All iPhone and Android users should know these ingenious commands

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Look up next time you’re outside, and guess where the plane above you is heading. Los Angeles? New York? Paris? Ask Siri this sentence: “Which flights are overhead?” You can see the carrier, flight number and altitude in seconds.

I love sharing simple tips for the digital life that make things easier. Bonus: Most are great at impressing your family and friends. Here are five more useful technical tricks to test.

For Windows users, try this next time you have many programs open. Click on the top bar of a window, hold it down, and shake it with the mouse. This shake will minimize all other open windows immediately. Shake it again to restore them. Press or click for hidden features you can try 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’s dark and you’re trying to read a menu or go down a dark hallway, you do not feel like fumbling with your phone to find the flashlight.

Simply say, “Turn on the flashlight.” It works for both Siri and Google Assistant. Just say the awake name first to make sure they are listening.

Fun fact: If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you can say “Lumos”. It refers to the magic formula Harry and his friends use to light their magic wands. Say “Nox” to turn off the light.

Do not lose your precious memories. Here are the best ways to save your phone’s photos before it’s too late.

2. Add to my calendar

It’s easy to make straightforward plans when talking to someone. So, when the time comes for the appointment, you forget about it.

Instead of wasting a minute or two entering details manually, tell Siri or Google Assistant what your plan is, along with a date and time. You can e.g. say “Hi Siri, arrange a lunch meeting with Bob tomorrow at 1pm” You can also be more specific, e.g. “Hey Google, add an event called Birthday Dinner on Sunday at 4pm”

The Google Web site is displayed on a product in a store.

The Google Web site is displayed on a product in a store.
(REUTERS / Neil Hall)

If you have multiple calendars, specify which one, otherwise it should fit into your default calendar.

Siri automatically connects to Apple’s Calendar app. However, if you use Google Calendar, you will need to add it to Apple’s default app. How to get the two apps to play nicely together.

Want Apple tips and tricks delivered straight to your inbox? Get mine for free Apple updates email twice a week. Sign up here. Android user? Choose Android updates instead.

Set a timer

You’re about to set an hour for tonight’s dinner. Then you hear a loud thump from the other room and one of the kids starts yelling at you. With a single sentence for your smart assistant, you can put a needle in your current task before running off to put out a fire somewhere else.

To set a timer, tell Siri or Google Assistant, “Set a timer to 10 minutes” or how long you need. If you say “Set a timer to 20 minutes called chicken”, this starts a new timer with the label “chicken”.

Amazon Alexa-enabled devices can also help around the house with timers, quick math, and other things that you would typically use your phone for. Tap or click here to have Alexa configure reminders, timers and alarms.

4. Silence my phone

Imagine you are in church. The pastor shares an emotional story. It is so effective that there is not a dry eye in the house. Situations like this can be downright humiliating. Silence your phone before entering a church, starting a meeting, or sitting down for a job interview.

An easy way to do that is with your voice. Say “Siri, mute my phone” or “Google Assistant mute my phone”.

Young teen texting on iPhone.  (Photo by: Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Young teen texting on iPhone. (Photo by: Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Speaking of distractions, how many buzzes and beeps emits your phone every single day? Tap or click here for a quick and easy way to stop phone messages forever.

5. It was not for you

Big Tech companies will tell you that their devices are not always listening – they are just listening for the watch word. I can not see the difference.

Often, you will accidentally trigger your assistant with a word that sounds similar. If you say something like “Siri” or “Hey Google”, it might benefit its metaphorical ears. This can be a problem if your assistant is set up to record everything you say to it.

I recently reviewed my Amazon Alexa footage. I found a few voice clips that did not involve Alexa at all – including some private discussions about buying real estate. Click or click here to find out everything Amazon knows about you.

An Amazon warehouse and distribution center located in Shelby Township, Michigan.

An Amazon warehouse and distribution center located in Shelby Township, Michigan.

Fortunately, Siri and Google Assistant both make distinctive sounds once activated. To prevent Google Assistant from recording the rest of your conversation, say “It was not for you.” This also deletes what it has just recorded from your story.

You can also tell Siri, “It was not for you” when it is accidentally turned on. However, Apple has not officially said whether this phrase will erase your previous recording from memory. Tap or click here to prevent all your smart devices from listening to you and recording what you say.

Bonus tip: An incredible story about hackers hitting a hospital for 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 medical records. But what happened when the hackers found out it was a hospital will no doubt surprise you.

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Explains” at Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotifyor your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you now get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Command.”

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s National Radio Program and press or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or click or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

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Learn about all the latest technology at The Kim Komando Show, the country’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim accepts calls and advises on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacking. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at

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