“OMG! Really people? It’s Control-V, please!!!”
As many other bloggers, there are times when I have to tread lightly. Religion. Politics. Child rearing. Education. Walking across the street. Yeah, if it’s a subject, you’re bound to piss someone off by commenting on it. But nothing is more dangerous, perhaps, in the general sense, and in the short and possibly long term, than talking about what keeps food on the table and a roof over one’s head, i.e. that things we dread, the thing I write to avoid: our real life, every day, vocational lives.
For those that don’t know, I’m a software engineer. I didn’t plan on becoming one. As most kids I’d considered being everything at some point. A police man. A fire man. A teacher. A preacher. A lottery winner. As a high schooler I seriously considered going into law and as a newbie college student my major was psychology. Then one day my favorite psych professor, Mr. Lindsay, warned us that we were going to enter a market saturated by wanna be therapists, that we take some time for mental reflection and maybe find a new future occupation. And so, with those words, I thought about something I’d enjoyed since a kid: fucking with computers.
I’ve spent a long time behind computer keyboards. As a kid I couldn’t get enough of computers. They were so cool. So magical. I could make them do things, as long as I could figure it out. Amazing things. And you could play games on them, keeping yourself entertained all day. They were addicting. As a young adult, they also filled an emotional hole: computers served as stand-in friends when I had none. And they helped keep my mind off my depression (to some degree, anyway). Computers were an addiction. A past time. An emotional relationship. A way to connect with the world. A way to pass the time. So you could say, I’ve gotten pretty good at using them. Better than average at least. Especially in terms of using them efficiently.
I remember when I first learned about this thing called Copy, Cut, Paste. I was in my second year of Community College, in the fall of ’92, and was taking a basics of Macintosh computers or some such thing. This was the day when people were moving from text based Operating Systems (OS’s) like MS-DOS to graphical interfaces like Windows 3.1 and the first Mac OS. I was a damn fast typist (over 150 Words Per Minute [WPM]) by then but the idea that I could just select something, “copy” it to some secret thing called a “clipboard” then “paste” it back somewhere else in the document or—holy shit, I kid you not!!!—into another document or application. At this time this was not only mind blowing, but it was world changing!
Before and since, software engineers have come up with a lot of ways to improve our relationships with these silicon beasts. I mean, they tried with Word Perfect, but there was a reason you had to take classes to use that old Piece Of Shit (POS) word processor: Simply doing something like opening a document or making text bold might require a series of function buttons and other related gymnastics. One did not simply double click a word to select it then hit Control-B (for bold).
And here-in comes my hang-up: why the hell don’t (some) of my professional peers know these short cuts to a better life, a better world, a peaceful existence with their PC’s, Macs, and Linux machines?
Prior to COVID, when I was forced, for some reason I still can’t make logical sense of, to work in an office with actual people, this peeve would come up regularly as it was easy to stumble in on someone fumbling with their computer like they were a caveman that had stumbled upon a 1956 Chevrolet. These days, it sometimes happens when I’m in a “Zoom” meeting walking a colleague through some process or other. Maybe the thing I’m helping them with is trivial. Maybe it’s something that’ll take an hour. Whatever the case, whatever we’re doing will always take x minutes (i.e. the time it actually takes to do something) + y minutes (i.e. the fumbling). It can be so insanely frustrating I have been known to myself on mute and yell, “Fuck, really?!” I understand that I’ve spent an unnaturally unhealthy amount of my life using computers and likewise that I’m more apt to have picked up shortcuts while playing the role of technical support for my then blind (and now deceased) father, but Jesus, it’s Control-C already?
Enough griping, I’m just going to help!
Control-C – Using these two keys copies whatever’s selected onto the clipboard. You don’t need to right click then click on “copy”. I mean, yeah, you could, but why? Life is finite. Spend those precious seconds (and ultimately minutes, hours, days, and weeks) doing something fun.
Control-X – This is magic for “cut”. See previous.
Control-V – This is shorthand for “paste”. See previous.
These are easy to remember since they’re right next to each other on the keyboard. “Look mom, one hand!”
Control-Tab – Switch between running programs. I mean seriously, I must use this a few hundred times in a typical work day. Beats hunting for windows and shortcuts and icons. It’s a must have!
Control-P – Use this to send something to your printer, dude.
Control-T – Open a new tab on your browser, a real time saver!
Control-L – Put the mouse cursor in the site URL area of your web browser. “L” is short for “Load”. Easy to remember!
Control-Z – Undo your fucks ups. If only IRL had one of these.
Control-Shift-Z – Redo your undid fuck up. I’m pretty sure it does have one.
Control-U – Underlines the currently selected text.
Control-B – Underlines the current text, instead in bold.
Control-I – Bolds the current text, exception in italics.
Control-O – Fucking “open” a file.
Control-S – Freakin’ “save” a file.
Control-A – Select everything. Well, not “everything”, but everything in the current context. Speaking of selecting things, you don’t need to use the stupid mouse to click, move, un-click select something. You can double click a word, that’ll do it. You can also click where you want your cursor then hold down the shift key and use your arrow and page up and down keys to quickly select chucks.
Note: For Mac users substitute the [Command] key for [Control] re: the previous shortcuts.
Command-Q – Quits the current program. Sure, you could travel all that way to the top right or left corner of the window or choose “quit” or “exit” from the File menu, but don’t you have better things to be doing?
Command-W – Similar to “quit” but it only closes a current window or tab. So, for example, you have multiple files open in a program you can just do this.
Command-M – Minimize the current program. By “minimize” I mean make it small, make that huge waste of screen space shrink down to a bloody icon on the task bar.
Control-Command-Q – Lock lock your computer. This is important if you work from home and don’t want your partner digging into your browsing history or an office when you don’t want colleagues sending e-mail from your account to the CEO.
Alt-F4 – Similar to Command-Q on a Mac, except if you use this when you don’t intent to you get inducted to the Alt-F4 Hall of Fame (yes, this was a thing back in ’98/99).
Control-L – Lock your computer. See Mac section.
Moral of the story?
If you’re using computers for a living learn to use computers for a living: don’t let them use you.