Cyberclinic: Time to CTRL+F some more helpful shortcuts

Using a computer, like pottery and unicycling, is a fairly solitary pursuit. Unencumbered by meddlesome advice, we develop our own peculiar methods of operating them and ways of navigating around their screens – so it's not surprising that watching someone else at the keyboard can be unexpectedly hilarious.

Exclamations such as: "What on earth are you doing?" and: "For crying out loud, give it here!" are frequently uttered as we see people executing the computing equivalent of stripping wallpaper using a shoehorn. (Such as, for example, typing "google.com" into the Google search box in order to search for Google.)

Our poor level of electronic literacy was exposed this week by Dan Russell, a search anthropologist at Google, when he revealed that 90 per cent of Americans – based on a statistical sample of thousands – were unaware that you could use CTRL+F (or CMD+F) to find a word or a phrase on a webpage.

And if Dan hadn't dropped the hint, they would probably still be looking for it.

But can you blame them? After all, we are blundering in the dark with much of this stuff. Gadgets and software tend not to come with manuals – but even if they did we probably wouldn't bother reading them; we'd just battle our way through using a process of trial and error.

The more inquisitive of us will always make an effort to seek out new features to streamline our workflow, but the rest will stick with what they know until someone tells them to the contrary.

If Russell's statistics were broken down by demographic, we'd find the younger generation to be more skilled than their parents, or parents' parents – but the development of gadgets and software may be outpacing the need for us to acquire these skills at all. A friend of mine told me at the weekend about his 85-year old computer-illiterate mother's adoration of her iPad and, as voice recognition technology develops, our wrestling with CTRL+F will seem laughably archaic.

But while we wait for that, let's share tips when we see people struggling. They might resent our intervention, but it's more that likely they'll say: "You're kidding!" and gasp with delight.



I did a quick Twitter survey the other day on this subject and quickly had to rein in my technological smugness as people replied with supposedly "obvious" things that I'd never twigged.

For example, you don't need to endlessly swipe down an iPhone to scroll to the top; just tap the top of the screen. And when you're typing in a web address using an iPhone or Android phone, holding down '.com' gives you a pop-up list of other domains. These revelations almost made me weep with joy. It was like catching up with a lesson I'd somehow missed, but that everyone else had attended.



Other exposés and confessions of computing ignorance poured forth on Twitter; some people were unaware that a quick look at a recent documents folder is faster than navigating through a hard disk, or that tilting a smartphone horizontally switches it to landscape mode, or that swiping a trackpad with two fingers is the new way of scrolling. Skipping between boxes on a website using the tab key is akin to witchcraft for those who've never seen it done before, while some of us still engage and unengage the caps lock key to type capital letters, unaware that the shift key performs the same function. Also, note that you can lift the handle on the toaster to get the bread out and pierce the foil of the tomato puree tube by using the spike in the cap.

It's easy when you know how.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
news
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    Ashdown Group: Part time Network Support Analyst / Windows Systems Administrat

    £30 per hour: Ashdown Group: An industry leading and well established business...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick