Tag Archives: hints

Q Tips

Some simple tricks for Mac users.  Do you know all of these?


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Zipping along to the plumber

I’ve often bemoaned the fact that so many garments, bags, etc are spoiled by the failure of their zipper; an event which turns something previously warm and cozy into a source of frustration. But unstitching the zip and installing a new one is often tricky and therefore time-consuming or expensive; generally not worthwhile on an old garment or bag.

Not all zipper failures are terminal, however; many can obviously be repaired with a bit of jiggling, but many more can probably also be fixed with some cunning techniques. A retweet by my friend Lyndsay got me thinking along these lines, and I went and searched YouTube for ‘zipper repair’, and you can find a wealth of tips and suggestions: almost anything except significant loss of teeth can be fixed without the zipper needing to be replaced.

Here are some basic tips to get started:

But for a larger selection of example fixes, you might want to browse this playlist from UCAN, a US-based zipper company. Lots of good stuff there.

OK, so what’s that bit in the title about plumbers?

Well, it’s not, I admit, a very obvious connection, except that if you’re in the mood for fixing things yourself, I’ve become a fan of another source of YouTube wisdom. There’s a retired plumber named Al who has a great set of videos about how to fix various plumbing issues: what to do if your kitchen mixer tap is leaking into the cupboard below, suggestions for fixing leaking gutters, how to use compression couplings to join copper pipes…

Al has uploaded hundreds of videos on all sorts of topics, not just plumbing, but I do like his plumbing ones: they’re completely unpretentious, unbiased chunks of accumulated wisdom and it’s just the sort of thing YouTube does well.

The key to saving keystrokes

For many years I’ve been a fan of TextExpander on the Mac, a utility which converts a short sequence of keystrokes into a much longer one. For example, most of my email messages end with

All the best,

which appears when I type ‘atb’ and hit space. There are many much more complex things you can do with TextExpander, which is good, because it’s a little pricey for a small utility, but in the end I realised that 35 bucks wasn’t too much for something I use dozens of times every single day.

But typing efficiency is even more important when you have a sub-optimal keyboard, like the iPhone or iPad’s. One of my favourite tips is that you can get an apostrophe or quote mark by pressing the comma or full-stop key briefly and sliding upwards; there’s no need to switch into punctuation mode. (I wrote about this before once, but I think it must have been on Twitter or Facebook, which means I can’t find it now. Note to self: always keep useful stuff on blog.)

Anyway, one of the recent iOS updates added a very handy but somewhat hidden keystroke-expansion feature, and I’ve realised that I’m using that all the time too.

Under Settings > General > Keyboard you can create shortcuts, which will let you do something similar to my ‘All the best’ trick, and can be very handy if you have a silly long name like mine: ‘qqsf’ expands into ‘Quentin Stafford-Fraser’, complete with capitals and punctuation.

But the thing I’ve found most useful is to have abbreviations for my main email addresses, since an increasing number of sites use them as login usernames. I find I’m always having to type, say, ‘quentin@mycompany.com’ on my little iPhone keyboard, and it was a real pain until I replaced it with ‘qmc’ and a space.

One small note: if you use it this particular way, there are some sites that get confused if you leave the space on the end. So I actually tend to type ‘qmc<space><backspace>’, but that’s still a great deal easier than the whole address.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser