Tips and tricks for your tech devices

Created date

November 2nd, 2017
Cartoon image of someone holding a tech device.

Cartoon image of someone holding a tech device.

As technology becomes ever more powerful, our devices become ever more complex. Which means that gadgets like smartphones can do more things than ever but also do them in more ways than ever.

If you’ve ever wondered if there was a better way to do this or that with your electronic devices, you’ve come to the right place.

We’re here to show you a series of tips and tricks to do new things as well as old things in new ways.

Behind the camera

Let’s start with taking pictures. Sure, you can tap that big round shutter button on the screen of your smartphone to snap a picture. But what if that’s not convenient? What if you’re trying to hold the camera in an unusual way or at an unusual angle to get a snapshot of something in particular? Or what if your phone has a great camera and you want to position it on a tripod and not move it when you tap the shutter button?

The answer is to use your phone’s volume button.

That’s right, most smartphones have external volume rocker buttons that can be used to trigger the camera’s shutter when the camera app is in use. On both iPhones and most Android phones of the last four years, pressing either the volume up or down buttons snaps a picture.

And that’s not the only way. A set of wired headphones with a volume switch on them can also be used to trigger the camera on most newer Android phones and iPhones. (This is how a lot of “selfie sticks” work to trigger the shutter while not holding the phone itself.) And if you’re really, really picky about your options, there are now camera shutter remote controls that work to snap the pictures via Bluetooth wireless technology. These two options can be handy when you want to be in a group photo.


You see it more and more these days: someone snapped a picture of their text message conversation on their phone to share with others. Or maybe you were having trouble with your computer or phone and wanted to be able to send a screenshot of the issue to a nephew or granddaughter for technical assistance.

Just like the camera tips above, there are also multiple simple ways to do this with just a few taps of a keyboard key or volume button.

On a Windows desktop or laptop, there is usually a “Print Screen” (or “Prt Scr”) button for easy screenshots. Older versions of Windows, like Vista and 7, offer basic full-screen screenshots via the Print Screen key, but also offer a Snipping Tool, found in the Accessories section within the Start menu, that lets you select a specific area of the screen for capturing. Newer versions of Windows, like 8 and 10, also preserve the Snipping Tool, but make saving the screenshots easier, putting them automatically in a specific folder.

On a Windows tablet, pressing the Windows button and the volume down button at the same time gives you a screenshot of your whole screen.

Similarly, on iPhones and iPads, pressing and holding the Sleep/Wake button and then tapping the Home button will take a full-screen screenshot that can then be found in your Camera Roll.

With most, though not all, newer (i.e., since version 4) Android phones and tablets, holding down the power and volume down buttons takes a screenshot.

Of course, there are also plenty of apps out there that make it easy to take screenshots as well as to edit them afterward, but where’s the fun in that?

Let there be light

If you ever miss your phone’s notifications because you don’t notice the vibration or don’t always hear it ringing, you might want to turn on visual alerts.

The iPhone and iPad make it easy to do this. Under the Accessibility settings, recent versions of iOS have a setting for “LED flash for alerts.” Enabling this means that when you have an alert or notification, the LED light, which is used as the camera flashbulb, will blink to alert you.

The wide variety of Android devices makes this a bit trickier, but Android phones with LED indicators can include this feature, and those that don’t can potentially still take advantage of apps that will enable this behavior.

Do Not Disturb

On the contrary, if you want to avoid all notifications instead, you can put your phone into Do Not Disturb mode.

Both iPhones and Android phones have Do Not Disturb settings that also include the ability to specify how long the phone should remain in this state before reverting to standard notifications.