Category Archives: Efficiency

Learn to Write 25% of All Words Using Single Letters in 10 Minutes

Have you ever considered how many times we write words like “the” and “this”? Believe it or not, 25% of a typical English text is used by forms of just 10 words like these. When you stop to think about it, although these common words may be fairly short to begin with, they could be much shorter.

Now, I’m not suggesting that I’d like to pick up some great literature, sit down in a comfy chair, and open my book to find many of the words compressed into little symbols so the typist could save some keystrokes. I like the English language as it is. But I also write a lot of notes, and I don’t care much about their aesthetic qualities. I just want to be able to write them efficiently and read them later.

That’s where some simple shorthand comes in. The system I use is called Dutton Speedwords. (For the impatient, here’s my cheat sheet.) If you so desire, it can actually be used as a complete International Auxiliary Language, but those of us less ambitious can benefit greatly from a much shorter and more informal study.

The only section you have to read to accomplish what I suggest in the title is “The First 10 Words.” But there’s a lot more to Speedwords, so I recommend checking out the rest if the first part interests you. It gets slightly more technical (but not difficult), so for those of you who are a little bit rusty on grammar terms, I’ve added links in possibly confusing places.


The First 10 Words
The Oxford University Press has a list of the 100 most frequently used words in the English language. I’ll come back to the full list in a moment, but for now, before you get impatient to see how I’m going to manage what I suggested in the title: The 10 most commonly used words (in various forms) comprise 25% of an average text, so if you learn the list below and start using it regularly, you’re done! (This list actually contains 11 items because ‘e’ and ‘y’ have the same meaning, just different tenses.)
  • l – the *
  • e - am, is, are, be
  • y – was, were, been
  • a – to
  • d – of
  • & – and **
  • u – a, an ***
  • i – in
  • k – that
  • h – have, has
  • j – I, me ***

[*] That’s a lowercase letter L.

[**] There’s of course nothing magical about the form of the ampersand common on the computer keyboard used here; any other form of the sign you prefer works too.

[***] Obviously, English I and a are already one letter, but leaving them in their English forms causes them to collide with other Speedwords, since the system was not specifically designed with purely English in mind. In practice, these are not large problems; it is nearly always immediately clear which is being used from context. On rare occasions, they can impede comprehension until you notice the alternative interpretation. If you aren’t interested in continuing into more shorthand, you could certainly pick other letters for the colliding ones. And it’s totally fine to continue using the English versions on occasion as you get used to the system; as you get more familiar with it, you will probably start automatically using the “correct” Speedwords versions.

General Note: There is no conjugation or declension in Speedwords; ‘e’ means both have and has and ‘j’ means both I and me. There are also no fixed parts of speech; a speedword can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb where it makes sense.There are tenses: prefixing the letter ‘y’ to a verb makes it past tense, and placing the separate word ‘r’ (will) before a verb makes it future (this is the same syntax as English). ‘y’ by itself is the past tense of ‘e’. And in all cases, if the tense is obvious from context, there is no need to specify it.

90 More Words
If you stop learning right there and just work on using those 11 abbreviations over the next few days, you’ll already have improved your scribbling efficiency considerably. But if you like this idea, you can do quite a bit better with only a modest amount of time. If you learn the 90 remaining words in the top 100, you can double the percentage of words you can abbreviate to 50%, using mostly single and double and just a few triple letters. Actually, there are fewer than 90 to learn, because some of them are repeats, like we and us, which as you just learned above are written exactly the same in Speedwords.The top 100 English words can be represented with 80 Speedwords. For your learning pleasure, the list is available on my Dutton Speedwords Cheat Sheet. I will continue the frequency list here so you can get an idea of the language; this is not the best form to memorize from, though.

I have made some modifications on the official Speedwords usage; I think the changes make the system better, at least for my purposes, but others might not, and I certainly don’t want to present this as an unaltered version, so I’ve noted the places where my usage differs from standard. There are also notes for features of the language that would be useful to learn, so have a look at them.
  1. t – it
  2. f – for
  3. n – not (also #46, no)
  4. o – on
  5. m – with
  6. s – he (also #48, him)
  7. z – as (also #61, than)
  8. v – you
  9. q – do [*1]
  10. a – at (also in top 10, to)
  11. c – this, these
  12. b – but
  13. si – his
  14. by – by
  15. d – from (also in top 10, of)
  16. g – they (also #58, them)
  17. w – we (also #90, us)
  18. di – say
  19. sh – her [*2]
  20. sh – she
  21. or – or
  22. u – an (also in top 10, a)
  23. r – will
  24. ji – my
  25. 1 – one [*3]
  26. al – all
  27. yr – would
  28. kp – there [*4]
  29. gi – their
  30. qm – what [*4]
  31. so – so
  32. up – up
  33. out – ix
  34. x – if
  35. ab – about
  36. qr – who [*4]
  37. ob – get, obtain
  38. q- – which [*4]
  39. go – go
  40. j – me (also in top 10, I)
  41. qz – when [*4]
  42. ma – make
  43. p – can, be able to
  44. idi – like, similar
  45. te – time
  46. n – no (also #3, not)
  47. jus – just [*5]
  48. s – him (also #6, he)
  49. sa – know
  50. ne – take
  51. erz – people [*6]
  52. ia – into
  53. an – year
  54. vi – your
  55. gu – good (also #79, well)
  56. u- – some [*3]
  57. yp – could
  58. g – them (also #16, they)
  59. vu – see
  60. ot – other
  61. z – than (also #7, as)
  62. nux – then
  63. nu – now
  64. ser – look [*9]
  65. sol – only
  66. ko – come
  67. ti – its
  68. ov – over
  69. pu – think
  70. ai – also
  71. ba – back
  72. po – after
  73. us – use
  74. 2 – two
  75. qd – how [*3]
  76. wi – our
  77. ra – work
  78. 1. – first [*7]
  79. gu – well [*10] (also #55, good)
  80. -d – way [*3]
  81. eb – even
  82. nov – new
  83. des – want
  84. zi – because
  85. jj- – any
  86. c – these [*8]
  87. da – give
  88. de – day
  89. my – most
  90. w – us (also #17, we)


[*1] In official Speedwords, this is used only as a question modifier, as in, “Do you have a pencil with you?” The word ‘fa’ is used for the sense to do something. I rarely observe this distinction and simply use the shorter form. In either case, it is not used or needed at all where it is used simply as syntactic glue: “No, I do not have a pencil” could be rendered as “N, j n h u pencil” (“no, I not have…”, or perhaps with technically correct but unusual English grammar, “no, I have not a pencil”).

[*2] This could also be ‘shi’ depending on the context (‘-i’ makes a pronoun possessive). See “him” and “his book” versus “her” and “her book”: in English, there is no difference between the forms. It is of course not necessary for you to do this correctly if you are only writing notes for yourself, but you’ll probably get used to doing it correctly without trying once you start using the ‘i’ for other possessives.

[*3] There are actual roots for many numbers, but I have not bothered to learn them, as the numerals do perfectly well. For one as an indefinite pronoun, as in “One should not stab oneself with a pencil, as doing so is quite painful,” use ‘eri’ (“something associated with ‘person'” – see Modifiers, below); sometimes I will write ‘-r’ instead (see note 4, below).

[*4]This is part of an unofficial reform called “Speedwords Correlatives”; the original Speedwords uses irregular forms, but I use the following forms, dreamed up by Ron Hale-Evans, instead.

First parts:

  • q- what/which
  • c- this
  • u- some
  • j- every
  • n- no
  • jj- any
  • k- that

Second parts:

  • -p place
  • -m thing
  • -d way
  • -k kind
  • -y reason
  • -z time
  • -r one (person)
  • -t amount

A first part and second part are combined: ‘um’ = something, ‘jr’ = everyone, ‘jjz’ = any time. You can make compounds this way that are not single words in English; ‘kt’ = that amount, for instance. Also, even ones that do form words can be used in the sense of separate words: ‘ud’ = somehow, but also some way.

I also use single parts occasionally (with the dash): ‘u-‘ = some, ‘-r’ = one.

[*5] This is intended in the sense of “fair, right.” If you can’t tell from earlier notes, I’m not picky about the technical meanings of words as long as I understand them, so I often use it for other meanings of just as well.

[*6] This is the plural of ‘er’, person.

[*7] This is a German convention for ordinal numbers which I use: ‘1.’ = first, ’23.’ = twenty-third, etc. It’s faster than writing the little letters after the numeral.

[*8] If In want to make it explicitly plural, I sometimes use ‘cz’. Doing so is not necessary for comprehension, though, if you try it.

[*9] In the sense to look for, search. Similar words: ‘no’ = to look, notice, ‘vu’ = to see.

[*10] Good and well are written the same.

One of the things that makes Speedwords powerful is the system of affixes, which are completely regular and affect both the grammar and the meaning of roots. For instance, ‘-z’ makes anything plural and ‘-t’ makes anything diminutive. To get started, you should learn these suffixes and prefixes:

  • -z pluralizes: ‘er’, person, ‘erz’, people. Plurals may be omitted if there is a count or something else that clearly identifies them as plural: ‘erz go kp’ for people go there, but ‘4 er e kp’ for four people are there.
  • -i makes a pronoun possessive: ‘g’, they, ‘gi’, their. More completely, it indicates “association,” or a particular similar word. You can also see this usage in this list with ‘idi’, like – ‘id’ means identical or the same. To make other things possessive, add a single apostrophe: Speedwords Soren’ = English Soren’s.
  • -x or -o makes the opposite of something. (To make pronunciation easier, -o is used if the word ends in a consonant, and -x if it ends in a vowel.) You can see this usage several times in the list: ‘i’ = in, ‘ix’ = out; ‘nu’ = now, ‘nux’ = then.
  • me- and my- form the comparative and superlative, respectively, and are also words in their own right without the dash: ‘megu’ = better, ‘my’ = most. (To compare with something else, use ‘z’, #61: ‘j e megu z sh’ = I am better than her.)
  • y- makes a verb past tense: ‘h’ = have, ‘yh’ = had. (‘y’, was, is a shortened form of ‘ye’, used since past forms of be are so common.)
  • u- forms the present continuous or present participle: ‘j ko’ = I come, ‘j uko’ = I am coming.
Real-Life Examples
Here’s a composed statement about the list of 90 words:

  • J yh a ser up 4 d l ro d motz…r sa g d nu o!  (‘ro’ = list, ‘mot’ = word)

Sometimes I really do write extended passages of pure Speedwords. But when I do, it’s an accident: unless you’re specifically trying to remove your native language from the writing, you will of course find use for plenty of non-Speedwords complex words. When I write fast (which is obviously what you’re doing when writing in shorthand), I often miss perfectly good places to use abbreviations, too – extra credit for finding some that were on the lists and not used where possible in the following list.

Once you’ve learned the words and grammar on this page (or better, from the list at the bottom), you should be able to read these actual sentences from my journal comfortably.

  • Kp e uk d live, amplified rock concert i l common area. Which yr e cool kun f l fact k t e 11:19 PM i u dorm, u fu feet away d erz’ rooms. (‘kun’ = except, ‘fu’ = few)
  • I noticed qz j picked up ji phone at 8:13 k j yh u IT shift at 8.
  • Eb though t e n l my-eloquent title, j yp n resist uma l pun.
  • So kp e u lot a di ab yesterday — b, uqm surprisingly, t al basically fits under 2 headings. (‘uqm’ = somewhat, my own invention, a nonstandard mix of the Correlatives)
  • M u gu bu, al delays e short. (‘bu’ = book) [An aphorism I made up after a transit delay.]
  • …Esp ov l ‘Net, qp w pn see jj- cues ab qm otz e upu. (‘pn’ = ‘p n'; ‘esp’ is my own abbreviation for especially.)
  • Judging by k & l next response, t seems g y trying a get Anki a ma [flash]cards relating a Windows XP f g by uq c [importing a Windows configuration file]. G pi e beyond further help… (‘pi’ = may)
Learning These Speedwords
So you think this sounds good and you want to start learning. Where do you go from here? I made a little Dutton Speedwords Cheat Sheet (OpenDocument source) that you can print out and refer to. It contains a trimmed version of equivalents for the 100 most-common English words, with numerals, duplicate entries for the same Speedwords, and words that are the same in English and Speedwords removed. This leaves you with 80 to memorize. There’s also a chart of the Speedwords Correlatives and the list of modifiers/affixes presented above. If you use an electronic flashcards program, you can import this tab-separated text file containing the contents of the sheet and start studying right away. (If you don’t use one, maybe now’s a good time to try Anki!)Other than that, just start throwing them in whenever you write something to yourself. If you have some spare time, you can copy some text and use Speedwords where possible; this is a good exercise because you can concentrate on using the shorthand versions wherever you know them, instead of thinking so much about what you’re writing and probably passing over chances to abbreviate

Miscellaneous Notes
One advantage of having the shorthand symbols be ordinary letters of the alphabet is that you already know how to make the symbols, but another is that you can type just as easily as you can write. Personally, I rarely have reason to type shorthand, since I type at over 100 words per minute anyway, but others have found it very helpful.
Thoughts on two practical obstacles to the use of shorthand:
  • “Other people will need to read my notes and won’t be able to.” In about two years, this has happened to me exactly once. And it wasn’t exactly a “need” situation: someone asked me in class if they could borrow them, and they simply asked someone else instead. (Of course, the number of times where I would have written in Speedwords if someone else hadn’t needed to be able to read it, say on an essay exam or a form, is much higher!)
  • “I’ll accidentally expect someone else will be able to read a note written in Speedwords.” This has also happened a grand total of once. I realized my error approximately two seconds later, grabbed it back, and read it out loud to them.
Further Reading & Learning
Dutton Reginald’s official dictionary, recently transcribed from a long-out-of-print paper copy, contains approximately 3,500 words and compounds that you can learn. At the very least, you can open it and punch Ctrl-Fif you notice you’re writing a word repeatedly and would like an equivalent for it, or on the rare occasion that you later read something you’ve written and don’t remember what the word means. In addition, it has a nice list of all the prefixes and suffixes and a few points of grammar that are absolutely worth learning if you want to continue beyond the word lists presented in this article.This old Geocities pageis a huge mess, but contains a few interesting things. A nice pronunciation guide (yes, this is supposed to be pronounceable – it might make it easier to learn and think about) and some other information about Speedwords.

Searching Google: Tips & Tricks

I have published a new article about all sorts of tricks for searching the web, both in forming search queries and using features of Google you probably didn’t know existed. This is an updated version of an article that’s been around in the past; if you were ever a subscriber of the original Technical Geekery Tips, you might vaguely recognize it.

You can read the article here (it will remain under the Miscellaneous tab of the website menu, if you want to look for it later).

People who know me personally might also appreciate a new item on the (also new) Miscellaneous tab, Conversations with Soren. Check it out.

What Email Filters Are, and Why You Should Use Them

Ever gotten repeating emails from a website that you just can’t get rid of? If you use Gmail, would you like to be able to prevent emails from a certain address from ever being marked as important? Would you like to store work orders or other requests in a separate folder automatically? Email filters give you the ability to take control of what emails get presented in your inbox and how they’re displayed to you there.

I’m going to show you how to set up a filter in Gmail, since that’s what I use (and because it has one of the more powerful and useful filter systems out there), but virtually every email client provides a filter of some sort.

Filters are essentially just a search that’s automatically applied to your incoming mail, so they’re pretty easy to understand. Here’s how to set one up:

  1. Locate the filter settings in your Preferences or Settings. In Gmail, it’s under the Filters tab in your settings (in the new layout, you have to click the gear icon in the upper-right-hand corner to get to settings).
  2. Determine criteria that match the email you want to filter out. See below for suggestions on what you might want to filter. You can typically search the subject, sender, receiver (different depending on whether it was sent only to you or to a mailing list), or body text. You can also frequently check for whether a message has an attachment.
  3. Type the criteria and test the search on emails you already have. If your email client is any good, you’ll be able to see what messages you already have that match the filter. If it looks like it’s going to work, you can set the filter.

No ideas on what you might want to filter? Here are a few ideas:

  • The most obvious is when a website is sending you spam that you can’t get rid of. For instance, I somehow wound up on a software development list that I did not sign up to be on, and no matter how I changed my preferences, I couldn’t seem to get off of it. To correct the problem, I simply went into my email settings and filtered on the search subject:([supertux OR [meta) (this matches the prefix that comes before the subject in every message from the list) and set the action to “skip inbox” and “delete.” Now I never see the messages anymore.
  • If you use Gmail, you may not know that you can use a +anything after your email address. For instance, emails sent to both and land in John Smith’s inbox. Since you can filter on what address an email was sent to, you can take advantage of this to help filter spam and track the source of it when signing up for less-than-kosher websites. You can also use it to specify that certain email is important. For instance, you could opt to have email sent to automatically starred and flagged as important if Bob’s messages are always important.
  • If you’re on a mailing list or two, it might be nice to have email from the list kept in a separate folder if you don’t always want to look at it with the rest of your email. (If you use Gmail, you can also label it without removing it from the inbox if you just want to be able to look through the archives more easily later.)
  • If you’re wondering what filters I use, here’s a screenshot (click to enlarge and make it easier to read):

My email filters. See above for suggestions if you can't see this...

In Gmail, there’s another handy way to create a filter: build a search from the ordinary search box, then click the little arrow next to the search box and choose “create a filter from this search”:

Create Filter From This Search

YouTube Keyboard Shortcuts

You probably know that you can press Escape to exit full-screen mode (after all, YouTube does smash you over the head with an alert saying exactly that every time you make a video full-screen), but I bet you didn’t know you can control video playback with other letters.

You need to have focus on the Flash applet before you can use any of these shortcuts. (Just click on the video or any of the playback buttons to change the focus.)

  • f: Go full-screen. You can return to normal with Escape, as usual.
  • k: Pause or resume video playback.
  • j and l (or left/right arrow): Seek backwards/forwards 10 seconds.
  • Home and End: Seek to the beginning/end of the video. You can use Home to replay the video if you get to the end.
  • 0–9: Seek to 0–90% through the video.
  • Up and Down arrow keys: Change the volume.
  • m: (Un)mute audio.
Sources for this article:
I was inspired to write this article by accidentally typing ‘f’ in YouTube and noticing that it did something.

Reopening Tabs You Just Closed

Ever closed a browser tab, then immediately realized you still needed it open? Maybe you even waited a few minutes before you wanted to go back. Fortunately, you don’t need to go hunting around for it in your history or search for it again.

I’ve already partially mentioned this tip (buried in the middle of another), but here it is again: Just press Ctrl-Shift-T.

Here’s the new part: In Chrome, you can also middle-click the New Tab button to reopen the previous tab. I discovered this by accident the other day while trying to close the last tab I had open (I missed it and hit the new tab button instead).

While you’re at it, check out four other ways to use your middle mouse button when you’re browsing (and find out what a middle-click is, if you haven’t picked up on it from my tips yet!).

Searching Google for Only a Specific Site

Ever been to a really poorly-designed website? I’ve certainly seen a few. And what’s worse than a poorly-designed website? A poorly-designed website without a search box.
Fortunately, you can get around this fairly easily using a surprisingly little-known trick on Google. Just start your query with (You must not put a space between the site: and the domain of the website, or it won’t work.) Try it out–here’s an example search.

This can also come in handy if the website does have a search box, but just doesn’t have a good one. I also use it routinely when I read a news article, then want to show it to someone else. If I know what site I found it on (say, Slashdot or the New York Times website), I can easily get back to the article by searching this way, whereas if I go to the site and try to browse for it, it’s likely to be buried or even completely gone if I go back a day later.

Soren “scorchgeek” Bjornstad

If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me:

Copyright 2012 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.

Five Really Cool Chrome (and Firefox) Extensions

In my opinion, one of the best things about Google’s Chrome browser is the excellent selection of browser extensions. In the past, Firefox has taken the title for largest selection of extensions, but recently I’m seeing more and more really good Chrome extensions. Since two of these extensions are available for Firefox as well, I’ll give you links for those versions too.

Here are five of my favorite extensions.
1: AutoPager (Chrome and Firefox)
Have a favorite site that likes to split articles over five different pages, requiring you to click the Next link every time you get to the bottom of the (usually about two paragraphs long) page? AutoPager automatically loads the next page once you begin to reach the bottom of the page you’re currently on, then tacks it onto the end of the page you have.

It does require a “rule” for each page, but most popular sites have rules uploaded by users, and if you really want it to work with a site that doesn’t have a rule, you can always write one yourself.

2: Better Omnibox (Chrome only)
The “omnibox” is the improved address bar in Chrome that can be used to load websites by typing just the first couple of letters, search the web, and search websites (type the first couple of letters of the site you want to search, then press Tab). Better Omnibox extends this to allow you to search your history and bookmarks as well by simply pressing #, then entering your search terms. Searching history and/or bookmarks always used to be a painful process, requiring opening up the history page or bookmarks manager, and it never seemed to work quite right for me. With this extension, finding a page I visited yesterday is as easy as it could possibly be.

3: Chrome Remote Desktop (Beta) (Chrome only, obviously)
This extension is just what it sounds like–you can access another computer remotely. You need a person sitting at the computer you want to access, who clicks the Share button and receives a code and sends it to you; you simply type the code in and are on your way.
As a makeshift tech support representative for quite a few people, this extension comes in handy occasionally. Trying to write a script for somebody over the phone (or worse, Facebook chat with a slow typist, as it was last time this happened) is more frustrating than you can possibly believe until you’ve tried it. After I finally thought about this extension, the problem was fixed in under five minutes.
Also nice is the fact that this extension is completely cross-platform: you can access a Mac from a Windows PC, a Linux PC from a Mac, or even a Windows PC from a Chromebook. It’s supposedly still in beta, but I’ve never had a problem with it.
4: Visual Hashing (Chrome and Firefox)
This handy extension changes the white background of password fields to four colored bars which change as you type your password. Each set of colors is the result of a mathematical calculation based on the password you type, but there is no way to derive the password from the bars, so this won’t help anyone watching you figure out your password. On the other hand, once you‘ve typed your password and watched the pretty colors a few times, you’ll notice that the colors don’t look right and realize you’ve mistyped it before you hit Enter and wait fifteen seconds for the site to reload and make you type everything in again.




5: Chrome Daltonize (Chrome and sort of Firefox)
This extension is a bit more obscure, but it’s still interesting. Its purpose is to filter the colors in images that appear in web pages. It can either simulate colorblindness or perform the Daltonization technique, which creates more contrast and makes it easier for people who are colorblind to differentiate the colors in the image. This extension is probably a bit more useful for me, since I actually am colorblind and occasionally have difficulty with fancy graphs and maps on the Internet, but most of the people with normal color vision to whom I’ve showed the simulation have thought it was pretty cool too, so it might be fun to play with anyway.


Chrome configuration
Once you’ve installed the extension, right-click on the little color wheel that appears on the toolbar and choose Options. Chances are fairly good the default settings aren’t what you want. You can either choose to Daltonize or Simulate any of the three main types of colorblindness; if you actually are colorblind, you probably want to choose the one that corresponds to the type you have. (If you’re not sure, check out the handy test at If you’re just playing around, you might want to try each of the settings in turn.


Once you’re done with the settings, close the tab, browse to the page you want to try the extension on, and click the color wheel button.


Firefox configuration
There is no native Firefox extension, but there are bookmarklets available at the download link. To use a bookmarklet, just drag the link to your bookmarks toolbar or menu, browse to the site you want to use it on, and click it. (It might take a second to work; be patient.) With the bookmarklets, you need to drag a different link depending on which settings you want; see the Chrome configuration section if you’re confused about what they are.


Firefox bookmarklets:

Changing Your Browser’s Homepage

One of the most frequent questions I get when setting up a computer for somebody is how to change the home page. Usually it starts on something silly like MSN or the website of the manufacturer, and so you want to change it. Here’s how.


This tip was tested on Firefox and Chrome; it is probably mostly applicable to Internet Explorer as well, but the exact steps will be different.


The Quick Method
This works on both Firefox and Chrome.
  1. Browse to the website you want to make your home page.
  2. Look to the left of the web address. Depending on whether the site is secure or not, there will be either a little icon or a company name of some sort.
  3. Drag this icon or name onto the home button (it looks like a home, and is on the toolbar, often next to the back and forward buttons). Firefox will ask you for confirmation, while Chrome will just go ahead and make the change. Here’s a screenshot if you’re confused.
For some strange reason, Chrome doesn’t display the home button by default, but adding it is no problem: click the wrench in the upper-right-hand corner, then Preferences, then check “Show Home Button.”


The More Involved Method
If you want some more options, like having multiple tabs as your home page, you need to head over to your browser’s options dialog box. This will usually be in Tools -> Options or Edit -> Preferences, though many recent browsers have one or two big buttons instead of multiple menus, so click the button and then Options or Preferences.


To set multiple tabs in Firefox, browse to all the pages you want, then open the options and select Use Current Pages. In Chrome, under the “On Startup” section in Preferences, select “Open the Following Pages,” then type or paste the addresses you want.




If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me:


Copyright 2012 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.


Making The Most of Limited Screen Space

When you’re working on a computer with a small screen, it’s amazing how much space the toolbars can take up. But web browsers and word processors have a little-known feature called “full-screen mode” that gets rid of them. Here’s how to use it.

The shortcut that you usually need is the F11 key. Occasionally, there might be a different shortcut, so if it doesn’t work, it’s probably worth exploring the menus. It’s probably near the zoom options, likely on a View menu if there is one.


To get out, you either need to press Escape or F11 again. If you’re in a browser, sometimes the key won’t work because your focus is in a Flash or Java applet (like a YouTube video or a game). In this case you should just be able to click on some blank space on the page and then try the keystroke again.


Most programs will temporarily display the toolbar if you bounce the mouse against the top of the screen. If you forget the keystroke to exit full-screen mode or it just isn’t working, there’s often an “exit full screen” or restore button as well.


Soren “scorchgeek” Bjornstad


If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me:


Copyright 2012 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.

Transposing Spreadsheets

Ever started creating a spreadsheet, only to realize that you’ve messed up and the rows should really be columns and vice versa? If you work with spreadsheets a lot, it probably happens more than you’d like. It seems like a small annoyance, but it takes a surprising amount of time to correct. Here’s the fast way.

I personally tested this tip in both Microsoft Excel 2003 and LibreOffice Calc; information about Excel 2007 and 2010 was pulled from here.


In LibreOffice or Excel 2003 or below (if you have menu bars, this is you):
  1. Copy the cells you want to transpose. Often this will be the whole spreadsheet if you just started, but sometimes you might only need part of it. Depending on your exact software, a dotted line may start moving around the copied region.
  2. Move to a new blank cell below everything else in the spreadsheet. Don’t worry, you can move it to wherever you want later. (For some reason, the option to transpose is occasionally deactivated if you try to paste into an area overlapping the current text.)
  3. Choose Edit –> Paste Special.
  4. Select the Transpose checkbox and paste.
  5. Delete the incorrectly positioned data and move the transposed cells to where they belong.
In Excel 2007 or above (if you have a ribbon instead of menu bars, this is you):
  1. Copy the cells you want to transpose. Often this will be the whole spreadsheet if you just started, but sometimes you might only need part of it. Depending on your exact software, a dotted line may start moving around the copied region.
  2. Move to a new blank cell below everything else in the spreadsheet. Don’t worry, you can move it to wherever you want later. (For some reason, the option to transpose is occasionally deactivated if you try to paste into an area overlapping the current text.)
  3. Go to the Home tab of the ribbon, click the little arrow below the Paste button, and select Transpose.
  4. Delete the incorrectly positioned data and move the transposed cells to where they belong.
Soren “scorchgeek” Bjornstad


If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me:


Copyright 2012 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.