Guide to Computer Basics

Follow this advice and you’ll be using your computer like a pro in no time.

Having some trouble navigating the digital age? Don’t worry, computers seem a lot harder than they are. We’ve covered the computer basics for you below to get you started and comfortable working the device. 

Follow this advice and you’ll be using your computer like a pro in no time. 

Navigating the Desktop

Your computer’s desktop is the first screen you’ll see once you power on your computer. Typically, it’s a photo or colored backdrop with smaller icons located on the bottom and along the top. 

These two icon sections are menus that you can use to access your applications or computer functions. The menu along the screen’s bottom is called the taskbar or the dock if you own a Mac. The section along the top is known as the computer’s menu.   


The taskbar houses main and frequently visited applications, such as Microsoft Word, Internet, Calendar, Settings, and more. When you click on an application in this bar, it will open up a new window so that you can interact with the program. 


Along the top, you’ll notice smaller icons and or generic words, including File, Edit, View, Help, and more. Unlike the applications in the taskbar, these icons open up different computer functions. For example, if you choose the File option, a smaller dropdown menu will appear where you can access options to open a new window, create a new folder, and more. 

The desktop can also house your applications alongside folders and images. 


Just as the name implies, a computer folder functions the same as a physical file. It holds different information that you drop into it. You can use these to store images, documents, and whatever else you need. 

You can also give them different names to associate them with and create new folders by clicking right with your mouse. 

Accessing the Internet

The internet is a widespread information infrastructure, allowing billions of people access to endless content. Think of it as a giant spider web, except the various silk strands are networks, and connection points are where information is shared. 

You can access the internet from various applications, such as Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer. Google Chrome, over the last five years, has taken the lead in popularity and usage. It now holds 58% of all web browser market shares because it’s reliable and fast.   

Once you hover your mouse over your preferred web browser, you can click to open a new window. From there, a blank screen will appear, usually with a search engine screen, like Bing, Google, or Yahoo. 

If you want to stay on that page and search for a website, you can type in your question to the search bar and press enter. If you want to access a specific website, you can click on the browser to enter the information. 

The Browser

The browser is where you’ll go when you want to type in a new website. It’s the blank bar located at the top of the internet application. You will type in the information and click enter to navigate to that page. If you want to open another website, you can open another tab.

Opening a Tab

You will find an internet tab above the browser on the screen. It should look like a small plus sign. When you click on it, you open another screen similar to the one you started with when first opening the internet application. If you want to return to the original browser page, you can click back and forth between the two. 

Sending an Email

Sending an email is one of a computer’s basic functions. Emailing is, after all, one of the original computer functions available dating. It’s still an essential computer function with around 3.8 billion people sending emails every day. Sending an email isn’t too complicated either, you just need to follow a few fundamental steps. 

Email Applications

Much like the internet, email is associated with different companies too, such as AOL, Gmail (Google Mail), Microsoft Outlook, Hotmail, and more. 

Open the Email Application or Launch the Corresponding Website 

If you own a Mac, you can click on the envelope icon located on the doc to open up your email. From there, you will click on the associated provider to set up your account. 

If you don’t have a Mac, you can always go to the internet and type in the email provider’s website to get to your email account. 

Composing an Email

Once you’ve opened your email provider and have your account information pulled up, you can click the compose button to write out your email. What you type is up to you and who you plan on sending the email to, but you need to have an associated email address regardless of content. 

An email address is like a mailing address but for the web. Your address and your recipient should look something like this: If who you send to has a Gmail account, you’ll replace the space as necessary. 

You will also need the correct username. Usernames differ per person so you will have to get in contact with the recipient by other means to verify theirs. Once you have it and the content typed out, you can press the send button to deliver the email. 

Word Processing

Maybe you want to jot down some notes or start drafting that novel you’ve been talking about; either way, you’ll want to use a word processing application to do so. This program type is like the technological version of writing by hand in a notepad. 

Choosing a Word Processor 

The most popular word processing software is Microsoft Word because of its formatting options, ease of use, and versatility. However, Microsoft Word, along with the other Microsoft Office programs, requires payment. If you don’t feel comfortable buying the software, you can also try Google Docs, or, if you have a Mac, you can use the pre-installed Pages program. 

Create a Document

No matter which word processor you settle on, you will need to create a new document to begin typing. You will need to open up the file option, then select create new to do so. Sometimes, though, the word processor will automatically launch a new document for you. 

From there, you can start typing or take a tutorial to try out all of the accompanying features. 


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