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Playing a Computer like an Instrument

Most everyone uses a computer.  But a few of us, well, we play a computer like an instrument.

If you're on a computer for 10+ hours per day, this blog is for you.

By "instrument" I mean we know the in's & out's of the device.  We know how to eek out maximum performance from it.  We're the people who others just look at in wonder when our keys fly across the keyboard.

If you've ever found it excruciatingly painful watching others use a computer because of how slow the person is, then you know what I'm talking about.

These are just my tips, but really, I'm writing this because I want to know about your tips.  I want to know what saves you time and makes you more productive.  So please post comments below.

Daniel's Hierarchy of Speed: Get 2.1 Weeks of Your Life Back Every Year

Part of being a lifehacker means being an efficiency nut on the computer -- I've previously written about playing a computer like an instrument, the massive value of CloudApp, and I have an ongoing GeekSpeed challenge for those who feel up to the challenge of quantifying their speed on a computer.  To put it simply:  If you're on the computer for hours every day, you need to be really good at doing things quickly on it.

I'm on a cross-country flight right now, so it's a perfect opportunity for me to go into detail on some of the many things I do on the computer to be radically efficient.  Similar in spirit to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, I've created Daniel's Hierarchy of Speed.  Start at the bottom; once you've mastered a point, move up the stack.  Many of these tips are Mac-specific.  If you're on a PC, I'm sorry but I can't help you.  But I do wish you the best of luck being productive.

Daniel's Hierarchy of Speed: Master them from bottom up 

8. Use CloudApp to share screenshots (bonus: use Skitch to edit before snapping)

7. Write blogs for content you're often asked to explain over & over

I'm writing this post while on a flight -- here's my view (pic made with Cinemagram) Part of being a lifehacker means being an efficiency nut on the computer -- I've previously written about playing a computer like an instrument, the massive value of CloudApp, and I have an ongoing GeekSpeed challenge for those who feel up to the challenge of quantifying their speed on a computer.  To put it simply:  If you're on the computer for hours every day, you need to be really good at doing things quickly on it. I'm on a cross-country flight right now, so it's a perfect opportunity for me to go into detail on some of the many things I do on the computer to be radically efficient.  Similar in spirit to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, I've created Daniel's Hierarchy of Speed.  Start at the bottom; once you've mastered a point, move up the stack.  Many of these tips are Mac-specific.  If you're on a PC, I'm sorry but I can't help you.  But I do wish you the best of luck being productive. Daniel's Hierarchy of Speed: Master them from bottom up  8. Use CloudApp to share screenshots (bonus: use Skitch to edit before snapping) 7. Write blogs for content you're often asked to explain over & over 6. Use TextExpander for repetitive text entry 5. Use CloudMagic to quickly find anything in your email, Google Docs, and more 4. Use advanced keyboard shortcuts (found in Google Labs section) to navigate through Gmail 3. Browser-specific keyboard shortcuts: Use CMD+F to find content on web pages instead of searching manually, CMD+L to navigate to URL area, and CMD+SHIFT with left and right brackets [ ] to navigate between tabs in Chrome 2. Use iCopy to keep a running list of your last 100 copy & paste items 1. Learn to touch type (if you don't have this mastered, stop reading now, go learn it, and come back once you have).  Then learn all of the basic keyboard shortcuts -- CTRL+X to cut, CTRL+V to paste, etc.  These are the basics and form a foundation for everything else. By mastering the Hierarchy above, I calculate that you'll save 2.1 weeks in front of your computer every year.  Spend that time on other activities you enjoy, or just be that much more productive.  There are many other tools I rely on which aren't exactly a part of the Hierarchy but I highly recommend, like Rapportive, Alfred, Dropbox, Cinch, Witch, Growl, PDF Pen (esp. good for stamping sigs on PDFs) and Evernote.  These and other lifehacking tools are detailed in my other blogs as described at the beginning of this post. The Hierarchy is very specific and micro, but there are also very macro things you can do to be more efficient.  One of them is to use agile development cycles as I describe here (and not just for software development, either, but in everything you do).  Another macro tip is to do something you love.  That gets much more philosophical and it out of the scope of this post (here are some related thoughts, though) Here are some of the Hierarchy points in more detail: Click To Enlarge #2: iCopy:  Having a running list of the last 100 things I've copied & pasted to my clipboard is useful many, many times each day.  I can't even fathom only having access to the last thing I copied & pasted.  Collolary:  I'm assuming you already are using CTRL+C, CTRL+X and V to copy or cut, and paste.  You can access your last 100 items using a custom keyboard command -- I use CTRL+J.  So I can copy something, then copy something else right after that, and easily access the first thing I copied when I'm pasting.  To the right is what my last 100 items drop-down looks like, with some of the most recent items not blurred. #6: TextExpander: It's a bit hard to explain TextExpander at first -- it's easier to just see it in action.  Below is a very short video of me creating and then using a TextExpander snippet.  If you have to write the same content on a computer multiple times in any program (and who doesn't) then you need to be using this. (Expand the video to full-screen so you can read the text) #8: CloudApp:  I wrote an in-depth post about CloudApp here.  I probably use CloudApp 20x to 50x per day -- not quite sure how I lived without it. I'm sure there are many other lifehacking tools I'm not aware of -- I'd love to hear about them in the comments below (please be specific in stating what you love about them, how you use them, and why).

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