Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Do you know about CTRL + F?

In a recent interview with Dan Russell, a search anthropologist for Google, the Atlantic's Alexis Madigral learned something startling- about 90% of people do not use the CTRL + F function when searching.  CTRL + F is an incredibly useful tool when browsing the Web, reading or writing documents and browsing PDFs.  It is a keyboard shortcut which opens your computer's "find" function.  Here is what it can be used for:

Take, for example, the website  This is a website that is useful for buying and selling, trading, finding apartments and looking for jobs.  There is a craigslist specific to most major cities in the United States.  If you go to the link posted above, you will be taken to the main page, which lists every city-specific website.  To find Canton, OH specifically, you can do one of two things.  One- scroll through the whole site and browse or two- use the function CTRL + F.  When you press and hold the CTRL key and the F key AT THE SAME TIME, a box will appear on your screen (could be top, bottom or floating depending on your web browser) which looks something like this:

In our craigslist example, you would type "canton" into the find box and click "next".  You will see that all instances of the word "canton" will be highlighted on your screen.  Keep clicking next to jump from canton to canton until you find the right one.

And THAT, in a nutshell, is the CTRL + F feature.  As mentioned, you can use CTRL + F on the Web, in Word documents and in PDFs.  It is dead useful if you need to find specific information admist a large chunk of information.

Now of course, nothing in technology is perfect.  Some limitations to CTRL + F:

1) Your spelling needs to be spot on.  There is no "did you mean..." like on Google.  If you spelled it wrong, you will not find it.
2) It only finds exact phrases.  If, using our example, I had searched "canton ohio" instead of just "canton", I would have had no results because nowhere on that page are the words canton and ohio right next to each other.

Despite these limitations, overall CTRL + F makes finding information much, much easier.

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