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How to Use the Notification Area

As we learnt previously, the Windows 10 Notification Area is in the bottom right-hand side of the Desktop.

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

There are many useful features available here, but the Default Setting is to hide most of it. I shall explain here how to un-hide the Icons, so that you can see what is going on, and access the features!

The “View Hidden Icons” button

At the left-hand side of the Notification area, you should see the “View Hidden Icons” button. It looks like an upwards-pointing arrow, or chevron.
(You may have the “People” icons next to it. You can safely ignore this)

Clicking this button will temporarily reveal the rest of your Notification Icons. but if you wish to have them permanently available, you will have to delve into the Settings area. This is not as scary as it sounds, and I shall guide you through the steps.

First, right-click on the Arrow, to show the Taskbar Menu:

Now, click on “Taskbar Settings” to open the settings window. You may have to scroll down this window a little way, to find the Notification Area section. Here there will be an entry “Select which Icons appear on the Taskbar”. Click this to move to the next stage.

This next window will have lots of different Entries, but we can ignore them all, apart from the very first section, labelled “Always show all icons in the Notification Area”. There is an “Off/On” button here, which you can ‘toggle’ by clicking it.

Try clicking it, while watching the Notification area. You should notice the icons appear and disappear!

With the button set “On”,, and the Icons showing, you can now close all of the Settings windows (using the “X” in the top right-hand corner).

Your Notification Area will now always show all of the Icons!

So Now What?

Well, it depends what Icons you have! Each system is set up slightly differently, and no two computers are the same!

There are some common elements, though, and I shall give you a brief tour through my Icons!

“System Notifications” will show if Windows wishes to tell you anything. Clicking it will reveal the message.

The Clock is pretty self-explanatory

Language Settings can be used if you wish to have Windows use a different language! (Note: There is a bug that sometimes switches it to USA English! Here is where you switch it back to UK English)

The Network Icon shows if you are connected to a network (If it is WiFi, it will show radio-waves). A Red Cross or Yellow Triangle is an indication that there is an Error on the Network.

Speaker Volume is controlled by clicking the Speakers Icon. You can see here that mine are on “Mute”.

Icons can always be clicked to call up their Menu, depending which Icon they are, and this gives you access to their settings.

So now you know!

Mostly, you will not need these Icons, but I find it very useful to be able to see them. If you prefer to hide them, you can follow the instructions above, and choose to Hide them.

How to Set Up Automated Backups

As I have said before, backups are important. Exactly how important is up to you. How upset would you be if your computer broke, and you lost all of the information on it? Photos, letters, funny pictures, invoices, receipts, notes. All of it. If the answer is not “There is nothing there that I need” then you need backups.

My previous Article showed how to do Manual backups, but as people are forgetful, and put things off, I shall also explain how to set the Windows 10 Automated Backup.

You Will Need:

  • An external hard disk, with lots of spare capacity (how much will depend upon how much data you have, but 1 Terrabyte/1,000 Gigabyte is usually sufficient.)
  • An hour to read this Article and set up your Backup.

To Begin:

The Settings Icon
The Settings Icon

Connect your external drive. This is usually done via a USB cable. Most desktop computers have USB sockets on the front. Laptops have them positioned at the sides, or sometimes the back. It may take a moment or two for the PC to recognise the drive. It may chime to tell you that it has been detected.

If you open File Explorer, and use the Left-hand Navigation Pane to go to “This PC”, the drive should be displayed in the main screen. Now that we have confirmed that the Drive exists, we can close File Explorer.

Update and Security
Update and Security

Now, we go to the Windows 10 Settings screen. Click your START Button to see the Menu, and click on the “Settings” icon. This will open a new Window, with many Settings available. Take a glance, to see what sort of things you are able to alter, and find the Icon labelled “Update and Security (Windows Update, recovery, backup)”. This is where we find the backup Settings!

Three Little Symbols
Three Little Symbols

I like to make sure the Settings Window fills the entire screen. To do this, as we learnt previously, you can click the “Maximise” square int he top right of your Window.

Setting up the Backup

On the left of the Update and Security window is a list of different areas we can change. Today, we want “Backup”. Click on it.

You should now have the Backup Settings screen. AS you have not used this External Hard Drive before, you will have to “Add a Drive”.

Adding a Drive
Adding a Drive

Clicking the Add a drive Icon will produce a list of available disk drives. You should be able to identify your External Hard disk on this list, and click on it.

You should notice the “Add a drive” button has now changed! In its place is an “Automatically back up my files” switch. You can switch this On or Off by clicking on it. We want it On!

The backup is now set!

We could leave it there, but you may wish to check the “More Options” area, to see what is happening.

More Options

Backup Options
Backup Options

This area allows you to fine-tune your backup settings. It is perfectly OK to leave it alone, as Windows 10 has pretty good default settings. But let’s take a look anyway!

  • Overview – This gives us some details of the Drive we are using.
  • Back up my files – sets how often to do backups.
  • Keep my backups – you can set for older backups to be deleted. I do not recommend this! Keep them forever!
  • Back up these folders – There should be a losy of which folders Windwos has decided to back up. Look through this list, to make sure that the folders you need are there! This would usually include: Documents, Pictures and Desktop. If you also store Music or Videos, check that these folders are listed. There will be other folders listed, and it is best to keep these.

Back Up Now!

Now we are happy that the back up settings are correct, scroll to the top of the Window and click the Back up now Button!

How long this will take depends upon how much data you have. I would suggest leaving your PC for at least an hour to ensure that the files are successfully copied to your backup drive.

You can continue to use your PC while it is doing backups.



How to Organise Your Desktop

We know what our Desktop is,  and what all the parts of it do, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could personalise it? Just like you can arrange your desk at work, make room for the things you use most, add ornaments, and photographs of loved ones, you can do the same with your Computer Desktop!

The default Windows 10 Desktop has the blue “Windows 10” background, and Icons arranged in rows down the left-hand side.

We already know how to change the Background. Let’s have a look at what else we can do:

Rearranging Icons

Firstly, we want to make sure we are in the right “mode”. We can have Windows automatically arrange the Icons, or do it ourselves.

Desktop Menu
Desktop Menu

Right-Click a blank area of Desktop to get a Menu. If you hover the mouse over “View”, you will see the sub-menu (you can tell that it has a sub-menu from the “>” symbol!). Here you can choose the size of your icons (my advice is to try all three sizes, and go with the one you prefer. You can always change later). You also want to look at the Second section of this menu:

  • Auto arrange Icons – If you select this option, the icons will all line up down the left-hand side, and you will not be able to move them around. Leaving it “unchecked” (i.e. not having a ‘tick’ by the side of it) will allow you to arrange the Icons yourself.
  • Align Icons to grid – You will want this Checked, otherwise the icons will not line up neatly.
  • Show desktop Icons – If you UnCheck this, all of your Icons will disappear! They are not deleted, but you will not see them. Check it, to bring them back.

Now we can get on with arranging the Icons as we like.

As explained earlier, we can Drag’n’Drop the Icons around the desktop. Move them into groups of similar programs (e.g. Word, Excel and PowerPoint Office programs all together), or programs you use at the same time (Scanning programs, photo editors and email client, if you scan, edit and email a lot of pictures!).

Adding and removing Icons

If you do  not have an Icon on the Desktop for a program you would like, it can be added.

The main way of doing this is to find the program on the Start Menu, and Drag a Link to the Desktop:

  • The Start Button
    The Start Button

    Click the Start Button, and find your Program on the Start Menu.

  • Click-and-hold the mouse over the Menu Icon
  • While still holding the mouse button down, “Drag” the Icon to an area of Desktop.
  • You should see a “link” box appear. Release the mouse Button.

Dragging a Link from the Start Menu
Dragging a Link from the Start Menu

You now have a new Icon! You may move this around as you please!

Shortcut Arrow
A Shortcut

NOTE: When you drop your Icon into the Desktop, you should notice that it has a small Arrow in the corner. This denotes that  the Icon is not the actual Program, but a link to it. The Icon may be moved, deleted or altered without having any effect upon the Program!

Note 2: Do Not place Original files/programs on the desktop! The Desktop works best with shortcuts/links to the originals

Note 3: DO NOT keep your DATA on the Desktop! Data is best kept in your Main Folders (Documents, Pictures, etc). If you need easy access from the desktop, the next section shows how to create a Desktop Shortcut to your Data Folders!

Creating Shortcuts to Data Folders

Leaving Data on the Desktop can be a problem for several reasons:

  1. Some Backup methods are only set to back up data from your Documents and Pictures Folders. Any data on your Desktop may not be Backed Up!
  2. Your Computer has to work harder to keep track of all of the Files if they are on the Desktop. Being visible most of the time means the Computer has to keep inspecting them to ensure that the display is correct and up to date.
  3. Files are harder to find if they are not organised carefully. A little time spent creating folders in your Documents Folder (and placing shortcuts on the desktop if needed) will save a lot of time and effort later.
  4. The Desktop can only show so many items, whereas a Folder in File Explorer can be scrolled to show many more items.

The two main ways to create shortcuts to Folders are:

  • Right-Click on the folder you wish to Link. The Menu will have “Send to”. Hovering over this gives a sub-menu with “Desktop (Create Shortcut)”

    Send To Desktop
    Send To Desktop
  • Create Shortcut!
    Create Shortcut!

    Right-Click-Drag the folder to the desktop. You will need File Explorer “Restored”, i.e. not filling the whole screen, so that you can see some of your Desktop. Right-Click the Folder, and keeping the button held down, Drag it out of File Explorer, onto your Desktop. When you release the button, you will get a new Menu, where you can choose “Create Shortcut”.

These methods will create Shortcuts to your Folder on the Desktop, giving your quick and easy access to your Data, without cluttering your Desktop with too many data Files!

Renaming Icons

When a new Icon is created, they often have long names, including a note that they are a shortcut. As we are trying to reduce clutter, and we already know they are a shortcut by the Arrow on them, we are able to rename them.

Shortcut ready for renaming
Shortcut ready for renaming

Using the same tool mentioned in regards to Files and Folders, Icons can be renamed by selecting it and then either pressing the “F2” key on  your keyboard, or right-clicking it, and selecting “Rename” from the menu. This will highlight the Icon Name in blue, and you can type your new name here, pressing “Enter” (or “Return”) to finalise the renaming.

Removing Icons

To remove an Icon from the Desktop:

  1. Shortcut Arrow
    A Shortcut

    ENSURE THAT IT IS A SHORTCUT by looking for the Shortcut arrow!

  2. Click the Icon to Select it.
  3. Press the “Delete” key on your keyboard.

The Icon will disappear.

(It is moved to the Recycle Bin, so you have a chance to get it back, if you made a mistake!)

The End

You can now add, remove and rearrange the Icons on your Desktop, and know about ensuring that only Shortcuts are placed here.

We also learnt previously about taking Screenshots, so why not send me a picture of your Desktop, and let me know why you chose to arrange it like you have!

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.