Keyboard Shortcuts #1: How to Cut, Copy, and Paste (and one bonus shortcut!)

Introduction

The computer mouse is a wonderful thing. It is probably the piece of hardware most responsible for the widespread adoption of PCs by average consumers and business users. The mouse makes it easy to navigate and manipulate all those pixels on our screen.

But sometimes a good old fashioned keyboard shortcut is just easier. If you are a touch typist, or if you perform repetitive tasks on a computer you want the fastest way to do something with the least amount of movement.

Luckily there are keyboard shortcuts for almost everything you need to do. Today we’ll take a look at three of the most essential keyboard shortcuts. Cut, Copy, and Paste. Be sure to read to the end for a bonus shortcut that will save you lots of time and annoyance as well!

The Keys We Need

All keyboard shortcuts are based on pressing two or more keys at the same time. So when we write out a keyboard shortcut we put all the keys together joined by the plus sign “+” and when we say the keyboard shortcut aloud we just say the names of the keys.

Aside from the letters and numbers on the keyboard (which I think we are all familiar with), there are a couple of keys we will use a lot for shortcuts. The table below gives you a quick overview.

NameAbbrev.Location
ControlCtrlLower left and right corners of the typing area
AltAlt– To the left and right of the space bar (PC)
– Next to the Command key (Mac)
Command(Mac Only) To the left and right of the space bar
ShiftShiftTo the left and right of the last row of letters on the keyboard

Copy

When you select text or files on a computer the most basic thing you can do is make a copy to use somewhere else. The copy command does exactly that. It makes a copy of the information and places it in a special location of your computer’s memory designated as the “clipboard”. The information will stay there until you replace it with something else that you’ve copied, or you turn off the computer.

To copy your selection to the clipboard the keyboard shortcut is:

  • Ctrl+C (PC)
  • ⌘+C (Mac)

Cut

Cut and Copy are very similar. The only difference (and it is an important one!) is that while Copy leaves your selection right where it was, the Cut command will remove it from its original location and move it to the clipboard. You can think of this as putting the information into a moving truck (the clipboard) so it can be delivered to its new home later. This also means that if you replace the information on the clipboard or turn off your computer you run the risk of losing the information. But fear not! Most modern computers have some safeguards in place to prevent you from accidentally losing data.  

To Cut your selection and place it on the clipboard the keyboard shortcut is:

  • Ctrl+X (PC)
  • ⌘+X (Mac)

Paste

Once you’ve moved your selection to the clipboard (using Copy or Cut) you’ll probably want to put it in its new home. This is where the Paste command comes in.  

Paste takes the contents of the clipboard and puts it somewhere else. 

To Paste the contents of the clipboard somewhere the keyboard shortcut is:

  • Ctrl+V (PC)
  • ⌘+V (Mac)

Bonus! Paste Without Formatting

If you are copying text from a webpage or document that has its own fonts, colors, and styles applied you might want to keep the words but ditch the design choices that were made. For instance, if you wanted to use a quote from an article on a news website in a blog post that you are writing, you want the quote to be accurate (the text) but you want it to fit in visually with the rest of your blog post (the design).

Well, friends, there is a quick and painless way to do this. It will take one extra finger but I think you’ll agree it’s worth it. Instead of using the normal Paste command (Ctrl+V) use the “Paste Without Formatting” keyboard shortcut. Which is:

  • Ctrl+Shift+V (PC)
  • ⌘+Shift+V (Mac)

Conclusion

Keyboard shortcuts may seem like a very small change to make. You might be wondering if it is worth trying to retrain your brain to use them instead of sticking with the tried and true methods for getting your work done.

I’ll admit that it is a small thing. But a small thing multiplied by hundreds of occurrences can add up into something worth noticing. Practice with keyboard shortcuts and you will find that you become a bit more efficient, have a bit less chance of repetitive stress injuries, and are more accurate in your work.

Best headphones for any budget in 2020

Introduction

Whether you are a music buff, an avid podcast listener, or someone who just finds themselves on calls and video conferences continuously the headphones you use can have a serious impact on the experience. A good pair can make life much more pleasant while a bad pair can make it almost unbearable.

The choice of headphones is an oddly personal one and you will find lots of passionate debate about the merits of over-the-ear vs in-ear models and whether or not the bass response from the latest version is worth the price. Because it is so personal (these things are going to be pressed against your head for hundreds of hours after all) there is no list guaranteed to

The best overall (Money’s no object)

Bose has been making products with superior sound since the 60’s. They’ve evolved with the times which means offering Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones that live up the company’s stellar reputation. 

The QuietComfort 35 II wireless headphones deliver everything you could want from your personal sound system. Featuring three levels of noise-cancellation and a microphone designed for use even in noisy environments, these are the most comfortable and best sounding headphones you will find. The only thing that might give you pause is the $300 price tag. But if you use your headphones for work, play, and everything in between then the QC35 II is an investment worth investigating. In an era when folks are spending $1,000 and more for a flagship phone, you owe it to yourself to consider getting the best headphones to go with it.

The best all-arounder (Durability and sound for a reasonable price)

A lot of people haven’t tried bone-conduction headphones in the past. It is not a well-known technology for most consumers. But if you are looking for a rugged pair of headphones that provide quality sound at a reasonable price, it is worth looking at Aftershokz Trex Titanium Mini Bone-Conduction headphones.

Bone-conduction headphones work by resting gently just in front of the ear and transmitting sound to the inner ear by vibrating the bones of your skull. If this sounds uncomfortable, trust me it is not. I have been a huge fan of Aftershokz for several years for the comfort, ease of use, and unique safety benefits of their headphones.

Because the headphones do not obstruct your ear canal at all you can use them without cutting off ambient noise. This is especially important if you are jogging, biking, or driving. Or if you just want to remain more aware of your surroundings. If you do want a more isolated experience, you only have to insert a pair of plain old earplugs and you are instantly wrapped in a completely private bubble with the sound of your choosing.

The best with a wire (When Bluetooth just won’t cut it)

Sometimes you just need something with a wire. Despite more and more phones getting rid of headphone jacks, lots of us still have laptops and other entertainment devices that are just easier to use if you plug in a pair of headphones.

The TaoTronics Noise-Canceling Earbuds are a great addition to any gear bag. They sound good enough to be your main pair of headphones if you can live without a wireless solution. And for occasions when only a wire will do, they are exceptional. The noise-canceling is not as pronounced as you would get with over-the-ear models, but it is solid. And because they are wired, they will continue to deliver sound even when the battery dies. This is something you won’t fully appreciate until the first time it happens.  

If they aren’t your go-to pair of headphones, they are priced reasonably enough that you should consider getting a pair to carry just as a backup.

The best for kids that don’t know better (Really, they are just going to lose them anyway)

Not everyone needs a premium audio experience. High on that list are kids who often can’t be bothered to keep track of (or take care of) their electronics. 

After several angry evenings and the endless frustration of replacing the kid’s headphones, I finally decided to solve the problem permanently by making sure the supply far outweighed the demand.

JustJamz Kidz 2.0 is a 10-pack of headphones for one low low price. The headphones won’t be mistaken for AirPods under any circumstances, but they get the job done. The sound is decent enough and they even come with a microphone on the wire so they can be used for calls, FaceTime, or during a remote learning class.

And when they are inevitably lost, crushed, run through the washing machine, or left at the neighbor’s house you don’t have to pull your hair out. Just reach into the bag and grab another set.

Domestic bliss!

Conclusion

No matter what your budget or needs are, there’s no reason to suffer in silence. Pick up a pair of headphones and fill up those quiet moments with the sounds of life.

Don’t see something in this list that tickles your fancy? Got a specific need that you can’t find a solution for? Let us know on social media or email contact@nerdbutler.com and we’ll help you find an answer that works for you.

VPN – What is it and why it won’t protect you

Hi, everybody, it is Saturday, I need a shave but there’s a lot of things going on. I got my coffee this morning and I have a few things to talk to you about.

I want to talk to you about VPNs. Why you need one and why they aren’t the answer to all of your problems.

Let’s start with what is a VPN? A VPN is a Virtual Private Network that creates a secure, encrypted tunnel between your computer and another computer located somewhere else. Typically that remote computer is connected to the internet. What this means in practical terms is that all of your internet activity appears to be happening on the remote computer. And because there are probably lots of people using that same computer for their VPN, your activity is combined with theirs which makes it very difficult to determine what you as an individual are doing. That’s a VPN.

You’ve probably heard ads for them if you listen to podcasts or if you watch any kind of tech news at all. Even on some mainstream media outlets, we’re starting to see ads for Virtual Private Networks. You may have seen the brand names Tunnel Bear or Express VPNas they have become more aggressive in their marketing.

So why should you have a VPN? The online world is getting progressively more and more intrusive. Your data is being collected and sold by everyone from social media platforms to your internet service provider and your cellphone company. That’s a topic for another day. But the outcome of this is that every time you connect your computer or phone to the internet, there are lots of folks who are collecting information about you. This doesn’t mean everyone is up to no good. Just like everything else, data collection is a tool. It can be used for righteous or nefarious purposes. But when you are using an internet connection that might be a little suspect, it becomes more important to protect yourself.

So VPNs are most important if you spend a lot of time on an internet connection that you don’t control. That means a coffee shop, an airport, or any kind of retail outlet. If you’re in a big-box store and they have Wi-Fi you don’t know what the security measures in place are for that Wi-Fi. So it’s very difficult to tell what’s happening with your information.

A VPN takes any network traffic of any kind that is leaving your device whether that’s your laptop or your phone or something else and it encrypts it and it sends it to another computer that is owned by the VPN service. Then it is decrypted and spit out onto the Internet to go on its merry way and continue its journey to wherever it was supposed to go.

For example, if you are checking your email and you open up gmail.com on your browser your machine encrypts that so nobody else can see what it says. Then that encrypted request is sent off to the VPN server far far away. The VPN server decrypts it and kicks it back on the internet and then it goes to Google’s servers where it is recognized as a valid request to check your email. Google will quickly grab the messages in your inbox and send them back to you via the VPN. So they come back and hit the VPN server gets encrypted again and brought back to your computer.

All of that is a very long way of saying it makes your traffic more secure.

The other reason to use a VPN is to “geo-shift” yourself to make it appear as if you are in another location. If you want to watch Japanese anime and there is no Japanese anime on Netflix in the United States you can connect your VPN service to a location in Japan and as far as Netflix is concerned you are in Japan. So when your VPN is running you get the Japanese catalog of shows which means there’s probably some anime shows that you wanted to watch that aren’t available in the US.

Conversely, if you’re traveling and you are in Japan but you are trying to do something that can only be done within the United States you connect back to a server in the United States with your VPN and all of a sudden, voila! You are magically transported back to the United States (as far as the Internet is concerned).

There are some great benefits to using a VPN. It is not, however, the answer to everything. While it makes you more secure it only makes you more secure between your location and that VPN server. There may be a lot of things in between you and that VPN server that you will be very happy to avoid like that gentleman sitting at Starbucks spying on customers’ web traffic while he sips his latte. Or the Internet Service Provider at the coffee shop who want to log every website customers go to so that they can sell that data to marketing companies. So the VPN is a privacy mode. A way of shielding your web traffic from a variety of prying eyes.

But as soon as it hits the VPN server it is and sent on to its final destination you still have to be aware of security concerns. The VPN is a very important tool to protect your data from a variety of malicious actions on the part of other people.

So if privacy in that regard is important to you, a VPN is critical. However, the VPN is not the end of your security puzzle. You still need to take the securing of your accounts and your information seriously and engage in a couple of other steps that I will be talking about in the future. One of those is multi-factor authentication. Another is strong passwords along with encryption of your data both on your local machine and wherever you happen to be storing it.

If you’d like to hear more on this topic or if there’s another topic you would like to know more about I promise I will have shaved and comb my hair next time and we will see you all again soon.

Technology is NOT a Luxury

technology: Putting science or knowledge into practical use to solve problems or invent useful tools.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

The World We Live In

We live in a world where refrigerators are connected to the internet and most of us walk around with a location sensing multimedia computer in our pocket, it’s time to stop acting like technology is something that other people can worry about.

I believe that understanding how to use the services and devices that affect our lives is an essential tool in the modern world. Every day all of us give off hundreds or thousands of data points that are scooped up by social media platforms, banks, retailers, and any other organization we come into contact with. Every day we interact with our smartphones, laptops, TVs, voice assistants, and dozens of other devices and apps that allow us to do our jobs and communicate with friends and families.

In 20 years as an IT professional, I’ve witnessed technology revolutionize whole industries and change lives for the better. I’ve also seen it cause frustration to the point of tears. People getting less done with more aggravation. Unable to perform tasks that should have been simple but were made overly complicated by the tool they were using.

Solving Problems

I created Nerd Butler to solve those problems. Look at that definition at the top again. Technology should solve problems or invent useful tools.” If you aren’t solving a problem, the tool probably isn’t useful.

Too often people are forced to use a tool that doesn’t *quite* do the job easily. They are left performing mindless repetitive tasks and wondering why their computer can’t just do it for them. Quite often the answer is, it can! But only if you ask it nicely and have an understanding of what its capabilities, and limitation, are.

So, if you’ve ever been annoyed with the way you had to do something on your phone or the way your computer displayed something incorrectly, have hope! There is almost always an answer to your dilemma. And most of the time it is simple and will put a smile on your face when the annoyance you faced is eliminated.

Making life easier

Technology promised to make our lives easier. Allow us to do less, earn more, have more free time and more entertainment options. It’s time to make it happen! The phone in your pocket is not magic. It is a tool to make your life better. Your laptop is not your enemy, it is your servant.

Technology is NOT a luxury.  It is the set of tools essential to our modern life. The only way to take control of it and reap the benefits is to ask questions and find the correct tool for any job. It won’t be the same for everyone. And that is ok. Because when you do find the right tools for the things you need, it allows you to become a better version of yourself.

Just ask the Butler

So if you are ready to get more done, have more free time, feel less frustrated, and finally start to take control of the devices that have taken over your life it’s time to get started! Submit your question! Follow along on social media or here on this blog. Sign up for the newsletter and commit to spending 10 minutes a day getting better acquainted with the tools that will get the job done for you.

The best free ways to be social while self-isolating

We’re all stuck at home

Well, most of us are anyway. And after a while, things get a little lonely. Even if you have folks at home with you, and even if you really like them, it can be a huge relief to see other faces. To hear from family and friends. To be social.

Luckily there are lots of ways to put your face in front of someone else’s. Over the last several years these tools have gotten much easier to use, more reliable, and MUCH more affordable. Below are 6 options for being social while you self-isolate.

Social apps you probably already know

Facebook Messenger

  • Up to 8 people in a video chat
  • Available on virtually any device
  • Easy to use for non-technical people

Over 2 billion people use Facebook so there is a good chance the folks you want to connect with are already there. While Messenger started out as a way to text each other, it has become a pretty reliable video platform as well. Messenger supports free video calls with up to 8 participants.

What’s App

  • Four people per video call
  • Your international friends are probably already using it
  • Not the prettiest app out there

If you don’t live in the US, chances are you use WhatsApp to keep in touch with friends and family instead of using text messages. While a lot of Americans haven’t adopted this messaging app yet, it is a solid choice for video calls with up to 4 people. It is free to use and there are well-tested apps for both Android and iPhone. If you want to use your computer for video calls though, Whatsapp is not for you. Their web and desktop versions don’t support video calls yet.

Work apps that can serve double duty

Skype

  • 100 hours of calls per month for free
  • Works for bigger groups
  • Not as easy to use as other tools

Skype is one of the best-known names in video calling and the free version allows for 100 hours a month usage (each call is limited to 4 hours). It runs on most computers and phones. Just be ready to give your less technically savvy relatives a little bit of an assist in getting set up. Installing and creating accounts can be a bit intimidating for some.

Zoom

  • One of the easiest to use services
  • Works for groups up to 100
  • One on one calls can last forever, group call limited to 40 minutes

If you haven’t been on a Zoom call for work yet, you may have heard them mentioned on the news. Their stock price has actually risen 25% since we all started staying at home. That’s because it is a very reliable, dead-simple video conferencing service. Their free plan offers an unlimited number of video calls that can have up to 100 people in them. If you have more than 2 participants, the calls are limited to 40 minutes. A one on one call does not have a time limit.

The biggest advantage of Zoom is its ease of use. As the host, you simply send a link to all the folks you would like to join and there is a pretty good chance that they’ll be able to. Even your aunt Ethster who can never figure out “that technology stuff”. Zoom works on pretty much any device you have laying around. Phones, computers, tablets, you name it.

If you are finding the free version too limiting for some reason, a Pro account is only $15 a month (only $12.50 a month if you pay for the whole year) and removes the meeting length limits along with some other administrative features. One of the best values in the industry.

Honorable mentions

There are plenty of options out there for seeing friends and family virtually. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. But there’s no reason you can’t find a way to have a face-to-face with someone you’ve been missing.

Houseparty

Houseparty is an app intended to let you come together to play silly games and have fun. Not for a serious heart to heart talks, but it can be a nice getaway from the daily craziness.

Discord

If you are a gamer, you probably already know about Discord. Although it’s not for everyone, it does offer video calling and if you have a little bit of time to devote to setting it up it can be a great place to get together.

FaceTime

FaceTime has become so commonplace that I think a lot of people forget it’s even there. If everyone in your circle is rocking an iPhone, FaceTime is still the king of easy video calling.

Google Hangouts

Its been around so long people have kind of forgotten about it. But if you have a Gmail account, you have Hangouts. And Hangout video calls are still a quick and easy way to connect with a small group.

Don’t let social distancing make you a stranger

We are living through unprecedented times. No one really knows how long we will be keeping to ourselves or what the consequences may be. But one thing has become obvious very quickly. Humans are social animals and we need contact with others. Luckily we live in a time where even in this most bizarre of circumstances we can connect with people for work, play, and support without leaving our homes. Take advantage of the miracles we find in front of us every day. Reach out to someone and keep that human connection alive.