|If you've ever wondered why everyone knows a 7-year old who can
operate their computer better than you can, it may be because 7
year olds are fidgets, and will point and click at anything on a
computer waiting for a random reward.
Adults, on the other hand, fear they may accidentally start a
nuclear war or vote Conservative by one click in the wrong place.
Rest assured, unless you are the president of a Superpower or
live in Florida, neither of these things are likely to happen,
how ever hard or randomly you click.
On the contrary, computers (or most of them anyway) are designed
using a WIMPS system - Windows, Icons, Menus & Pointers.
They won't do a lot until you point and click at the
As with many things in IT, it helps to start backwards - with
Pointer refers to the arrow (the mouse-pointer) which
moves around the screen when you move the mouse.
Menus are lists of things that your computer can do.
A pull-down menu is one where you have to click on a menu-title
in the menu bar in order to pull down the menu.
A drop-down menu is one which drops down when your
mouse-pointer merely moves over the name of the menu.
Icons are supposed to be helpful - they offer you something
graphic to point at, rather like a pictorial menu in a Hungarian
restaurant (unless you speak Hungarian of course). They
are called icons because they are supposed to be pictures which
directly represent whatever it is they relate to. Unfortunately,
this is not often the case, and you have to learn what the icons
mean. This icon, for example,
means "minimize all windows" or "return to desktop", and is extremely
useful, but why a spade in some mashed potato should mean that
is beyond me.
If an icon is on the toolbar, you click it once to make the computer
do something, if it's on your desktop (or in explorer) you click
on it twice. Behind every icon is a hidden command, and
on a rainy day you can change many of the options offered by icons.
Windows. Computer manufacturers have a habit of
naming things for very good reasons, and not telling you what
those good reasons are. That's why thousands (if not millions)
of people whose computers use Windows operating systems and
Windows software don't know what a window is, or what it can do
To understand why windows on computers are a Good Thing, you
have to take yourself back to the days when computers could
do one thing at a time. Just as you might find it difficult to
write an essay and talk to someone at the same time, so computers
didn't have the 'brain power' to do more than one task. You opened
a programme, used it, and shut it down. Then you opened another
Computers nowadays have so much power that you can have many
programs all open at once, and switch between them without closing
one down before you open another. To do this, you hold the programmes
open in 'windows'. When you move from one to the other, the others
stay in little boxes in the task bar along the bottom of the
screen. To access another one, you point and click in the relevant
box in the task bar (you'll see the first few words of the programme
and an icon which represents it).
So what? Well, it means that you can copy and paste
things from one programme to another in lightning quick time - particularly,
for example, between the Internet and Word, where you might want
to paste stuff from something you've found on the web into a Word
document. Or keep your email program open while you do other things,
so that if a new email comes in, you see it immediately.
Before you get too excited, don't let this
tempt you to keep everything open all the time. Computers do
have limits, and the more you have open at once, the more risk
you run of your computer running slowly or crashing. But it's normally
quite OK to keep three or four open without any problems, depending on how intensely
those programmes use your computer's memory.
If you are only using one programme at a time, you're probably
not getting as much out of your computer as you could.