Get More Out of Your Keyboard
Most people don't give a second thought to their keyboards ― whatever came with the computer, laptop or phone seems good enough. But there may be a lot of hidden potential in this overlooked component.
Without spending a dime, you can learn keyboard shortcuts that may help you work more efficiently and feel like a pro.
Basic PC keystroke combinations such as Ctrl+C, Ctrl+X and Ctrl+V to copy, cut and paste can save time compared with using the dropdown menu under the Home tab. Need a quick redo? Try Ctrl+Z.
If you're in the smart habit of locking your PC screen when you leave your computer, try this shortcut: Hold the key with the Windows logo down and type "L" to immediately lock your computer. For more shortcuts, visit http://support.microsoft.com/kb/126449.
Similar keyboard shortcuts are available to Mac users. Go to support.apple.com and search for keyboard shortcuts for an exhaustive list.
You can also create custom shortcuts within programs you use frequently such as Microsoft Office Word 2007.
Click the Office button, then click "Word Options" in the lower border. In the list, select "Customize." Click on "Keyboard shortcuts: Customize" button, located under the left panel. In the Categories listing, select the tab containing the command you want to change.
Note that the categories correspond to the top level headings on your documents. It's easiest to create shortcuts when you're inside a working document.
In the Commands list, select the command with the keystroke combination you want to change or create. If a default keystroke combination exists, it appears in the box under "Current keys." In the "Press new shortcut key" box, enter the new keystroke combination.
Covers can provide more than protectionMac user, you're in luck: printed silicone keyboard covers are widely available and designed to meet a variety of needs.
For people who'd like to work without reading glasses, a large print, high-contrast cover from KBCovers makes keys easier to read.
"I like it! It makes the computing experience a little less stressful," a tester told TechNewsDaily. "It hits that sweet spot of noticeable (barely) but not intrusive as I type."
The company also offers a selection of program-specific covers, including Adobe Photoshop for photo editing, Final Cut for video editing and Ableton Live for music editing. These complex programs include many keyboard shortcuts that can be challenging to remember.
"It's like adding an entire new machine to my music production equipment," a professional musician who had been given the cover to test said. Using the Ableton cover with its specialized shortcuts, he discovered new functions and was able to edit more quickly.
The $30 to $40 covers simply lift off and can be exchanged to suit multiple users. Similar keyboard covers for PCs are hard to find, but specialized keyboards are available.
Replacements and additions
((ImgTag Keyboards)) come in many shapes and with different features, including wireless, illuminated and solar-powered units. Compatibility between brands is rarely a problem, but check specs before you buy.
One of the most common complaints after buying a new laptop is the absence of a numerical keypad. Logitech makes a wireless number pad for around $40 that works off the company's USB unified receiver.
People also prefer varying degrees of separation between keys. If you're in the market for a new computer, take the time to compare keyboards in the store before you buy.
Mac users may find the $30 Magic Connector useful. The sleek magnet turns a Bluetooth Mac keyboard and Magic Trackpad into one wireless unit that can be used with desktops and laptops. If you feel constrained by your MacBook, the Magic Connector allows you to sit in a comfortable position, untethered from the built-in keyboard and trackpad.
Turn a tablet into a desktop
Americans want to do real work on their tablets, according to a Goldman Sachs survey. And if real work involves typing, it can be challenging without a keyboard.
A stand and a keyboard can easily turn a tablet into a desktop. Mac owners can use their wireless Apple keyboards with their iPads .
Logitech last month launched wireless keyboard and stand pairs for $70 in two versions, one for iPads and one for Android 3.0 tablets such as the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Many smartphones have virtual touch-screen keyboards, eliminating physical keyboards altogether. Combined with its small size, typing can be tough. To make it easier, try landscape mode instead of portrait if your phone has that capability.
Many Android phones have built-in Swype, a typing interface that allows users to swipe from letter to letter rather than tap. "Swyping" may be faster: In August 2010, a British woman broke the Guinness World Record for texting by using a Samsung Galaxy S phone and Swype.
Android phones also offer keyboard shortcuts to avoid delving into menus. To discover shortcuts available within an app, open the app, hit the Menu button to bring up the menu, then hold the Menu button to see the shortcuts.
iPhone and iPad owners can look forward to their over-the-air iOS5 update scheduled for this fall. For the first time, Apple included the ability to create keyboard shortcuts and an option for a split keyboard. While the split keyboard is unnecessary on the iPhone's small screen, it is sure to make two-thumb typing on the iPad much easier.