Life hacks for the flacks

  • Published: 08 November 2014,
  • The Say Team

Life hacks. A new name for an old phenomenon – simple tips and tricks which make the everyday easier, but which you’d probably never have thought up by yourself. Like using a pencil to re-spool an un-wound cassette tape rather than your finger.*

The internet is teeming with these – Buzzfeed posts hacks almost every day, but they’re mainly aimed at home life rather than work life, and I couldn’t find any which would be really helpful to the PR industry. So, we thought we’d put together a couple of suggestions which might help us flacks out. Here they are, in no particular order:

Any program/application: Windows key + D

An oldie but a goodie – hold the windows key on your keyboard (to the left the spacebar next to ALT) and tap the D key. One tap brings you to the desktop with all windows minimised. A second brings all your windows back up on screen. Often used to ensure plausible deniability of Facebook browsing during work time, or to close sensitive materials if a client is in the office.

PowerPoint: SHIFT + F5

This switches between normal viewing mode and slideshow mode. Handy when presenting on a big screen which may be some way away from you, as finding and clicking the tiny slideshow button with a mouse from distance can be a real pain.

PowerPoint: B and W

In slideshow mode (SHIFT + F5 to activate) pressing B makes the screen black (press again to undo) and W makes the screen white. This can be handy for keeping your audience’s attention on you rather than your slides if you want to make a particularly pertinent point without the distraction of your lovely slides holding attention in the background.

Outlook (email): Right click and drag links

Send links to files in emails rather than the files themselves to people inside your agency – it cuts down on large attachments which are the bane of every inbox, and helps with version control. Save a document, then go to where you saved it, right click on it and drag it into an email. Let go of right click and a link to the file will be pasted in your email.

Any program/application: Caps to non-caps with SHIFT + F3

THE INTERNET HAS A LOT TO ANSWER FOR, DEADLINES AT WORK AND INSTANT MESSAGING MADE US TYPE FAST, AND OFTEN ONLY REALISE HALF way through a sentence that CAPS LOCK was on. But who has time to re-type? SHIFT + F3 to the rescue. Highlight the text you want to un-capitalise, hold SHIFT and tap F3 to paste all caps text in lower case, or tap again for lower case with caps on the first letters of words, or tap again to go back to full shouty caps. It’s a godsend.


Excel: Paste data horizontally rather than vertically or vice versa

Want to paste data from a list of horizontal cells vertically? Copy them, right click where you want to paste them, scroll down the paste special menu and click transpose. Horizontal list becomes vertically laid out, or vice versa.

Excel: Concatenate

The process for this is too complicated to describe here, but fear not, Excel will talk you through it. Just start typing concatenate into the formula box and you’ll be given a step by step guide. Essentially what concatenate does is combine text from two or more columns into a single column. Example: Column A contains the text John. Column B contains the text Smith. Concatenate the two columns and column C will contain the text John Smith. This is invaluable for mail merges or pulling names from raw survey spreadsheets or databases, as anyone who’s had to copy and paste a thousand names from Firstname/Surname boxes knows only too well.

Almost any programme: CTRL and mouse wheel to zoom

This one’s underused, mainly because it can be fiddly to get your screen back to the exact right level of zoom as you originally had, but for viewing large documents it’s really handy. Hold CTRL and scroll your mousewheel down to zoom in, and up to zoom out.

Almost any programme: TAB and SHIFT + TAB

It seems that most keyboard commands have a direct opposite (i.e. to reverse them) and that opposite is usually accessed using the SHIFT key. Tapping TAB on its own will scroll you through fields in a document, whilst holding SHIFT and tapping TAB with move you backwards through these fields. Really great for navigating around forms, or emails.

Fast scrolling through text with CTRL

The noise of someone in your pod tapping a key hundreds of times to scroll through text is soul destroying. We have to edit a lot of copy in our industry, so being able to navigate through it quickly and easily is important (as is avoiding RSI in your fingers). Hold CTRL and tap the left or right key on the keypad – each tap till take your cursor one word back in the copy, rather than one character without using CTRL. Holding SHIFT at the same time allows you to highlight words as you navigate – handy for cutting and pasting.

Word: Page break with SHIFT + ENTER

If you want to move text to the next page on a word doc, put your cursor on the line above the text you want to move, hold CTRL and click ENTER. Word will move all subsequent text to the next page. This saves pressing ENTER 100 times to move text down to the bottom of the page.

Internet browser: SPACE or SHIFT+SPACE

Tap SPACE to scroll down on a webpage, but watch out – a little tap goes a long way. Scroll back upwards with SHIFT + SPACE.

These are the shortcuts I use the most in my day-to-day work and/or when presenting. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.


Authored by Neil


*Youngsters, you may have to Google the cassette tape thing

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