Research the next time you’re outside and guess where the plane above you is headed. Los Angeles? New York? Paris? Ask Siri this phrase, “What flights are you flying over?” You will see the carrier, flight number and altitude in seconds.
I love sharing simple digital life tips that make things easier. Bonus: Most of them are useful for impressing your family and friends. Here are five other useful tech tricks to test.
For Windows users, try this the next time you have many programs open. Click and hold the top bar of a window, then shake the mouse. This shaking will instantly minimize all other open windows. Shake it again to get it back. Tap or click the hidden features to try them out now on your Windows PC or Mac.
On the utility scale, your phone’s smart assistant is high–if you know the right commands. Here are five I use all the time:
1. Turn on the flashlight
When it gets dark, and you’re trying to read a menu or make your way down a dark hallway, you don’t want to be stuck with your phone to find a flashlight.
All you have to do is say “turn on the lamp.” It works with both Siri and Google Assistant. Just say the waking up name first to make sure they’re listening.
Fun fact: If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you can say “lumos.” Refers to the amulet that Harry and his friends use to light their wands. Say “Nox” to turn off the light.
Don’t lose your precious memories. Here are the best ways to save your phone photos before it’s too late.
2. Add to my calendar
It’s easy to make quick plans when you’re talking to someone. Then, when it’s time for a date, you forget about it.
Instead of wasting a minute or two entering details manually, tell Siri or Google Assistant about your plan, along with the date and time. For example, you can say, “Hey Siri, set up a lunch meeting with Bob tomorrow at 1 p.m.” You can also be more specific, like, “Hey Google, add an event called Christmas Dinner on Sunday at 4 p.m.”
If you have multiple calendars, select any of them, otherwise it will be listed in your default calendar.
Siri automatically connects to the Apple Calendar app. If you use Google Calendar, you will have to add it to the default Apple app. Here’s how the two apps work well together.
Want to get Apple tips and tricks delivered straight to your inbox? Get my free Apple updates Email twice a week. Register here. Android user? He chooses Android updates While that.
3. Set the timer
You’re about to set a timer for tonight’s dinner. After that, you hear a loud noise from the other room, and one of the kids starts screaming for you. With one sentence of your smart assistant, you can put a pin on your current mission before escaping to put out a fire somewhere else.
To set a timer, tell Siri or the Google Assistant, “Set a timer for 10 minutes,” or whatever length you want. If you say, “Set a timer for 20 minutes called chicken,” that starts a new timer with the label “chicken.”
Amazon Alexa-enabled devices can also help out around the house with timers, quick math, and other things you’d normally tap your phone for. Tap or click here to have Alexa set up reminders, timers, and alarms.
4. Silence my phone
Imagine you are in church. The pastor shares an emotional story. It is very effective as there is no dehydration in the house. Such situations can be downright humiliating. Mute 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, mute my phone” or “Google Assistant, mute my phone.”
Speaking of distractions, how many buzzes and whistles does your phone emit each day? Tap or click here for a quick and easy way to permanently turn off phone notifications.
5. This wasn’t for you
The big tech companies will tell you that their devices don’t always listen — they only listen for their wake-up word. I don’t see the difference.
Oftentimes, you’ll accidentally trigger your assistant with a word that sounds the same. If you say something that sounds similar to “Siri” or “Hey Google,” it may work figuratively for her ears. This can be a problem if your assistant is set up to record everything you say to them.
I recently looked at my Amazon Alexa recordings. I found some podcasts that didn’t include Alexa at all – including some private discussions about buying real estate. Click or tap here to find out everything Amazon knows about you.
Fortunately, Siri and Google Assistant both make distinct sounds when they are activated. If you want to stop the Google Assistant from recording the rest of your conversation, say “It didn’t work for you.” This also deletes everything that was just recorded from your history.
You can also tell Siri, “This wasn’t right for you” when you turn it on by accident. However, Apple has not officially said whether this phrase erases your previous recording from its memory. Tap or click here to stop all of your smart devices from listening to you and recording what you say.
Bonus tip: Incredible story about hackers infiltrating a hospital due to ransomware
Ransomware hackers recently hit a hospital, and everything from heart 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 is a hospital will undoubtedly surprise you.
Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Explains” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.
Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your own. Just search for my last name, “Commando”.
Catch up on the latest tech on the Kim Komando Show, the country’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and provides advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data breaches. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
The opinions and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of USA TODAY.