Clickin' It Old School

Want your own personal computing Renaissance? The power is (and always has been) right at your fingertips.


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The slowest part of any PC is always the user -- and as Moore's Law continues to drive faster processors, memory and disks, the performance gap between us and our machines grows ever wider.

What we need is a Renaissance in how we use PCs.

The real -- as in the Italian or European -- Renaissance, which ran from the 14th through the 17th centuries, ushered in the modern world and transformed human life, politics, culture and consciousness.

The movement was triggered by the discovery of new things – new science, new techniques in art, America, etc. But it was also brought about by the re-discovery of something old: the culture of ancient Greece and Rome.

If you want to bring about your own personal Renaissance, you'll no doubt look to Web 2.0 sites and the blogosphere -- the new agents of cultural transmission -- to learn new tricks and find out about new sites and resources that help you get more out of the time you spend on your computer.

But for a real Renaissance, you also should look to the past -- to the lost computing arts of yesteryear.

Three of these lost arts are especially powerful: 1) keyboard shortcuts; 2) macros; and 3) the command line interface.

I'm going to give you some tips for mastering these forgotten secrets from the dawn of personal computing (the 1980s).

Keyboard Shortcuts

You already know that nearly everything you can do with a mouse, you can do with keystrokes -- and that keystrokes are usually faster.

Keyboard shortcuts work only if you use them, obviously, and you're only going to use them if you build the habit. It’s not about knowledge, but muscle memory.

Here's how to develop the habit. Go to Microsoft's keystrokes page and look for others you might make use of, print out the relevant pages and hang them on your monitor or nearby where you can look quickly.

Now take a deep breath, unplug your mouse and put it away somewhere. Yeah, I said it: Get rid of your mouse.

Go “cold turkey” for one month. By the end of that month, you'll master all the major keystrokes, and will be able to execute them instantly. When you plug your mouse back in, you'll be able to do everything faster by using your new keyboarding skills.

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