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Library Subject Guides

IT Essentials

Devices & operating systems


Laptops, desktop computers, tablets, smartphones... there's a range of devices out there you might be using. These devices use operating systems, which is the interface you see when you use them. This page looks at the practicalities of using different devices and operating systems, and shares tips for using them effectively.

Working on shared devices

Often when working in the university you will used shared devices, whether in an office, a teaching room, or an IT classroom. If you're a member of staff, you may also share devices with other members of your team or department. There are some things to consider when using shared devices to keep your information and account safe.

Things to consider

  • Save your file(s) in the cloud and you can then access on any device with internet access. Use Google Drive or your personal filestore.
  • We recommend you browse privately when using a shared device, to protect personal details.
  • If you don't have access to the internet, USB sticks can be a quick way of accessing your files remotely. When you've finished, make sure you safely eject the USB stick. Remember to not store confidential data on USB sticks.
  • Make sure you log off whenever you finish using a shared device. If you don't, whoever uses it next will be able to use your account, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

Using multiple devices

If you have access to multiple devices, you will need to consider which device is best for which task. For example, a small laptop or tablet would be more suitable out of the office, whereas you may want a multi-screen setup at a desk for more complex tasks.

Lots of applications can be used across different devices. For example, Google has a range of apps that sync across your devices using an internet connection.

IT Services has guidance on using a variety of desktop and mobile devices with university services on the Mobile Devices page.

Multi-screen setup

A desk with multiple screens being used at once

If you've got a multi-screen setup with your desktop or laptop, here are some tips to get the most out of all that extra screen space:

Things to consider

  1. If you prefer to see your email and calendar at the same time, now you can! Pull out Gmail and Calendar so they're in separate windows, then resize so you've got them looking how you like.
  2. If you need to monitor multiple email accounts, pull out both inboxes into separate windows and place side-by-side.
  3. Position your note-taking app next to your document when typing up your notes.

N.B.1 You could also create this kind of setup if you have multiple devices, such as a phone, laptop and/or tablet, each displaying different apps/information.

N.B.2 Get beautiful, free dual-monitor wallpapers for your computer from Unsplash.

Keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are keys or key combinations that provide an alternative - and often quicker - way to something on your computer that you would usually do with a mouse. This Microsoft support page provides all Windows keyboard shortcuts. Likewise, if you use a Mac, Apple has listed all of their shortcuts on this support page. Why not try a few?

For more information on Windows 10 keys and shortcuts, see our Windows 10 tips page.

What does it do? Windows shortcut Mac shortcut
Copy an item to the clipboard Ctrl + C Command + C
Paste an item that has been copied Ctrl + V Command + V
Undo an action Ctrl + Z Command + Z
Switch between open applications Alt + Tab Command + Tab
Lock your screen (will require user password to unlock) Windows key + L Option + Shift + Command + Q (see note below)

Note: The Mac shortcut for locking your computer actually logs you out of your user account. You can also set a Mac to require a password after it is 'woken up' (e.g. when you reopen a Macbook after closing it without turning it off).


Taking a picture of all or part of your screen can be handy for a variety of reasons. How to take a screenshot varies across devices and operating systems.

Capture your screen

On a Windows computer:

  • Pressing the 'Print Screen' button (often abbreviated to e.g. 'Prt Scrn') on your keyboard will take a screenshot of your whole screen. It won't be saved, so will need to be pasted into an application if you want to use or keep it.
  • The Snipping Tool is Windows' built in screenshot tool. You can take different sized screenshots and select the active window or the full screen. It also has the option to save the screenshot from within Snipping Tool.

On a Mac:

  • There are multiple keyboard shortcuts on a Mac for capturing a screenshot. Shift + Command + 3 takes a picture of your whole screen, whereas Shift + Command + 4 changes the cursor to a crosshair to allow you to drag an area to take a picture of. Both of these will then be saved to your desktop.

On an Android device:

  • Hold down the Power and Volume down buttons at the same time for a few seconds to take a screenshot on an Android phone or tablet. The screen will be saved as an image. For more information, see this Android Help page.

On a iOS device (iPhone, iPad):

  • Hold down the Top button (on newer devices this is the Side button - the one that locks your phone) and then click the Home button. Your screenshot will be saved in Photos. See Apple's Help page on iOS screenshots for more information.
  • Note: on an iPhone X, you hold the Side button and then click the Volume Up button instead of Home.
Examples of screenshots on Windows, Mac, and Android

Using IT services off campus

There are various ways of recreating elements of working on campus when you are off campus. IT Services has a guide to working off campus which covers the options.

Off-campus access at York

The virtual desktop service (VDS) allows you to log in as though you were on a University managed office computer, when on a home device.

When accessing key York services online, you will be prompted to log in using your York credentials which is known as single sign-on (SSO). You can replicate this same SSO experience off-campus on different devices using the VPN (Virtual Private Network). This may be necessary to access certain University web services off campus, as well as accessing your filestore remotely.