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Simplify your tech life – Tip 5: Personalize

5 tips to simplify your tech life


“Know thyself.”

It’s the age-old adage that reminds us the importance of understanding our own hearts and minds. This principle can also help you simplify your tech life. Surprised?

Tip 5 is PersonalizeTip #5 is Personalize.

This final tip can apply to the previous four. It mostly serves as a reminder. But a list with five items seems more complete than a list with four. Plus I thought of a word that starts with a “p.”  No, wait! Keep reading! It’s good stuff, really.

For this tip, I’m not talking about customizing your desktop or home screen wallpaper. By “personalize,” I mean, find how you most naturally interact with your tech and customize your hardware or software to match you–your work and/or personal life, your personality, and your preferences.

Let’s look at how to personalize your approach. Only you spend every waking and sleeping moment with yourself, so your technology usage needs to make sense to you first and foremost.

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Simplify your tech life – Tip 4: Prioritize

5 tips to simplify your tech life

A&E reality show Hoarders artIt’s a show that builds on our fascination with the odd, or our inability to look away from a wreck. A very messy wreck. Hoarders is an A&E reality show in which extreme hoarders are met with a special de-hoarding team, including a mental health professional, organizing pros, and a cleanup crew to help them declutter in two days. Seeing the neglected piles of too much stuff is probably fascinating or appalling to many of us.

But how many of us are technology hoarders? We have apps and applications sitting around in neglected “piles” on our hard drives or smart phones. Or we have unused folders and files that are cluttering up our tech spaces. Or boxes of iPods and other tech hardware of all shapes and sizes under beds or in closets.

We can all probably use a little tech spring cleaning, and to effectively clean and organize, we need to learn how to prioritize.

Tip 4 is prioritizeTip #4 is Prioritize.

Prioritize access

Decide what you need to access the most quickly and most often, and make these easiest to access. Give them shortcuts on your desktop, place them in your taskbar or your dock, or store them on the home screen of your smartphone. Make sure that you’re not sorting through other things you’re not using to get to the ones you are. That means you should also de-prioritize apps you are not using as often and remove them out of these quick-access areas.

If you’re having trouble prioritizing, you might start to categorize by number of clicks or taps. Sometimes we’re so used to an inefficient way to get where we want that we’re clicking away day after day, and we can save ourselves some of the effort by just assigning meaningful access priority based on usage.

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Simplify your tech life – Tip 3: Pool

5 tips to simplify your tech life

A friend recently told me about the first time he happened upon His first thought was, “Who would need this?” As he read the laundry list of apps that Taco aggregates, he realized, “Oh, wow, I am their target market.” You too might be surprised at how many apps or applications you use that have lots of overlap in their core functionality.

Tip 3 is PoolTip #3 is Pool.

Sometimes, you can find an aggregator, like Taco, that syncs up that core functionality to serve you up the data of several apps or push your information out to several apps simultaneously. This post will talk about several types of these app aggregators you might be interested in, as well as some DIY tips–all to save you time, digital space, and mental effort.

Personally, my favorite part of they myriad of apps and aggregators are the creative names people have to resort to.  Just check out this page to see what I mean: Top 49 Free Aggregators.

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Simplify your tech life – Tip 2: Protect

5 tips to simplify your tech life

Oh, Hillary. I bet you didn’t see this one coming. After everything, now you must add an email security issue to your repertoire. I hope you don’t mind if I use your situation as an example in this blog post.

(Yes, other readers, I’m absolutely positive Hillary Clinton reads this blog.)

Hillary Clinton answers questions

Not sure what I’m talking about? I’ll catch you up. Recently, it has come to light that Hillary used one private email account—run on a private server—for all of her personal and State Department matters while Secretary of State. Her explanation is that she used one account for the sake of convenience, so that she could access all of her email easily on a single mobile device. As she works to comply with requests for copies of government-related communications from that private account, there’s controversy regarding the process for divvying up her work and personal data from the one account.

Tip 2 ProtectTip #2 is Protect.

Foregoing the deeper nuances of Hillary’s email situation, let’s move on with the “so what” for us. There are some takeaways for us in this story that have to do with data privacy and protection. It’s a current example of why it is now critical to consider some key questions regarding if and how we use certain technology.

In the last post in this series, I recommended piloting new technologies and app/lications (mobile apps and/or desktop applications) to determine if it’s a fit for you. Assuming you like the tech enough to move forward, this post continues that evaluation phase—specifically around security and privacy.

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Simplify your tech life – Tip 1: Pilot

5 tips to simplify your tech life

Overwhelmed by all of your technology and apps/applications, but still want to move forward and not become a fuddy duddy? (“Fuddy duddy” is the technical term for someone who has given up on new technologies and is angered or baffled by the influx of new tech. Don’t fact check that.)

I will post my five tips as a Friday series, starting today and ending when I run out of tips, to help you try to walk this line.

Tip 1 PilotFirst up? Tip #1 is Pilot.

Try new things, but chart your territory first. Treat it like a pilot. Be prepared to evaluate new software or hardware, knowing it is on a trial basis. This allows you the freedom to evaluate objectively without such a hardline commitment that you must add something new to your “stuff”—physically and mentally.

Maybe you’re piloting something to meet a need in your professional or personal life, or maybe you just want to try something new. Either way, this post will provide you some suggestions for your pilot period.

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How to use Google like a pro

How to be a Google Search Pro

I would assume almost everyone reading this knows how to “Google,” but can you use Google to search like a Google pro? Today I’m going to share a few googling tips that will change the way you search, optimize what you find, and maximize the usability you get from the content you searched for. You can thank me later, because I’m totally going to save your day.

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How to organize your files


I’m sure this isn’t going to be the most advanced tip you have ever came across, but this new way of organization changed the way I manage my files. Today I’m going to show you how you can Photoshop, paint, PowerPoint, or whatever your favorite software is for creating simple block graphics in order to make your very own custom background.

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Poll Your Audience – No Clickers Needed

Last October, at the Statewide IT Conference in Bloomington, Brad Wheeler, one of the best presenters that I have ever had the privilege of watching, took questions from the crowd via Smartphone. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but yesterday, when I saw an advertisement for a new cloud-based application called, I wondered if that was what Brad had used during his presentation.

I decided to check out this application to see if it might be useful for the trainers in our department.

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Multilanguage spelling checks can bee done

Image of the Language group in the ribbon of Microsoft Word.As a sometime language teacher, the ability to spell and grammar check my work in Microsoft Word is critical. But if you’re unlucky enough to be typing in the non-default language on your computer, particularly when the tool to automatically detect language is (a) turned off or (b) just not getting it, such as when you are writing a paper in one language but citing a work in another, you may end up fighting constant multi-colored squiggles, or Word’s usually “helpful” auto-correct features. This can significantly slow you down as you constantly fight with the program.

The key, then, is knowing how to help Word figure out which spell check dictionary it should be using at any given point in your text. Thankfully, it’s not terribly hard. Read the rest of “Multilanguage spelling checks can bee done” »

Can’t Uninstall Office 2013

IT Training will be teaching Microsoft Office 2013 workshops this fall, and we are anxious to begin telling the IU community about the new features that are available in this version of the popular suite. If you are planning on taking some of our free workshops or webinars, you might want to download and install the software from IUware. Remember, Indiana University faculty, staff, and students may download most of the software available from IUware for free.

If you decide to download and install Office 2013, I would encourage you to download the 32-bit package, even if you are planning on running it on a 64-bit system. Earlier in the summer I installed the 64-bit suite on a laptop running Windows 7, and I was very unhappy with the results. Every time I tried to use Outlook, Word, or PowerPoint, the application would freeze and/or crash. After discussing this issue with the Support team here at IU, and reading multiple forums and Microsoft Help articles, I uninstalled the 64-bit version and installed the 32-bit version instead. After that, I didn’t have any problems.

I have left out an important part of the story. When I first tried to uninstall Office 2013, I was unable to do so. While in the Control Panel, I selected Microsoft Office 2013, clicked on the Uninstall link at the top of the window, and waited. Nothing happened. I tried again. Nothing happened. I probably even tried a third and fourth time before I realized that this was simply not going to work.

After a little digging, I found the solution on this Microsoft Support page: I downloaded the Fix it tool that they provided, and then I was able to uninstall Office 2013 from the Control Panel just as I normally would.

Hopefully this article will save you some time if you decide that you want to uninstall the package.

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