I read about cool computer tricks all the time. I think "Wow, that would be a real timesaver!" And then a week later, when it actually would save me time, I've long since forgotten all about it.
After yet another session where I wanted to open a frequently opened file in emacs and thought "I think I made a bookmark for that a while back", but then decided it's easier to type the whole long pathname rather than go re-learn how to use emacs bookmarks, I finally decided I needed a reminder system -- something that would poke me and remind me of a few things I want to learn.
I used to keep cheat sheets and quick reference cards on my desk; but that never worked for me. Quick reference cards tend to be 50 things I already know, 40 things I'll never care about and 4 really great things I should try to remember. And eventually they get burned in a pile of other papers on my desk and I never see them again.
My new system is working much better. I created a file in my home directory called .reminders, in which I put a few -- just a few -- things I want to learn and start using regularly. It started out at about 6 lines but now it's grown to 12.
Then I put this in my .zlogin (of course, you can do this for any shell, not just zsh, though the syntax may vary):
if [[ -f ~/.reminders ]]; then cat ~/.reminders fi
Now, in every login shell (which for me is each new terminal window
I create on my desktop), I see my reminders. Of course, I don't read
them every time; but I look at them often enough that I can't forget
the existence of great things like
emacs bookmarks, or
diff <(cmd1) <(cmd2).
And if I forget the exact
keystroke or syntax, I can always
cat ~/.reminders to
remind myself. And after a few weeks of regular use, I finally have
internalized some of these tricks, and can remove them from my
It's not just for tech tips, either; I've used a similar technique for reminding myself of hard-to-remember vocabulary words when I was studying Spanish. It could work for anything you want to teach yourself.
Although the details of my .reminders are specific to Linux/Unix and zsh, of course you could use a similar system on any computer. If you don't open new terminal windows, you can set a reminder to pop up when you first log in, or once a day, or whatever is right for you. The important part is to have a small set of tips that you see regularly.
[ 21:10 Sep 07, 2014 More tech | permalink to this entry | ]