Computer users have a wide range of experience and levels of understanding of their computers. The great majority of users have just learned the most basic features of a few of the thousands of programs out there. But that’s nothing to be ashamed of - even the most advanced computer user was at that level at some point, myself included. Even if you’re just using your computer for word processing, learning a few simple skills can make your life a lot easier.
Here are a few things to remember to make your life easier:
- First and foremost: save often! If you type a long letter, or make a lot of changes to whatever you're working on, and the power goes out or something else happens, you could lose everything you haven't saved! Just imagine how upset you would be if you'd worked on something for half an hour, an hour, or longer, and *poof* it vanished. Just going to the File menu and clicking save can help you avoid losing all that work.
- If you're working on a large project - such as a story or essay, where you write multiple drafts - periodically use the “save as" option from the File menu to save your file with a new name. That way if the third draft had something good you deleted in the fourth draft, you can bring it back for the fifth. For example, if you're working on a file called My Letter. doc and you've made a lot of changes since your last save, go to “save as. . . " from the File menu, and change the name to My Letter2. doc. This way, you have both versions. In most cases, this takes up very little space on your hard drive.
- Remember you can click anywhere in the document with your mouse and make changes wherever you place the cursor (the blinking vertical line which indicates where what you type next will appear). So if you realize you’ve made a mistake two lines back, just click where you want to make the change instead of deleting everything back to the mistake, then retyping it all. When you’re done, just click at the bottom and pick up where you left off.
- Cutting and pasting: If you want to move a word, a sentence, a paragraph, or even whole pages of text, you can cut it and paste it someplace else in the document. To do this, just highlight the section of text you want by dragging your mouse (click and hold the left button, then move the mouse) across the text. You’ll see a highlight appear where you drag. Let go of the mouse button then go to the edit menu. In the edit menu you can select “copy" to make a copy of the text, or “cut" to remove the text that is highlighted. Then go to the part of the document where you want to move or copy the text and click there so the cursor appears where you want your text to appear. Go back to the edit menu and select paste. Your text will appear where you clicked. You can use this to move text around in a document, or copy and paste it into an other document or even an email, and vice versa. Copying and pasting also can work with graphics or even files and folders in some situations.
- Undo: if you make a mistake the “undo" option in the Edit menu will allow you to undo the last thing you did. Accidentally highlighted and deleted a paragraph in that letter? Just undo before you type anything else and it comes right back.
- Learn the common “keyboard shortcuts" which work in most programs: On Windows PCs, the common keyboard shortcuts include: CTRL-S to save, CTRL-C to copy, CTRL-X to cut, CTRL-V to paste. ALT-F4 will close a window or program (or prompt you to shut down Windows if you are not in a program). On a Macintosh computer, common keyboard shortcuts include: Command-S to save, Command-C to copy, Command-X to cut, Command-V to paste. Command-W will close a window, and Command-Q will quit the program you're in. The Command key is the one with the Apple logo. In all cases, these key combinations are done as follows: hold down CTRL (or Command), type the other key, and release both. Just like using the shift key to type a capital letter. On both Macs and PCs, these and additional shortcuts are usually printed in the menus next to the option to help you remember and learn new ones.
I know that's a lot of information I've covered, but here's an easy way to practice: just take one or two of these tips and practice using them while you use the computer for a week. The next week, try a couple more. With practice you'll soon find you're doing them without even thinking about it, and you'll be surprised how much easier the computer has become!
Worth Godwin is a computer coach with a dozen years’ experience helping computer users of all levels, and has also worked for many years “in the trenches" as a hardware and software tech, solving real-world computer problems.
Worth has also been studying the human mind, and how people learn, since the early 1990s. He draws upon all of this experience, as well as his English and writing degrees, to teach people in a unique way with explanations that really make sense.
In 2006, Worth began putting his easy lessons together on CD, helping you with either Apple Mac training or Windows computer training that lets you go at your own pace, for an affordable price, with a system that is both simple and easy.