Level up your life


  • TECH
  • Monday, 09 Oct 2017

No caption. Please etch it out if possible. Thanks. Photo: 123rf.com

A few simple tech shortcuts and apps can go a long way in saving time and even helping you sleep better.

The thing about technology is that it makes it possible to get things done more efficiently but it’s not always obvious.

It’s partly because new services, features and apps get released all the time so it’s hard to keep up with our busy lifestyles.

So here’s a mix of tech tips and apps that will make your life easier.

Personal scanner

I’ll bet a lot of you always wanted to own a scanner or printer but could not justify the purchase. These are two devices that you will need from time to time but never often enough to actually make you go buy one.

But on the occasions that you need them, what do you do? Luckily your smartphone can now double as a scanner and the best app to do the job is Google’s free PhotoScan for Android and iOS smartphones.

Unlike most apps, Googles PhotoScan can eliminate glare when you digitise your old photos. — 123rf.com
Unlike most apps, Google's PhotoScan can eliminate glare when you digitise your old photos. — 123rf.com

As the name indicates, it’s primarily for photos but you can use it to scan almost ­anything, including receipts and documents.

What makes it superior to other apps is that it doesn’t just capture a single shot but five so that it can stitch them together to remove glare and improve the quality. It also has edge detection and perspective ­corrections to boot.

Pro tip: You can choose to store your ­photos on your device but that would only use up your phone’s limited space. So get the Google Photos app, which is also available for Android and iOS, and upload them to the Cloud. What’s cool about it is that it will let you upload an unlimited number of photos and videos as long as each photo is up to 16 megapixels and each video is up to 1080p.

Digitise your documents

Like I mentioned earlier the printer is another device that many don’t own but will need on occasions. And the trouble with inkjet printers – the one that most people buy – is that the cartridges tend to get clogged if you don’t use them often enough.

So instead of printing your documents, turn them into PDFs and store them on the Cloud so they’re always accessible. PDF is the best format because it’s universal so you will be able to access it on many different devices.

Windows 10 has this feature built-in – when you print a file, pick Save as PDF. If you are on older Windows, you will have to get a third-party app like doPDF (www.dopdf.com).

And what if you really need a hard copy? Where there is demand, there is supply – printing shops have started mushrooming in most neighbourhoods so just bring your PDFs there.

Pro tip: Chances are you get your ­documents, like salary slips and bank ­statements, as PDFs but they are probably password locked for your own security. While this is good, it also means that you can’t share them with, say, your agent when applying for a new credit card, as you wouldn’t want to give out your password. The solution is simple – unlock the ­document with your password and then print it as PDF. This new PDF will no longer be password locked and it’ll look more ­professional than grabbing a screenshot.

Sleep soundly

It’s a sad fact but we probably spend more time staring at screens – from phones, TVs to computers – than anything else and this could be making it hard to catch your z’s.

Blue light emitted by screens is bad for sleep. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, while there is no evidence that it causes eye damage or fatigue, it can affect your natural wake and sleep cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm.

It’s because blue light tends to stimulate or wake you up and while this is okay in the day, too much exposure to blue light at night will make it difficult for you to sleep.

Using your phone a lot at night without a blue light filter could disrupt your natural sleep cycle. — 123rf.com
Using your phone a lot at night without a blue light filter could disrupt your natural sleep cycle. — 123rf.com

Most modern phones have a blue light ­filter, but if yours doesn’t, you can download the free Twilight app which will reduce the blue light emission as the day progresses.

Try it out especially if you tend to use your phone at night. There is also a Pro version with additional features but try the free one first.

You can also turn on this feature on your desktop or laptop as Microsoft introduced it in an update for Windows 10.

Just right click on the desktop and select Display and you’ll see the Night Light setting. Click on it and you will see the option to set the time it turns on and off, or better still pick the option to let Windows do it automatically based on real-time sunrise and sunset times.

If you are using an older version of Windows or want more control – like the ability to adjust how “warm” the colour becomes – try out the free f.lux app.

Pay with your phone

Instead of whipping out your credit card every time you want to make payment, why not use your phone which is more secure? Samsung Pay is a digital wallet that allows you to securely store your credit, debit or prepaid cards on your smartphone.

So the next time you are at a store you just have to tap your phone on the payment ­terminal to make a purchase.

It not only supports new terminals that use NFC (near-field communication) but also old magnetic stripe machines, which means it will work pretty much at all the payment ­terminals.

Samsung Pay lets you pay for purchases using your smartphone. — Samsung
Samsung Pay lets you pay for purchases using your smartphone. — Samsung

It can also be used to store loyalty cards and we all have many more than can fit our wallets so now is the time to digitise them.

Only selected Samsung smartphones are supported such as the Galaxy S8/S8+/S7/S7 Edge, Note 8/5 and Galaxy A9 Pro/A7/A5. Also, it currently only works with cards from banks like Maybank, CIMB, RHB, Standard Chartered and Citibank.

The best part is that you no longer have to worry about losing your cards and even if you lose the phone, you don’t have to worry about your credit card info being stolen. This is because the card number is replaced with a unique alphanumeric identifier that is not mathematically reversible without the ­original key.

And if you have the Samsung Gear S3 smartwatch then you are going to love it even more because you can make payments using your watch.

Something stops working

It’s bound to happen – at some point your devices or apps will stop functioning ­properly or stop working all together. And the solution is simple – restart.

So what do you do when your Internet is slow? Turn the router off and on again. What do you do when the Facebook app doesn’t play videos properly? Close the app and launch it again. What do you do when your phone slows down? That’s right – you restart the phone.

We apologise for repeating but this sage advice is not followed often enough. And while it may not fix all problems, it will ­surprisingly solve most issues.

Protect your privacy

Every time you browse the Internet, you are being tracked, from your searches to your spending habits.

If you want better privacy, you need to get a VPN (virtual private network) but the good ones are not free.

Luckily, there is an even easier and free ­solution – the Opera web browser which comes with built-in VPN. You can also get it on your phone but it’s known as Opera Free VPN and you are free to use any web browser.

Every time you browse the Net via Opera, it will replace your IP address – which can be used to identify you – with a virtual one.

It will also reroute your traffic via one of five countries – United States, Canada, Germany, Netherlands or Singapore.

To activate the VPN in Opera, go to the browser settings and check the Enable VPN box in the Privacy and security section.

For the mobile version, you just have to download Opera Free VPN and turn it on. You can then continue surfing on your favourite browser.

Opera also offers a Gold version for RM99.90 a year which can reroute traffic through many more countries and also block ads.

WhatsApp on desktop

There are many messaging apps today but WhatsApp remains one of the most popular and now you can use it on your desktop or laptop.

Why would you want to do that? Firstly, even though it has become much easier to type on the phone, nothing beats using a keyboard. Now, you’ll be able to craft and edit long messages without breaking a sweat.

Also, more often than not you probably have documents on your PC which you need to send out and now you can easily do it from your computer via WhatsApp.

To use WhatsApp on your computer, fire up your browser and type in the link web.whatsapp.com in the address bar and you will see a QR code.

Now open the WhatsApp app on your phone and tap on the three dots on the top right hand corner and select WhatsApp Web. Click on the + icon to turn on the camera and scan the QR code on your computer screen. Now you are good to go.

However, remember that WhatsApp still works off your phone so you can’t switch it off.

Handy shortcuts

When using your computer the keyboard is still king so it helps to know a few keyboard shortcuts, especially for tasks you repeat often.

Everyone is likely to accidentally close a tab on the web browser at some point. To bring back a closed tab hit the shortcut Ctrl+Shift+T (which must be pressed all at once). This shortcut works with most browsers, including Firefox, Chrome and Edge. Most browsers will let you open up to 10 previously closed tabs if you keep pressing the shortcut. While we are on the topic of tabs, the shortcut to open a new tab is Ctrl+T.

Learning a few useful keyboard shortcuts can save you a lot of time in the long run. — Bloomberg
Learning a few useful keyboard shortcuts can save you a lot of time in the long run. — Bloomberg

Sometimes some websites display photos or text too small. Don’t grab your reading glasses yet – press Ctrl and scroll your mouse wheel up to enlarge them. Conversely, scrolling down zooms out. When you are done, hit Ctrl+0 to return the site to the default zoom.

One of the things you should always do is lock your computer when you move away from it, even if it’s only for a few minutes, especially when you are in the office. When you forget, you can be the target of pranks or much worse. So remember the shortcut Wins+L as it’s the fastest way to lock your PC.

If you want to print something, hit Ctrl+P. This shortcut is almost universal so it works with most apps so you don’t have to muck about with the menu bar.

The last tip is not really a keyboard shortcut but is still helpful. When you need to search for an app or setting in Windows 10, just click on the Windows Start button and start typing immediately and the operating system will locate it for you.

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Science & Technology , Apps

   

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