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.
It really can be a help for you to learn computer basics that you may have been taught. 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.
- 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.
- Save as new versions periodically: 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.
- 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, Copying & pasting: If you want to move a word, a sentence, a paragraph, or even a page 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 drag) 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. Like all of the skills I’m talking about in this article, you can undo in Microsoft Windows, and you can undo in Mac OS X
- Learn the common keyboard shortcuts which work in most applications: 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.
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 typically printed in the menus next to the option.
These are just a few computer basics that can really make your life easier. For more help, including easy video lessons, check out my computer courses or my new computer training app for iPhone and iPad.