7 Ninja Technology Tricks Every music Teacher Should Know

When I run music tech workshops for teachers, I have a secret aim: an aim to teach at least one of the following basic ninja tricks to every teacher that attends the workshop. You may know some, or even all of these already and if so, congratulations – you are well on your way to becoming a technology ninja. If you don’t already know them and don’t think you have the headspace for remembering shortcuts, just stick with the first one.

No, these tips are not music-specific in any way – which is why they’re so incredibly useful. They work in basically all software applications: Word, Excel, Sibelius, Finale, Acid, GarageBand, Audacity, iTunes and even in web browsers, Windows Explorer, the Mac Finder and your email program. Picking up even one of these tips has the potential to shave hours of time off your computing life!

1. Undo

To undo your last action in any software program, press Control+Z (Command+Z on Mac). You can often keep pressing Control+Z (Command+Z) and work your way backwards through each action you’ve performed. The Control+Z keys on a PC sit nicely under your left hand little finger and middle finger. On a Mac, Command+Z sit nicely under your left hand thumb and middle finger.

2. Save

To save your work without having to go to File > Save, you can simply press Control+S (Command+S on Mac). You can use almost the same finger positions for this shortcut: just move your middle finger up a little.

3. Select All

In order to perform an action such as copying, pasting, moving or deleting, first of all you need to select an item or multiple items. Examples might include:

  • selecting all the text in a Word document
  • selecting all the music on every stave in Sibelius
  • selecting all of the files within a folder

To select all quickly, press Control+A (Command+A on a Mac). If you’ve done it correctly, everything should be highlighted (and will often be blue).

4. Select Contiguous Items

Sometimes you need to select multiple items or objects which are next to one another. Examples might be:

  • the words in one paragraph in a Word document
  • the notes in a musical phrase in Sibelius
  • the first few files within a folder

To select the items, click on the first one and then Shift-click on the last item. The two items you clicked on – plus everything in between – should be highlighted.

5. Select Non-Contiguous Items

This one’s useful when you want to select multiple items that are not adjacent to one another. Examples include:

  • the first, third and seventh photo in a folder of ten photos
  • the first audio region and the fourth audio region in Audacity
  • the fifth and seventh songs in an iTunes playlist

Click on the first item and then Control-click (Command-click on Mac) on any additional items. You can hold Control (Command) down continuously while you click on each item.

6. Copy

Most people seem to know this one, but it bears mentioning since it falls into my “must know” category of shortcuts. Select something (a word, a sentence, a note, a musical passage, a web address – you get the idea) and press Control+C (Command+C on Mac). The selected item will end up on your virtual clipboard, ready for you to…

7. Paste

Place your cursor where you want your copied item to go (ie. the destination point) and press Control+V (Command+V on Mac).

Plus one more: New tab

The final tip is just for web browsers. If you have one web page open, you can press Control+T (Command+T) to open a new, empty tab ready for you to type in a second web address. This allows you to open more than one webpage simultaneously and is useful when you need to switch constantly between two (or more) websites.

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