Web Culture

6 Basic Tech Skills Anyone Should Have (Even If You’re Not a Geek)

Yaara Lancet 10-09-2012

Let’s face it: in today’s world, technology is no longer just for geeks. While some people may take pleasure in hacking into their Android device or using a rare Linux build, most of us are just normal users, who simply want to get along. If merely using a computer used to be “only for geeks” in the 70s, it’s nothing like that today, and even my 90-year-old grandmother has her own PC and writes emails on a daily basis.


If you consider yourself a geek, and have good control over your computer and other devices, this post might not be for you. If, however, you’re still finding your way in the computer world, or know someone who is, these basic skills are absolute must-haves. While computers and phones will work for you even without these basic tech skills, having them will ensure your privacy, your security, and will make your day-to-day experience  as smooth as it can be.

Secure Your Wireless Network With A Password

basic tech skills

While creating a password for your home wireless network is not complicated, I’m always surprised at the amount of unsecure networks I find every time I look for one to connect to. A true geek might say that a simple password protection is not that secure, and any real hacker can break it easily, but these passwords work in most cases, and I haven’t had mine hacked in all the years I’ve been using it. Aside from security issues, you don’t want all your cheap neighbors to be using your Internet and downloading movies at your expense.

So what do you do?

First, read how to secure your wireless connection 7 Simple Tips to Secure Your Router and Wi-Fi Network in Minutes Is someone sniffing and eavesdropping on your Wi-Fi traffic, stealing your passwords and credit card numbers? Would you even know if somebody was? Probably not, so secure your wireless network with these 7 simple steps. Read More , as explained by Aibek quite a while ago. While these screenshots are taken on Windows XP, the way things look depend mostly on your brand of router, so you should have no problem no matter what OS you use. If you need to set up a wireless network from scratch, take a look at “how to set up your own secured Wi-Fi hotspot How To Set Up Your Own Secured Wi-Fi Hotspot Read More ”. Think someone’s using your wireless network? Here’s how to tell How To Tell If Someone Is Using Your Wireless Network Read More !


Backup Your Stuff

No matter how you use your computer, phone, or tablet, you must have a good, solid backup solution, at least for the really important things. We tend to postpone backup for “later”, thinking “it won’t happen to me”, but losing your data once is quite enough. And there’s no reason to be lazy, as backup is pretty easy to set up.

So what do you do?

In a nutshell, your backup solution can consist of one or more of the following options What Is The Best Backup Solution? [Geeks Weigh In] Ten years ago an external hard drive – or even a physical disc such as a CD-ROM – was the only practical way to back up files. Consumer-grade network storage solutions were primitive, expensive and... Read More :

  • An external hard drive
  • A network-attached hard drive
  • Cloud storage
  • CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays, etc.

After deciding on the best solution for you, you can find a list of 10 excellent backup apps right here. Also, read this Read This Before Choosing An Online Backup Provider Backing up your files is a no-brainer - at least it should be. Hardware failure, security breaches, natural disasters, thieving scumbags and clumsiness can all lead to heart-in-mouth moments when you realise that your precious... Read More before choosing an online backup provider. If you don’t feel like reading or deciding, simple head over to Dropbox.com, create an account, and move all your important folders to Dropbox. While this might not be the most secure way to do things, it will make sure your files are there, even if something happens to your computer.


Touch Typing

important technical skills

I have a confession to make: I only use 3 fingers when I type. There, I said it! But you know what? I still don’t have to look at my keyboard while typing, and I type faster than many people who type the right way. Don’t take an example from me, though. One of the best skills you can have for a smoother computer experience is touch typing.

So what do you do?

The best way to improve your typing is, of course, practice, but if typing is a really slow and cumbersome process for you, you might avoid it as much as you can. There are many apps and even games that can help. You’ll find an excellent list of such apps right here, which includes apps for different languages, speed tests, typing lessons, and much more.


Protect Your Devices From Malware

Don’t have an updated anti-virus program installed? Get one right now. Viruses and malware are getting ever sneakier, and you don’t want to remain unprotected. Especially when good protection is available for free, and is very easy to set up.

So what do you do?

Choose one of the free apps from this list The Best PC Software for Your Windows Computer Want the best PC software for your Windows computer? Our massive list collects the best and safest programs for all needs. Read More , install it, and you’re done. If you want to be really secure, check that your program is running a system scan about once a week, and configure it to update automatically. You can then forget about it, and know you’re protected.

Learn How To Use Email

important technical skills


Do you know what to do when you send a mass email? Do you know how to recognize spam? Can you use links and attachments comfortably? If you answered yes to all of the above, you’re probably alright. If you didn’t, these are things you should know how to do.

So what do you do?

In a nutshell, follows these guidelines:

  • When emailing a group of people, enter all the addresses in the BCC field, unless you know for sure these people don’t mind if others in the group see their address. This way, everyone will receive the email, but no one will be able to see anyone’s address but yours.
  • When you get an email with a link or an attachment, and that’s any email, read it carefully to make sure you really know where it came from. Even if you recognize the name and address, you want to be %100 sure the content makes sense to you. Not sure? Don’t open!
  • If you want to include links in your email, the best way to do it is to highlight some text, find the “insert hyperlink” option, and paste the address there. This way, the email is much easier read and the links easier to follow.

Want more? Check out this nice video series on eHow.

Know Your Keyboard Shortcuts

basic tech skills

You don’t really need keyboard shortcuts in order to get by, but once you learn just a handful of them, you won’t understand how you ever made do without them. Assuming you already use Ctrl-C for copy and Ctrl-V for paste, what other basic shortcuts should you know about?

  • Ctrl-X – for cut (copy and delete).
  • Ctrl-Z –  for undo.
  • Ctrl-Y – for redo (brings back what you undid by mistake).
  • Ctrl-backspace – deletes and entire word instead of letter by letter.
  • J and K – are used on many interfaces, such as email, for browsing up and down a list.
  • WinKey-L – locks your PC (make sure you know your password before doing this!).

Bottom Line

There is, of course, an endless amount of skills one can acquire. Even for basic skills, this is not all. But master these 6 basic tech skills, and I assure you, using your computer will become a much safer and more enjoyable experience.

Tell us in the comments about other basic skills you think everyone should have, but don’t!

Image Credit: Child and cat with laptop image via Shutterstock, Typing image via Shutterstock, Man with @ image via Shutterstock, Keyboard image via Shutterstock

Related topics: Email Tips, Online Privacy, Touch Typing.

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  1. Shelly Olmstead
    January 3, 2013 at 3:29 am

    I shared this article on my Facebook page for my friends that claim not to be tech-savvy or "computer people", because I learned the hard way about not having a backup, which I'm paying for at the moment :/

  2. Márcio Guerra
    January 3, 2013 at 1:52 am

    I believe I'm more than a basic user, according to this list! Ehehehe! And I type with almost every finger, with over 50 words per minute, but with a higher record!


    Márcio Guerra

  3. brendon
    December 22, 2012 at 12:36 am

    Cool... Tips helped me out XD

  4. Theo Reisinger
    October 10, 2012 at 1:13 am

    I really feel that people have to accept that computers are part of our life and learn how to use them better. There have been too many times when I've heard the excuse, "I'm not a computer person."

  5. Nancy B
    October 8, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Great tips to pass on. I can't tell you how many email jokes etc. I get from people that show all the previous people it went to email addresses. If I was a hacker or spammer I would have a field day! I told many to use BCC and in the "to" even use their own address and delete all the previous addresses in the email......but no. Still get them!
    Will definitely post to Facebook!

    • Yaara Lancet
      October 8, 2012 at 11:52 pm

      Glad you liked it!

  6. sonnylim
    September 16, 2012 at 6:52 am

    These are important basic tech skills to have to everyone. Time to teach my mom!!!

  7. Shane La Horie
    September 16, 2012 at 3:42 am

    What also needs to be acquired is some common sense.

    • Yaara Lancet
      September 17, 2012 at 6:06 pm

      Very, very true.

  8. RH hassan
    September 16, 2012 at 12:51 am

    awesome tips ........... THAnkss

  9. rish404
    September 15, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Knowing about backing up your data is most important thing IMO

  10. Lorry Bertuzzi
    September 14, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    When sending an email, realize that it is like sending a postcard, it isn't private, also if it was forwarded - remove the previous addresses. Learn how to copy and paste. Install and use an AV program - updating and running scans, the same with an anti-malware program.

    • Yaara Lancet
      September 15, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      Great ideas, thanks!

  11. Eric Hoagland
    September 14, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    So much for ASCII formatting... sheesh.

  12. Eric Hoagland
    September 14, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Before a new user even touches a computer for the first time, new users should receive some basic ground-school:

    1) A basic understanding of what a computer is and what it does. Users should understand basic terminology and the parts of a computer, i.e:
    - CPU, LCD Monitor, CRT Display, HID (Human Input Devices--Mouse, Keyboard)
    - Main memory vs. cache, video, volatile/non-volatile, etc.

    2) A basic understanding of what software is and what it means to the computer, i.e.
    - BIOS, firmware, Operating system, drivers, codecs, CL utilities, applications,
    client-server computing model, etc. (web-apps after internet instruction)

    3) A basic understanding of what a network is, what the Internet is, and what the World Wide Web is. I run into a lot of people who don't understand the difference between these. Some people believe that the WWW is "the whole internet," and this compounds into MASSIVE confusion when they start growing past the web, and want to try different things that they hear about from friends, such as Bittorrent, IRC, FTP, and even email.
    - Some terms to teach: IP, TCP/IP, HTTP, FTP, Flash, JavaScript, ActiveX,
    Ajax, etc.

    4) Finally, the new user should be given a thorough understanding of online (and offline) privacy & security issues, as well as behavior practices, i.e:
    - Disclosure of private data online
    - Good vs. bad email & password practices
    - The very first piece of software to install after the operating system is a good
    firewall/antivirus package (and DO the initial scan)
    - Types of sites to steer clear of: like hacker sites
    - Security vs. usability of web technologies, like: JavaScript & flash
    - Cookies aren't that bad (well, some are) Browser cookies, Flash cookies,
    zombie cookies
    - Lost flash drives & stolen computers
    - Disposing of printed material and old media properly
    - The seemingly endless ways an individual can be exposed online: IP's, etc.
    - "What you upload, will be there. FOREVER!" - So... think before uploading
    - The internet isn't a license to be a jerk. Etiquette matters online even MORE.

    A basic understanding should be imparted before a user ever touches a computer. It will go a long way to clearing up misconceptions and incorrect terminology that causes so much of the confusion that I see on a daily basis. A fresh mind (no matter how old it is) is the perfect opportunity to get out the crayons, and draw some pictures. Get them in the correct mind-set at the very beginning, Show them the big picture, and where everything fits into it.

    Go with them when they buy their first computer. Help them with understanding the exponentially increasing number of confusing acronyms. Help them discover the perfect computer at the perfect price by teaching them to understand what they want to use their computer for, and what they hope to accomplish. A few rules of thumb for them:
    - Understand what you need, vs. what you want, i.e: gaming, audio/video
    production, entertainment, web & email, desktop PC, netbook, ultrabook,
    notebook, tablets & pads
    - Decide beforehand how much money you have to spend (then spend it)
    - Buying a used computer usually means you will get someone else's junk
    - "You get what you pay for... even if you don't realize it yet."

    Whatever you buy, it will be obsolete in 10 months-basic engineering principle.

    But that does NOT mean you will need another computer. Get the best bang for your buck by knowing what you need up-front, then buy the best you can afford. Anything less, and you will be disappointed--you can blame the sales & marketing gods for that.


    This very basic knowledge will form a solid foundation for them to build on when they begin taking on the learning curve. It will serve them their whole lives.

    • Yaara Lancet
      September 15, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      Wow, thanks for taking the time to write this comment, Eric!

      I'm not sure I agree about ALL these things, I don't think everyone should know about JavaScript and Ajax before touching a computer, but it would be nice if people had some basic information before they tried doing something and got in trouble...

  13. Jim Spencer
    September 13, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Actually a pretty good article, and I believe there are even "geeks" and "techies" out there that could use a refresher by reading this!

  14. Darren Reynolds
    September 13, 2012 at 8:50 am

    CTRL + SHIFT + ESC was becoming a popular one on my old laptop.... Thankfully it has now been laid to rest....

    • Yaara Lancet
      September 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm

      At least it's not Ctrl+Alt+Del that became popular. I think I haven't used it in quite a while! Used to be very useful on Windows 98 :)

  15. Dwayne Nicholson
    September 13, 2012 at 3:58 am

    If my friends and family master these I may never hear from them again.

  16. Alex Perkins
    September 12, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Everyone should know their short cuts, I find it so frustrating for some reason when someone highlights, right clicks, then copy, then onto a doc or something, then right click again, then paste. So much wasted time!

  17. salvador hernandez
    September 12, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Great article, this is some good basic info a lot of people who use PCs but don't know what they're doing.

  18. Ellen Odza
    September 12, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Yay! I know all of these already. Okay, I'm not a geek but maybe I can apply for proto-geek status? :-)

    Re typing - I actually took typing in high school way back in the day. Why don't they teach this any more? Frankly, spending 15 min a day in elementary school teaching kids to touch type would have such an impact on the rest of their life (certainly more than a lot of the stuff my kids currently do in school!)

  19. Aung Thu Htet
    September 12, 2012 at 12:45 am

    I don't know that J and K are used as shortcuts on email, for browsing up and down a list. Thanks.

  20. Henry Ward
    September 11, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    I certainly agree with the touch-typing one. I think it would be very beneficial if children were taught it at a young age. Especially in this day and age when typing is so important.

  21. Jonathan
    September 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Windows key + M (minimise all windows)

    ALT + Tab (cycles through open windows)
    ALT, Shift + Tab (cycles opposite way through open windows)

    • Yaara Lancet
      September 12, 2012 at 1:07 am

      Very useful shortcuts! I actually prefer WinKey + D, though, simply shows desktop, it's quicker somehow.

  22. Vampie C.
    September 11, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Quick typing can indeed make a big difference.

    When it gets darker or you want to watch TV at the same time :-)

    • Yaara Lancet
      September 12, 2012 at 1:06 am

      True! It's really useful when it gets dark and I'm too lazy to get up and turn the lights on. :)

  23. Tanguy Djokovic
    September 11, 2012 at 11:10 am

    those are some good trick :)

  24. Richard Borkovec
    September 11, 2012 at 10:16 am

    These are great for the non-tech people. The sad thing, even some "tech" people have problems with some of these. I've had to remove countless viruses from my parents computer, and my dad went to school for computers (granted it was back when 2000 just came out). Once they got a new computer with 7 on it, I set it up for them with all sorts of anit-malware/anti-virus stuff, Chrome, and a nice filter for those virus infested site *cough* lol. I showed my sisters how to use the anti-v/m stuff, and left it at that. They haven't complained since, and it's been about a year.

  25. Andy Wells
    September 11, 2012 at 6:02 am

    typing smoothly is a necessity!

  26. Ahmed Khalil
    September 11, 2012 at 5:33 am

    I agree with all these points, it is simple put it give a good impression, and make you look professional

  27. Va Du
    September 11, 2012 at 4:53 am

    Nice skills to level up but with the newer generation and smartphone users, you have to learn a whole new set of skills these days.

  28. Michael Jan Moratalla
    September 11, 2012 at 4:03 am

    touch typing is really a must if you really want to improve your typing skill.

  29. fatihamzah
    September 11, 2012 at 3:31 am

    You use computer?, you MUST know about these skills

  30. Mimetix
    September 11, 2012 at 3:10 am

    haha i've been testing all combinations with windows key + key

  31. Roystan Ang
    September 11, 2012 at 2:58 am

    gotta try the touch typing apps!

  32. Deekshith Allamaneni
    September 11, 2012 at 2:44 am

    Thanks for the tips. One thing that you've reminded me is touch typing. I tried to practice it but never did. I think I need to improve this. My problem is, I can use my key board easily but when I sit before a new computer, I cannot even type my own name properly.

  33. Anestis
    September 11, 2012 at 2:05 am

    A great online website to learn touch typing is http://typingclub.com/ .

    You learn how to touch type over 100 lessons, and you can save your progress.

  34. Richard Steven Hack
    September 11, 2012 at 12:49 am

    Re antivirus. You need MORE THAN ONE security program to have any chance of being even reasonably secure on your PC. And even then you need to be careful what you click on.

    Don't use more than one antivirus, though - they frequently conflict with each other.

    What you need is one of the free antivirus programs listed, PLUS one of the free antispyware programs which are around - Malwarebytes is one of the best, along with Superantispyware and ThreatFire. You need programs that provide both on-demand scanning and continual protection. Some of the free programs don't provide both, so you may have to pay for the latter function or mix ThreatFire or Spyware Terminator or Ad-Aware with one of the better scanning programs.

    Then in addition, you need to improve the security of your browser. First, dump Internet Explorer and switch to either Firefox or Chrome. Then, for Firefox, install AdBlock and NoScript - the latter blocks JavaScript scripts and Java applets from running until you allow them, while the former blocks ads. For Chrome, get ScriptNo which is similar.

    Then, dump your Microsoft email client, especially Outlook Express and Outlook which are virus magnets, and switch to a Web mail provider.

    Then, dump Adobe Reader for PDFs and use one of the free PDF readers. This will minimize the likelihood of getting infected via a malicious PDF.

    Finally, unless you need to use Java for a banking Web site or you use a program that uses Java, like jEdit or OpenOffice, disable the Java browser plugin or uninstall Java completely.

    Take all these steps and you'll have a reasonably amount of protection. You'll never be one hundred percent secure, however.

  35. Kao Vang
    September 10, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    It's funny because sometimes when I watch my IT coworker type, he does the Right Click > Copy then Right Click Paste. I'm like.. urggh!

    • Lee
      September 11, 2012 at 1:24 am

      I wouldn't say that's always a bad thing. I mainly use keyboard shortcuts for that now, but sometimes I use the right-click menu. The reason is that, if you just selected text with the mouse, it's much easier to keep your hand on the mouse than to go back to the keyboard, get lined up, and press the shortcut.

      Plus, it kind of gives you visual feedback that it actually copied, whereas you might not necessarily know you completely pressed the key (especially if it's a non-familiar keyboard).

  36. Debbie
    September 10, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    Under using email, I would add " know the difference between reply and reply all."

    • Yaara Lancet
      September 11, 2012 at 2:01 am

      Ohhh, brilliant! Don't know how I forgot to mention that one. Thanks!

  37. Philip Nelson
    September 10, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    windows key + d (shows desktop) i use very much

    • Yaara Lancet
      September 11, 2012 at 2:01 am

      Right! Very useful one indeed. I use it all the time too.

    • Mohammed Irfan
      November 22, 2012 at 12:23 pm

      Hey thanks for this! Very helpful. Btw, It toggles the desktop which means hitting that combination again results in getting back to the open windows you had! (Much better than holding the ALT-TAB over to the desktop)

  38. Freecycle Me
    September 10, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Surely one skill is to be an active member of MakeUseOf then they get the cheatsheets, publications and support! :)
    Nice write up and I totally agree, though voice recognition can be up to 97% which ain't bad and you would still need to proof read either method.

    • Yaara Lancet
      September 11, 2012 at 2:01 am

      Haha, MakeUseOf is definitely a good way to learn some skills! :)

      Voice recognition is great if you own good software for it. I find that many of the options out there are just not good enough for actual work.

  39. Steve
    September 10, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    CTRL-L does not lock your computer . . . Windows Key + L locks your computer!

    • Yaara Lancet
      September 11, 2012 at 2:00 am

      Yikes, that's true! That's a complete typo. :) Thanks for catching that! I will it fix it right away.

  40. Prateek Shujanya
    September 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    This was a pretty cool and useful post.

  41. GrrGrrr
    September 10, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    i'm not good at typing. so I have to look at the keyboard to type anything.

  42. Nabil A Swileh
    September 10, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Great Tips specially agreed with Know Your Keyboard Shortcuts.

  43. Vanja Gorgiev
    September 10, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    i agree about the part that non-techs should learn these