Super Beginners

Super Beginners are the ones that aren’t at all familiar with computers, software and the like.

If you know a Super Beginner, open this for them and let them read it. If you think you are a Super Beginner but you managed to find this page, it may not benefit you any to read it. If you know how to surf the web a little, why not head on over to the Glossary? 🙂

Getting Started

For starters, take a look at your keyboard. Most people are familiar with the keyboard, since the layout is similar to a typewriter. In the picture below, it’s the long part with the tiny squares on it. Look for the arrow keys. Press the down arrow key to keep reading. Continue pressing it as you read. Press the up arrow key if you want to go back and re-read anything.

1. Basic Parts

This is what a basic desktop computer tower setup looks like.

This is a basic desktop computer setup.

This is probably similar to what you are sitting at right now. This is a typical setup for a desktop computer, with a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and computer tower.

Keyboard of a basic desktop computer setup.

This is the keyboard.

This is the keyboard. You’ll mostly use only the letter and number keys, the space bar (the long one), the “Shift” keys (for capitalization or symbols) and the “Enter” key (some keyboards say “Return”). “Enter” is used to add lines in documents (like “Return” on a typewriter) but it also serves other functions.

This is the mouse as part of a basic desktop computer setup.

This is the mouse, typically with two buttons and a scroll wheel.

This is the mouse. The mouse usually has two buttons, and may also have a scroll wheel. Take a look at your mouse. It should have a curve to it. When you rest your hand on it, your index finger should rest on the left mouse button and your middle finger should rest on the right mouse button. The left button is used to left-click and the right button is used to right-click.

Unless otherwise specified, whenever someone says “click” it always means left-click. If your mouse has a little wheel between the two buttons, it is a scroll wheel. If you have a scroll wheel, you can slide your finger across it to move the screen up or down, instead of using the up and down arrow keys. Don’t worry, we’ll go over the mouse in just a moment.

This is the monitor, or screen, in a basic desktop computer setup.

This is the monitor, also called the screen.

This is the monitor or screen. You can call it either but it’s technically a monitor. If you have an older monitor, it may be big and heavy and look more like a television. That kind of monitor is called a “CRT” (cathode ray tube). The newer kind of monitors are thin and light and are called “LCD” (liquid crystal display).

This is the CPU or tower, the computer in a basic desktop PC setup.

The tower is the actual computer itself, the other parts are just used with it.

This is the actual computer. When you think of a computer, you may picture the monitor, especially if it is a CRT monitor. The monitor is only a part that is used with the computer. The tower is the box you see. It can stand up (like in the picture) or it can be a flat box that lays under the monitor. If that is the case, we don’t call it a “tower” but it is still the actual computer.

The computer is made up of several different parts. The part that sits on your desk is called the “case”. The case is actually just a metal box with a bunch of other parts inside of it. The CPU (central processing unit) is just one of the many parts inside the box.

Technically speaking, the part that actually does all the computing is the CPU. But when people say “computer” they refer to the tower or other box with all the parts inside, not the CPU alone. So we’ll just stick with calling the whole box/tower the computer.

Image Courtesy: digitalart /

2. Basic Terms

So far, we’ve learned about the different parts of a computer that you will be using. You’ve also had the opportunity to scroll down this page to keep reading it. Let’s go over the basic terms that we’ll are used frequently and that you will need to know.

  • Left-Click: Press the left-side button on your mouse one time.
  • Right-Click: Press the right-side button on your mouse one time.
  • Double-Click: Press the left-side button on your mouse two times in a row, quickly.
  • Click: This always implies left-click.
  • Scroll: Lets you look up or down the page either via the scroll bar (we’ll get to that in a minute), the scroll wheel on your mouse, or the up/down arrow keys.
  • Cursor:The cursor is the blinking line on your screen that you see when you are typing. If you aren’t typing anything, you may not see it at all. For now, just keep reading.

    This is the mouse cursor. It blinks when you stop typing.

    This is the mouse cursor. It blinks when you stop typing.

  • (Mouse) Cursor/Pointer: The mouse pointer can take all different shapes. It’s usually a little arrow. If you have the mouse pointer sitting over text, it’s a little “I” shape. Sometimes you may see it as a little hourglass or a blue spinning circle. If you are on another person’s computer, they may have changed their mouse pointer to be a little shape, or a bug, or animal. You’ll see it move on the screen when you move your mouse. (We’ll do that in just a moment.)
  • Hover: This means that you move your mouse over something but do not click on it. For example, if you “hover your mouse” over one of the photos, you should see some text pop up.
  • Click and Drag: This is when you left-click something, hold the mouse button down, and move your mouse. That “drags” the item you are moving.

3. Using Your Mouse

Alright! Now that you know a few basic terms, let’s get comfortable with the mouse. You’ll find yourself using it quite often.

Your mouse should be sitting on your computer desk next to your keyboard, like in the pictures that we saw of the basic computer setup.

Rest your entire hand on your mouse. Your thumb, pinkie and ring fingers should rest just off the edges of the mouse. Your index finger should rest on the left mouse button. Your middle finger should rest on the right mouse button. If you have a scroll wheel, you can also use your middle finger to move the scroll wheel.

Rule 1 – You’ll rarely need to pick it up.

When you move the mouse, you will only slide it along the mouse pad or desk, whatever you have it on. You generally won’t need to pick up the mouse to use it.

One mistake that a lot of people is to pick up the mouse in their hand and move it around in the air. Or they’ll pick it up and point the mouse at the screen, as if it were a gun. There are two primary types of computer mouse (track ball or standard), and neither one works this way.

Test It Out:

We’ve gone over quite a bit. Time to go hands on!

Rest your right-hand on the mouse as we’ve talked about with your index finger on the left button and your middle finger on the right button. Now, without lifting your mouse, move it slightly. Look for the pointer on the screen while you move the mouse around. Now move it a little more. Don’t click anything just yet, but move your mouse so that the pointer moves around the screen.

When you’re done, use the arrow keys if you need to scroll down to read more. Don’t use the scroll wheel on the mouse again until we’ve finished the next part.

Rule 2 – It’s OK to Pick it Up When Needed

You may or may not have a mouse pad. A mouse pad is a little mat or a little tray that people place their mouse on. People who are just learning how to use a computer frequently get confused about the relationship of the mouse to the computer to the mouse pad.

I’ve seen many people move their mouse to the edge of the mouse pad and don’t know what to do from there.

When you move your mouse around, think of it like drawing with a pencil. If you draw a line, and then lift your pencil from the paper, the end of the line doesn’t disappear. The end of the line is wherever you left it.

It’s the same way with your mouse pointer. If your mouse reaches the top of the mouse pad, but the pointer isn’t where you want it on the screen, pick your mouse up and place it back in the middle of the mouse pad. Your mouse pointer will stay wherever you left it until you set your mouse back down and move it again.

Test it Out:

Let’s hold on to the mouse again. We still aren’t going to click anything, but let’s try moving it around a bit further. Try to move your mouse so that the pointer goes all the way to the top or bottom of the screen. If you are about to physically move the mouse off of your mouse pad or computer desk, pick it up and set it back down where you originally had it sitting.

Your mouse pointer will stay where it was when you lifted the mouse, and when you try to move it again it will pick up where you left off.

Go ahead and use your scroll wheel again now, if you want to.

Ready, Set, Go!

You know what it means now to click, right-click, and how to use your mouse. Now we’ll go over what you click on.

4. More Terms

Here are more terms you’ll need to know as we continue learning more about using the computer. These terms are used frequently as well.

  • Desktop: This is a general way of referring to a computer that is not a laptop, but it’s also a term used for the screen you first see when you turn on your computer. You should see some sort of background, and a bunch of icons (see below).

    Screenshot of desktop with icons.

    This is a picture of my desktop, and the little pictures are icons.

  • Icons: These are the little pictures that represent different programs and files on your computer, e.g. “My Computer”, “My Documents” and “Recycle Bin”. You usually have to double-click icons to use them.
  • (Microsoft) Windows: This refers to your operating system. You could have Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows Vista, etc. There are many more operating systems available, but since you’re reading this you most likely have some form of the Windows operating system. The operating system tells the different parts of your computer how to work together, and how to do what you ask of it. Without your operating system, you would only have white text on a black screen and you couldn’t do much with it, either.
  • Programs: Generally speaking, everything that you use on your computer is a program. Some programs allow you to create things, others make your computer run better, and some are just for entertainment. For example, Windows comes with a built-in calculator, games, a basic word processor, and paint. All of these are programs, and each one serves a different purpose.
  • Files: Files encompass a broad spectrum. Programs are run from files but some can also make files. Windows uses files to operate, as well. Let’s take a look at the programs we talked about. Calculator is a program. But to run that program, you use a file, called “calc.exe”. Solitaire is a game provided by Windows, but in order to run that game, you use “sol.exe”. Likewise, Paint is a program that you run using the file “mspaint.exe”. You run the program, “Paint”, from the file “mspaint.exe”, and using that program you can create a new file called “mypicture.bmp”.
  • Web Browser: Your default web browser on Windows is Internet Explorer. You can find it by looking for the blue “e” (see image below). You use your web browser to view websites. You have to have internet access in order to use a web browser. Internet access is something you have to purchase as a utility, like your phone or cable. Internet Explorer is built-in to Windows, so you’ll have it even if you don’t have internet access, but you can’t browse the web unless you do. There are other web browsers, such as Firefox, Opera, and Google Chrome but we’re just covering Internet Explorer right now since it comes pre-installed with your operating system.

    Internet Explorer Icon

    This is the Internet Explorer icon.

  • Links: A link is text or a picture on a website that links you (transfers you) to another website or page. Links are usually just text or pictures. You only have to click a link (once).
  • Button: Buttons on a computer screen can be hard to grasp for some people. People that are not familiar with computers don’t always grasp the concept of what’s called a “logical button”. It is called a “logical button” though because it’s not a physical, tangible button that you can reach out and press. Logically it’s a button based on the appearance and function. In other words, it’s a button-shaped picture you can click. They are popular to use on websites, for visual appeal, and in warning or error messages (e.g. “Click OK to Continue”). You click a button (once) to use it.
    This is an example of the Windows Vista and 7 Start Button.

    This is a sample Start button from Windows Vista. Windows 7 is just like it but blue.

    This is the Start Button in Windows XP

    This is the Start Button in Windows XP.

There are many more terms to go over, but this will get you started out so you’ll know what is going on.

Summing it Up

When you turn on your computer, you locate the power button on the tower. Your computer powers on and displays the desktop. You  click your Internet Explorer icon to browse the web. You find a great website and click on a link to see another great site. You find a great picture of a chipmunk that you want to have on your computer so you right-click it and save the file. Thinking of how cute the chipmunk would look with a hat on it, you double-click the icon for the Paint program and draw a little hat on him.

That’s just a short description of something you could do using your computer. Well, we’ve covered the basics so you can navigate around. Now, if I tell you to click on say, a link, you’ll know be able to, right?