How to use your smartphone or laptop when it is broken or damaged

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With everything going on, it may not be easy for you to repair your damaged or broken devices right now, but if your keyboard fails or the screen breaks, all may not be lost. There are a number of very useful tricks you can use to keep using your hardware until you can repair it correctly.

Work without a trackpad or mouse

If your laptop’s trackpad or computer mouse has broken, the keyboard can do an acceptable job as a replacement; you just need to know which keys to press. Having a full-size keyboard helps, as you get keys like Av Pag Up and Av Pag Down calls, to quickly navigate websites and documents.

We can’t list all the shortcuts or shortcuts here, but Alt + Tab (or Cmd + Tab on a Mac) switches between open programs, for example, Tab (and Shift + Tab ) jumps between fields and web links, and you can navigate by tabs open in most web browsers by holding down the Ctrl key ( Cmd on a Mac) and pressing the number key for the tab you want to go to. There are many more shortcuts for Windows and macOS.

The numeric keypad, if your keyboard has one, can be used as a kind of mouse or trackpad. From the Windows Settings menu, select Ease of Access and then Mouse, and enable keyboard mouse control. If you’re on a Mac, in System Preferences, choose AccessibilityPointer Control, and Alternate Control Methods, then select the Enable Mouse Keys checkbox.

Work without keyboard

Maybe your mouse or trackpad works well, and it’s the keyboard (or some of the keys) that is faulty. One of the ways you can solve this is through the appearance of a software keyboard on the screen: from the Windows, configuration goes to Ease of access, there to Keyboard, and then activate Use of the on-screen keyboard. In macOS access, the System Preferences and then Accessibilitykeyboardkeyboard accessibility, and there activates the keyboard accessibility.

An on-screen keyboard is not ideal, but it could help you survive. You can also control your computer quite well using his voice these days, especially in macOS: must check the box Enable voice control in the section Voice Control on the menu Accessibility from the System Preferences. Apple has a complete list of the commands you can use.

Windows has something similar that although it is not as complete, it does the job. From the main Settings panel, select Ease of Access, then Voice, and there Activate voice recognition. You will be taken through an assistant that helps your computer to recognize your voice. For a list of the voice commands that the system supports, see this Microsoft support document.

Using a laptop with a broken screen

This is obvious, but worth mentioning anyway: if your laptop screen is broken or damaged, you can connect your laptop to an external monitor, if you have a spare one lying around (you can also use a TV or you can borrow it to another person).

Both Windows and macOS will allow you to duplicate what is on the laptop screen and display everything on the external monitor: in Windows, you must find the Multiple screens section in the Screen section from the Configuration menu, and in macOS check the Duplicate option Screens in the Alignment section of the Screens menu in System Preferences.

For those of you on a MacBook, there’s another option if you also have an iPad on hand: You can set it up as a secondary display using the Sidecar feature built into macOS. If both devices are using the same Apple ID and have Wifi and Bluetooth enabled, the iPad should automatically appear when you click on the AirPlay icon in the macOS menu bar.

Using a smartphone with a broken screen

Let’s be honest: It’s almost impossible to use a phone with a screen where you can’t see anything, and we really don’t have any magic tricks to offer you when it comes to that scenario. However, if only parts of the screen are dead or unresponsive to your touches, then you can turn to built-in voice assistants to do a lot of things.

You can use Siri, Google Assistant or Bixby to send text messagescompose emails from scratch or play music from your phone, for example; We can’t give you a complete list of all available voice commands, but you’ll be able to guess most of them without much difficulty. If a particular feature you need is missing, such as the ability to send a tweet with your voice, you can use IFTTT (If This Then That) to create a custom voice command.

Remember that phone-computer integration today is better than ever: if you have a laptop to which your phone is connected or synchronized, you can use the computer to send messages, make calls, and more. Look at tools like the Your Phone utility built into Windows 10 or WhatsApp on the web, or everything that iOS and macOS can do together.

Using a smartphone with broken buttons

iPhones have a feature called AssistiveTouch, which is designed to help people who cannot hold and operate a phone in the standard way. It can also be used as a practical shortcut on the screen of the physical buttons of your phone, in case one is broken: from here you can lock the screen, change the volume, go to the home screen, and more.

To make this floating circle appear, open Settings and then select AccessibilityTouch, and AssistiveTouch. In addition to using the default options that appear in the shortcut, you can also configure your own custom actions: options to open menus, start Siri, take screenshots, etc.

The closest equivalent that Android has is the Accessibility Menu, which you can enable through the Accessibility section in Settings. You’ll need to swipe two fingers up from the bottom of the screen to see the menu, which allows you to adjust the volume, turn off the phone, start the Google Assistant, lock the screen, and more with just a tap.

… and other tips for broken gadgets

You may need to be a little creative to fix some glitches. If your phone or laptop speakers are broken, remember that you can connect headphones, connect a Bluetooth speaker or activate subtitles so that you can at least understand what is said in the video you are watching (if you have a Pixel, you can use the new Android function called Live Caption through the Accessibility menu in Settings).

The Bluetooth speaker trick works for smart speakers too: If you can’t understand what your Echo or Nest Mini is saying due to a faulty component, you can connect it to another speaker via Bluetooth (assuming you have a replacement Bluetooth speaker, Of course). Open the Alexa app or the Google Home app on your phone to connect.

In the worst case, your device will be completely damaged or broken, so you will have to wait for the repair shop to reopen. But don’t give them up without a little thought and effort, even if you can’t use them the way you used to.

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