Many people who start using a computer are discouraged because they've heard all the ads that say how "easy" computers are to use. I'm here to tell you that, you aren't a "dummy" just because you find your computer difficult to operate. A computer is an inherently complex thing and you have to start somewhere. Just as you wouldn't go chop down a tree without first reading how a chain saw operates and the proper way to fell a tree (would you?!), give your poor battered ego a break. If you take a little time to learn a few computing tips and tricks, you'll feel more confident in no time. And the good news is that all the information you learn builds on itself. Here are a few "rules" I've learned about computers after using them for many years.
- Computers crash: Know that it is not a matter of "if" your computer will crash, but "when." You can increase the reliability of your computer by taking preventive maintenance steps (more on that in future columns). However, not all the problems may be your fault. Programmers make mistakes in their software. They are human. Computers crash because they were built by humans. That's just the way it is.
- Save Often: This is the corollary to rule 1. Save often because your computer will probably crash at the worst possible time. Along the same lines, back up important data to a disk, CD, or tape in case things go really bad.
- Keyboard shortcuts are faster than the mouse: Learn keyboard shortcuts like Ctrl+X (cut) Ctrl+C (copy), and Ctrl+V (paste) and you'll save tons of time.
- Don't Get Delete Happy: If you don't know what a file does, don't delete it. Lots of programs use many extraneous "helper files" and if you delete them your software can become unstable (back to rule #1).
- Turn it Off: Many mysterious problems are solved by shutting down the computer (choose Shut Down from the Start menu). Turning the computer off and then back on, especially after you have installed new hardware or software can sometimes clear addled circuitry.
Those are a few things to get started. Next time, I'll give you a few preventative maintenance tips to help your keep your computer humming along.