Friday, November 16, 2012

Question: What are the tips you wish you'd known?

I've been informally asking people why they haven't taken the MOOC.  There are a million answers, but mostly it boils down to this:  I don't think I have the time.  

That's also the answer I get when I ask people why they don't take most classes.  

But one person had a great idea:  "Why don't you send out 1-minute long YouTube videos that show key ideas?"  

On the surface, that sounds ridiculous.  But as I thought about it more, I started to come around.  Maybe there IS something in this idea.  Lots of tips and insights CAN be captured in 60 seconds or less.  You won't learn the broad outlines of world history this way, but you might pick up a few tips that could really help you out.  

From my research, I know that a LOT of informal instruction happens "over the shoulder," that is, by me looking over your shoulder and seeing you do something cool.  If I'm bold enough, I'll ask "how did you do that?"  

But many people find that hard to do, or intimidating for one reason or another.  


I'd like to ask you a simple question: 

What's the one tip / insight / trick / observation that you wish someone had shown you?  

I'd like for you to leave a comment below with a short description of what YOU wish you'd seen over someone's shoulder. 

For me, it was the discovery that you can Control-click on a word in a text field that's misspelled and see a list of corrections.  See how the word gets a red dotted underline? 
If you Control-click on the word, it will pop-up a set of options for you like this: 

So...   What do YOU wish someone would have shown you? 

Here's my favorite example of a 1-minute explanation.  

What's yours? 


  1. I wish someone had shown me about using the tilde to bring up synonyms. (Thanks for your most excellent work, Daniel!)

  2. I think the best thing I learnt which made me zoom with Browsers like Chrome and Firefox was the new tab/close tab/switch tab quick shortcuts which made my Browser work so much quicker.

    I watch an older user who barely touched the mouse working one day and their hands hardly ever left the keyboard and they had a screen full of tabs opening and closing and switching. Three commands and I was away.

    New Tab CTRL + T
    Close Tab CTRL + W
    Switch between tabs CTRL and Tab


    Do it too fast and shut the wrong down
    CTRL+SHIFT +T will open it back up again!

    1. Andy - That last one is a great trick to know. I use keyboard shortcuts a LOT... but that's one I always forget. I'm pasting it on my keyboard NOW!

    2. The bigger secret with these things I feel is that if they are truly useful and have real actual meaning then they will stick. Another example I think is where you would use in many word processor applications
      Ctrl X to cut (easy ...looks like a pair of scissors)

      Ctrl C to copy - great

      Ctrl V to paste - brilliant

      Ctrl- shift - v let me choose how I want to format that (ie perhaps more like the surrounding environment) saves me so much searching through drop down boxes.

      I think for me the:

      ctrl-shift-t reminds me of the loud (T)ut I make when I realise I have shut down the wrong tab.

      Maybe the clever people need a
      string that matches that OH NO! feeling when you have made a large error on the pc and goes back 5 minutes.

      I would pay for that!

  3. Despite how long Windows 7 is out, I still freak people out with Aero Snap to work on emails on one side of the monitor and research on the other!

    1. @Taylor - can you say a bit more about what Aero Snap is? How do you use it in a way that helps you do research?

    2. Daniel, Aero Snap is a native Windows 7 feature that, as you use the mouse to click and drag a window to the left or right side of the screen, it "snaps" to automatically fill up that half of the screen.

      It makes it really easy to snap information output on one side of the screen (research, pdfs, browser window, emails) and snap information input on the other side (word document or draft email).

  4. My ZOMG moment was learning that word order mattered. I can't imagine how many wasted hours I have under my belt just because I would put search words in without thinking about order. Now I stop and double check to see if what I'm searching for might have different meanings if the words are in a different order.

    1. Fred -- I hadn't thought about insights like this... it's a great point. I'll be sure to include this as a 1-minute lesson!

  5. I did take the full class, but it did take two tries. I look forward to more advanced searching classes.
    For me the biggest single thing I learned was the "site:" limiter. I end up using that all the time.

  6. To make a minute video is cool. I will make a one for sure

  7. When you have a live topic to research where news keeps coming up (I'm following the Ash disease chalara fraxinea or ash wilt) Google Alerts are really useful giving daily updates on customised search notifications by email of breaking news, blog entries etc. I think I found this by accident.

  8. Booleans: A one minute video using the word AND, OR, NOT in a search to narrow or broaden results would be most welcomed!

    1. Patricia -- I'll definitely do that. Note that Google doesn't use NOT and it also doesn't use AND in any normal sense of the word. Good point.

  9. the minus "-" function is my favorite. It in combination with quotes"" and the "OR" functions gets me where I need to go.

  10. I would like power users of Google and Chrome to share their top 5 tips/extensions/tricks/bookmarklets that vastly improve their search productiviy.

    I am not a search expert, but here are 5 tricks I cannot live without:

    {This makes switching between last focused tab easy, without using the mouse}
    Tab Monkey
    --- Found through!topic/chrome/af0CrX_48pk


    --- "open, copy or bookmark multiple links at the same time."

    Yet Another Drag and Go ---

    Installed in Google Chrome the following bookmarklet, from and (yes, this website's bookmarklets are usable even in Google Chrome) --- just drag and drop to the Google Chrome bookmarks bar directly underneath the address bar at the top of the browser window :
    * "Go to Referrer" --- at
    * "google site search" --- at

    1. These are really interesting Chrome extensions. Thanks for letting us know about them. I'm going to give TabMonkey a try!

    2. TabMonkey is great. And I also use its competitor called FLST , which requires a mouse all the time.
      No keyboard shortcuts.

      The only competitive advantage it has over TabMonkey extension is when I click on a link in a Google search results page (SERP) , and a new page/tab is opened up, usually at the end of a bunch of tabs, then that new page/tab is deleted , I can use this extension to get back to SERP, which is a tab usually somewhere in the middle of a bunch of open tabs.
      Somehow , TabMonkey cannot get me back to SERP. After deletion, TabMonkey only goes to the left tab of the just deleted new page/tab , which was at the end of a bunch of tabs.

      I use both extensions.

      Thank you Mr Russell for a great blog.
      I have googled for similar educational blog without success. Looks like your blog is one of a kind. It allow people like me to look over the shoulder of a master researcher.

  11. Hey guys, TabMonkey author here.

    Just wrote a blog post on the subject and thought I'd share.

    @Lawrence, you should be able to get back to SERP using the "last tab" shortcut in tabmonkey. Download the latest version and let me know if you're still having problems.


  12. Hi I have been using two tricks that can help someone. I just remember now to add them.

    A. In Google Chrome PC Right Click gives you option to translate to English the site you are visiting or translate the text that's not in English. More information on : Translate Multilingual Web Pages in Chrome

    B. In pages like Blogspot if you live not in USA, you need to change the URL to be able to search with operators like site. Example: In Mexico Dr. Dan site has url: and we need to change to