First Steps in Photo Editing

Some Easy Techniques

Editing photographs may sound like a tricky proposition, more the concern of professional photographers than Mere Mortals. But do not be dissuaded. There are some very simple techniques that can vastly improve your experiences.

Reducing Size (Resize)

Modern Digital Cameras, even the lesser varieties built into Smart Phones, produce high quality images. And when we hear the words “high quality”, we should always be aware that this also means “high memory usage”. A more detailed photograph takes up more Memory than a less detailed one. You have probably seen cameras advertised as “12 Megapixels”, “20 Megapixels” etc. Now, we know from our Glossary that that Mega means 1,000,000 (or 10^6). Pixels are the “dots” that make up the picture. The more “dots”, the higher quality the image, but also the more Memory the image takes up (as the computer has to record the colour of each separate “dot”.

If you wish to email several photos to someone, you may find that your email provider balks at the idea of including multiple high-memory files. We can get around this by reducing their quality. If the pictures will be viewed on a Monitor, this will not cause any problems.

Searching for the paint app
Searching for the paint app

Go to the Search Bar on your Task Bar, and type “Paint”. This will bring up a menu, headed with the “Paint” program (or App). Click on it to open the Program. From the “File” menu (top left), select “Open”, and find your File. You will probably notice that you can only see a small amount of the image!

Move to the View ribbon (This is the “Paint” ribbon, very similar to the File Explorer ribbon,  but with dedicated Paint functions) and select “Zoom Out” until you can see the whole image. This will probably be Two Clicks.

Note that we have NOT altered the image yet! We have just changed the way we are looking at it!

Now look at the Home ribbon, and find “Resize”. Click to open the “Resize and Skew” Window. (We are not interested in Skewing our photograph today!). 

We are looking to reduce the Image to about 1/3 of the original, which will

Resize and Skew Window
Resize and Skew Window

reduce its memory Size to almost a tenth of the original size! Make sure that “Percentage” is selected, rather than telling Paint to use a particular number of Pixels. Enter “30” into the Horizontal box. Assuming that the “Maintain aspect ratio” box is ticked, you will see the Vertical box adjust to the same figure you entered into Horizontal (unless you would like to “squish” the image by reducing one dimension, but not the other!). Click OK, and you will see that the image shrinks! Go to View -> 100%, and the image should just about fit on the screen.

Go to File -> Save As , and save your edited photo using a new name (I often just add “-small” to the end of the existing name).

NOTE: If you use “Save” rather than “Save As…”, or do not alter the file-name, you will over-write the original photo, and never be able to use the full-quality version again!

If you now close Paint, and open File Explorer, you can navigate to your Photo, and see that you have 2 versions. The original, and the edited one. Hovering over them will show you a Tool-Tip, including the Size. You should notice that the edited one is approximately 10 times smaller! All that saving, for a tiny reduction in quality (that will never be noticed, unless you zoom in to look at details).

Reducing Size (Crop)

Another way of reducing the Memory size of an image is to reduce what is in the image! You can trim off the edges of an image, to focus on the actual subject!

Again, open Paint, and open your Image.

Tim Toady* rears his head again, and suggests the you try opening File Explorer, right-clicking on your File and Choosing Open With -> Paint

Select and Crop
Select and Crop

On the Home ribbon, you should see “Select”. Click here, and the Mouse Pointer will change to a Cross (You may often see the Pointer change, to reflect the current Tool or Function! Keep an eye on this!). You are now able to select an area of the image by Dragging the Cross, and letting go when the Frame is in the right place. If you make a mistake here, do not worry. Nothing has been changed! You can click on a blank area outside of the Image to clear the selection. Now click “Crop”, and watch the image change, removing the areas outside of the selection!

Again, use File -> Save As, give the file a new name (I add -crop to the end) and you have saved a copy that takes up less space!

A good use for this “Cropping” is to remove unwanted parts of a picture! For example, my picture of the Fox’s Glacier Mints plaque has far too much brickwork! I crop it to make it just the plaque!

Just the Plaque
Just the Plaque


Sometime you will open an image to find it is on its side, or upside-down! Do not despair! You will not have to ask your audience to lie on their side, or do handstands to view your pictures!

Open the image in Paint (Tip: Once you have it visible in the Search menu, as described above, right-click it, and select “Pin to Taskbar” so that it is easily-available at the bottom of your screen!).

The Rotate Button
The Rotate Button

On the Home ribbon you will see the “Rotate” button. Clicking here will give you a menu to choose from. Select the required option (or keep selecting ones, until the image is the correct way up!), and then Save As.


As always, it is a good idea to practice these techniques, to become familiar with them, before moving on to more advanced features!

Why not let me know how you get one with this!


*TIMTOWTDI – There Is More Than One Way To Do It!

How to Change Your Wallpaper

What is “Wallpaper”?

The picture that forms that background of your Desktop is called “Wallpaper” (or “Background”). Not to be confused with the pictures or patterns that appear when the computer has been left idle for a while, which is the “Screen Saver(So called because, on older monitors, it helped to prevent “screen burn”, where parts of the monitor would become damaged from displaying the same thing for prolonged periods).

Wallpaper from a Toshiba PC
Wallpaper from a Toshiba PC

By default, your PC is probably set with the Windows 10 Standard Wallpaper, as seen above, or maybe it has been set to the Brand of your PC.

Pleasant as these pictures are, it can be nice to personalise your computer, using your own pictures. Maybe you have taken photos of some memorable holidays, or have been sent photos of your family. A son’s wedding, or daughter’s graduation. A new baby, or a gathering of the whole family. You can choose what you get to see!


Three Little Symbols
Three Little Symbols

First, I would suggest “Restoring” your browser window, so that you can see part of your desktop while reading this Article (the “Squares” button, top right). Now, right-click on a clear area of the Desktop, and you should get a Menu. The last entry will be “Personalize” (excuse USA spelling!). Click this, and you will be presented with the Background Settings window. (Again, “Restore” this, so we can see everything! If you wish, have a read about using Multiple Programs at once).

Background Settings Window
Background Settings Window

You can now choose your settings!

The top picture is a preview of your Desktop. Below this is the Menu to choose “Picture” (a single picture of your choice), “Solid Colour” (a plain background) or “Slide Show” (to make your Background change at regular intervals).

Below this are some suggested Pictures, and a Browse button. Also a “Fit” button.


If you wish to use a single picture as your Wallpaper, select Picture from the Background Menu, and then click Browse. This will open a Mini-Explorer for you to find and choose the picture you desire.

"More Options" View Button
“More Options” View Button

Tip: Use the “More Options” View Button to alter the View of the Pictures so that you can see them more clearly! Keep clicking it to see different Views, or click the little down-arrow to get a choice!

Choose your Picture, and click the “Choose Picture” button! The background will change to the Wallpaper that you have chosen!

Wallpaper Shortcut!
Wallpaper Shortcut!

Tip: A different way to do this is to open File Explorer, find your chosen Picture and right-click on it. The Menu that appears will have “Set as desktop background” as an option!

Solid Colour

If you wish your Background to be a solid colour, chose this option, and you will be given a selection of colours to choose from. Or if none of these suit your taste, you can click the closest, and then choose “Custom Colour”, to adjust it.

Slide Show

If you select this option, you can choose a folder that contains pictures, and your Wallpaper will change between those pictures.

The default time for each picture is 30 minutes, but you can set this as low as 1 minute, or as high as 1 day.

You can also choose to “shuffle” the pictures, displaying a random one each time, or leave them in the order they are in the Folder.

You can choose your Pictures Folder, or any other Folder for this.

Some people like to make their own “Wallpapers” folder, and copy specific pictures into it, and I would recommend doing this, as it avoids Windows trying to display pictures that are not meant as Wallpapers, such as very small pictures, or pictures that are not the right shape.

Choose a Fit

At the bottom of these options, is this Menu, offering such settings as “Fill”, “Stretch”, “Tile”, etc.

These are how Windows deals with Pictures that are not the exact same size as the Screen. Why not try a few, to see how they work.

To Finish:

Why not let me know what you use as your Desktop Wallpaper!

You could even send me a Screenshot!

What do you think of the picture I use?

Phoenix Nebula Wallpaper
Phoenix Nebula Wallpaper

A Closer Look at the Home Ribbon

The "File Explorer" Icon
The “File Explorer” Icon

Open up File Explorer. Across the top of your window there should be a selection of buttons. This is the “Ribbon”. Selecting each of the “Titles” (Home, Share, View) will change which Buttons are available. This Article will be focusing on the “Home” Section. (“View” is explained in this article).

If you do not have the Ribbon showing, try clicking the “Show/Hide Ribbon” button at the top right of your window)

The Show/Hide Ribbon button
Show or Hide the Ribbon using this button!

Now, onto the Features:

Pin to Quick Access

This button is rarely used, but can be helpful if you use a particular Folder a lot. Select a Folder, and click here, to “Pin” that Folder to the Quick Access area of the Navigation Pane.

What does that mean? At the top of the Navigation Pane (left-hand section of File Explorer) is a Section containing links to your Main Folders (Documents, Pictures, etc), and you can add other Folders here, so that they always show up, giving you Quick Access to them!


These buttons will Cut or Copy the selected Item, or Paste the contents of the Clipboard into the current location. More detail of how this works can be found in my previous Article.

Two extra features are the “Copy Path” and “Paste Shortcut” buttons.

Copy Path

Instead of Copying the actual Item you have selected, this will copy the Location of it (as displayed in the Location Bar near the top of the window).

e.g. If I select my “CTRL-X Man” picture, and click “Copy Path”, I will enter the location to the clipboard, which I can then Paste into a Document:

“C:\Users\philw\Pictures\Blog Photos\CTRLXman.jpg”

(Notice that it uses the Full Path, starting from the Drive Letter (“C:” for my main Hard Drive), rather than the truncated version used in the Location Bar)

Paste Shortcut

The Shortcut Tag
The Shortcut Tag

Again, this deals with the Location of an item rather than the Item itself. Select an item and Copy it. Move to a new Location, and Paste Shortcut to create a Link to the original Item. This does not create a  new copy, and you should notice the “Shortcut” tag on the Icon, showing that it is a Pointer, or Shortcut to the actual Item.

Here we note that the Ribbons are organised into Sections. We have just dealt with the “Clipboard” Section, as titled below the Buttons. We now move to the “Organise” Section.


Move To/Copy To

In Windows 10, Microsoft have provided yet another way of moving/copying our Files around.

Select your Item(s), and click one of these buttons. You will be presented with a list of potential Locations to choose. If you cannot see the Location you wish to use, then look at the bottom of the list, where you will find “Choose Location …”. Clicking here will present you with a Mini-Explorer, which you can use to find the desired Location.


This will Delete the selected Item. Actually, it will move it into the Recycle Bin, where it will stay until that is Emptied. This does give you a chance to retrieve Items that are accidentally deleted.

NOTE: Deleting a Folder will delete all of the contents. Any Files and/or sub-folders inside the deleted Folder will also be deleted!


Folder ready for renaming
Blue Highlights

By selecting an Item, and then pressing this button, you can Rename either a File or Folder.

The item’s Name will gain a Border, and highlight in blue, indicating that it is ready for you to type the new Name.


The “New” section deals with adding new Items. As dealt with in my previous Article, there is a button for creating a New Folder.

There is also a Menu called “New Item”, which gives a list of Items you may wish to create e.g. Word Document, Bitmap (picture) file, spreadsheet etc. As this always creates a Blank version, I find it more useful to open the appropriate Program to create a new File.

The Easy Access menu is also one I would not recommend using just yet. Familiarise yourself with how the Explorer system works first.


The only useful button here is “Properties”. Select an Item, and click this, to open a new window that will display quite a  list of properties about it, including File Size, Date  Created, Modified, and Accessed, and other useful information.


  • “Select All” does what it says on the tin. It selects all items in the current location.
  • “Select None”. Ensures that no Items are selected.
  • “Invert Selection” can be occasionally useful. e.g. If I want to delete all Items apart from my CTRL-X-Man picture, I can Select CTRL-X-Man, and Invert Selection so that everything except that file are selected, and then click Delete!


Tool Tip
Tool Tip

You may have noticed that when you “hover” your mouse pointer over a button, a little box appears. These boxes are called “Tool Tips”, and give you Tips about the Tool you are thinking of using! They usually display the Name of the Button you are hovering over, the Keyboard Shortcut (if any), and a brief description of the Function. They can be very helpful for quickly looking along a Menu or Ribbon, to see what Tools are available!


So why not take another look at your Home Ribbon! You may find some features that you never knew were there!

Do you find the Ribbon Buttons easier than CTRL-keys, or right-clicking? Or are you a Keyboard Fan, and use the Mouse as little as possible? Does the F10 key get used?

Why not let people know what you prefer! Maybe you can win over some converts!

Back To Basics 2

In our first Article, we discussed the Desktop, and getting online.

Now we shall move on to Emails. I looked at what email is earlier, and now we look at the practicalities of using it!

Who @ Where Dot Com?

Firstly, you need to a choose an Email Provider. many people choose to use the email service included with their Internet Access (such as by BT, Sky, Virgin, etc), but I would advise against that as a main Email address, as if you choose to switch Internet Provider, you will have to change your email address, and inform all of your contacts (friends, work colleagues, banks, Utility Companies etc) of your new address.  Have a look at which Third-Party Email Suppliers are available.

Note: You may have as many email addresses as you like!

Some of the more popular Suppliers are:

Each of these has their own Sign-Up procedure, but they are very similar. Click the “Sign Up” button, fill in the forms, and choose your email name.

Here is where we run into the first hurdle!

A lot of people would like their own name as their email address, e.g. Now, there are a lot of John Smiths in the world, and each email must be unique! This means you may have to take, or But! These are probably gone, too!

The provider will suggest some available addresses, based upon the details you have given them, or you can keep trying to guess an un-taken one. Maybe use a nickname, or a reference to your hobby.

Example email addresses:

  • (Homer Simpson – The Simpsons)
  • (Benedict Cumberbatch)

Email addresses are not Case Sensitive. “” is the same as “”, and the same as “JohNsMIth@gMAil.coM”.

You can use a dot in your address, to try to distinguish it.
“” and “” are different addresses.

Now that you have an address, you can move on to the next stage!

Webmail or Client?


There are two main ways to do email on a PC.

  • Webmail, where you open your
    Edge, Chrome and Firefox
    Edge, Chrome and Firefox

    web browser (e.g. Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox), and visit the Supplier’s webpage.

  • Email Client Program – a separate program on your PC dedicated to
    Email Client Programs

    email. Popular examples are “Windows 10 Mail App”, Mozilla Thunderbird, and the outdated Outlook Express and Windows Live Mail. If you choose this option, you will also need to decide whether to use POP3 or IMAP. We don’t need to know the ins-and-outs of what these mean: I strongly recommend IMAP, as you are synchronising with the Mail Server directly, and do not have to worry about losing the mail stored on your PC.

Whichever you choose, they tend to look quite similar. A list of folders (Inbox, Trash, Sent Items, etc) on the left, and a list of emails to the right. Sometimes there will be a Preview Pane to the right, or underneath the list of emails. Across the top will be your Tools.


To write a new email, you will need to find the button marked “New Email“, or “Compose” or “Write” (or some variant of this). This will present you with a box to write your new email in.

Writing a New Email
Writing a New Email

You will notice that there are several sections to this. You can move between the sections by Clicking them, or by pressing the TAB key on the left of your keyboard.

  • To” – This is where you type the email address of the person(s) you wish to send an email to. You may add several addresses here, separated by commas.
  • Subject” – Not only is it good ‘Netiquette’ to include a Subject line, some email providers will filter emails without a Subject, thinking they are Spam, or Junk Mail. A word or two is sufficient.
  • The Message Area – Here is where you write your email. While there is an upper limit for how much you can write, it is far larger than most people will want to write. (But if you attach other Files, you may quickly hit this limit – more on attachments later).

Once you have typed who to Send to, entered a Subject, and written the text of the email (including an opening line such as “Dear Sir”, or “Hi Mum”, and a close; “Yours Sincerely, PC Wizard”, “Cheers! Phil”), you are ready to press “Send”.  Some programs/pages have this at the top of the email, others at the bottom.

Once you have Sent the email, it will wing its way across the Internet to the recipient’s Mail Sever, and wait there for them to collect it.


Mostly, you do not have to do anything to Receive email. It is delivered to your Mail Server. If you are using Web Mail (viewing the email Web Page in your Browser), you will see any new emails as soon as you log in. If you use a Client (Windows Live Mail, Thunderbird, etc), they will check for new mail when you open them ,and automatically check again on a schedule (usually about every 10-15 minutes). There is usually a button to “Send/Receive”, which will make sure any of your emails have been sent, and check the Server for new arrivals, but this is not normally needed.

Advanced (Attachments)

Email can only cope with Text. Some clients/pages allow you to use Formatted text (i.e. using Bold, Italics and Colours).

If you wish to send anything else (e.g. Photographs, Word Documents, Spreadsheets, etc), you must use a Feature called “Attachments”. This is often represented by a Paperclip, and adds the File to the Email as an “extra”.

To use this, click the Paperclip icon (or “Attachment” button), and you will be presented with a mini-File-Explorer, to find your File. Navigate to the Folder that it is on, select it and click “Attach” (sometimes “Open”). You should now see a line in the email informing you of the attachment.

An email, with an attachment
An email, with an attachment

There is a limit to how much you can attach to each email, but this changes by Provider. A good rule of thumb is to only include 3-4 Attached Files. If you wish to send more than this, you can either send multiple emails, or use a Cloud-Sharing Service such as Dropbox, Google Drive or One Drive.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

If all this seems a little daunting, the best way to become more confident is to practice sending emails. It will soon become familiar!

Feel free to send me some emails, with or without attachments!

My email address is:

I look forward to hearing from you!

What the F-Keys?

Function Keys

Across the top of your keyboard, you may have noticed a row of keys that go unused. Labelled “F1” to “F12”, they are known as the “Function Keys”, often shortened to “F-Keys”.

As you may suspect from the name, they do actually have a function!

So without further ado, I give you “The Functions of Function Keys”:

  • F1 – Help. Pressing this key will open the Help system for the program you are using.
  • F2 – Rename. In File Explorer, this allows you to Rename the highlighted File or Folder.
  • F3 – Search. In File Explorer, this activates the Search function
  • F4 – Address bar. In Windows Explorer, this will move Focus to the Address bar (or navigation bar).
  • ALT-F4 – Close. Holding the ALT key and tapping F4 will close the current program (or window).
  • F5 – Refresh. In File Explorer or an Internet Browser, this will Refresh the view, making sure that you can see any changes that have occurred. Also useful if a web page has not loaded properly, forcing the browser to attempt to load it again.
  • F6 – Address Bar. Similar to F4, this opens the Address Bar in Web Browsers.
  • F7 – Spell Check. Some programs (Microsoft Word, use this key to run a Spelling Check.
  • F8<No Longer Supported> Safe Mode. This key was used on Booting  to enter the Start-Up menu. Primarily to enter the diagnostic Safe Mode. Modern computers no longer support this.
  • F9<Outlook Only> Send/Receive. If you use the Microsoft Office Suite/Outlook for your email, this key will send any waiting emails, and check for new incoming mail.
  • F10 – Keyboard Mode. In File Explorer, and some other programs, allows you to activate The Ribbon and Menus using the keyboard rather than mouse. Activation Keys are displayed by the Menus. “Esc” (“Escape”) will leave this Mode.
  • F11 – Full Screen. Most Web Browsers, and some other programs, use this to hide “extraneous” parts of the program (such as toolbars and tabs) and display the the web page (or other data) on the whole screen. Pressing again restores the program.
  • F12 – Debug. Some Web Browsers use this to view parts of the Code of web pages, so that developers can hunt down bugs and errors.

The Ones to Look Out For

At the beginning “F1” is always useful for calling up help systems. Hopefully you will need this less as you learn more about your computer.

“F2” (Rename) is useful if you do a lot of Data Manipulation. Digital Photos from your camera will usually be named “DSC0004652.jpg” or similar. Renaming to “FamilyGathering2018.jpg” is a lot more useful.

PRO-TIP: NEVER change the File Extension (.jpg, .doc, .pdf, etc).

“ALT-F4” – Close. Rather than reaching fro your mouse, and pushing it all the way to the top right to hit the “Red X”, you can hold ALT with your left thumb, and tap F4 with your left middle-finger. It may sound tricky, but practice will make it almost second-nature. Particularly helpful if you type a lot.

“F5” – Errors on web pages can often be fixed by refreshing the page.

“F10”  – Keyboard Mode. Some people do not get on with Mice. If you want to reduce mouse-usage, this is a useful key to know (along with the CTRL keys).

Do you play any games that use F-Keys as quick-slots? The “Neverwinter Nights” adventure game uses them to swap your equipment, or cast spells without a complicated set of mouse movements!

Do you have any favourite F-Keys? Do you remember the days when Programs would come with their own strip of card to put by them, to show the program-specific functions?

Have you found any other uses for the F-Keys?

Let us know!

What Are Gigabytes?

An Explanation of Computer Measurements

NOTE: There are multiple Measuring Systems used in computers. Do not be surprised if you come across some that are slightly different to the ones I describe.

To begin, we need to look at the smallest piece of information a computer can deal with. A piece of Computer Memory can be either a One or a Zero, and this is referred to as a “bit (b)”.

Eight “bits” makes up a “Byte (B)”. This is a useful measure, as it is enough to store one Character (e.g. the letter “a” takes up a Byte. The word “Byte” takes four Bytes (one Byte per letter), and so on).

In the early days of computing, it was decided that a useful measure would be the KiloByte. S.I. Units work with multiples of 1,000, but to keep in fitting with the Binary working of computers, it was chosen that a KiloByte was 1,024 Bytes. That is, 2 to the power of 10 (often expressed as 2^10) Bytes, as Binary numbers are all powers of 2. This was close enough to 1,000 to make it seem useful.

Following the S.I. naming convention, but the Computer numbering convention, the following prefixes are used:

Prefix S.I. Measurement Computer Measurement
Kilo- 10^3 = 1,000 KB = 2^10 = 1,024
Mega 10^6 = 1,000,000 MB = 2^20 = 1,048,576
Giga- 10^9 = 1,000,000,000 GB = 2^30 = 1,073,741,824
Tera- 10^12 = 1,000,000,000,000 TB = 2^40 = 1,099,511,627,776

As you can see, there is a small difference between the S.I. Measurement and the Computer Measurement. When we say a kilogram, we mean 1,000 grams, but a kilobyte is 1,024 Bytes, 2.4% different! By the time we get to terabytes (as your hard disk drive may well do), it is nearly 10%!

Most of the time, this will not make any difference to you, and working with “approximately 1,000” is perfectly good enough. Although it is good to know the correct figures.

What you need to know is how much you can store on a hard disk drive, or a memory stick!

Device Size Example Capacity
Floppy Disk 1.44MB = 1,500,000 Bytes 700-1,000 pages of plain text
USB Stick 16 GB = 16,000,000,000 Bytes 10,000 Photos (average of 1.6MB each)
Hard Disk 1 TB = 1,000 GB = 1,000,000,000,000 Bytes Over 250,000 .mp3 music files (an average song is about 4MB)

Older USB Sticks only held 1 or 2 GB of data. While this is a lot compared to Floppy Disks, we didn’t have easy access to Digital Cameras back then! A 1 or 2 GB USB stick will soon fill up!

As you can see, modern storage devices can hold a huge amount of data.


What Do All Those Words Mean?

An Explanation of Basic Computer Terms


We’ll start with the physical items of a computer:

  • Dell Tower PC
    A Dell Tower.

    Case– The Computer. Usually a Black Box with a Power Button, DVD Drive and a couple of flashing lights. All of the work is done inside here.

  • Monitor – Also referred to as a “Screen”, this is the TV-like device that displays what your computer is doing. It does not store any information or do any calculations beyond showing you what the computer is doing.
  • Keyboard and Mouse
    Keyboard and Mouse

    Keyboard – An Input Device. It usually consists of about 100 “keys” marked with the alphabet, numbers, and some symbols.

  • Mouse – Another Input Device. This is used to move a Pointer around the screen, and activate Commands by Clicking the buttons.

The “Case” is NEVER referred to as the “Hard Drive”! There will probably be a hard disk drive within the case, but to conflate these two is to make a fundamental error that will confuse your tech-support person!

But you already knew these. Let’s move on to some of the things you will see on your screen:

On the screen

  • Windows Desktop
    Your version probably does not have the red Text all over it!

    Desktop – The “Main Screen” that you see when you switch your computer on. It will have a Task Bar at the bottom (usually) and Icons for your programs. There will usually be a nice picture as a backdrop, that we refer to as the Desktop Background, or Wallpaper. NOTE: This is NOT your “Screensaver”!

  • Start Menu – The section that pops up when you click the Start Button. This has a list of your programs, and many other useful features.
  • Icons – the little pictures on your Desktop that can be used to open Programs, Folders and Files.
  • Edge, Chrome and Firefox
    Edge, Chrome and Firefox web browsers

    Web Browser – A program used to access the Internet. The most common ones are Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. These all perform the same job, and I like to think of them as being different makes of car. They are made by different companies, but can all take you to the same places (webpages).

  •  Screen Saver – This is the name given to the pretty patterns that move around your screen when it has been idle for a while. Originally designed to stop Monitors from being damaged by displaying the same static image for too long (saving the screen), they are no longer necessary  for that purpose.

Windows and Office

Now, two that some people can get confused:

  • Microsoft Windows 10
    Microsoft Windows 10

    Microsoft Windows – The “Operating System”. The main software that runs your computer. Without an Operating System, your computer will not do anything at all! It will not “operate”.

The latest version is Windows 10, but some people are still using 8, 7 or even Vista or XP.

NOTE: There is no “Microsoft Windows 9”!

  • Microsoft Office
    Microsoft Office

    Microsoft Office – A suite of programs for producing documents. These usually include: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Publisher. These are NOT part of Windows. They are additional programs that can be loaded (although some computers come with them pre-installed).

While these are both made by Microsoft, to call them by each others’ name would be like thinking that a Zanussi Oven and a Zanussi Dishwasher were the same thing!

So, we can now switch our computer on, using the button on the Case, see what it is doing on the Monitor, and give it instructions using the Keyboard and Mouse! We can click Icons on the Desktop to run programs (such as Word, from the Office Suite). We can use a Web Browser to access the internet.

Inside the Case

Do we need to know what is going on “behind the scenes”? Again, like a car, it can be useful. You don’t need to know how an engine works to drive a car,  but you can get a better experience if you have some understanding of what the clutch and gear-stick do! So let’s have a brief look under the bonnet!

  • Motherboard – Also called the Main Board, this is the large circuit board that holds all the other pieces together. You put the CPU and RAM in here, and connect the cables for Hard Drives and other components.
  • CPU – Central Processing Unit. The “Chip”. This is where all of the hard work, the calculations and processing is done. Yours is probably made by either Intel (of ‘Pentium‘ fame), or AMD.  There is much discussion about which chips are better. That is beyond the scope of this article!
  • Memory – There are two main types of memory in a computer. RAM Memory and Storage Memory. RAM is short-term memory, where the computer does its calculations, and where “open” documents are stored, while they are being worked on. When a Document is “Saved”, it is transferred to Storage Memory (usually a Hard Disk Drive). Storage Memory holds all of the information that the computer will need, but is not currently using.

You can find more information on how the internals of a computer work in my up-coming Article: “How the Internals of a Computer Work”. <Not currently available>

Bits of Bytes

Most people have heard the words Gigabytes, Megabits, etc. but how many of us know what they mean?

For a full explanation, visit “What are Gigabytes“.

The smallest piece of data a computer works with is called a “bit”. A “bit” can be a “1” or a “0”.

Eight “bits” are called a “Byte”, and this is the common measure of data, as it can use the combination of eight “ones” and “zeros” to make a useful piece of information.

Computers follow a system very similar to the S.I. Units that we are more familiar with.  A Kilo-gram is 1,000 grams. A kilo-byte is ~1,000 bytes.

In computer terms, “Kilo” actually means 1,024, rather than 1,000 as it is a neater Binary number. For most purposes, we can consider them close enough.

A Mega-byte (MB) is a thousand Kilo-bytes (KB), or a million bytes (B).

A Giga-byte (GB) is a thousand Mega-bytes (MB), or a billion bytes (B).

A Terra-byte (TB) is a thousand Giga-bytes, or a million Mega-bytes, or a billion Kilo-bytes.

Your hard disk drive is probably measured in hundreds of Gigabytes, or possibly 1 or 2 Terrabytes, telling us how many Bytes of data it can store.

Your internet speed will be measured in Mbps (mega-bits per second, or millions of bits per second), telling us how fast it can send/receive 1s and 0s.

Other Terms

So, what have we missed out?

Are there any terms that have you confused? Or any that you wish you understood better?

Let us know!


What a Drag, Man!

Drag-and-Drop explained

One tool we haven’t touched on yet in these articles is “Drag and Drop”. Or any of the uses of “dragging”. So, here we go:

“Dragging” is to place the mouse-pointer over something, hold down the button, and then move the pointer. Release the mouse button to “Drop”.

There are several uses for this, and we shall be looking at a few of the more common ones.

Moving Windows

You can move a window around the screen by dragging its Top Bar. To try this:

  • The "File Explorer" Icon
    The “File Explorer” Icon

    Open a File Explorer window.

  • Make sure it is “Restored”, rather than “Maximised” (Click the “Squares” button in the top right, until it does not fill the whole screen).
  • Now, place the mouse pointer somewhere near the top of the window, in the middle. You will want to be just a couple of millimetres from the top of the window.
  • Hold down the left mouse-button.
  • Keeping the mouse-button held down, move the mouse around the screen (Drag).
  • You should see the window Follow your mouse, as you Drag it around!
  • Let go of the Mouse Button (Drop). The window will now stay where you leave it!

Try dragging a window to the edge, or top of the screen! Notice how it does something slightly different? Dragging windows to the sides will resize them to exactly half of the screen, leaving room for another window in the other half. Dragging to the top will “Maximise” the window, filling the whole screen, just as if you had pressed the “Squares” button (top right).

Moving Files

While we have File Explorer open, lets see what we can do with Files.

Go into your Documents folder. Hopefully you have a file or two in here. Choose one to run this exercise with.

Hover the mouse pointer over the file. Hold down the left button, and then move the mouse. You should see the file, or a “Shadow” of it, follow your pointer.

For now, move back to where you began, and release the button (drop), while we look at what we can do with a Dragged file:

Drag and Drop
Drag and Drop
  • If you have a sub-folder in your Documents Folder, you can drag files into them by dragging them ‘over’ the sub-folder, and dropping them. This is useful for organising files. If you have several related files, you can create a New Folder, and drag all of the files into it.

You should see the “Tool Tip” appear, alerting you to what action will be taken when you Drop. Here, we see it will “Move to House Files” (the sub-folder).

  • You can also Drag onto the Navigation Pane. Maybe you saved a photo into Documents, but realise that you would like it in Pictures. Drag and Drop it there!
  • If you have more than one File Explorer window open, you can drag files from one window to another. This can either be done with “Restored” windows (partly filling the screen), or “Half-windows” (by dragging to the edge of the screen, as noted above).

Moving Icons

Desktop Icon
Icons, grouped as I like them

On the Desktop, you can Drag you Icons around, organising them in groups of similar Programs.

Opening With Paint
Opening With Paint

You can also drag a data-file (such as a photo, or text document) over the Icon for a program, and Drop it on that Icon, to open the file using that program. This can be useful if you have more than one program (e.g. I can edit photos using Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or Paint).

So There We Have It

Several uses for Drag and Drop.

If you find Dragging difficult, you can practice by using the Microsoft Solitaire Collection to play some card games, as these require you to Drag cards around to play the games! You may think you are wasting time, but you are actually learning!

Now you can arrange your desktop, and organise you files!

Let me know what you find Drag and Drop useful for!

A Closer Look at the Navigation Pane

That is, the left-hand Menu, in File Explorer

Documents Folder, with many Files and Folders in it
Documents Folder, with many Files and Folders in it

If you remember our earlier Article, you will recall the sections of the File Explorer window. Here we will examine the left-hand menu, or “Navigation Pane”, to give it its proper title.

The "File Explorer" Icon
The “File Explorer” Icon
The Navigation Pane
The Navigation Pane

So, open your File Explorer, Maximise it (the “Squares” button at the top right) to fill the screen, and take a look at the Navigation Pane. If you do not have the left-hand menu, try clicking “Navigation Pane” on the View Ribbon, and ensuring the entry “Navigation Pane” is ticked!

Now, What you will see is a list of Folders and Locations. From this list, we can easily navigate to any area of our File Structure that we wish!

So, let’s have a look at what we have:

At the top will be “Quick Access”. This lists your Main Folders (Desktop, Documents, etc), plus your most recently accessed Folders. You can add or remove folders from this area, but for now, we can leave it as-is.

We then have One Drive, the Microsoft online Cloud Storage. This will be discussed elsewhere.

And then, “This PC”. Here, again, we have a list of the Main Folders, and then any Disk Drives attached to the computer. “C:” is your System Drive, and may be titled “OS” (for Operating System), or “Windows” (for that is the Operating System you are using), or some other label. You probably have a DVD Drive, which will be shown here (Mine is the H: Drive, and currently has “The Settlers IV” Game CD loaded). You may also have other drives, such as USB Flash Drives, or External Hard Drives.

Network and Homegroup are for if your PC is connected to other computers on your network.

So what can we do?

Sub-Folder Tags
Sub-Folder Tags

I’m glad you asked!

The main use is to navigate quickly from one location to another. Try clicking on “Pictures”. You should notice that the Main Window now displays your Pictures Folder, and the Navigation bar (above the Main Window) shows “This PC > Pictures”. Now Click on “Documents”. And “Pictures” again.

We can also explore sub-folders. Move your mouse over the “This PC” section, and you should see some “>” tags. These show you that the Folder has Folders inside (beneath) it. Clicking a tag will show you these subfolders!

My Music collection is not very extensive, but this shows the structure of my Collection. My Music includes some audio from the BBC (namely Dr Who episodes), some Heather Nova, and a whole bunch of sound effects!

The keen-eyed amongst you will have noticed that tags of folders that we can see inside (such as “Music”, and “bbc audio”, in this case) are pointing downwards, and also their contents is slightly indented.

That’s All Folks!

That is pretty much all there is to the Navigation Pane.

It is a useful tool for moving around your folders.

If you prefer to recover your screen real-estate, you can switch it off using the View Ribbon > Navigation Pane button!

Do you find it useful? Which folders do you use it to jump between? Let us know!