52 best tech life hacks ever
(Pocket-lint) – There are huge numbers of tech-related tips and tricks out there that can simplify your daily routine and make your life much easier.
For instance, Apple’s charging cords for iOS devices and Macs tend to fray after a few years, so you have to spend money often to replace them (unless you don’t care about them catching fire and ruining everything you own and love). Well, we know a nifty hack that’ll prevent your Apple cords from fraying in the first place.
In fact, we know stacks of different hacks – and everyone will make you wonder how you ever survived this long without them.
Use your keyboard to scroll on webpages
This trick might be well-known, but we thought it was still worth including: Use the space bar to scroll down on any webpage.
You can even hold the shift key and the space bar at the same time to scroll up.
Your headphones double as a mic
Need a microphone but don’t want to spend money on one? Easy.
Grab any pair of headphones lying around, then plug them into the microphone jack, and start talking. This isn’t exactly secret knowledge, but if you don’t know about it, we think it’ll blow your mind. Of course, the quality isn’t amazing, but you can’t have it all.
Spelling, grammar and definition help
If you’d like a little extra help when writing online, then we’d highly recommend Grammarly. This tool gives you tips and suggestions for grammar, spelling and general sentence construction whatever you’re doing on the web.
You can even double-click a word to highlight it and get suggested other words to use instead. There’s a Google Chrome plugin to ensure you can easily edit text whatever website you’re on. And it’s free!
Use emoji on desktops
If you thought emoji were limited to mobile devices, think again. You can use them on desktop, too.
For Mac: Press control+command+spacebar to get the emoji menu.
For PC: The latest version of Chrome has an emoji menu. Simply right-click anywhere you can type and click “Emoji” in the menu to access all the available emojis.
Quickly re-open a closed tab
If you just accidentally closed an important tab in your browser, you can easily re-open it by pressing command+shift+t on a Mac or control+shift+t on Windows PC. This can be used multiple times too, so keep pressing to open all the tabs you’ve closed recently. It even works after you’ve entirely closed and re-opened your browser too.
Find the cheapest place to stream a movie from
For those of you who are cable-cutters, you’ll love this site: CanIStream.It tells you where any movie is available to stream – and at the lowest price too.
No internet? Play a game
When your internet connection goes out and the Google Chrome browser gives you an error page, press the spacebar to start a T-Rex game. At least you won’t be bored while you wait to get online again. If you find your internet returns and ruins your game, no need to worry, you can carry on online here.
Hide people on Twitter without blocking them
Twitter’s mute button is a little-known trick that is severely understated. It allows you to keep following an account but hides its tweets and retweets from your timeline.
It’s a simple way to rid a person from your Twitter without unfollowing them and thus offending them. They’ll never know when you mute them! Just click on the settings menu to the right of someone’s profile, and then select mute. Easy peasy.
Remotely log out of Facebook
Privacy tips are always worth a mention, especially when it comes to Facebook, considering everyone and their mother uses the social network. Have you ever checked Facebook on a strange device and then realised you forgot to log out?
Never fear – you can log out still, remotely. Go to the “settings” drop-down menu on your Facebook, then select “security”, and navigate to “when you’re logged in”.
From there, you can see all open sessions and close any of them.
Improve your WiFi signal
If you’re finding your home WiFi is a bit flakey, then it might be because you’re getting some interference from your neighbour’s WiFi overlapping with yours. The Wifi Analyzer app may be the answer to your woes. This app scans frequencies and makes recommendations on the optimal channels to use on your network to avoid overlap. The result is faster WiFi with far less hassle.
Find direct download links to music
To find a direct download link for music, search “[album or song name] -inurl:(htm|html|php|pls|txt) intitle:index.of “last modified” (mp3|wma|aac|flac)”.
It tells Google to show webpages that offer direct download links to the music you’re trying to find. Here’s an example for the album Straight Outta Compton:
Google search this phrase: straight outta compton -inurl:(htm|html|php|pls|txt) intitle:index.of “last modified” (mkv|mp4|avi)
This is what Google will surface.
Click one of the top links, such as this one, to get direct download links for the songs in the album.
Just remember downloading copyrighted content from the internet is illegal. You’re better off just using Spotify.
DIY cord protector
Here’s a nifty hack for preventing your Apple charging cables and other cords from fraying: Grab the spring out of a ballpoint pen, then stretch it and wrap it around the part of the cord that tends to bend, and it’ll keep it straight forever, thus stopping it from wearing down over years.
How to downgrade iOS and keep your data
This handy guide could save you from any data loss.
Here’s a good video tutorial that shows what to do.
Use Spotlight search as a calculator
You’ll never have to use a calculator again with this trick – so long as you own a Mac: Use command (⌘) + space to perform quick calculations in Spotlight search.
Quickly dial back your last caller
Want to call back the last number you dialled or received a call from? The quickest way is to hit the call button on your phone. It’ll dial back their number. There’s no need to access your contacts or call lists.
Never hit the full stop key again
Who knew you never actually have tap the full stop key on a smartphone? All you have to do is hit the space bar twice for a full stop, and the next letter will be automatically capitalised too. If you’re using a custom keyboard like Swiftkey, then you can program it to do other clever things like predicting your sentence too.
DIY cord/cable holder
LEGO mini-figs are perfectly shaped to hold your Apple lightning cords and other cables. Just stick a LEGO brick on your work desk, then attach a mini-fig, and run your cords through its hands. Yeah, you can thank us later.
Shortcut for pausing a YouTube video
We think little tricks are fun, too. For instance, when you press K or spacebar while watching a video on YouTube, it will pause or play the video. How neat is that? And it works regardless of where you clicked last on the page.
There are other shortcut keys too:
- Press J to rewinds 10 seconds
- Press L to fast-forward 10 seconds
- F puts you into full-screen
- Home takes you to the start of the video
- M mutes the sound
- Up and down arrows turn the volume up and down
Search YouTube without going to YouTube
Searching YouTube has never been easier than it is with this trick: when using the Google Chrome browser, you can type YouTube.com into your address bar, then hit tab, and search YouTube directly from your address bar. Gone are the days of actually going to YouTube to find something.
This little trick also works with other sites too. You can search Amazon, Netflix, even Pocket-lint right from your address bar.
Know the best time to pee during a movie
This one is just plain funny… Download the RunPee app to your iOS, Android, or Windows device, and it’ll tell you the best time to go to the bathroom while watching any movie so you won’t miss an amazing scene or plot twist.
Convert Wiki pages into books
You can render any Wikipedia page electronically in PDF, ZIM or OpenDocument format, or ordered as a printed book. This page shows you how to create a book from Wikipedia articles in four steps.
Use Google to find your Android
Google offers an Android device manager that lets you find a lost or stolen device, but you can also Google “find my phone” to locate your Android device. Just remember you must be logged into the Google account associated with your Android.
Google can help you study
Whenever you need to study for an important exam in college or high school, just google “site:edu [subject] exam”, and then you’ll get links to tonnes of sample exams with solutions and everything.
Here’s an example:
Google search this exact phrase: site:edu python exam
This is what Google will surface.
Get coupon codes with Honey
Download the Honey add-on extension to your Chrome browser to instantly begin saving money. It automatically applies coupon codes during checkout at any online retailer. Woohoo!
See if your email is involved in a data breach
Again, we love privacy tips. We’re sure you do too. There’s a brilliant website known as HaveIBeenPwned.com. This site simply monitors your email address to alert you if and when it is compromised in a data breach. This works retrospectively too.
Any publicly revealed hack that includes your email address will be highlighted with this tool. If you check it and find your email in any of the lists, we’d highly recommend changing your passwords and using a password manager to keep things secure in future.
Easily close any online account
It’s sometimes super annoying to close online accounts, as services will bury the option under settings and help menus. Well, say hello to a website called AccountKiller.com. It gives step-by-step guides on how to delete online accounts from popular websites with ease.
Turn an old phone into a dashcam
If you’ve got an old phone just lying around gathering dust, then you could put it to better use by using it as a dashcam. With a good charging cable, screen mount and a dedicated dashcam app you can create a brilliant dashcam device for very little money. See a great guide here.
TP roll cable organiser
Every tech enthusiast has a draw, box or bag full of cables somewhere in the house. But how often do these cables just get tanged up and become an unbearable mess? Instructables has a guide on using empty toilet rolls to hold your cables and keep them separate.
Keyboard cleaning with Post-its
If your keyboard is a tad filthy, full of dust and fluff, then a few Post-it notes should sort you right out. Rub the sticky end through the gaps to give it a quick and easy clean.
Microwaving more than one thing
Cooking dinner for two but haven’t got enough room in the microwave? You can use this trick to cook two meals at once. You will have to leave them in for longer though as the instructions will only be intended for one meal and they wouldn’t be cooked through properly otherwise but at least both meals will be ready at the same time.
Fix just about everything with Sugru
If you have a fraying power cable that needs some love and care, then Sugru is the answer. This Play-Doh-esque mouldable glue that can be used for a variety of fixes including covering wires. There are plenty of other uses for Sugru too, whether fixing or improving household items. We’d highly recommend having a look at the list of ideas.
Turn your old phone into a security camera
Much like the hack for turning disused phones into Dashcams, you can also use an old phone as a smart home camera alternative. With a simple app called Manything, you can put the old device to new use. CNET has a full tutorial on how to do this.
Find your password
If you’ve asked Google Chrome to save your passwords at any point, then you can access that password via the browser’s settings. The easiest way to get to the setting is by typing this into your browser’s address bar – chrome://settings/passwords. Then you can reveal the password for any site to use elsewhere.
Watch age-restricted YouTube videos without logging in
Determine how long a book will take to read
Those of you who are super efficient would probably like to know how long it’ll take you to get through a specific book before you sit down to start reading it.
Well, a website called HowLongToReadThis.com actually estimates the time required to read any book. And it’s very accurate too, in our tests anyway.
Go to bed at the ideal time
If you’re an insomniac, you’ll love a website called sleepyti.me. It helps you to calculate the best time to go to bed and wake up for optimal sleep. The idea is that waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle leaves you feeling tired and groggy, but waking up in between cycles keeps you refreshed and alert.
This site works it all out for you – so you can wake up between cycles.
Use WhatsApp on the web
WhatsApp isn’t limited to your mobile phone.
There’s a web app that syncs everything from your phone. If you have the Chrome browser installed on your computer, go to the WhatsApp Web page, scan the QR code, and follow the instructions for your phone.
Use Google to set a timer
If you need to keep track of the timer or have an alarm go off in a while to remind you to do something, the Google’s there to help. Simply type “start a timer” into the search engine to do just that.
Edit an online image in MS Paint
If you want to edit an image in paint, you can copy it or save it from the web. But did you know you can just copy the image URL and “open” it in Paint by pasting the URL directly into the filename box in the open window? This will save a few seconds of tweaking for sure.
Boost your tunes
If your smartphone’s speakers aren’t up to scratch or you need a little more volume to your morning alarm to help you get out of bed, then here’s an easy solution. Pop your phone in a cup and that’ll act to enhance the sound giving you the impression of more volume.
Create a WiFi QR code for your guests
This hack is a two-step process, but it’s worth doing. By the end, you’ll never have to give out your WiFi password again. First, visit this site and use it to create a unique QR code based on your network details. Then visit Etsy for a QR code cross stitch to really add a touch of class to the whole thing. Mounted in a frame, it’ll be something special for sure.
Save money on Amazon with CamelCamelCamel
Here’s another money-saving tip: If you use Amazon a lot, make sure you start taking advantage of a website called camelcamelcamel.com. It tracks products for you and alerts you when prices drop. It’s also a great way to check whether something that’s on sale is actually a good price or whether it’s been cheaper before.
Convert YouTube videos to GIFs
Want to convert any YouTube video into a GIF? Just add gif before youtube in the URL link in your address bar. Here’s an example:
Original video – www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OVg8uov78I
GIF download – www.gifyoutube.com/watch?v=_OVg8uov78I
Use Preview to create a digital signature
If you have a digital document you have to sign, now is the time to finally use the Preview app on Mac. Instead of printing off the documenting to sign, you can open the Tools menu in Preview, then choose Annotate > Signature > Manage Signatures, and a Signature Capture dialog box will appear. Simply use your mouse to draw a signature you can save/insert into any document.
Here’s a good tutorial for more details.
Find ‘nearby’ Wikipedia pages
Ever want to know more about your neighbourhood? Wikipedia has a Nearby tool that surfaces a host of different pages about places and things nearby you. Just go to this site, give your permission for it to access your location, then you’ll see a list of Wikipedia articles based on where you are located. Amazeballs.
Easily look up word definitions on your Mac
Macs have a handy shortcut that’ll let you look up word definitions in a split second. To look up a definition, highlight any word you see, then press command+control+D, and a dialogue box with the info will appear.
Find direct download links to movies
To find a direct download link to a movie, search “[movie name] -inurl:(htm|html|php|pls|txt) intitle:index.of “last modified” (mkv|mp4|avi)”.
It tells Google to show webpages that offer direct download links to the movie you’re trying to find. Here’s an example for A Clockwork Orange:
Google search this phrase: A Clockwork Orange -inurl:(htm|html|php|pls|txt) intitle:index.of “last modified” (mkv|mp4|avi)
This is what Google will surface.
Click one of the top links, such as this one, to get direct download links for the movie.
Just remember that downloading copyrighted content from the internet is illegal. You’re better off using Netflix, Amazon Prime or other video streaming service.
Find the perfect username
Want to check whether a username is taken or available on popular sites? Just use Namechk.com. It even checks domain names.
Browse safely by checking sites first
Before visiting a suspicious site, Google “safebrowsing: [website name]”, and then select the link to this site to see a 90-day history of malware attempts on the site. Here’s an example:
Google search this exact phrase: safebrowsing: Pocket-lint
Google will then surface these results.
Click the one for Google’s Safe Browsing tool, and you should see this.
Remote temperature watching
Smoking food is a wonderful way to keep that takes ages and requires regular temperature measurement.
This clever bod has employed a video baby monitor to keep a remote eye on the temperature gauge so they don’t have to keep going outside to check on the BBQ. Genius.
Fed up with holding your phone? Cut one leg off a pizza topper and it becomes a neat little stool to prop your smartphone up on. Just don’t get pizza grease on it while you’re doing it.
Cheap headphone stand
Looking for somewhere to hang your headphones or gaming headset when you’re not using them? A cheap banana hanger may be the answer. It doesn’t have RGB but it’s a nice hack to store your gear.
This professor has shared some neat nuggets for those looking to save money on interesting reading.
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Writing by Maggie Tillman and Adrian Willings. Editing by Britta O’Boyle.