With some machines you read the instructions and do what they say. To learn
computing that way would need a vast library of instructions. Instead,
computer programs (like the one you are reading this in) are designed to be
learnt by using them.
Switch on and see what happens
If the computer is not already running, you turn it on by pushing the Power
Switch on the front of the computer. Usually the screen runs through quite
a few items of technical information before settling down. This kind of
thing also happens when you start some programs, especially on networked
computers in Universities and Companies. Just let the process continue
it stops. When it stops, look at the screen carefully to see if you can
work out what to do next. Often the screen suggests what you should do. If
so, do it. If not, look in a manual or ask somebody. Carry on doing this
until you want a cup of tea (or whatever).
Do not be afraid to experiment with the keyboard or the mouse.
Try moving your mouse now to see what happens as you go to different parts
of the screen. Does the "cursor" that moves on the screen change shape? In
some programs, when you put the cursor over an item on the screen a message
appears telling you what the item does.
It is usually a good idea to click on buttons to find out what they do. The
worst that can happen, normally, is that you get lost. You could try
clicking on the buttons at the top of this screen now. When you get
stuck, look at the screen to see if it suggests what you should do.
Messages or reports on what is happening are often displayed at the bottom
of the screen.
When you really are stuck - ask for help.
Built in Help
Most programs have built in "Help" programs. You should look for these.
Often you will find "Help" written at the top of the screen. Click on this
to see what it gives you. Pressing "F1" on the keyboard is another way that
often provides help.
Technical terms can be confusing when they are used in more than one way,
or when many different terms are used for the same thing. In this Guide I
have tried to:
You will still get confused - just do not worry about it! Carry on looking
up the terms you do not fully understand and you will pick up the
vocabulary and learn to speak the language. Often you will find terms highlighted in
colour. If you click on these coloured terms you will normally be taken to
a definition and discussion of the term.
- explain terms in plain English
- explain the theory behind the terms
- find terms which are common to many applications
- point out when different terms are used for the same thing and
- explain when the same term is used for many things.
If you have not already done so, click on "highlighted" above, read what
the definition says and then use the "Back" button at the top
of the screen to return to this page.
Whatever happens, never be put off trying again. Try to relax and enjoy
playing with a computer whenever you can.
Anxiety can stop
you learning, but enjoyment is one of the greatest aids to learning that
If you have not already done so, click on "Anxiety" above, read what it
says and then use the "Back" button at the top of the screen to return to
If the best way to learn about computers is by playing with
them, which bits might you start playing with? Here are some
I enjoy onscreen tutorials and am irritated when they are hidden on some
computer programs. If you have not seen them, hunt one out. These details
of where the tutorials are on some versions of Windows may also give clues
to where they are on other versions:
- On Windows 3.1 the Windows tutorial is on the Help menu on
Program Manager. It teaches you how to use the mouse and/or how to
On Windows 95 there is an online tour on Help Contents called Ten
minutes to using Windows.
On Windows 98 the tutorials are started by clicking on Run in the
Start menu, typing in tour98 and clicking OK. The
tutorials include Computer Essentials for people new to computers
and tours of the program's features.
Some of these tutorials encourage you to practice skills and ask you
questions about what you have learnt, others are like watching a video
about the programs.
A wordprocessor will let you use words differently to pen and paper. Some
people prefer it, some people prefer pen and paper. Most of us need to use
both. The section on How to write
on a computer will get you started.
With a paint program, you can make pictures on screen by using your
mouse to move crayons and paintbrushes across your on screen easel. One of
the easiest paint programs come already installed with Windows. It is
called Paint or Paintbrush. Start it running and use the
Help menu to discover how to use it.
Some people have problems moving the mouse to the position on the screen
they want. You can practice this by playing one of the card games (like
Solitaire) in the Games section of Windows. First read the rules of the
game under its help menu.
If you are using a computer that is equipped for sound, and you have some
music CDs, you could use a CD Player Program to play your CDs. You
can make a play list for each CD, with the titles of the tracks and
the order in which you want to play them.
Most computers have a Calculator that is very like the hand
electronic calculators that people use. The difference is that you click
the buttons on screen instead of pressing them with your fingers. There is
usually a choice of basic and scientific, so you can check
your shopping list or do your statistics homework. The help file may tell
you how to do either.
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