Computer Help - General Information
- Where to find help and information
- Free and open source software
- Windows 7
- Where can I learn quickly about Windows 7?
- Where can I really learn about Windows 7?
- Which edition of Windows 7 do I need?
- What's different about Windows 7?
- Some additional tips for Windows users
- The Kindle Fire HD (new)
- Some important technical definitions (just for fun)
Where to find help and information
This section is a carefully selected set of pointers to some really good stuff.
The gold cup symbol indicates an outstandingly good site.
- Absolute Beginners Guide from the BBC
- This animated guide tells you (and shows you) the really basic stuff that everyone assumes you know (because you are psychic, presumably).
- Have you every wondered where the "Enter" key was on a keyboard that doesn't have the word "Enter" written anywhere on it?
- If so - run yourself through this animated guide!
- Basics of computing or computer help for people over 50
- This is exactly what it says it is.
- Although it is aimed at over 50's, anyone who is mystified by computers will find this really helpful.
- Wiredguide - helps you to find help!
- “A beginner's guide to computer help, internet help and general computing interest from chat to shareware”.
- Actually it is a comprehensive and carefully selected collection of very useful links - and not just for beginners. What you see when you first arrive at the site is just the tip of the iceberg!
- Its section called Instruction is where you can find the knowledge you need about all kinds of things to do with general computing and using the internet, including browsers, downloading and e-mail.
- PC resources or Mac resources is where you can find sources of help and information on anything to do with your type of computer (if you're not sure, assume it's a PC rather than a Mac). You can e-mail the site if you can't find something, and they'll do the research for you. And you will also find lots of good stuff on products (books), search engines, tips, and terms.
- This web page would be much bigger if it weren't for the presence of this site. Great stuff.
- If you want to know anything about computers or software, or anything else come to that, try looking it up here. This is the greatest free knowledge resource in the world.
- Black Viper's Operating System Guides
- This is just part of a really useful site that provides great help on all kinds of software topics. Its home page is here.
- XP users will find a vast amount of useful information if they start here.
- Windows 7 Users (or prospective users) should also start here, and see also my notes on Windows 7 below. But there's lots more good stuff, including stuff on Vista and Windows 8.
- Pilot's Assistant Directory
- If you use your PC for flight simulation, this is a free information resource of my own that is full of stuff that may help you.
- Even if you're not a flight simmer, you might still find some useful stuff there - particularly towards the end of the directory.
Free and open source software
You don't have to buy Microsoft Office software; you can get the equivalent for free from www.openoffice.org.
As well as doing everything that Microsoft Office does (and doing it better, in some cases), you can use it with any existing Microsoft Office documents that you have or that people send you.
You won't face a steep learning curve. If you are used to Microsoft Office then you will be quite at home with OpenOffice.
If you already have Microsoft Office, and you want to experiment with OpenOffice, then there is no problem. Installing OpenOffice does absolutely nothing to your existing Microsoft Office setup, and you can go on using the Microsoft software just as you did before.
This software runs not just on Microsoft Windows, but on a number of other platforms.
You will find lots more free programming resources, free webmasters' resources, free security resources and free utilities at www.thefreecountry.com.
I really liked Windows XP, and had no wish to change - but having done so, I am a total convert to Windows 7 (and from what I hear, I am fairly lucky to have bypassed Vista - the consensus seems to be that Windows 7 is "Vista done right").
Since I am still getting into Windows 7, I thought it would be useful to capture some useful stuff as I go along. This section is likely to be updated frequently.
Where can I learn quickly about Windows 7?
A good place to start is here.
On the left hand side you'll see Browse A to Z and Browse categories. Click either one to get a quick way in to a lot of useful information, much of it accompanied by short videos.
Where can I really learn about Windows 7?
If you are an intermediate or advanced Windows user, or would like to learn to be one, then I can't recommend this book enough. It's comprehensive, accurate, clearly written and laid out - and massive.
I studied it for some time before making the actual transition, and I am very glad indeed that I did.
Click the image for more information.
(Info on the version of this book for Windows XP, which was my Windows "bible" for many years, can be found
Also, for expert information on W7's nuts and bolts, and similar information for other operating systems, check out
Black Viper's OS Guides,
only part of a vast amount of good information on his site.
Which edition of Windows 7 do I need?
There is actually only one edition of W7 supplied by Microsoft. Whichever edition you pay for (most likely Home Premium or Professional) you actually get the most expensive edition (Ultimate), but with the features that you haven't paid for locked.
This is actually a smart move by Microsoft, and benefits both them and you. They only have to support one actual edition, and you can buy (say) Home Premium first and then upgrade very easily just by paying the extra to unlock the extra features using Windows Anytime Upgrade.
You can compare the features of the various editions quickly here.
The most likely question you'll have is:
and the answer isn't entirely obvious. My reason for choosing the Pro edition was to get these two capabilities:
- A tip for using the Windows XP Mode Virtual Machine
- Always run it with its window maximised. Otherwise it is really easy to close the Virtual Machine by mistake, when you really meant to close one of the programs inside it - which can cause problems.
What's different about Windows 7?
I am really comparing Windows 7 with Windows XP (having skipped Vista, a good thing by most accounts). I moved from XP to W7 on the same hardware, an Intel dual-core i5 CPU based machine with 4G memory.
What has struck me so far about Windows 7, as a replacement for Windows XP, is:
- A hidden benefit of libraries...
- If you use Windows 7 Backup, as I recommend that you do, then any folder that you add to any library will automatically be backed up when your scheduled backup runs.
Some additional tips for Windows users
Here are a few tips that I find many people don't know, even people who have used Windows a lot.
- Dragging items to a hidden window
- If you want to drag information between windows, and the destination window (or the part of it that you want) is not visible, drag the source information to the icon on the taskbar that represents the destination window, but don't release the mouse button.
- The destination window will then appear on top, you can continue moving the mouse and drop the information where you want.
- As usual, if you hold the right mouse button down as you drag, you'll get different options (move, copy, cancel) when you let go.
- Increasing the screen font size
- One easy way to magnify (or shrink) the screen font size is to hold down the Control key while rolling the mouse wheel. This works for many applications.
- Deep refresh
- Sometimes you don't see what you expect to see on a web page... in which case what you are looking at could be coming from a "cache" in your computer, or somewhere between your computer and the actual web site.
- In order to refresh all the way from the original source, press Control+F5 - this works in Internet Explorer and Firefox and may work in other browsers.
- Taking a screenshot
- Most people know that the badly-named PrintScrn key puts a copy of the screen contents onto the clipboard - but it's surprising how many people don't.
- You can then open a program that will accept images (e.g. a Paint program, or a word processor) and paste the image into it.
- Even fewer people know that Alt+PrintScrn copies just the active window, which is handy for reporting errors and writing user guides.
- Lots more tips...
The Kindle Fire HD
This was my first touch-screen device (my mobile phone is appreciating in value as an antique!). I bought it because I wanted an affordable entertainment and Skype device that would also connect to a TV and let me try services like LOVEFiLM, as well as being a big-enough tablet to browse the web and get me familiar with Android and touch screen stuff.
The other selling point, for me, was the advertised dual-antenna Wi-Fi connection, as our existing non-touch Kindles sometimes struggle with our router signal. I already have a whole library of Kindle books, and other free documents that we read our existing Kindles, and I was interested in seeing the difference on the Kindle Fire HD with colour, different navigation and a white background.
For anyone interested, I have posted a full review on Amazon, which you will find here, including some hopefully useful information on problems and solutions encountered.
- "Missing Links"
- Amazon removes non-Amazon links from reviews. Here, for convenience, are the direct links that go with my review (and a few other useful links):
- Discussion on connecting the Kindle Fire HD to a TV
- Discussion on keyboard bug, which Amazon will hopefully fix (Feb 2013)
- Multiple file types supported by Kindle Fire HD
- Video: How to Side Load Apps on the Kindle Fire HD
- How to copy and paste text on the Kindle Fire (and Kindle Fire HD)
- Kindle Fire HD Tips: Flash Video Player Guide (and a very useful Kindle blog)
- ... and sjoukes sent me these great site suggestions:
- Best Kindle Fire Apps
- Android Cowboy
- Send to Kindle for Google Chrome
If anyone out there has one of these devices, I would be very interested in knowing about your experiences!
Some important technical definitions (just for fun)
Thanks to my StumbleUpon friend Alison for finding this!
We still don't know who the original author of this cartoon is - if anyone does, please let me know!