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Most People Have Never Heard of CTRL+F 567

Hugh Pickens writes "Google search anthropologist Dan Russell says that 90 percent of people in his studies don't know how to use CTRL/Command + F to find a word in a document or web page. 'I do these field studies and I can't tell you how many hours I've sat in somebody's house as they've read through a long document trying to find the result they're looking for,' says Russell, who has studied thousands of people on how they search for stuff. 'At the end I'll say to them, "Let me show one little trick here," and very often people will say, "I can't believe I've been wasting my life!"' Just like we learn to skim tables of content or look through an index or just skim chapter titles to find what we're looking for, we need to teach people about this CTRL+F thing, says Alexis Madrigal. 'I probably use that trick 20 times per day and yet the vast majority of people don't use it at all,' writes Madrigal. 'We're talking about the future of almost all knowledge acquisition and yet schools don't spend nearly as much time on this skill as they do on other equally important areas.'"
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Most People Have Never Heard of CTRL+F

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  • Learn your AVC's (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alphatel ( 1450715 ) * on Saturday August 20, 2011 @08:09AM (#37152126)
    While you are at it, teach them CTRL+C (Command+C) and CTRL+V and CTRL+A. At least 25% of users have never seen any of these amazing combos in action either.
    • Re:Learn your AVC's (Score:5, Informative)

      by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @08:15AM (#37152152)

      While you are at it, teach them CTRL+C (Command+C) and CTRL+V and CTRL+A. At least 25% of users have never seen any of these amazing combos in action either.

      Let's not forget the ever popular CTRL-Z. I have some users who never knew that "undo" was an option let alone a keyboard shortcut. Of course, they're always surprised that CTRL-Z won't make an email they just sent come back.

      • Of course, they're always surprised that CTRL-Z won't make an email they just sent come back.

        Surely the easiest way to explain it is that it's the same as sending a letter. Once you've put it through the slot, it's on its way - it can't be pulled back.

    • by Octorian ( 14086 ) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @08:20AM (#37152178) Homepage

      Except the modern office suite software has made Ctrl-V useless and annoying, copying styles that have nothing to do with your paste target and often messing it up in the process. So instead you have to either click through menus or find a far more awkward key combo to "paste without formatting."

      • Whilst this is true, especially if you're copying and pasting content from a webpage (garr Microsoft - why make my life so hard?), CTRL+V is still incredibly powerful for applications. When I was writing my essays for my degree, I would often copy and paste stuff from websites to be reworded later. It didn't matter about the formatting. The Run line became very useful, as it can be used to strip the formatting from text. I've also been known to keep notepad open for the same reason.

        • Re:Learn your AVC's (Score:5, Informative)

          by Cryacin ( 657549 ) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @08:48AM (#37152384)
          Guys, notepad strips out formatting. Isn't that what it was invented for!?!
        • I would often copy and paste stuff from websites to be reworded later.

          That's why you got a "C" by the way.

        • by pruss ( 246395 )

          1. Make sure to type in a bibliographic reference for the pasted text right away when you paste, though, or you might later forget to add a reference and be suspected of plagiarism.

          2. I think the simple alt-e,s,(select with arrows),enter is slightly faster and smoother than windows-key,r,ctrl-v,ctrl-a,ctrl-x,alt-tab,ctrl-v or alt-tab(repeat to get notepad),ctrl-v,ctrl-a,ctrl-x,alt-tab,ctrl-v

      • oh my, no more paste / paste special dichotomy ?

      • by pruss ( 246395 )

        I'm pretty used to using alt-e,s,(select with arrow),enter in Word (there is no doubt a new shortcut in Office 2007+, but the old one works, too). It IS more awkward, but most of the time when I copy and paste, it's text within or between Word documents, so I want the standard paste to be easier to access, and I use it often enough (though not as often as ctrl-v) that the combination has become second nature.

        If most of your pasting is from external sources, you can re-bind ctrl-v in Word (and I assume in O

      • That's the least of the problems with "modern" office suites. Last week I had to convert an article from LaTeX to *shudder* Microsoft Word 2007, because some stupid publisher only accepted Word files. I was astonished to find out that selecting text in Word does not work as you'd expect, it sometimes seems to insist to include the point of the previous sentence. After several unsuccessful attempts I ended up with deleting the point manually. I also made acquaintance for the first time with the amusing "simp

      • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )

        Ctrl+Alt+V - Select "Unicode text" (at least in Word). Otherwise, you can also change the default behavior to paste just the text, not the formatting, and use the drop-down if you want to keep formatting instead.

        Preferences/Options panes are mighty powerful things!

      • Dude, paste-without-formatting is essential for anyone who spends a lot of time cutting and pasting between applications into compound documents.

        There are so many whiney paste-related comments in this chain that it is time for one of my rarer than Haley's Comet posts to /.

        Immediately (if not sooner), get thy focus to, click on the downloads tab, and search on Pure Text.

        Both Pure Text and Pure Text Plus are free and legal programs that turn your Windows-Key-V combination into a paste-without-forma

    • by gavort ( 176290 )

      My GF constantly amazes people at her workplace with her amazing ALT-TAB method of quickly switching between programs...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GNious ( 953874 )

      I have been trying this on Windows 2008 servers the last few weeks to copy-paste files in Explorer - CTRL+c and CTRL+v doesn't seem to work reliably.

      Then there is the headache that various specialty programs seemingly implement CRTL+f differently (Outlook? - Forward instead of Find) or simply not at all.

      So "Study finds people have not heard of CTRL+f" could just as well be "Study finds people stop relying on unreliable keyboard short-cuts due to developer inconsistencies".

    • by drolli ( 522659 )

      and tab, return in dialog boxes, escape and alt-tab

      and (annoys me most) pg up and pg down!

      and the triple click in word processing.

    • Re:Learn your AVC's (Score:5, Interesting)

      by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @08:39AM (#37152326)
      They might not know the keyboard shortcuts for copy and past, but I doubt they're erasing large chunks of text in one place only to re-type it somewhere else... at least I hope not!

      Everybody here is focusing keyboard commands, but that isn't the main problem. People would be almost as well served by using the "Edit... Find" GUI menu option, but don't even know about that. It's the concept of searching within the current page they need, more than the finger habits to do it a bit faster.

      • Please, please, please, all browser makers: Give me a permanently displayed "find in page" box.

        A hate that Crome's search box goes away when you change pages.

    • I know many people who insist on right-clicking and using the context menu, or (worse) the Edit toolbar menu. It's painful to watch.

    • by Idbar ( 1034346 )
      WTH is that? I type ctrl-F and I advance one page in my magnificent editor. Want to search? Use /
      What's all this people talking about?
    • Ctrl+w closes tabs (or windows in certain linux applications)
      Ctrl+g is the "Next" after you open a find
      Ctrl+Alt+L locks the screen

    • I always inadvertently press Ctrl+S instead, because I'm so used to Emacs. Ctrl+W is worse, of course, and I really wish there was a way to give all applications Emacs shortcuts (apart from using Emacs for everything, of course).

  • / (slash) (Score:4, Informative)

    by cobbaut ( 232092 ) <> on Saturday August 20, 2011 @08:16AM (#37152154) Homepage Journal

    Usually (even in firefox) just typing / to find something just works...

  • While reaching for my coffee sitting in the DVD drive tray and stepping on the mouse with my foot, it's hard to do a ctrl-F while shaving using a CD for a mirror and texting on the phone.
  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @08:23AM (#37152190) Homepage

    That people do not know commands is _data_ . Why becomes speculation. I know all my commands because I'm still a CLI dinosaur. I still use / (no dot :) to find strings because it works on my main tools -- vim, mutt, links and occasionally seamonkey.

    I would speculate computer inability is rooted in the whole GUI paradigm -- if it isn't on some menu you cannot do it. Good luck finding it with Microsoft changing their menus, especially the _huge_ change with the MS-Office2007 "ribbon". It might be good (???), but change comes at a cost. Very uncertain there is a payoff.

    • I would speculate computer inability is rooted in the whole GUI paradigm

      Hardly. It's just that people who don't have the need/interest to memorize key sequences can now use computers effectively. The abilities of the interested are only increased by the addition of more extensive graphical tools abut the average ability has decreased because more computer-disinterested people now use them as part of daily life.

  • (it's a COMMAND + F on a Mac!)

    • At least you have a good reason not to use the feature, since Command (and even Ctrl) are in very impractical places on Apple keyboards.

      • I find command (letter) to be much faster and easier to use than crtl.

        Control key is varies in placement between keyboards making the distance to the key inexact. However on apple keyboards command is right next to the spacebar, so it is very easy to use.

        I always wish msft had pushed their windows key for more than just the start menu. it would have changed keyboards for the better, as linux would have just followed along.

        Keys that modify others should be quick and easy to use with one hand.

        besides what m

        • However on apple keyboards command is right next to the spacebar, so it is very easy to use.

          Is it south of X? south of C? It depends on the keyboard and how many keys are to its left. One might aim for Command and hit Space, or one might aim for Command and hit Option.

          I can command -c in a terminal window without a gay work around, where as if you ctrl -c in a terminal window you close it not copy the text.

          I agree that the workaround on Windows in inconvenient, but the GNOME terminal's workaround is sensible: Ctrl+Shift+C to copy, Ctrl+Shift+V to paste. Now is this a "Happy, joyful, and lively" workaround, a "Festive, bright, or colourful" workaround, or an "Effeminate or flamboyant in behavior" workaround?

        • by deniable ( 76198 )
          Do you mean things like using Win+F to start Find or Win+E for an Explorer window and many others? They've been there since Windows 95 and NT4. It's not just for the Start Menu any more.
  • iPads (Score:2, Troll)

    by oztiks ( 921504 )

    This has to be the one feature I wish the iPad would add, a freaking "find" feature.

    You know they praise the iPad for all it's wonder and a simple usability flaw such as this is still prevalent.

    • You know they praise the iPad for all it's wonder and a simple usability flaw such as this is still prevalent.

      Who praises the iPad? Certainly not ergonomics people.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You mean like Spotlight Search [] or searching on a page in Safari [] for example?

    • iPads don't have a keyboard so it would be the wrong way to go, IMHO. They should use gestures. Then todays kids will grow up and say, "why doesn't anyone know that 3 consecutive circles means your searching for something?"

      • No, I'm serious! Make the gesture like a question mark (maybe without the little "." so as to not confuse the system). It would seem to be very easy to implement and everyone would instantly recognize it! If you want it could bring up a multipurpose "question box" which could do a number of things (like help or spelling) in addition to "find".

        Too bad a said this out on a public forum. Now I (assume) I can't patent it. Well at least the Guess Jeans company hasn't trademarked it!

        • Apple has surely already patented that gesture. If not Apple, then HP picked it up when they bought Palm. If it is neither you better hurry. Microsoft is filing as I type.

      • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

        And of course, make it a PERFECT circle. Because everyone is Picasso.

        Seriously, the entire point of shortcuts is to make things faster. Drawing three circles, hell, one circle takes a whole lot longer then hitting a keyboard combo. In most cases, it would be about as fast as clicking an icon with a mouse. Just try it.

        (I had a circle gesture on touchpad of my laptop for a reload function of web page for a while. Ugh).

  • by headhot ( 137860 )

    1/2 of every one is below average. The 1/4 above that ain't so special either. Let them spend some time reading instead of using crtl-F.. maybe they will learn something.

  • Can we make these standard keys on a keyboard as standard? They're used universally in many apps, so it would be great to have them as well. There should be a 'keyboard' equivalent of the W3C or IEEE organizations.

  • Fundamentally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 20, 2011 @08:28AM (#37152228)

    Fundamentally people need to be taught that mindless repetitive tasks are something that the computer can do for them. That the computers are the slaves.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Saturday August 20, 2011 @08:29AM (#37152242) Homepage Journal

    Look, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but most people don't know their ass from... hey, what's that in the ground over there? When they go to perform a new task their first question isn't "how easy is this?" but "why are you trying to hard to read that word? are you a fag?" Most people are not aware of too many things, but they know what they know, and aren't remotely interested in learning anything outside of their world view.

    Some people are different. They want to learn for the sake of learning. We call them geeks, or nerds. Or, when they are coming on all superior to some non-nerd, they are called an asshole.

    Maybe applications need to find a less obtrusive way of popping up hints, because most users need them; they won't go looking. Shit, it took me months to get my lady, who is quite intelligent, to take the windows tour. Once she did, much was revealed that was formerly opaque.

    Finally, have you ever noticed how many people don't even have the basic computer skills in their job description? I've found this to be especially egregious in academia. Explaining basic Office functions to a counselor for the 23523312th time is tiring, to say the least. Isn't this a school? Aren't there classes for this crap that you could take for free? Whoever is pretending to manage these assholes needs to fuck off immediately.

    • by headhot ( 137860 )

      I have found that when it comes to the educated (people with a degree) teachers are the absolute worse at using and understanding technology. Its like they have that part of their brain removed when they when to school.

      Someone moved the icon for word on the desktop, and I got a call saying it was "uninstalled" and they couldn't do any of their work.

      • by supercrisp ( 936036 ) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @08:57AM (#37152456)
        I agree. And I'm a teacher. Teaching teachers is a trying experience. That said, I know that one reason I do stupid things like what you describe is the sheer degree of overload that I'm always suffering. That makes it easy to be panicky and stupid. I'll add, too, that most universities have terrible websites and help areas that actually seem designed to make teachers freak out. At every university I've been at but one, the help and instructions available online trail the actual installed/implemented software by a few versions. Or, there are clear instructions on the page, if you can pick them out of the bad page-layout covered in marketing department mandated gimcracks and whizdiddles. At my current institution, it's a good ten seconds before crap stops flying across the home page, and moving the cursor across any page is liable to give one an epileptic seizure. Then there are the "training" session we must endure, which generally involve some sales flak using a very bad Powerpoint to pitch us some piece of crap product that would cost our students a small fortune (Turning Point technologies, I'm looking at you with your trumped-up "research" claims.).
        • Go to the library. Ask the librarian to help you find a "basics" book. For general use stuff, there should be one there that's more concise than the university web page crap. For specialty software, you might have to ILL something, but I have yet to see an online tutorial explain things with enough depth to understand the software

          Then read the whole thing and try every example. EVERY example. Not just the ones that you think are relevant to whatever tasks you have right now. If you have a Mac, click t

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      well, take a look at Write for windows 3.0.

      all the features, such as finding, copy and pasting etc you find by looking at the screen. at some point UI guys decided that it was better to use icons, so it didn't matter if you could read or if the program was localised, so you had a while huge icon arrays which you didn't know what they did and took screen space. is a looking glass zoom or find? can't know.

      but the latest iteration is just assuming that the user knows shortcuts in advance to make the UI "cleane

  • Millions of Americans waste their lives scanning countles hours of tv for small bits of humor...
  • That's why you can make a LOT of money by selling computers that are very simply and easy to use. That market is much bigger than the one that wants complicated computers with a ton of features. Most people just don't like computers, and they don't care to make computers a central part of their daily existence.

  • As far as commonly used, time saving keystrokes, what always shocks me is when a fellow programmer doesn't know about tab completion. You mean you're really going to type out that whole long-ass file name?

  • No no no, ctrl+f turns text into bold, ctrl+b searches.

    Ohhh... you meant on English OS.

  • Next in news: Asa Dotzler proposes to drop keyboard shortcuts support in FireFox.
  • I have the opposite problem. I try to use Ctrl+F (well, grep actually) in the real world. Don't tell me you haven't. I can't recall the number of times I've been reading a book, deciding I want to search for something, and caught myself thinking "I'll just grep for.... oh shit."

    It happens less and less now, since I've started using the iPad as a book reader. Now the only really annoying thing is getting a non-searchable PDF, which is fortunately pretty rare.

  • If this way or working is so good, why hasn't someone, somewhere added it their pool of obvious and trivial patents? since so many organisations make their living from peeing in the pool of knowledge, this would seem to be an obvious candidate.
  • by Velex ( 120469 ) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @10:18AM (#37153010) Journal

    Hell, most people can't tell the difference between a crookedly scanned all-image PDF and a Word document.

    Then there are the clients who have shit fits when I tell them I can't make a 50 page fax that's obviously a print-out of an Excel or Word document go *bloop* into a database and that I need the actual file emailed to me otherwise I'll have to give them a data entry charge.

    Yes, I've heard of OCR. I haven't heard of OCR that works well enough.

  • Better skills (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FrootLoops ( 1817694 ) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @10:22AM (#37153052)

    A better skill to teach is menu exploration. Find, Select All, Undo, Replace, and a zillion application-specific gems are in the menus, together with their shortcuts. An even better meta-skill is generic program exploration, with an emphasis on not screwing things up. When I encounter a new program for the first time, I always find the Settings/Preferences/Options and at least glance through them. If it's a type of program I'm not familiar with I definitely look through the menus. I right click places that might be right-clickable and explore the ensuing context menus, I try double clicking, I sometimes try control-clicking, and I generally see what the program does in response to standard inputs. Some people seem to think I have magical abilities when they watch me run a program I've never encountered before, but they just miss the conventions and tests that I don't. Most people are capable of picking up on these skills pretty quickly if they're given some examples and told what's going on.

  • Embarrasing (Score:5, Informative)

    by barlevg ( 2111272 ) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @10:22AM (#37153054)

    Me: Hey, Slashdot says 90% of people don't know what Ctrl-F does. That sounds pretty low to me.

    My wife (who's in IT): Ctrl-what?

    Me: Ctrl-F. You know, for searching on a page.

    WIfe: Oh, yeah. Well, why would you ever use Ctrl-F when you can just hit F3?

    Me: F3?

    (hits F3)

    Me: Oh.

    • Do you use firefox or opera?

      You can go right back to her with this:

      Why would you use one of the F-keys when you can just use /

      There's always a better way, although I think F3 is inferior ^F because it takes your hands off the home row.... WIth tab, backspace, ^f, the space bar, and ^L, you can accomplish a LOT of browser tasks without having to reposition your hands.

  • by ehud42 ( 314607 ) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @11:05AM (#37153440) Homepage

    Ctrl-F works great if you know the word you are looking for, however, sometimes I'm looking for a picture or more loosely a concept. I know I've seen it, and in my subconscuous I have an idea of what it looks like which is why I like to flip through a dead-tree manual.

    I want google to enhance the Android to provide a document reader with a mutli-touch interface that displays a book like the iPod's scrolling album covers. A quick fling of my finger across the screen to rapidly display many page images at once.

  • by LastDawnOfMan ( 1851550 ) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @11:06AM (#37153452)
    I worked at a newspaper and would see journalists and editors doing things like searching for words completely manually. I would say, "hey I have a very quick tip for you that will save you hours every single day for the rest of your career. In fact, it'll save much, much more time TODAY than it takes to teach it to you." and they would say "I don't have time!!! I have too much work to do!!!." Often I would just jump in and show someone how to do it, doing search and replaces in less than 10 seconds that would take them well over 30 minutes. That impressed a few people enough for them to start using it. But I found that many of them would persist in doing it manually anyway because it was just "easier." So what I discovered is that there are a lot of people who will work their fingers to the bone, unnecessarily spend hours working instead of enjoying life (these people were all salaried), even injure themselves with repetitive stress disorder, osteoarthritis, and so forth, to save the slightest mental effort involved in learning something very slightly new.
  • Conclusion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arthur B. ( 806360 ) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @11:21AM (#37153564)

    We live around 90% slouches who would rather waste thousand of hours in the future than take 10 minutes now to learn to use a piece software correctly. The same applies to touch typing, but also eating junk, shopping with a 20% APY credit, etc. High time preference leads to social decay. Now stay out of my lawn.

    • by Chemisor ( 97276 )

      90% of the population are not paid by the hour, so they don't really care how long it will take. Learning something takes conscious effort, and therefore is hard. Only the boss cares, and that's why he sends them to training seminars.

  • by rcpitt ( 711863 ) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @12:49PM (#37154432) Homepage Journal
    I'll never forget the point at which the GUI took over from the keyboard for such things as bold, italic, and other things. Prior to this - the likes of WordPerfect were fast and efficient word processors because your fingers never left the "home" row and all commands were done with key combinations.

    Now - type something, move right (or left) hand to the mouse - highlight - move mouse to menu - select - press mouse button - find "home" row again and start typing.

    No wonder kids today use short-forms and misspellings and such In the mean time - I take full advantage of what key-combination commands there are - and get a lot more done

  • by drfreak ( 303147 ) <> on Saturday August 20, 2011 @07:35PM (#37157294)

    a few years ago which I've been maintaining.every since. A user reported last week that every time he hits Ctrl-X to cut text for pasting, that the app crashed. In fact, the app exited with no error window. Whatever I might have to say about the previous programmer's style, at least he didn't have empty try/catches everywhere so I found it hard to believe the app was crashing without any exception window.

    Turns out, the main window had a keyboard event which exits the app when Ctrl-X is pressed with no prompting first. I've always used keyboard shortcuts and took it for granted thinking everyone else did until I realized it took years for a "power user" to hit this problem for the first time.

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