Understanding the technical terms

"I just don't understand the technical terms," someone said the other day.

There are various places you could turn to for help:

  • Someone that knows who happens to be right there at the time! Ask us in the Internet Room, if you are there…
  • The ict4lt.org site (that's Information and Communications Technology for Language Teachers) has a good glossary (as well as lots of other interesting links under "resources")
  • Webopedia, which describes itself as an "online dictionary and search engine for computer and Internet technology definitions"
  • Google-is-Evil (or some other search engine). On G-is-E, try adding "define" to your search [example]

The above are in approximate order of preference, note. First a person, not technology at all, with a specialist site (possibly one you have bookmarked) before a search engine.

Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer is used for exploring what you have on your computer — and also for organising what's on it, by creating folders and subfolders.

It's not the same as Internet Explorer, which is used for exploring what's on the Internet.

How you get to Windows Explorer

There are various ways you can launch Windows Explorer, all of which you can see in the image, above:

  • Using "My Computer", which in effect launches Windows Explorer for you
  • Via the "Windows Explorer" icon
  • By right-clicking on the "start" button (bottom left of the image), and then choosing "Explore" from the pop-up menu
  • By clicking "start", choosing "Run" and typing "explorer" into the box

What can you do with Windows Explorer
There are lots of useful things you can do with Windows Explorer, some of them essential to then being able to find things easily on your PC.

  • create a new folder (via File >> New >> Folder, shown in the image, right)
  • create sub folders (right-click within an existing folder, choose New >> Folder, and name appropriately)
  • rename a folder (right-click it, and choose "rename" (or select the folder and hit the F2 shortcut key))
  • examine what is in the folders, with the "view thumbnails" function the best way to see what images you have in them
  • reorganise files into other folders (select whatever you want, holding down Control or Control+Shift to select multiple files, and simply drag to whichever folder you want them in)

If what you have created doesn't seem to appear, hit the F5 key to refresh the view.

Organising and naming your files and folders logically becomes vital when you have a lot of things on your computer.

Go to "start" >> "search" if you still can't find it!

>> More on Windows Explorer

View thumbnails

The "view thumbnails" function is useful if you want to see what images you have got in a particular folder. In the image above we are seeing the files as a "list" — and we can't actually see the images.

If you have saved things to your PC from a digital camera, for example, you've probably got names like "DSN5987" — not terribly helpful, especially when you have several hundred of them!

Assuming you are using Windows, if it's Windows 2000, go to "View" and pick "Thumbnails".

If you have Windows XP, you have both "thumbnails" and "filmstrip" (as shown in the image, above). The latter gives you a much larger version of the image (great for determining which of those several hundred pix you just took on your camera should be trashed!).

If it's a Spanish PC, you want "vistas en miniatura" from the "ver" menu.

Keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard short cuts — such as using the "Control" key +S to save the document you are currently working on — are not something that you actually need to use.

If you aren"t using them already, you must be accessing the same tools either by the menus or by the icons. From the menu, File >> Save, for example, will have the same effect as Control+S, and clicking the diskette "Save" icon will do the same.

What are the keyboard short cuts?

If you pull down a dropdown menu you will be able to see what your keyboard short cuts are — as you can see in the image above.

Start to use them and Control +A, +C, +F, +S, +V, +Z, +X (etc) will soon become second nature to you. Go ahead: explore the menus in Word and Internet Explorer and Firefox and you'll soon discover what each of those is for.
Why use the short cuts?
Two reasons. One is that they"ll save you time — they're faster.

And, more importantly, if you learn to use them, you've learnt something new about using your computer — and learning how to use a computer more proficiently makes you more confident about using it.

It's a bit like learning a language. When you acquire more words, better skills, you can do more; when you can do more, you feel more confident, and you then communicate more successfully. It's a snowball effect.

Try the shortcuts…!

Firefox, not Internet Explorer

Firefox is a browser (shown above), for viewing websites — an alternative to Internet Explorer (IE). It's very similar from the user's point of view, but has a number of interesting features.

Among its advantages:

  • It's arguably safer than Internet Explorer, being less likely to trigger some of the malicious things lurking out there on the Internet
  • It adheres to "standards", not something that can always be said of Internet Explorer; standards — among other things — allow designers to create websites that you can then use no matter what browser or computer you are using
  • It has lots of neat little "extensions", which include the ability to add search engines (and other things) to your toolbar. In the image, right, you can see that I can thus make the same search ("lesson plan ELT") on several different search engines; I didn't find what I wanted on Google-is-Evil, so now I'm going to try Yahoo. My other additions include Answers.com and Wikipedia (good alternatives for search) and — for films — the superb Internet Movie Database (IMDB)
  • It gives you "tabbed browsing", which is great if you're the kind of person that likes to have lots of different web pages or sites open at the same time. You can just see the "tabs" in the image at the top of this post — I've got the Barcelona-Online directory open, as well as a site called PC Hell, for example
  • You can save bookmarks where they are more readily accessible. In the image at the top, you can see that the one on the left takes me to my Bloglines account
  • It works much better than Internet Explorer on some sites — like Hotmail for example (try downloading something from your Hotmail inbox in the Internet Room and you'll see what I mean: using IE you can't!
  • It's not Micro$oft

Among its disadvantages

  • Google-is-Evil is at least partly behind it
  • A few sites you can"t view properly in Firefox (generally because the design of the page was sloppy)