Next time you’re out, take a look and guess where the airplane above you is going. Los Angeles? New York? Paris? Ask Siri this phrase, “Which flights are overhead?” You will see the carrier, flight number and altitude in a matter of seconds.
I love sharing simple digital life tips that make things easier. Bonus: Most are good for impressing your family and friends. Here are five more useful tech tricks to test out.
For you Windows users, try this the next time you have multiple programs open. Click the top bar of a window, hold it down, and move your mouse. This shake will immediately minimize all other open windows. Shake it again to restore them. Tap or click for hidden features to try now on your Windows PC or Mac.
On the utility scale, your phone’s smart assistant ranks high——if you know the right commands. Here are five that I use all the time:
1. Turn on the Flashlight
When it’s dark, and you’re trying to read a menu or make your way down a dark hallway, you don’t want to mess with your phone to find the flashlight.
Simply say, “Turn on the flashlight.” It works for both Siri and Google Assistant. To make sure they’re listening, just say the name of the first wake-up caller.
Fun fact: If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, you might say “Lumos.” It references the magic that Harry and his friends use to light their wand. Say “Knox” to turn off the lights.
Don’t lose your precious memories. Here are the best ways to save photos on your phone before it’s too late.
2. Add to My Calendar
When you’re talking to someone, it’s easy to plan moment by moment. Then, when it comes time for the appointment, you forget about it.
Instead of wasting a minute or two entering details manually, along with the date and time, tell Siri or Google Assistant what your plan is. For example, you can say, “Hey Siri, set up a lunch meeting with Bob tomorrow at 1 p.m.” You can be more specific, like, “Hey Google, add an event called Birthday Dinner on Sunday at 4 p.m. “
If you have multiple calendars, specify which calendar is which, otherwise it will fall into your default calendar.
Siri automatically connects to Apple’s Calendar app. However, if you use Google Calendar, you’ll need to add it to Apple’s default app. Here’s how to make two apps run well together.
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3. Set a Timer
You’re just about to set a timer for dinner tonight. Then, you hear a loud noise from the other room, and one of the kids starts screaming for you. With a sentence to your smart assistant, you can put a PIN in your current task before running off to put out the fire elsewhere.
To set a timer, tell Siri or the Google Assistant, “Set a timer for 10 minutes,” or as long as you want. If you say, “Set a timer for 20 minutes called Chicken,” it starts a new timer labeled “Chicken.”
Amazon Alexa-enabled devices can help with timers, quick math and other things around the house you usually whip up your phone for. Tap or click here to set reminders, timers, and alarms to Alexa.
4. Silence My Phone
Imagine that you are in church. The pastor is sharing an emotional story. It is so effective that there is no dry eye in the house. Situations like this can be flat-out insulting. Silence your phone before going to church, starting a meeting, or sitting down for a job interview.
An easy way to do this is with your voice. Say “Siri, silence my phone” or “Google Assistant, silence my phone.”
Speaking of distractions, how many buzzes and beeps do your phone emit every day? Tap or click here for a quick and easy way to stop phone notifications for good.
5. He Wasn’t For You
Big tech companies will tell you that their devices aren’t always listening – they’re just listening for the wake word. I don’t see difference.
Often, you’ll accidentally trigger your assistant with a word that sounds similar. If you say something that sounds similar to “Siri” or “Hey Google,” it may strike his metaphorical ears. This can be a problem if your assistant is set up to record everything you say to him.
I recently went through my Amazon Alexa recordings. I found some voice clips that didn’t involve Alexa at all – including some private discussions about buying real estate. Tap or click here to learn everything Amazon knows about you.
Fortunately, Siri and Google Assistant both make distinctive noises when activated. If you want to stop the Google Assistant from recording the rest of your conversation, say, “This wasn’t for you.” It also removes everything you just entered from your history.
You can also tell Siri, “It wasn’t meant for you,” when it’s turned on by accident. However, Apple hasn’t officially said whether this phrase erases your previous recordings from its memory. Tap or click here to stop all your smart devices from listening to you and recording what you say.
Bonus Tip: An Incredible Story About a Hospital Being Attacked by Hackers for Ransomware
Ransomware hackers recently hit a hospital, and everything from cardiac machines to IV pumps stopped working. Doctors and nurses had to use pen and paper. There were no electronic patient records. But what happened when the hackers found out that it was a hospital, undoubtedly you have to wonder.
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Learn all about the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation’s biggest weekend radio talk show. Kim calls and consults on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of USA TODAY.