Computer Skills and Resources for Adults

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In today’s high-tech society, computers are used to some degree in nearly all businesses and industries. Even outside of the professional world people will often find themselves in need of a computer, either for the Internet or for some other purpose. Although some people may not feel comfortable with using them, it is important that they understand their importance and ever-increasing presence in society. For this reason, it is crucial that adults who are unfamiliar with computers and how they function educate themselves on the basics of how they work. Even if they do not own a computer, this knowledge will prove invaluable when the need arises.

Starting Up a Computer

Naturally the first step to using a computer is to successfully turn it on. To start up a computer, locate the power button. Anyone who is unfamiliar with starting a computer should look for a button that is most often round, but may also be oblong or square. Power buttons not only differ in appearance, but also in location. Often the power button is located on the front of the desktop tower; however, it may also be located at the back or even along the top. Additionally, the button may be slightly elevated or flush against the surface. People will recognize the power button as it will have the power symbol on the front of it. The power symbol is shaped like the letter “C,” but with the opening facing upward. At the center of the opening is a vertical line. Press this button and release it. This will power up the computer and turn it on. If nothing appears, verify that the monitor is on. If it is off, press the “on” button that is located on the monitor. The computer will turn on either to a log-on screen, the desktop, or if sharing a computer, the user may need to select his or her account to begin. If the desktop appears, nothing further is required. If a person is prompted to select his or her user I.D., click the correct I.D. If the log-on page appears, enter the appropriate password, or if the computer is a public one or a new work computer, check with the computer’s administrator for the password to use.

Using a Mouse and Keyboard

When using a majority of computers, it is necessary to use a computer mouse and a keyboard. These two tools allow the user to interact with the computer and its software. Specifically, the computer mouse is a device that one cradles in the palm of the dominant hand. It is moved across a flat surface and allows the user to select, move or otherwise manipulate objects that are being viewed on the computer’s monitor. It does this by sending information to the computer based on how the user is manipulating, or clicking, the mouse. In general, computer mice will have one or more buttons depending on the type and purpose of the mouse. Most often, people will encounter mice with both a right and a left button. The right button on the mouse is considered a secondary button. Its purpose is to open up an options menu. The left button is the button to click when making a selection or opening an object on the monitor. To simply select an object, give the left button a single click. To use or open an object on the screen, a double click of the left button is necessary. Although this can take some adjusting to at first, it often becomes second nature with continued use.

The keyboard is also vital to the operation and functionality of the computer. It is very similar in setup to the keyboard of a typewriter and allows the user to input words or commands on the computer. Special keys called “modifier keys” are found on computer keyboards and are specific to computers and computer devices. They control specific functions and include “Alt,” “Shift,” and the “CTRL” keys. Without a keyboard a computer would be unusable.

Word Processors

Word processors are computer software applications that give the user the ability to create, format, and edit written text such as resumes, letters, and other documents. When a person purchases a computer it may come with some form of word processing software; however, people most often purchase these applications or they may download open-source (free) word processing software.

Opening and Saving Files

When working on a project on a computer, such as a document for example, it is important to understand how to save the file and how to open it back up again.

Regularly saving files while they are open is a good habit to fall into as it can potentially prevent its permanent loss. When documents are not correctly saved, they can be lost if the computer should crash or if there is a power outage. This is a bad thing, particularly if one has spent a long time working on the project that is lost. When a file is saved, the computer user is transferring it to permanent memory in the computer. While different word processing programs vary, the basics are the same. When working with word processing software, one simply needs to look along the top margin for the word “File.” Clicking on the word will open up a menu box. In that box, go to “Save” and click using the mouse. By clicking on “Save”, the user will need to select where to save the file and he or she will need to give it a file name. Once these choices have been made, click the “Save” button and remember where the file is stored. Another way to save a file is to click “CTRL” and “S.” To open the saved file, go to the directory or folder where the file has been saved to and double click to open. If the word processing application is open, go to “File” at the top of the page, click to open the menu, and click on “Open.” Once the directory is open, scroll down to the file in question and double click the file to open it.

Surfing the Internet

Regardless of why a person purchases a computer, it is in most cases inevitable that he or she will use the Internet. The Internet is a vast source of information and can easily consume hours of one’s time. Before surfing the Internet, an Internet Service Provider (ISP) is necessary. The computer user will also want to use a search engine that is easy to use and garners the best search results that they need. As enjoyable as it is to surf the Internet, there are certain risks involved. These risks can result in a loss of one’s identity, money, and/or privacy. To reduce these risks, people should take certain steps, such as preventing infection from computer viruses by installing anti-virus software. This software can help users avoid infected websites and content by warning them from clicking on a web page and by cleaning any infection that might accidentally occur. While surfing the Internet, people should avoid giving out personal information which can be seen by strangers from around the world. When shopping or entering information online, it is necessary to ensure that the web page is a secure one. A quick and simple way to determine this is to look at the web address and verify that there is an “s” at the end of “http.” A web address that starts with “https” is a secure one and is typically safe for private information to be entered.