Technology Tips

Post date: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - 1:35pm

Be Your Own IT Support

A few months ago, I was puzzling over a tech problem that had no clear solution. I consulted the library’s IT manager who said, “Huh, that’s a tough one. Let me do a little research and I’ll get back to you.” And then, dear reader, HE GOOGLED MY QUESTION. It blew my mind! I’ve heard the standard “let me research that and I’ll get back to you” answer many times, but I thought IT professionals had some secret listserv or manual they consulted. Certainly they have better resources than the rest of us, right!?

Knowing that the answer to my tech question could only be a quick Google search away has empowered me to solve a lot more of my own tech-related issues. Phone acting weird? Google what it’s doing and you’ll find forums and blogs where people are having the same problem as you. Get a strange error message on your PC? Google it! The odds are slim that you are the first person to experience a particular tech issue.

I’m not saying that we can live without professional IT support, but we can solve a lot of our own problems with a little investigating and trial-and-error. You know more than you think! After all, that will free up the IT manager at your office to prepare that new computer you’ve been wanting…

Tags: Confidence
Post date: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - 11:43am

Matching a Custom Color using Paint

For better or worse, I am a perfectionist. It drives me nuts when a project I’m working on is just a little bit “off” – so much so that I will go to great lengths to make all the colors in a project match. How? By creating custom colors in Paint using color samples I pull from other images.

Take the Pinterest logo, for example. I created a bookmark that incorporates the Pinterest logo and the URL of the library’s Pinterest page. I wanted the color of the URL to be the same shade of red as the Pinterest logo. It only took a few simple steps:

First I downloaded the logo from and opened it in MS Paint.

Next, I clicked the eyedropper icon in the Tools section. The eyedropper takes a “sample” of any color you click on. Point the eyedropper to the color you want to match and click. The color will automatically appear in the space designated Color 1. If you’re going to continue working in Paint, you can stop here.

If you want to use this custom color in another program like Word or Publisher, click the Edit Colors tool, found at the far right of the Home ribbon. A window like this one will open:

You can use the number values in the lower right to recreate your custom color in almost any program. Just locate the Color tool (in most Office programs, you can find it by clicking the More Colors option wherever you select color for shapes or font). You can also convert these values to a Hex code for use on a website. I like this free hex code generator:

Post date: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 - 10:51am

Flip Among Your Open Windows

Today’s tip is a quick shortcut: Alt + Tab. Use it to toggle between open windows for quick and easy navigation. If you have multiple windows open, hold the Alt key and press Tab until you highlight the window you need. Then just release both keys and voila! The window you need is right in front of you. If you’re using Windows 7, the thumbnail views of your open windows should look a lot like the screenshot below:

Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 4:49pm

Inserting Special Characters

If you frequently need to insert special characters into a document, you know all about where to find them in the Insert ribbon. You may also know that there are (complicated) keyboard shortcuts for a lot of them. But did you know that there’s a website that allows you to simply copy and paste the most frequently used characters? It’s called

You can either browse for the character you want (the categories are pretty intuitive) or you can create a custom list of frequently used characters. I created a list with all the accented vowels in Spanish , the Euro symbol, and GBP symbol. Super handy!

Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 9:31am

Do You Need to Defrag?

Before we answer that question, we need to talk about what fragmentation is. Think of the files in your computer as boxes in an attic. You root through the boxes to find something you need, you move boxes around, you bring new boxes in and take old boxes out. Eventually, the boxes get out of order and your attic becomes a dreadful mess! Defragmentation is the process of rearranging all those boxes and freeing up as much floor space as possible.

Not all computers need to be defragmented, and some do it automatically. If your computer is older (more than five years) and it’s starting to slow down, you may want to think about defragmentation.

Before you click the Defragment button, check out this article on defragging and solid state hard drives and this article on defragging Macs. If you decide to defrag, you can find good instructions for Windows 7 here.

Post date: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 10:34am

Adjust Your Cursor Motion

Does your mouse move too fast or slow to suit your taste? Does it seem jumpy or ultra-sensitive? You can change the speed at which your cursor flies across the screen by right-clicking on the desktop and choosing Personalize.

Choose Change mouse pointers from the menu at left.

Click the Pointer Options tab and adjust your pointer speed. Apply your changes and click OK once you’ve achieved the speed that’s right for you. Happy clicking!

Tags: Mouse
Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 7:23am

Send Encrypted Messages!

Are you a spy? Up to shady dealings? Maybe you’re just planning a surprise party? Whatever your reason, you can send messages that require the recipient to answer a secret question to ensure that it reaches their eyes only.

To send encrypted messages, sign up for a free account at Create a username and passphrase (it’s like a password but MUCH longer) and start sending messages. Make sure you check the Encrypt box to compose a secret question and answer. HINT: Make sure the recipient knows the answer to the question!

Tags: email, fun stuff
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 9:04am

Shorten Unwieldy Links

Have you ever tried to share a website link and it looked like this?

That looks terrible! Keep it short and sweet with free link shorteners. Here’s the same link shortened using

And here’s the same link shortened using

You can even make custom links using Here’s the custom shortened link:

Shortened links are ideal for sharing long websites via printed material or in text messages.

Post date: Thursday, July 25, 2013 - 9:27am

Don’t Forget about Crucial Emails

Don’t allow emails to languish in your inbox, slowly building up and crushing you under their oppressive weight! Set a reminder to follow up with emails that require action or a reply by right-clicking the message and choosing a Follow Up flag or reminder.

Never be accused of flightiness by your co-workers again!

Post date: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - 10:07am

Clipboard History

Did you know that the last 24 items you copied are saved on your Clipboard? Access the Clipboard by navigating to the Home tab, finding the Clipboard section, and clicking the down arrow in the lower right. Ta-da!