Computers for Beginners/More Basics

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Background Information

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Any information that is stored on the computer for later use is saved in a file. If there was music on your computer, it might be saved in an mp3 or ogg vorbis file. If one acquired a picture of a monkey and wanted to save if for later use, they might save it as a jpg or png file.

File Naming

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When there is a file on the computer, it is saved on the storage drive with a name. This name can be whatever you may desire, but it will have an extension at the end. For example, the picture of a monkey might be called monkey.png. There may be spaces, dashes, and underscores in file names. Using any other special characters such as parenthesis and @ symbols is generally a bad idea. Capital Letters can also be used. If you had a band with the name of Green Pickles and a song called Soup, the name for this song on the computer could be GreenPickles-Soup.mp3, Green Pickles - Soup.mp3, green_pickles-soup.mp3, or whatever you want.

There will also be times when files don't have an extension. Those are mostly text files or executable files which will be explained.

Organizing and Creating Files

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Hard drives are very big these days, and people have a whole bunch of files. To organize all of these files, a method that can be thought of as a brief case can be used. To look at files, humans use a file manager. Clicking on My Computer from the desktop or start menu will do.

Try this:

  1. Click on My Computer on the Desktop or Windows Explorer (Start -> Accessories -> Windows Explorer).
  2. Go to Tools -> Folder Options... and click on the File Types tab.
  3. If "Hide extensions for known file types" is checked, uncheck it by clicking in the checkbox.
    • The previous two steps are not necessary but very useful.
  4. Go to the c: drive (pronounced "c drive") by double clicking on it.
    • You have just dived into your hard drive. This is where most of your files are stored.
    • a is the floppy drive, d is usually the cd-rom or dvd-rom drive, and other peripherals like usb drives are the next letters.
  5. Scroll up and down. You should see quite a few folders. One will be called "Program Files" and another one will be called "Windows." There will also be more.
  6. The first thing you need is a place to put all of your personal documents. Luckily, Windows has these folders already pre-made. There are folders called My Documents in Windows.
    1. When you are in the c drive, right click in empty space and click New -> Folder. You can also do this by going to File -> New -> Folder. Give the folder your name by typing it, and press Enter on the keyboard when your finished.
  7. Now, go into that folder by double clicking on it.
  8. If you want, make a few more folders inside of that one for more organization. For example, have one for pictures, one for school/work, one for music, and whatever you can think of. You can also make those folders as you go along.
  9. Close the window when finished.

Now we are going to make a simple file.

  1. Open Notepad.
  2. Type "Hello, I am practicing my computer skills" or whatever you want to type.
  3. Click on File -> Save As
  4. Navigate to C:\YourName\ and call the text file practice.txt.
  5. Open My Computer or Windows Explorer.
  6. Go to C:\YourName\
  7. You will see that there is a file called practice.txt.
  8. Double click on it.
    • practice.txt was just opened by Notepad!
  9. Close Notepad.

Moving Files with the Cut, Copy, and Paste

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You will now learn how to move files.

  1. Open up My Computer or Windows Explorer
  2. Make a new folder in your folder called computer-practice. For example, it could be C:\YourName\computer-practice\.
  3. Go to C:\YourName\, right click on practice.txt, and press copy.
  4. Go to C:\YourName\computer-practice\
  5. Right click in empty space and choose paste.
  6. Go to C:\YourName\, right click on practice.txt, and press delete.
    • When the file is deleted, it is not gone forever. To remove it more, read about the <recycle bin>.
    • To save time, cut could have been used instead of copy. The difference is that when you paste after pressing cut, the file is deleted from its original location. You shouldn't use this too much just in case something goes wrong.

Moving one file at a time is fun, but sometimes we need to move a whole bunch at a time.

  1. Go to C:\YourName\computer-practice\
  2. Copy practice.txt
  3. Press paste lots of times. (Hold ctrl and keep pressing v)
    • The new files will be renamed to something like "copy of practice.txt"
  4. There are two ways to select all of the files in this folder.
    1. Press Ctrl-A or Edit -> Select All
    2. Click the one on the top, hold shift, and click the one on the bottom.
  5. When they are all highlighted, right click on one of them and press copy.
    • As usual, the same thing can be done with Edit -> Copy or Ctrl-v
  6. Go to C:\YourName\
  7. Paste the files
  8. Delete all the text files that you just made in C:\YourName\

Sometimes, you only want to select some of the files in a folder

  1. Go to C:\YourName\computer-practice\
  2. Click on the first file.
  3. Hold shift down and click on another one towards the middle.
    • The files you clicked on and everything in between has been selected.
  4. Click in empty space so everything is deselected.
  5. Click on the first file again.
  6. Hold ctrl and click another file.
    • The files you clicked are the only ones that are selected.
  7. Hold ctrl and click yet another file.

Searching For Files

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Knowing the name of a file, but not the location, can be very aggravating. Who wants to spend hours searching through an endless amount of folders? The answer is not very many people and that is what file searching is for.

Let's say that someone has a file called This person lost it, so they are now going to find it quickly. Here's what the person would do.

  1. Right click Start -> Search.
  2. Type in the file name, select where the file may be located [i.e. My Documents, My Computer.]

There are other things to be done with the find utility. One feature is using *. The * means that anything can be there. For example, searching for *.ogg would find any file that had a .ogg at the end. Searching for *report* would find anything that had the word report in the file name.


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A shortcut is a file that leads to another file or a website. There main use is for the desktop (The screen behind all the windows. Icons are on the desktop).

Here is one way to use a shortcut.

  1. Right click on the desktop.
  2. Click New -> Shortcut
  3. A wizard will come up.
  4. Make the shortcut name "Notepad" and the link location C:\WINDOWS\system32\notepad.exe.

With this shortcut, you can open Notepad in the click of a button. You may now delete this shortcut if you think you'll never use it by right clicking on it.

Here is one way to use an Internet shortcut.

  1. Open up My Computer or Windows Explorer
  2. Go to C:\YourName\computer-practice\
  3. Do the same thing that you would do to make a folder, but click shortcut instead.
  4. A wizard will come up.
  5. Make the shortcut name "Never Used A Computer" and the link location

With this shortcut, you can go to this book's website when you are in the computer-practice folder. You may now delete this shortcut because you'll probably never use it.


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When a file or more than one file is too big, compression can be used. Compression is used on the internet a lot because it is better to download smaller files. If you've ever seen a file with a .zip extension, then you have witnessed the most common type of compression in Windows. There are also compression formats with a .gz, .bz2, or .rar extension.


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"I got a .zip file from the Internet, now what?" is a common question. The answer is actually quite simple starting with Windows XP. All you have to do is right click on it in My Computer or Windows Explorer and choose "Extract All..." A wizard will come up and it is pretty straightforward. When you click next, it will ask you where to put the files. The default folder is usually good, but you can change it if necessary. Also, if the file has a password, click the Password... button and type it in. When you click Next, the files will be extracted to the directory, and one more thing will come up. It'll be a check box that says "Show extracted files". It is a good idea to make this unchecked because it'll open up a new window if you don't, which is annoying.

If you have an older version of Windows or want to be able to extract files other than zip files, a great option is 7-zip. It works basically the same way as the first method, or you can use their 7-zip File Manager which should be in the Start Menu.


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Just like files can be uncompressed, it is also possible to make your own .zip files. The easiest way to do this is to do these steps.

  1. Open up My Computer or Windows Explorer
  2. Right click on a file or folder that you want to be compressed.
  3. Choose Send To -> Compressed (zipped) Folder
    • A .zip file with the same name as the original file for folder will be created in the same directory as the original file or folder.
    • For example, if there was a file called C:\Ronald\Bacon\BaconBenefits.doc, and you compressed it, there would now be a file called C:\Ronald\Bacon\ BaconBenefits.doc is still there.
  4. If you want to add to the archive, right click the .zip file and click Open.
  5. You can add more files by copying and pasting them in the new window that opens up.

The same can be done in other applications such as 7-zip, WinZip, and WinRar.

Types of Applications

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There are a few types of applications

  • Open Source - Free software where the source code, the language programmers use to make computers do their jobs, is available to everyone. Anyone can change the code and see how it works.
  • Freeware - This is free software that you may acquire legally without any fees.
  • Shareware - This is free software that you may acquire legally without any fees. However, there may be some restrictions (e.g. more advanced features may require a payment.)
  • Commercial - This software is normally sold in boxed packages.
  • Free-Trial - This software allows a period of time where the software can be used without cost, but extended use requires a small payment.

Installing Applications in Linux

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Most Linux-based operating systems come with a package manager, a tool that simplifies the process of installing and removing programs, and automatically updates installed software. A list of how to install application in major distributions follows (application= name of application you want to install):

Arch/Chakra Linux

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pacman -S application

Fedora/Red Hat Linux

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dnf install application


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apt install application

Installing Applications in Windows

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Your computer probably came with some software already on it, but what if you need to do something fancy? For almost every task you could think of doing with a computer, there is a software program to let your computer do it.

There are a few ways to install applications

  • Install from the internet
    • Install a program from the Microsoft store application. This simplifies the install, and handles updates for you.
    • You download a file, extract it if it's compressed (.zip, .bz2, .gz, etc.), click on the file with a .exe extension, and follow instructions.
    • On a very rare occasion you have to compile a program from source. This can be tough, but the program will probably have a file called INSTALL that should be read.
  • Install from a CD or DVD - You put the disc in the drive and follow instructions. The defaults will usually work fine.

Learning is fun, so here's some more useful info. An executable file has either no extension at all or a .exe extension. When a file is executable, you can run it and it will do something. For example, the executable for Notepad is C:\WINDOWS\system32\notepad.exe. When you click on Start -> Accessories -> Notepad, it is really the same thing as going to notepad.exe in Windows Explorer and double-clicking it.

Uninstalling Applications

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Sometimes a application is installed, but you don't want it anymore. Removing unwanted applications is like eating pie, easy.

  1. Go to Start -> Control Panel -> Add or Remove
  2. Highlight what you want to remove by clicking on it.
  3. Press Remove or Change/Remove
  4. Follow the instructions. They will most likely be pretty straight forward.


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This chapter will not explain every secret and tweak in Windows. What it will do is describe things that everyone should know in terms of customizing their computing experience to suite their needs.

Start Menu

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Applications usually put themselves in the Start Menu automatically, but you may find that there is something that needs to be added or tweaked.

There are two ways to edit what is inside of the start menu. Try the first one, and if that doesn't work, the second method will work.

Dragging, Dropping, and Right Clicking
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Auto-Hide the Taskbar

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Have you ever seen someone's desktop and noticed that there is no taskbar, but then when they put their mouse at the bottom of the screen, it appears? That is called auto-hiding the taskbar. This is the kind of thing where some people love it and some people hate it. Here's how to do it.

  1. Right click on the taskbar.
  2. Click Properties.
  3. Check Auto-hide the taskbar.
  4. Press OK or Apply. (Apply won't close the window)

To make it normal again, do the same thing but this time uncheck the box.

Show Quick Launch

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  1. Do the first two steps as Auto-Hide the Taskbar.
    1. Right click on the taskbar.
    2. Click Properties.
  2. Check Show Quick Launch.

To deactivate it, do the same thing but this time uncheck the box.

Screen Size (Resolution)

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There are two factors in determining the size of an image on the monitor. The first one is obvious, the physical size of the monitor. These would be values like 22", 24", 28", etc. Of course, this can't be changed without buying a new monitor.

The other thing that can determine the size of images on the screen is the resolution. To understand it, you have to know a little bit about how monitors work. It's not much.

A pixel is dot on the screen that has exactly one color. When all of those dots are combined, they make up what you see on the monitor. The resolution is how many dots are on the screen. When people describe resolution, they are talking about how many rows and columns of pixels there are, like a chess board. For example, a resolution of 1920x1080 means that there are 1920 pixels going from the left to the right of the screen in one row, and there are 1080 pixels going from the top to the bottom of the screen in one column.

Changing the resolution is very simple in Windows.

  1. First right click on the desktop, the area in the screen where the icons are, and click properties. You can also do the same thing by going in Start -> Control Panel -> Display.
  2. After that, go to the Settings tab.
  3. Click and hold the slider under Screen Resolution. Let go when you are at a suitable resolution.
    • 1920x1080 is a good choice. If your monitor can go higher, then do that if the text isn't too small.
  4. Press Apply.
    • If the screen looks really weird and gets all funky, don't panic. If you don't press Ok to the dialog that comes up, it will automatically change back to where it was in a few seconds.