Tips for the Beginners

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These tutorials are for absolute beginners. By that I mean they have virtually never touched a computer before. So in this section, I am going to tell them a few basic things that they do not know but are too shy to ask anybody. If you are one of these people, welcome. These tutorials are just for you. If you already have some experience in using computers and Windows, probably you should take a look at my COMPUTER HELP FOR PEOPLE OVER 50.

These tips are not arranged in any order. I have just listed them as they came to my mind for one reason or another. Most of these came to my mind because at one time or another I was apalled to discover that some person did not know even these "most basic" basics. So please read on. If you are visiting this site knowing its title, it is quite likely you will find some of these hints helpful.

Before you can type something using the computer, you have to make sure the cursor is blinking at the spot where you want your text to begin. If the cursor is not already blinking there, bring your mouse pointer at the point and click once. This will make the cursor blink there. Now start typing.

You cannot type in an inactive window. First click on a spot in that window. This will make the window active. Now type.

To erase something you have typed, just use the "Backspace" button. For a large chunk of text you want to delete, click at the beginning of the text, hold down the shift key and click at the end of the text you want to delete. This will hightlight the whole chunk of text. Now just press the "Delete" button.

To cut or copy something, you have to first highlight the thing.

Once cut or copied, an item can be pasted at any place as many times as you like. It stays in your computer's clipboard until you cut or copy something else, or until you shut down or restart your computer. (Or until you go to Clipboard Viewer and delete the item from there yourself).

In any window, if you cannot see a portion of the document, look for the vertical or horizontal or both scrollbars and scroll up and down or side to side to see the rest of the document.

To minimize a window, click on the minus (-) sign on the upper right corner of the window. To restore it, click on its button on the taskbar.

To maximize a window, click on the button having a small square box on the upper right corner of the window. To restore it to its original size, click on the button that shows two overlapping square boxes on the upper right corner of the window.

To close a window, click on the button having an X on it in the upper right corner of the window.

Lost a window that you are sure you had opened and never closed it? Look for its button in the taskbar and click on it.

Anytime you see a downward pointing arrow head on the right side of a box, click on it to get more choices for you to insert in that box. Clicking on that arrow will reveal a list of choices. Just click on the right choice and it will jump up in that box for you.

A double arrow head (double chevron) means clicking on it will reveal more items.

A downward or upward pointing arrow head in a list means clicking on the arrow head will reveal more items.

In a cascading menu, an arrow head pointing right means when you hold your mouse pointer over that item (having that arrow head) will give you another menu (sub-menu).

In any menu, if you see three dots (called ellipses) on the right side of any item, that will mean if you click on that item you will get a dialog box.

When you get a dialog box, unless you answer the question/s asked or click on Cancel to make the dialog box go away, you cannot do anything in that window. You must close the dialog box first to proceed.

When using a word processor, do not hit Enter to go to the next line. Unlike typewriters, word processors automatically wraps lines, i.e., goes to the next line whenever it comes to the end of a line. And word processors never breaks a word at the end of the line. It knows to go to the next line whenever it senses that a word is too long to be accommodated at the end of a line. So don't worry about it.

The above is not true when you are using Windows Notepad. Notepad does not automatically wrap words. To make it do that, go to Edit in Notepad's menubar and click on Word Wrap to put a checkmark in front of it. Now it will wrap words. (Note: Notepad is not a word processor. It is just a notebook for quickly jotting down a few notes. It also has a limited holding capacity).

Remember to hit Enter when you ask the computer to perform a task. Example: You type in a keyword in a search engine's search box. Search will not begin until you hit Enter (or click on the Search button). Similarly, you type in an URL (Web site's address) in the address field of your browser. It will not go anywhere until you hit the Enter button (or click on the Go button).

If you have inadvertantly opened up a start menu or a dropdown menu, just click anywhere outside that menu to close it. Don't get nervous.

Similarly, if have inadvertantly opened up any kind of window or a dialog box, just close it by clicking on the X button (by now you should know where to find that button) or by clicking on the Close or Cancel button.

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Here is an important tip. If you have made a mistake while working with an application, you can correct that mistake easily if, before doing anything else, you go immediately to Edit and click on Undo. But remember, with most applications, Edit can Undo only your last action.

Normally, only the last thing you cut or copied (even in a different program) stays in the clipboard and you can paste it anywhere. So be careful. If you want to paste something from the clipboard that you have cut or copied, do it immediately. Otherwise, you may forget and cut or copy something else and the clipboard will only have the last thing. Also, remember that the clipboard contents get erased if you shutdown or restart your computer.

To highlight an address (URL) in your browser's address field, just click once anywhere on the address. If you press the Backspace button on your keyboard even once while the address is highlighted, the entire address will vanish. To make the highlighting disappear, click on the address again. Once the highlighting disappears clicking on the address multiple times will not highlight it again. You will find this knowledge useful if you are visiting a Web page and. for any reason, you want to edit its address on the browser's address field. To highlight the same address again, you have to bring your mouse pointer at the beginning of the address, click and, while keeping the mouse button pressed, drag it over the entire address (the usual way of highlighting a text).

It is possible to open multiple documents at the same time in some programs. Just open one document after the other. Unfortunately, not all programs give you this opportunity. You cannot open more than one documnt at a time in Windows WordPad or Notepad. If you need to do that, you have to open more than one copy of WordPad or Notepad and open one document in each.

At times, while working in a program, more commonly just after opening a program, may see an hourglass attached to your mouse pointer. This means the program is doing some internal work of its own and asking you to wait. During the time when the hourglass remains attached to the mouse pointer, you cannot click anything with your mouse. Just wait. In a few seconds the hourglass will disappear and you can start or continue to work.

Sometimes you may see that your mouse pointer has been replaced by an hourglass and you cannot click anywhere inside the program with the mouse. This means the program is experiencing some problems and it is asking you to wait. Normally, the hourglass will disappear in a few moments and you can continue to do whatever you were doing. However, rarely a program might freeze and the hourglass does not go away. In that case you cannot even exit or close the program in the normal way. What should you do? On your keyboard hit Ctrl+Alt+Delete at the same time. A Close Program dialog box will appear listing ALL the programs that are currently running in your computer (some of them are running in the background about which you may not even have any knowledge). You will notice, the program that has frozen, is highlighted and listed on the top with a remark "Not Responding". All you have to do is click on the button below that says End Task. That will close the program. In some cases, another window might appear in a few seconds. Just click on End Task in that window to close the program immediately.

In many windows, informations may be organized under separate tabs. Look at the names of the tabs and click on the correct tab if you are not finding what you are looking for. Beginners often make this mistake of not looking at the tabs and then complaining what was supposed to be there was not there. Look at the picture below.

Display Properties dialog box.
Display Properties dialog box.

When that dialog box comes out, it shows what is under the first tab (in this case, Background). I needed to remove my screensaver. So I clicked on the Screen Saver tab to open the screensaver setting preferences, and then I chose None in the appropriate box. Look at the picture carefully. I hope you got the idea. Spread the word!

If you have several windows open on your desktop, Windows can neatly organize them for you. Right-click on any empty part of the taskbar. A small menu will appear. On that menu, click on cascade windows, or tile windows horizontally, or tile windows vertically. See how Windows, like a good maid, neatly organizes things for you. Seeing is believing. Do it for yourself. You will never forget.

You will find many more useful tips here.

Quick Quiz:
You are editing a text document in your word processor. You need to cut a chunk of text that you wish to paste elsewhere in the document. But your word processor's cut tool (scissors) is dimmed. It is not doing anything. You tried to go to Edit and cut from there. But the Cut option under Edit menu is dimmed too. What is wrong?

Answer: You forgot to highlight the text you want to cut.

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