Cyberclinic: Time to CTRL+F some more helpful shortcuts
Thursday 25 August 2011
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.
Life & Style blogs
This restaurant has misunderstood the concept of 'cheese and biscuits'
Tinder Plus: premium service launches, charging much more for those over 28
The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
Mother's Day 2015: When is it – and how did it first come about?
Google Plus might be dead, as ‘Streams’ and ‘Photos’ take its place
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
- 1 End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
- 2 This restaurant has misunderstood the concept of 'cheese and biscuits'
- 3 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...
£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...
£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Application Support & Development ...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading web hosting pr...