default, most computers will save downloaded files in a specific folder, known as the Downloads folder. If you’re having trouble finding a downloaded file, this is the first place you should look.

Using the Downloads folder in Windows:

  • Open Windows Explorer (also known as File Explorer), then locate and select Downloads in the Navigation pane. A list of your downloaded files will appear.
Screenshot of Windows Explorer

Using the Downloads folder in macOS:

  • Locate and select the Downloads folder on the right side of the Dock. A list of your downloaded files will appear in a Stack above the folder.
Screenshot of Mac OS X

If you don’t see the Downloads folder on the Dock, you can use Spotlight to search for it. Simply click the Spotlight icon in the top-right corner of the screen, then type Downloads in the search box.

Screenshot of Mac OS X

Viewing recent downloads in your browser

You can also view downloads directly from your web browser. This is especially helpful for finding files you’ve downloaded recently, but it may not display every file in your Downloads folder.

We’ll use Internet Explorer in the example below, but other web browsers will have similar options for viewing recently downloaded files.

  • In Internet Explorer, click the gear icon then select View downloads from the drop-down menu.
Screenshot of Internet Explorer

Searching for files

Sometimes you may not be able to find the file you need in the Downloads folder. If you believe the file is still on your computer, you can always search for the file.

Searching for files in Windows:

  • Click the Start button, type the file name or keywords, then press Enter.
Screenshot of Microsoft Windows

If you’re using Windows 8/10, simply navigate to the Start screen and start typing the file name.

Searching for files in macOS:

  • Click the Spotlight icon, type the file name or keywords, then press Enter.
Screenshot of Mac OS X

If you still can’t find the file you need, you may be able to redownload it from the original source on the Web.

Working with Zip Files

A zip file is a way of grouping, or archiving, multiple files so they act like one file. For example, let’s say you want to email a folder of Word documents to someone. You could attach each file individually, but it would take a long time—especially if there are a lot of documents. A better solution would be to put all of the files into a zip file, and then attach the zip file to your email.

Another advantage of zip files is that they are compressed, which means the total file size is smaller. If you’re emailing a zip file to someone or posting it to the Web, it takes less time to upload—and your recipients will also be able to download it more quickly.

Some file formats, like MP3s and JPEG images, are already compressed. You can still zip these types of files, but the file size may not get much smaller.

Creating zip files

Whether you’re using Windows or macOS, you don’t need additional software to create and open zip files. That’s because the basic zip file features are built into the operating system.

To create a zip file in Windows:

  1. Select the files you want to add to the zip file.
selecting files
  1. Right-click one of the files. A menu will appear.
right-clicking files to open menu
  1. In the menu, click Send to and select Compressed (zipped) folder.
sending files to a compressed folder
  1. A zip file will appear. If you want, you can type a new name for the zip file.
changing the name of a zip file

In Windows, once you’ve created a zip file you can then add more files to it by dragging them onto the zip file’s icon.

Screenshot of Windows 8

To create a zip file in macOS:

  1. Select the files you want to add to the zip file.
selecting files
  1. Right-click one of the files. If right-clicking is not enabled, you can hold the Control key and then click. A menu will appear.
right-clicking files to open menu
  1. In the menu, click Compress 12 Items (the number will vary depending on how many files you have selected).
compressing items
  1. A zip file will appear. By default, the file name will be Archive.zip.
the new zip file
  1. If you want, you can type a new name for the zip file.
typing a new name for the zip file

In macOS, once you’ve created a zip file you cannot add more files to it. If you need to add files, you will need to create a new zip file that contains all of the files you want.

Adding a password to your zip file

Some people prefer to use zip file programs such as 7-Zip, PeaZip, and StuffIt. These programs have additional features, like password protection. If you add a password to your zip file, it’s important to tell recipients what the password is so they can open it.

Screenshot of PeaZip

Opening zip files

To open a zip file in Windows:

Windows treats zip files just like folders. You can open a zip file, move files in and out of it, and open individual files just like you would if they were in a folder.

  1. Double-click the zip file.
Screenshot of Windows 8
  1. The zip file will open. You can now double-click any file to open it.
double-clicking a file inside a zip file

Because Windows makes it easy to work with zip files, there’s generally no need to unzip them. However, if you would prefer to unzip them you can simply right-click the zip file’s icon and select Extract All.

Screenshot of Windows 8

To open a zip file in macOS:

Opening a zip file in macOS is slightly different from Windows. Instead of opening the zip file directly, it will unzip the files and place them in a new folder. You can then open the folder to access individual files.

  1. Double-click the zip file.
Screenshot of Mac OS X
  1. A folder will be created with the same name as the zip file. You can double-click the folder to open it.
Screenshot of Mac OS X
  1. You can now double-click any file to open it.
double-clicking a file in an unzipped folder

Password Tips

A strong password is one that’s easy for you to remember but difficult for others to guess. Let’s take a look at some of the most important things to consider when creating a password.

  • Never use personal information such as your name, birthday, user name, or email address. This type of information is often publicly available, which makes it easier for someone to guess your password.
  • Use a longer password. Your password should be at least six characters long, although for extra security it should be even longer.
  • Don’t use the same password for each account. If someone discovers your password for one account, all of your other accounts will be vulnerable.
  • Try to include numbers, symbols, and both uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Avoid using words that can be found in the dictionary. For example, swimming1 would be a weak password.
  • Random passwords are the strongest. If you’re having trouble creating one, you can use a password generator instead.

Backing up your files

As we become more dependent on technology to help accomplish our everyday tasks, we tend to forget how easily the information stored on our computers can be lost. Imagine what would happen if your computer was misplaced, damaged, or even stolen. Would you lose any important music, documents, photos, or other files?

While it may be possible to repair or recover your computer, the files could be lost forever. You can protect your files from accidental loss by creating a backup on an external hard drive or online backup service. Should anything happen to your computer, you can rest easy knowing your files are still safe and secure.

External hard drives

Photo of an external backup drive

One of the easiest ways to back up your files is to copy them to an external hard drive. You’ll need to purchase an external drive to get started. Conduct some research on which product best suits your storage needs, or ask a computer sales representative for recommendations.

Keep in mind that an external hard drive is subject to the same risks as your computer, including fire, theft, and accidental damage. Thus, it is important to keep your drive in a secure location (away from your computer).

Backing up files manually

If you only want to back up certain files, you can copy them directly to an external hard drive. This is an easy way to protect your most important files and folders, like certain documents or an important project.

  • To back up a file or folder, connect the external hard drive to your computer, then simply click and drag the desired items to the external drive. A copy will now exist on both the computer and the external drive.
screenshot of files on a desktop

Backing up files automatically

While it’s easy to copy files and folders to an external hard drive, it’s also easy to forget. You never know when you might need to access your files, so you’ll want to back them up regularly to make sure you always have a copy of the most recent version. To simplify the process, most computers can automatically back up certain files or even your entire hard drive.

  • Using Windows
    Windows Backup (also known as File History in Windows 8/10) allows you to create automatic copies of certain files or folders. You can also use Windows Backup to save a system image, which creates a backup of your entire hard drive, including your files and any applications you have installed. Check out Windows Backup and Restore from Microsoft to learn more.
  • Using Mac OS X
    When active, Time Machine automatically creates a backup of your entire hard drive, including your files and applications. If something goes wrong, it’s easy to restore your computer to a previous date and pick up right where you left off. 
Screenshot of Time Machine for Mac OSX

If you choose to back up your entire hard drive, the initial backup could take several hours. Select a time when you do not need to access your computer—overnight usually works best. Additional backups should be scheduled on a regular basis, but these will usually take less time because the drive will only need to copy your most recent files.

Backing up your files online

Even if you back up your files regularly on an external hard drive, it’s still possible to lose your data. For added security, you can also back up your files in the cloud. When you store something in the cloud, it’s saved online to servers instead of a hard drive. The main advantage of cloud-based storage is that your files are much less vulnerable to risks like theft or accidental damage.

Backing up files manually

Scerenshot of Google Drive

If you want to back up a few files or folders online, you’ll need to sign up for an account with a cloud-based storage service. Most services will give you a small amount of free storage, which should be enough to store your most important files. You can also buy additional storage for a monthly fee.

Best of all, you’ll also be able to access your files from any device with an Internet connection and share files with your family, friends, and coworkers. Learn more about some of the most popular cloud-based storage services below:

  • Dropbox
    Dropbox is a simple way to back up your most important files online. Dropbox offers 2GB (gigabytes) of free storage and allows you to share files and even entire folders with anyone you choose.
  • Google Drive
    Google Drive is a cloud storage service from Google, offering 15GB of free storage. From Drive, you can also access Google Docs, which allows you to create, share, and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more. 
  • OneDrive
    OneDrive (previously called SkyDrive) is a cloud-based storage service from Microsoft, offering 15GB of free storage. You’ll also have access to Office Online, a free online version of Microsoft Office that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. 
  • While simple cloud-based services are great for backing up your most important files, it can be easy to forget to back up your files regularly. If you want to automatically back up a lot of files or even your entire computer, you’ll need to purchase storage from an online backup service.

The amount of storage provided by these services varies, and you will have to pay a monthly or annual fee for adequate space. While these options may seem expensive, they often cost the same as an external hard drive while offering the added security of storing your files in the cloud. 

Mouse shortcuts

Your mouse can be used for more than just clicking on buttons and web links. When working with text or using your web browser, it has a lot of extra capabilities that can help you save time. By using double-clicks, triple-clicks, the right button, and the scroll wheel, you can quickly select text, display menusand change views.

Photo of mouse

Double-clicking

You probably already double-click with the left button to open files and applications, but you can also double-click to perform other tasks. When working with text in a word processor or email, double-clicking a word automatically selects the word. You can then copy, delete, or add formatting to the text.

Screenshot of Microsoft Word

Triple-clicking

Many people don’t realize that triple-clicking with the left button is a useful shortcut for making selections in many situations.

  • In many word processing applications, you can triple-click on a paragraph to automatically select the entire paragraph.
Screenshot of Microsoft Word
  • You can also select a URL (for example, in your web browser’s address bar) by triple-clicking it. If you want, you can then use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+C (Windows) or Command+C (Mac) to copy the URL.
Screenshot of Google Chrome

Right-clicking

In many applications, right-clicking displays a contextual menuDepending on what you’ve selected and where you click, the options on the menu will be relevant to the context you’re in.

  • You can right-click your desktop to change your background or other view options, such as the arrangement of files and applications.
Screenshot of Windows 7 Desktop
  • When you right-click in a word processor (like Microsoft Word), formatting options appear. When combined with double-clicking or triple-clicking to select text, you can quickly format words and paragraphs as desired.
Screenshot of Microsoft Word
  • In your web browser, selecting a word and right-clicking it will allow you to search for the word (for example, in Google).
Screenshot of Google Chrome

If you are using a Mac computer and your mouse is not right click-enabled, Ctrl+click is usually the same as right-clicking.

Scroll wheel (or on some mouse the wheel is replaced by a plate you slide your finger up and down).

You may find your mouse’s scroll wheel useful in some applications (like with your web browser).

  • You can press the scroll wheel, like a mouse button, to select a link and open it in new browser tab.
Screenshot of Firefox
  • Some websites and applications (like Google Maps) allow you to zoom in and out by scrolling the wheel up and down.
Screenshot of Google Chrome

Open a word processor (like Microsoft Word), and try using mouse shortcuts to perform the following tasks:

  1. Type two to three sentences. Select a word in your document, and change its formatting to bold.
  2. Select the entire paragraph, and change its formatting to a different color.
  3. Open your web browser. In the address bar, enter the URL of your choice. Select a word on the webpage and search for it.
  4. Go to Bing or Google Maps. Type your location in the search bar, then press Enter. Using your scroll wheel, zoom in and out of your location on the map.
  5. Triple-click the URL to select it. Try using keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste the URL into your document. 

The Tab Key

Your keyboard can do a lot of things that your mouse can do, and in many cases it can do them more quickly. With a couple of quick keystrokes, you can close programs, copy and paste, select text, and more.

The Tab key isn’t just used to indent text. Many programs and websites allow you to use it to jump to different parts of the screen. For example, let’s say you’re signing up for a Google Account. You’ll need to type your first name, last name, username, password, etc. into different boxes (called fields), as in the image below:

screenshot of a web form

Here’s the way you would do it if you were using the keyboard and mouse:

  • Type your first name.
  • Grab the mouse and click on the next field.
  • Type your last name.
  • Grab the mouse (again) and click on the next field.
  • Type your username.
  • Grab the mouse (yet again!) and click on the next field.
  • etc.

That gets pretty tedious if you’re filling out a dozen or more fields. But there’s a faster way: Simply press the Tab key to move to each field. Here’s what that would look like:

  • Type your first name [Tab]. Type your last name [Tab]. Type your username [Tab].

That’s much faster! In many cases, you can fill out the entire form without even picking up the mouse. If you get to a drop-down menu (for example, to select the month of your birthday), you can often just type the first letter of the word you’re looking for. If your birthday is in July, you can type the letter “j” several times until “July” is selected, then press Tab to move to the next field.

What if you make a mistake? Just use the Tab key’s companion shortcut, Shift+Tab, to move the cursor to the previous field. If you hold Shift and press Tab several times, the cursor will continue moving backwards through the form until you get to the field that you want to change.

Where else can you use the Tab key?

One of the great things about the Tab key shortcut is that it is supported by many, many programs. Below are some situations where you might use it:

  • Email: When composing an email, you can use the Tab key to move between the To, Subject, and Body fields. This works with email programs like Outlook, as well as web services like Gmail.
  • Spreadsheets: If you’re using Excel or Google Spreadsheets, you can press the Tab key to move to the next cell in a row. You can also press Enter to go to the next row. This allows you to enter a lot of data very quickly.
  • Switching programs: If you’re using Windows, you can hold the Alt key and press Tab one or more times to switch to a different program. If you’re using a Mac, you can do this by holding Command and pressing Tab.