Computer and Statistics Center


Absolute beginner's IT guide
(by Tony Crombie - excerpt)

1. The keyboard

Before embarking on the mysteries of the IT galaxy, it is helpful to have a thorough knowledge of the keyboard and the symbols used.

The main section of the keyboard starts at the left and takes up two thirds of the board. The letters at the center are self-explanatory. If you start typing, they will be in lower case. To produce capitals, you need first to press one of the keys marked ‘Shift’ at the bottom left and right of the keyboard in the second row of keys, and then simultaneously hit the required key. By depressing the key ‘Caps Lock’ immediately above the ‘Shift’ key, the letters are retained in capitals until the key is again pressed, to release the lock. The ‘Shift’ key must also be held down if you want to type the upper of the symbols indicated on those keys which have two symbols (located above the individual letter keys, and to their right.) Almost all of these keys are, from the symbols used, also self- explanatory.


On the bottom left and right hand sides of the main section of the keyboard are the keys ‘Ctrl’. This key is used in conjunction with individual letter keys to perform functions within the individual programs e.g. by pressing ‘Ctrl and A’ simultaneously, you can select the whole area of text on which you have been working, and move it to a new location by depressing simultaneously ‘Ctrl and C’, to copy the document, and then, after identifying the new location, inserting it by depressing simultaneously ‘Ctrl and V’. Above ‘Caps Lock’, in the left of the board, is the ‘Tab’ key, which is used both for fixing margins and for issuing other instructions, again in conjunction with other keys.

On the top right of the main section is the ‘Backspace’ key. Not only does it move back one space, but it deletes the letter or symbol in that space. Two rows below this is the ‘Enter’ key. In typing terms, by hitting it you move the cursor back to the beginning of the line. Each time it is pressed, it moves the cursor one line further down. At the bottom center of the board is a much larger key, known as the ‘Space bar’. This moves the cursor one letter at a time along the line. If you have already typed a word and place the cursor in front of it, then you will not be able to type over the word, as the cursor will simply push it to the right and insert the new material being typed before it.

To the right of the main keyboard section are six further keys. Their uses are as follows:

1)’Insert’ If you want to insert text, move the mouse or cursor to the appropriate location and then press the ‘Insert’ key. Information can then be typed in. Warning/tip-if the insert key is locked on, then the user will end up typing over any existing text in front of it, and if he hits the space bar it will delete the old material. So hit the ‘Insert’ key a second time if this is not the intention.

2)’Delete’ This key deletes letters/symbols in front of the cursor, by contrast with the backspace bar, which deletes backwards. It is also used in conjunction with the mouse to remove larger sections of text.

3)’Home’ and 4)’End’. These keys are used respectively to move the cursor in one action to the left and right ends of the line on which the user is working, thereby saving time.

5)’Page Up’ and 6)’Page Down’ are self-explanatory. As we will see later, the page which is on the screen can also be moved up and down by use of the mouse.

full keyboard

Below these six buttons are four buttons with arrows up and down, and to the left and right, on them. These are used to move the cursor to the left and right along the line, one letter at a time.; and to move it up and down the page, one line at a time. This can be a bit slow. But if you have hand-coordination problems with the mouse, it can be a more accurate way of putting the cursor in exactly the right place. If you want to insert material, once the cursor is put in the right location, then the new information can be typed in.

For practical purposes, at this stage the buttons in the section at the right of the keyboard can be ignored. The user will also see a line of buttons at the top of the keyboard. The ‘Escape’ key at the extreme left can be used to get you out of certain programs. The keys running consequentially from F1 to F12 all serve as short-cuts to alternative ways of carrying out actions within individual programs. The user will be given instructions within these programs at the points when they should, or could be used.

go to top

2. Presentation Of Information On The Screen

Although the exact nature of the commands, instructions and icons varies from program to program, the basic format for displaying them on the screen is generally the same.

a) Pulldown Menu.

At the top left of the screen is a series of individual words or commands e.g. File, Edit, View etc. This is known as the Pulldown Menu. When the user clicks once on these words, a new series of aids/options appear in the form of further key words immediately below them. By placing the mouse on the appropriate word and clicking on it, the user is able to perform different functions, to be explained later.

b) Standard Toolbar

On the second line below the Pulldown Menu is a series of icons. These are shortcuts to the most important aids/options available under the key words on the Menu. This line is known as the Standard Toolbar. If the mouse is placed (not clicked) on any icon, a keyword appears e.g.’ Cut’,’ Open’, indicating what that option is. The user can then click on the icon to carry out the desired task.

At the top right of the screen there are three important icons. At the extreme right is a box with a cross in it. If this is clicked on, the program, page or option identified at the top left of the page, whether it be an individual option or a whole program, is then closed. If it refers to a program, the user then has to begin again. So beware!

To the left and immediately below this are two icons, each with two pages on them. These are to reduce the size of the page. If you click on the one below the cross, you will only reduce the particular window you are working on. If you click on the one to the left of the cross, it will reduce the size of the whole program. But the process can be reversed, and the screen returned to its original size, by clicking on the empty box icon which appears at the second from right at the top right of the reduced page.

The third icon is a square with a line at the bottom. If you click on this, you close the document on which you are working, but not the whole program. This enables you to continue working on other documents without having to open the program from the beginning.

Depending on the program, there may be other toolbars and icons around the sides of the screen or window. The most important will be explained at the appropriate point. But at the very bottom of the screen, opposite the ‘Start’ button, will be indicated the programs which are open. A very useful shortcut means that you can move from one open program to another by clicking on the program concerned. This thereby avoids having to close the program you are working on, and reopening it from the beginning.

go to top

3. Starting Up/Accessing Programs

The user can gain access to a program e.g. Microsoft Word for creating documents, letters etc. or Microsoft Excel for creating tables, either by

a) if a toolbar of icons is displayed at the top or side of the initial window you see once you have logged-in, by clicking twice on the bar icon for the program you want e.g. ‘W” for Word. If you do not know what the icon looks like, you can identify it by placing the mouse on the individual icons until the name of the program you want appears.

b) by clicking on the ‘Start’ button at the bottom left of the screen. A number of options are then displayed above ‘Start’ on the screen. Place the mouse on the ‘Program’ option and then drag it across, staying within the same blue band to the ‘Word’ option within the list which appears to the right of the first set. Then click on this. The program will then be opened.


c) Repeat the process in b) to get to the ‘Programs’ option. You will then have ‘Microsoft Office’ among the options appearing to the right of ‘Programs’. Slide the mouse directly to this. ‘Word’ will then appear as one of the sub-options under ‘Office’. Slide the mouse to it and click on it.

start menu

go to top

4. Storage Of Information

The hardware of the computer provides you with a range of places to store the information you produce. These locations are known as ‘Drives’. The full range of drives can be viewed by clicking twice on the ‘My Computer ‘icon which should appear on the initial window after logging-on.. The principal examples are:

1) ’C’ Drive or Winchester Drive. This has the main memory, and contains all the data on the software in the computer, including programs etc. It is mainly technical, but documents can be stored on it. Its limitation is that the documents can the only be retrieved by using the same machine

2) ’E’Drive. This, like the floppy, comes in disk form, this time a DVD ROM. But this is for more advanced use.

The other drives relate to locations elsewhere on the network.


Join us on Facebook:
Join us