3 Beginner Computer Tips That Are Often Neglected

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too_many_computersTo get more out of your computing, you don’t really need newer equipment or fancier software packages. To do your computer work faster, there’s not always a lot of sense in going out and buying more RAM or a new CPU. All you have to do is become a better user. After all, a good plumber doesn’t blame his tools.

Being a better computer user doesn’t require you to sign up for course at college or to read those huge books that geeks have on their desks. Truth is, we don’t read them either. We just refer to them every now and again when you stump us with a question.

Being a better computer user just takes a willingness to learn and to try. Here are a few computer tips for the beginner that should help you immediately.

1. Learn to Use Your Keyboard

Since PCs with a mouse attached were introduced, almost every user has become dependent on it. It seems like a good idea, but don’t you hate it when it dies, or gets clogged, or the right-click gets worn out? I know I do.

Learning how to type and use your keyboard shortcuts will help you to avoid the mouse. Remember, the keyboard was invented before the mouse, so everything you can do with your mouse, you can do with the keyboard.

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There are plenty of freeware programs available for learning how to type, we mentioned several of them in our recently published productivity guide. It just takes patience and practice to master typing. When I started, I was a hunt-and-peck typer and now I can type almost anything without looking at the keyboard – which drives my wife nuts as I type and “listen” to her. She really hates it when I transcribe what she just told me. I don’t recommend doing that, guys.

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Keyboard shortcuts are awesome. Possibly the biggest time saver is the Tab key. It might say Tab on it or it might have two arrows – one pointing right and one pointing left. What the Tab key allows you to do is to move your cursor from field to field. This is especially time-saving when going through a form. Try it, just hit the Tab key a few times to see where the focus ends up. You’ll see a dashed line around whatever you tabbed to, or a blinking cursor if it’s in a text field. If you go one field too far, hold down your Shift key and then hit the Tab key once to go back one element. I use these shortcuts all the time when the batteries in my mouse are dead.

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You can get printable shortcuts for Windows, Mac OS X, Firefox, Gmail and several other programs by subscribing to our RSS feed. Look for MakeUseOf Downloads link.

2. Be Picky With Software

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How many toolbars do you have on your web browser? Do you have toolbars from Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask, and more? Just pick one – all the others do pretty much the same thing and just get in the way.

How did you end up with so many toolbars? Chances are you downloaded and installed something and didn’t read about the fact that the free software was going to install a toolbar as well. In the military, we had an initialization known as RTFQ – the G-rated version is Read The Full Question.

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How much software do you need on your computer? Allow me to ask this another way. Do you put every scrap of paper that goes through your hands into your filing cabinet? If you did, how soon would it take for the filing cabinet to burst, leaving you to curl up in the fetal position wondering where your birth certificate went.

Same thing happens with your computer when you add every little piece of software you see to your computer. Be picky. If you aren’t going to use that software at least once a week – you probably don’t need it on your computer. If you haven’t used a piece of software in a few months, think about uninstalling it. Check out some uninstallers from Stefan’s post.

3. Find a Way To Get Organized

Carrying on with the file cabinet analogy, you also need to get your computer organized. I’m sure you’ve seen those computer desktops with a bajillion shortcuts on it. That’s no better than leaving papers all over your office. There’s a reason geek-speak calls them files and folders. Treat them like their real world companions and they will be easier to find, work with, and be more secure all at the same time.

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For organizing your desktop, I recommend Fences by StarDock. It’s like setting up work-zones on your computer desktop and keeps it from getting cluttered. I’ve even seen people do this with their real desktops – setting up folders or taping off areas for specific ongoing projects to sit in. It can work, but you need to be vigilant. Entropy is a universal force – it cannot be overcome. But Fences sure can help!

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Working on these three areas can only lead to a more productive day, with less effort and confusion. That means a lot less stress for you! And that’s a good thing.

Have you read the MakeUseOf Productivity guide? Do you have any beginner computer tips on being a better computer user? Have any of these ideas helped you out? I’d love to hear your suggestions and stories in the comments below.

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Comments (48)
  • saitokthx

    i’m getting a new laptop…. i shall follow these steps :D

  • robb

    folders on desktop is a killing factor. a software to organize them is totally welcomed.

  • Daniel Hirschlein

    I couldn’t agree with you more about the toolbar issue – more and more installers a defaulting the addition of these toolbars.

    Most of the time a lot of this garbage is pre-installed when they buy a new computer. It’s almost as if they are inheriting a mess to begin with and users need to learn organization skills before they learn computer skills.

    I’ve offered these (agfish.com/web/10-things-to-do-after-buying-a-new-pc/) 10 tips for those buying a new PC.

  • AW

    I work for a major ISP’s tech support, and one thing that really bothers me is when people do not know how to type in a web address, they just use the “Search” box at the top of their browser. They also tend to have no idea what operating system they are using nor do they know what Internet Explorer is. They refer to is as the “Blue E”.

    On each call I try to determine the caller’s computer knowledge by asking a few questions…”What operating system do you have?”, “is this a laptop or desktop?” and “What happens when you open internet explorer?”….most callers cannot answer these questions without clarification or they have to ask their children.

  • djalal

    I know many recommend putting ads in content but since the only writers who would rather people leave their content by ad clicking are those who are in it for the money it makes you look like one of them

    • Guy McDowell

      Well, in a way you are right. This site has over 75,000 subscribers so the content must be good. Getting to that point takes a lot of quality content, so it takes a lot of good writers. Getting good writers takes money. Getting money takes advertising. It’s just like a quality subject specific magazine, like Mother Earth news. They believe what they write but it still takes money to publish it.

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.