These beginner tips (optimized for PC users, but some equally applicable for Macs) might help you gain a few minutes back into your hectic day, or make some of your routine tasks easier and more efficient.
- CiteGenie. I learned the hard way how much I depended on CiteGenie my first year of law school—when I was at a computer without this great Firefox extension installed and I had to actually copy down a case citation. When you copy something to your computer’s clipboard, CiteGenie knows if it is from Lexis or Westlaw and includes a Blue Book-compliant citation. Before using CiteGenie, you should consider any ethical implications. Is it “cheating?” You decide.
- Ctrl+F. If you don’t use your web browser’s “find” functionality when you’re browsing cases and statutes, you can waste a lot of valuable time scrolling around. In Firefox, I have the “find” box open all the time, and rely on it heavily for skimming and skipping to the most relevant bits of just about any source (don’t forget to use the “find” field for PDFs, too).
- Keyboard shortcuts in general. Please tell me you are at least using ctrl+c and ctrl+v? If not, you must (those are clipboard shortcuts for copy and paste). Also, get used to ctrl+z (undo), ctrl+s (save), ctrl+a (select all), and ctrl+x (cut). One of the best keyboard shortcuts? Train your word processor for the § symbol.
- Backup to the cloud. My laptop died one week before classes started my second year or law school. Luckily, all of my key documents live online in Google Docs. Just install Google Gears to interact with Google Docs offline and sync them back up when you’re reconnected. I also use a free Dropbox account for the same thing but with bigger and more diverse file types.
- Mouse it! If you grew up using a desktop computer with a mouse (most of us did, right?), then buy a cheap USB mouse to plug into your laptop. It is impressive how much more efficient you can be in selecting text, moving your cursor, navigating through multiple open windows, and pretty much every other task when using a mouse instead of your touchpad. I suffered from minor carpel tunnel syndrome from my touch pad first semester of my 1L year—and the mouse helped my hand and wrist ache less, too.
These are just a few very simple things I use to make my computing experience better.