Oct 29

Function keys

One of the functions of a computer is to help us work more productively, so we can get work finished more quickly and get on to other things. Using keystroke shortcuts can save us time rather than clicking around menus with our mouse. If you haven’t tried these, here’s a few that I’ve memorized and which use the function keys along the top of the keyboard. The list isn’t comprehensive, just the ones I’ve found useful to try to memorize.

Microsoft Word

Shift-F3: Probably the keystroke combination I find most useful of them all when editing documents. With your cursor on a word or highlighted words, this combination will cycle through initial capital, all capitals or all lower case. No need to delete anything and retype as upper/lower case.

Shift-F5: Starting a new session on a document the next day? Well, this combination will take you straight to where you left off yesterday.

F2: Moves text once; just highlight the text you want to move, press F2, move the cursor to the new location for text and press Enter. Slightly quicker than cut and paste (Ctrl-X and Ctrl-V) but works just once.

Ctrl-F3: Cut to the Spike. I’ve blogged about the Spike before.

Ctrl-Shift-F3: Paste Spike contents into document.

Mozilla Thunderbird

Shift-F5: Download email messages for all accounts.

F8: Show/hide message pane.


F9: Sync notes to Evernote Web.

F10: Show/hide left panel.

F11: Show/hide note list.

Ctrl-F11: Show/hide note panel.

Google Chrome

Ctrl-F4: Close current tab.

F5: Refreshes webpage.

F6: Selects your current page’s URL (and puts the cursor in the address bar).

F11: Toggle full screen/windowed mode.

Most applications

F1: Help.

Alt-F4: Close the application.


Alt-F4: This one’s pretty useful if you want to bypass installing Windows updates before your PC shuts down. You can tell if there are updates to install as the Shutdown button has a yellow exclamation mark. Just press Alt-F4 instead and from the Shut Down menu you can choose Shut down rather than Install updates and shut down.

Well, those are the function key shortcuts I find most useful for the applications I use most. Do you have any great function key shortcuts for another application? Drop a comment below.

Oct 25


I just got word today in my RSS feed that anyone with the O2 mobile provider in the UK, either contract or Pay & Go, can apply for, or upgrade to, Evernote Premium for 1 year. I’ve been using Evernote for a number of years now and blogged about it back in 2009. They have a ‘freemium’ model and I’ve been using the free version until now. However, this has some limitations and I was actually just about to move to Evernote Premium when this great 1 year offer came up.

So what has Premium got that the free version hasn’t? Well the advantages of Evernote Premium are listed on the Evernote site, but the main benefits are a higher monthly upload limit (1GB as opposed to 60MB with the free version), increased note size up to 100MB, offline notebooks on your mobile phone, PDF annotation, and searching inside PDFs, attached documents and text in images. I could use all of these.

Of course, this is an astute marketing move from Evernote to try to move us up to Premium. Try it for a year and get used to all the features and upload capacity, then try going back to the free version. I probably won’t go back.

Here’s the link for anyone in the UK on O2. You can sign up from your mobile phone or on your PC. If you use your PC, O2 will text a code to your phone which you will need to complete the process. This is the route I took and I had no problems upgrading to Premium for 1 year.

So if you’re in the UK and are using Evernote Free or are thinking of trying Evernote, give this offer a try. It lasts until 24 October 2014. If you decide to move back to the free version after your free year, all your uploaded data remains in place.

Evernote Premium offer [UK only]

Oct 7


broken smartphone

Everyone seems to be picking up tablets and new smartphones these days. PCs and laptops will still be around for some time to come, but for many just looking for content consumption devices, these pocket computers may be all you need. But everything’s shrinking. The PC was a nice open box with modular components and where fitting a replacement hard drive wasn’t too hard even for someone like me who isn’t a repair tech. Laptops are more compact but I’ve still managed to complete a screen replacement here. But now the ultracompact nature of smartphones and tablets makes them much harder to open up, service and repair. So what will happen in a couple of years when we have a broken screen or dud battery in our device? Do we repair or replace?

I came across a great article recently on Technibble about the mobile device repair industry. The author made the point that repair costs may be about one-quarter of the initial retail cost of the device or the cost of replacement at current market prices. Parts are easier to source for more expensive tablets. He also made the point that the owner of the device should check his insurance or device warranty to see if that covers them for a replacement. Age may also be an issue. The device may just be too old to repair. From my point of view, my Nexus 10 tablet is great and I can’t see me replacing it any time soon. I would happily pay for a repair when necessary if the price is right. The Nexus 4 may be a different case. It’s a 3G phone and I may be interested in upgrading to 4G when/if it fails in a couple of years.

So who can repair these devices? Well, I asked if traditional laptop/PC repair shops are able and willing to carry out repairs to mobile devices on the computertech subreddit on Reddit. As mentioned earlier, it seems that iPhones, iPads and branded devices can be repaired, though one commenter didn’t fancy repairing HTC devices. Some repairs like screen replacements can have a high profit margin for the experienced repair shop. One commenter made the point that the prices of parts are close to the same price as a new unit, so many people would rather spend a little more to get a new one.

As luck would have it, I’ve just listened to a Podnutz Daily podcast (tech repair tips and business tips for the tech repair industry), PND365, where among other things, Steve and Jose, two repair techs, talk for about 5 minutes on tablet and smartphone repair. If you just want to hear this section jump to 54:10 in the podcast. Here’s a summary. Repair techs can make good money repairing iPhones and iPads. These are high value items and people are inclined to repair them if possible. However, Jose says that after the 1st generation iPad, these tablets have become increasingly difficult to repair. Steve made the point that if a device is new to a repair tech, they may order two parts just in case they break the first during the repair – it’s a learning experience. The Samsung Galaxy S3 can be an expensive repair for screen replacements because very often when you remove the glass you break the screen so the glass, screen and digitizer may all have to be replaced.

So how do you know if your device is easily repairable? Well, iFixit publishes a smartphone repairability list and a tablet repairability list scoring how easy or hard they are to repair so you can check out your own device there. Apparently my Nexus 10 tablet is very hard to open. And if you are in the market to buy a new mobile device, you should also have a look into its future prospects for ease of repair on that site. They also have DIY device repair guides if you’re up for that challenge!

If you’re a device owner, what’s your experience with repairs? Was the price reasonable or was it cheaper just to buy a replacement? If you’re a repair tech, do you repair mobile devices or are you considering doing this in the future?

Update (4 Feb 2014): Lifehacker have a post today – The Most Common Smartphone Repairs You Can Do Yourself

Image credit: Robert Nelson

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