12 life-changing tech hacks: Teach Siri to say your name right, blur out your house on Google Maps and more

Let’s face facts here: While technology can be a godsend, it’s downright frustrating at times.

Just ask anyone trying to get into their phone after accidentally locking themselves out. Or someone whose Zoom call keeps freezing up because the bandwidth is spotty because it’s being shared by three other people at home. And some days, more time is spent on deleting spam emails than getting work done.

Insert the “facepalm” emoji.

Mastering tech is an iterative process. It takes time, and patience, but eventually you can make your gear work for you instead of the other way around.

And so, the following is a dozen random tips and hacks to save you time, money, and aggravation. And be sure to share this with those who could use it.

1. Teach Siri how to pronounce a name

Sick of Siri mispronouncing your name? You can teach her to do it correctly. (Photo: metamorworks/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Does your personal assistant keep saying your friend Leah’s name as “Lee-ah” when it’s pronounced “Lay-ah”?

Or maybe your partner’s name Stephan should be pronounced “Steph-on,” but Siri keeps saying “Steph-anne.”

To fix this, say “Hey Siri,” followed by “That’s not how you pronounce [name.]” Now say your friend’s name. Siri will offer four pronunciation options. Select the correct one.

2. Blur out your home in Google Maps

Don’t want your house visible in Google’s Street View? Here we show you how easy it is to gain extra privacy by asking the company to blur out your home. (Photo: Google)

Another Google tip is blurring out your home in Google Maps, for added privacy.

After all, you probably know Google vehicles have been photographing neighborhoods for years, but you have the final say what’s visible.

If you don’t want your home seen, open Google Maps, enter your address and then go to Street View. Tap the three dots (Options) and select Report a Problem. Now follow the prompts, which should start with dragging a red box around your home.

It may take a few days, but will work.

3. Highlight or look up the definition of a word

Got a squirrely mouse? Rather than trying to scroll while highlighting a word or paragraph, just double-click and your mouse will highlight the whole word. Triple-click to highlight the entire paragraph. (Photo: USA TODAY)

On your PC or Mac all day?  

Double-click the left mouse button and it’ll instantly highlight the word you’re hovering over. Now you can copy it, look up a definition, and more.

Oh, you already knew about that one? Well, if you triple-click the left button, it’ll highlight the entire paragraph.

You’re welcome.

4. Set a timer in Google

Need to set a timer and don't want to go find your phone? Just google "set timer" and the period of time. (Photo: USA TODAY)

Say you’re toiling away at something on your computer, and you don’t want to forget lunch is in the oven.

You can set a quick timer in Google by just typing “Set timer [x] minutes.” For example, say “Set timer 5 minutes 30 seconds.”

Your laptop, desktop, tablet, phone, or smart display will beep when the timer runs out!

5. Get through to a human

Trying to break free of an automated customer service line? Keep saying “operator” or “help,” continuously press the “0” button on your phone, or start swearing (yes, some automated systems are programmed to get help if you curse!). (Photo: Ridofranz/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Trying to call a company’s customer service department and you can’t get a real person? Welcome to 2021.

There are three things to try: Keep saying “operator” or “help,” continuously press the “0” button on your phone, or start swearing (yes, some automated systems are programmed to get help if you curse!).

6. Throw away your reading glasses!

In a pinch, your iPhone can substitute for your reading glasses. (Photo: Pheelings Media/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Need to magnify something, such as small text on the side of a pill bottle?

On your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings, open Accessibility, and tap Magnifier to enable it (green tab should be visible).

Now, on an iPhone or iPad, triple-press the Side button on right of the device (or the Home button, on older models). Use the on-screen slider bar to adjust zoom.

7. Remove the TikTok logo from a video

Use TikTok Downloader to remove the watermark from videos you download. (Photo: USA TODAY)

Speaking of watermarks, if you want to download a TikTok video, but don’t want the TikTok logo on the screen, copy the video link and paste it into ttdownloader.com. Now tap “Get Video” to download.

The video will now be playable without the words TikTok taking up a portion of the screen.

Forget about horoscopes: Spotify ‘Only You’ feature reads your music birth chart

8. Print when you’re out of black ink

Is your printer out of black ink but not color? Change your documents font color to hex #010101 and it will print as dark gray. (Photo: Cunaplus_M.Faba/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

If your printer has run out of black ink, change the font color to hex #010101 for the darkest grey on the spectrum.

This color will look almost black, but is comprised of 0.39% red, 0.39% green and 0.39% blue.

(You can change the font color in programs like Word or Pages, by selecting color and then typing in this number.)

9. Stop someone from texting you

Someone not getting the hint that their texts are not welcome? Try tricking them into thinking they'll get charged for subsequent attempts. (Photo: SIphotography/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Of course, you’re aware you can block a number from calling or texting you, but here’s a sneakier way to deter unwanted text messages (SMS).

Reply with a message like this to the sender:


Yes, feel free to copy and paste this!

10. Retrieve forgotten passwords

Google Chrome users can paste "chrome://settings/passwords" into their browser window and then reveal any passwords they may have forgotten. (Photo: USA TODAY)

Have you ever forgotten your password to a website, such as an online store or social media account? Of course, you have.

If you use the Google Chrome browser, you can see any password you asked the browser to save by pasting this into your browser’s address bar: chrome://settings/passwords.

If you use Microsoft Edge, copy and paste this into the URL window: edge://settings/passwords

Now you can reveal each password.

(And it’s a convenient reminder to add a pin, password or fingerprint to access your laptop, to prevent someone from pulling up all your passwords when you’re not around!)

11. Netflix keyboard hacks

Watching Netflix on your computer? You can use keyboard shortcuts to rewind and perform other functions (Photo: Netflix)

If you’re binging a TV series on Netflix, take advantage of these keyboard shortcuts on a PC or Mac:

Spacebar: Play/pause

S: Skip intro

F: Enable full screen mode

Right arrow: Fast-forward 10 seconds

Left arrow: Rewinds 10 seconds

Up arrow: Increase volume

Down arrow: Decrease volume

M: Mute

12. Save money on software

On the fence about buying a piece of software? Pretend like you're going to delete it and you may be able to score a discount. Doesn't hurt to try, right? (Photo: hanieriani, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Here’s a great trick before paying for computer software that lets you try before you buy.

Rather than pay full price to unlock all its features – such as a $49 video editor that will remove its watermark from the corner of the screen – start to uninstall the program, and you may see a prompt to buy the program at a discount instead (say, for $29).

It doesn’t hurt to try.

OK readers, which one is your favorite? Have any other cool tech tips to share? Be sure to comment or let us know on social media @usatodaytech.

Follow Marc on Twitter for his “Tech Tips of the Day” #TTOTD posts: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his “Tech It Out” podcast at https://marcsaltzman.com/podcasts. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

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