Seven supremely helpful sleights of hand

There’s been so much talk of ChatGPT recently that I haven’t felt the need to weigh in with my own thoughts on the matter. But I am feeling the need to tell you about a few other apps and bits of software which have made my life considerably easier.

Two of these are just for Mac users, so apologies in advance for that (I can’t help but live in my own ecosystem). Oh, and one’s actually to do with presenting, but I felt that one deserved a mention too.

1/ First up, a Chrome extension called Tinker. If you want to test out how a new bit of text looks and sounds on your existing website (or on someone else’s), this is the way to do it. I’ve been doing quite a few live-editing sessions on Zoom recently, and, for my clients, it’s like magic when they see their homepage morph right before their eyes.

2/ If you regularly post on LinkedIn, you should know about AuthoredUp. It had bothered me for a while that when you write a post in the ‘Start a post’ box, you can’t see how the published post will look. But – wow! – when you write a post in ‘AuthoredUp’, you can. Again, it comes as an extension to Chrome (and also as a web app).

Spotlight search
3/ If you’re on a Mac, ‘Spotlight search’ is worth making good use of. Just press command and spacebar, and immediately you get a selection of things you might – or might not – be looking for. I’m always searching back through my files for things I’ve done earlier, and this makes it so much quicker.

Preview in Finder
4/ ‘Preview in Finder’ is another one for Mac users (and it’s one I’ve rediscovered after forgetting all about it). You just press the spacebar when you’ve got the file name highlighted in Finder. If you’re not sure it’s the right file and just want to have a quick look, it’s so much easier than opening up the file in the usual way.

5/ Anyone who has to write in an unfamiliar language – and has come up against the limitations of Google Translate – should know about DeepL. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good. A personal note here: my mother’s French and I occasionally have to engage in official communication with France, so DeepL comes to the rescue when circumstances demand a bit of officialese (not the kind of language we used around the home when I was growing up…).

‘B’ and ‘W’ in PowerPoint
6/ Now for a PowerPoint trick that you might not know of: if you’re in slideshow mode, press ‘B’ on your keyboard and the screen turns black. It’s great if you want to dip out of your slides and don’t want the audience’s eyes still focused on the screen behind you (to return to your slides, just press ‘B’ again). ‘W’ turns the screen white in just the same way.

The dodgy, mysterious one
7/ And, finally, someone recently introduced me to a website that can jump over almost any paywall. I’m not sure whether I approve of this one because there’s something slightly dodgy about going through the back door on paying websites, but I’ve made my peace with it… I just use it when I’m doing research and wouldn’t be able to look at something without going through the rigmarole of signing up for a free trial etc. Now I can hop over the wall and have a quick look (so, a bit like popping into a library rather than actually buying the book). But, yes, I know I’m on slightly dodgy moral ground, and I’m being slightly more circumspect about this one. So if – like me – you might find it useful for websites you only visit very occasionally, send me an email and I’ll share the link. Or if you feel strongly that I shouldn’t even be mentioning it, send me an email too. I’ll gladly listen and think twice before using it again.

And that’s it. I hope at least one of the above proves useful.


[Photo is of the overhead screens at Outernet in London, the venue of last year’s Archiboo Awards.]



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