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Archives for January 2013

Hey friends, today we’re going to kick off a series we like to call Support Chronicles, where we pass along tips, tricks, tools, tactics, and other alliterative terms that help us in providing the best service we can to our users.

Today’s topic is the keyboard, so let’s talk shortcuts.

Many of you know the shortcuts I’m going to list below; they aren’t hidden in the annals of your browser documentation by any means. But how many of you use them religiously, especially when you can do the same tasks with a click of a mouse?

Why You Should Make Use of the Keyboard

  • You will be faster - With just a little bit of practice, you will be working faster than if you did not use these shortcuts. If you’ve ever tried to do live chat support for 4-5 people at once, you’ll know that even small gains count.
  • You will know where to go - I’m sure you know where to click to open a new tab in your browser of choice. But what if circumstances force you to a different program? What if your browser has a visual update that throws you for a loop? The keys on your keyboard aren’t going to change, and many shortcuts are not browser specific. You get consistency through the keyboard.
  • You will be master of your domain - Quite frankly, you feel empowered by bending technology to your whim through the keyboard. You’re not some passive mouse clicker, you’re a force that dictates your own terms! While the advantage here is purely psychological, the increased engagement from feeling in control of your technology is a nice boost on days when the email queue just doesn't seem to ever get smaller.

Common Keyboard Shortcuts to Cut Support Time in Half

  • Alt-Tab/Cmd-Tab - Change between active windows, a must have when multi-tasking.
  • Ctrl-Tab/⌘-Option-Right Arrow - Change between active tabs. The browser's alt-tab solution.
  • Ctrl-L/⌘-L - Highlight the url in the address bar. Great for when you want to type a URL and go.
  • Ctrl-T/⌘-T - Opens a new tab. For when you want to type a URL and go, but need a new tab to do so.
  • Ctrl-F/⌘-F - Opens the Find function on a page. Perfect for hunting down a keyword when searching for an answer.

However, as much as I love shortcuts like the above list, they aren't going to be saving me large swaths of time over the course of my day. Especially if decades of mouse-work have made me a click junkie.

Turning it up a Notch with Custom Search Engines

If you're like me, you're constantly performing different searches throughout the day, and not all of them run through Google. For those spots where you find yourself clicking a bookmark, then going to the search bar to type, you can skip straight to that point with just a couple letters. The steps to set-up are a bit different depending on your browser of choice, so here's some links to help you on your way:

The secret sauce here is assigning a keyword to those shortcuts for quick access(sorry IE lovers, no keywords for you). Let's take a look at a real-life example that I'm faced with a dozen times a day: I have a user's email address, and I need to view their account details.

This involves checking one table to get their username, and another to click through to those account details. I could have bookmarks to those tables that I can easily click to and search from. Using that process, it took me 25 seconds to get to the point I wanted to.

Instead, I added a custom search engine for those two tables since I'm always searching them, assigning a two letter keyword for each. So what happens when I repeat that process? It takes me 14 seconds to get to the page I'm looking for.

I don't know about you, but those 10 seconds can make a huge difference in the level of support I can give, especially if I'm juggling multiple users in live chat or trying to get to get my inbox to zero as fast as possible.

That's all for this installment of Support Chronicles. Have your own keyboard tricks that help you deliver dynamite service? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author

Micah Bennett is the Support Lead at Zapier. He loves his wife Trinity, dessert, and the Chicago Cubs. He has never been to Boston in the fall.

At Zapier we're always looking to add little touches that make working with web based software a little less painful: call it a rounding of the edges. All those minor little setbacks and annoyances introduce artificial barriers that turn off users. If you let them accumulate, you end up with a frustrating product even if your users can't articulate why.

We've done our best to remove them, while the list goes on and on forever, here are five of our favorites:


Auto-Login Links in Emails

This one is an easy win. Utilizing some off the shelf tools in most web frameworks (Django in our case), we're able to rewrite every zapier.com URL in emails that when clicked will auto-login users. Be very careful about this, as it could be an attack vector if you do it wrong. We limit it to recently generated links, familiar IP addresses and use a prebuilt signing library like itsdangerous to sign login links. Best not to roll your own.

Don't Force Email Confirmation

We do email confirmation asynchronous because some people use bogus emails to trial software and we're okay with that. You can bet that I'm guilty of this as well. If you like the product, you'll update your email and confirm it sometime later, but that's no reason to keep you from using our product.

No Bizarre Password Requirements

If you want to use "abcd" as your password, fine. Obviously, we'd like you to use secure passwords everywhere but we're not the password police. On the flip side, you can use a 256 character random unicode string, that works too (its all hashed in the end, so what is the point of character restrictions?).

One Click Email Unsubscribes

At the very top of every Zapier email is a link: "Stop sending these emails." We know that it is CANSPAM law that you provide a link somewhere, but we've gone out of our way to put it up top, make it obvious, and do it with one click (no confirmation needed). Plus, you'd be surprised at how many companies just break this law.

Contextualized Help & Support

In Zapier, if you click the "help" button, you'll get a help sidebar which looks like any other help sidebar, but the content it pulls up is algorithmically selected to reflect where in the UI you asked for help. For example, if you click "help" on the plans/pricing page, you'll get information on how pricing and billing works. It's a little touch that helps alot.


We've taken a stand against letting annoyances accumulate in our software, will you? It's easy to overlook one or two, but when the user experiences many in a single session, it can easily frustrate them just enough to "try again later". Most of them never try again.

Do you have your own tips and tricks for cicumventing SaaS pet peeves? Leave them in the comments.

About the Author

Bryan Helmig is a co-founder and developer at Zapier, self-taught hacker, jazz/blues musician and fine beer and whiskey lover.

Twas five nights before Christmas, and all through the house, not a light was still blinking, except for my mouse.

Power outages rarely wait for opportune times to strike, and that held true this holiday season, as I found myself without power for hours in the middle of the last workweek before the holidays. I even had two chat sessions rudely interrupted by the outage(to those users: sorry!). So what do you do when you find yourself with no power for an indeterminate amount of time? Here's a few discoveries I had to make the hard way:

  • I stayed in contact. Right when the power went out and I lost connectivity, I shot a text to our co-founder Wade to update him that I was offline, and that I had been in the middle of communicating with two users at the time. This kept the interruption to our customers to a bare minimum, and also avoided any "hey, what's Micah doing over there?" questions when the power didn't come on for quite some time.
  • My gear was up to the task. I have a laptop, and one with very good battery life. Even without power I was able to work on offline tasks for hours. Count this as another benefit to having a mobile workstation, as well as keeping up with your machine to make sure your battery is fully functional and not just a UPS for when you move your power cord from room to room.
  • I had offline activities at the ready. I use a pinned Trello tab to manage the tasks I need to work on today, and those in the queue to choose from for future days. I simply selected a few that didn't require internet access to complete or mostly complete, and I had my direction while the power was out.
  • I time-shifted my online work. This may not be an option for all, but my wife and I were able to take care of a few tasks around the house during an initial, brief power outage. That was a few less things on the todo list when the power came back on later, making it much easier to dive back into online work and play catch-up.

Fortunately for me, our power did come back on after a few hours and I wasn't stranded by the weather. Had that not happened, even my best-laid plans would have eventually left me unable to work after a while. But a few bits of prevention kept me productive during this particular outage, and serve as a great reminder to make sure to be prepared for future emergencies. How do you stay productive even when the lights or internet unexpectedly go out? Any favorite things to get done when you're offline? Tell us in the comments below.

About the Author

Micah Bennett is the Support Lead at Zapier. He loves his wife Trinity, dessert, and the Chicago Cubs. He has never been to Boston in the fall.

Got a quick bit of good news today. If you've been around Zapier long enough you know how hard it can be to stay up to date with new services, triggers and actions or updates to existing services, triggers and actions.

So today we've launched the Zapier updates blog.

Any time a new service is launched or an update to an existing one is made you can find out about it on the updates blog.

Too busy to check the site? Subscribe to a once a week digest email that sends you a summary of the most recent updates.

Follow the Zapier Updates Blog

About the Author

Wade Foster is a Co-founder and CEO at Zapier. He likes to write about process, productivity, startups and how to do awesome work.

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