It never ceases to amaze us how many people still drop down the edit menu to cut and paste. Meanwhile we’ve hit CTRL+C / CTRL+V, made a cuppa and read the paper. Common tasks (find, bold, cut, mark as unread) often have the same shortcut in different applications. Want to get advanced? Liquid Words (99 cents, Mac App Store) creates shortcuts across whole operating systems or browsers and integrates with the internet.
Type, don’t talk
Apple’s Siri and Samsung’s forthcoming S Voice are all very clever, but when you actually need to send a text, it’s not quicker to do it by voice, especially when environmental noise (a/c, traffic, wind) causes you accidentally to text your boss about the spaghetti being on fire. For easier text input, use SwiftKey X Keyboard ($2.99, Google Play) on an Android handset.
Ditch the wheel
Admittedly, it’ll only shave seconds off any given task, but what if those seconds affected everything you ever did on your computer? Rip out the spinning hard drive and replace it with a solid-state drive (SSD) to speed up your PC or Mac. It’ll also extend battery life and is less likely to malfunction. Samsung’s SSDs come with a kit for easy upgrading.
Read it later
It’s easy to find stuff online, but if you lose it and can’t remember where you found it in the first place, you face a lengthy crawl through histories and breadcrumbs in pursuit of that lost nugget. Pocket (free, formerly Read It Later, getpocket.com) lets you stuff all your finds easily into an online dossier for, well, reading later. Available for browsers, iPhone, iPad, Android, and Kindle.
Use the cloud
Storing stuff in the cloud is easy, quick and you’re probably doing it already with email (Gmail, Hotmail, etc), pictures (Flickr, Facebook) or video (YouTube, Vimeo). It’s only a short hop to keep some of the files you might need regular access to (insurance documents, work templates and that picture of a cat you made last week) in a cloud locker. Check out our guide to which free online cloud storage is best to see which suits you.
Talk, don’t type
Text messages are a great way to leave a bit of information with someone who may not be able to chat, but if you want to have a conversation, it’s a slow and ineffective medium that’s liable to be misunderstood. Make a call and save some time. If you’re worried about the cost, try a VoIP service like Skype or FaceTime (Apple only). Viber (free, viber.com) integrates with your contact list to tell you who’s available and won’t drain power.
Get the app
Some apps are little more than mobile optimised websites. But they are a little more than their readily accessible counterparts, with more intuitive control, faster launch times and quicker data access.
Kill your friends
If you were totally honest with yourself, you’d admit that half the people you follow on Twitter and are friends with on Facebook aren’t – in fact – your friends, or even people whose lives (or dinners or babies) you really care about. Save yourself the bother of pretending by purging your Facebook and Twitter friends, or if you’re feeling brave just drop both and start afresh on Google Plus (free, google.com).
Use multiple desktops
If you’re on a Mac, and using OS X 10.5 (Leopard) or later, you’ve already got multiple desktops (or Spaces, as Apple would have you say) baked into your OS. No such luck for Windows users, though Dexpot (free, dexpot.de) is probably the best virtual desktop app we’ve seen. We get confused with more than three, but there’s no doubt that switching desktops is much easier (and quicker) than continuously minimising and maximising windows.
Don’t get a universal remote
Or rather, do. But don’t buy a remote – use your phone. Although few handsets have IR functionality, you can pick up a Wi-Fi activated IR transmitter that works with a universal remote app on your phone. One of our favourites is the Gear4 UnityRemote ($103.99), although it’s sadly still iOS only.