General Tips for Home Computer Users
2016-2017 Compilation of Computer Tips
Email, Backups, Word Processing, and Recommended Apps
This message includes information and comments on six (6) topics of recent interest or concern to computer friends I've helped this past month.
These topics are: Word processing on Windows; More advanced word processing programs; Email changes and Gmail backup; Phone backup options; Email-based Microsoft accounts; and Computer cleanup programs
Word processing on Windows
If you are setting up a new computer, one of your first questions once it's running may be where to find a word processing program.
There are two simple word processing programs, or "apps" built into Windows. These are Notepad and Wordpad.
Notepad is a very basic text file creator and editor. It has two formatting features - Font (selection), and Word Wrap. It's really handy for creating notes to oneself on the fly.
Wordpad is like notebpad but it has a wider range of formatting features. These include bold, italics, underscore, font color, alignment including centering, picture insert, and various others. It's adequate for most letter-writing and simple document creation that most people do.
Both programs do find-and-replace and both handle copy, cut and paste actions.
More advanced: Word, MS Office and Open Office
Many computer users need occasionally to view or print documents using Microsoft Word (part of the Microsoft Office suite). MS Office nowadays is most easily available from Microsoft as an annual subscription package. The personal edition runs $69.99 annually, and the home edition which allows for use on multiple devices runs $99.99 annually.
If expense is a big factor, Apache Open Office is available for free and can be downloaded and installed quickly. Open Office is similar to MS Office in its range of features, and allows you to open and most documents or files created in Word and other programs that are part of MS Office.
Email changes and Gmail backup
Many people are concerned about their email systems because of news stories about hacks, or because of company takeovers that interfere with sending or receiving your emails.
Google's Gmail service, which is free, has become a very good substitute or backup email system to use, even if you still rely on an email address using RoadRunner, Embarqmail, AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, or others.
One reason is that many websites now ask users to provide a backup email address in case your password is lost or compromised. Gmail is a perfect system for this, because you can access it flexibly from almost any device or location.
Another reason is that having a Gmail address enables you to use a number of other Google services that are popular with computer users' family members, such as Photo, GDrive, Contacts YouTube.
Google operates as a webmail system rather than a POP/SMTP system. This sounds like Greek to many users, but the main point is that webmail systems are more useful if you find yourself in a situation where you need to get your email from a different device or location other than your PC or Home. Eventually everybody runs into this, often under inconvenient, unplanned circumstances.
Phone backup options
You may have noticed that many websites and email providers now ask for your phone number. Some may require a phone number, while others may just make it your choice.
Providing your phone number serves the same purpose as providing an alternate email address. It provides you a way to retrieve or reset your password in case your email password is lost or compromised.
Some websites require a mobile phone number because they only do password resets through text messaging. Other websites accept either a mobile or a landline phone number, so that you can do a password reset either by text or by call.
Going through the steps to enter and verify your phone number for this purpose is a smart precaution to take. None of us plan on losing password access to our email or our favorite websites but it does happen eventually for reasons that often are outside of our control.
Email-based Microsoft accounts
Most Windows users with newer computers now have a Microsoft account to log into their computer based on their email address.
Initially Microsoft required Windows 10 users to set up an email address using Outlook.com, Live.com or Hotmail.com. These are email systems that Microsoft owns and operates itself.
You don't actually have to use these for sending and receiving email. If you already have an email address from another source, you can continue using that address and go along same as always.
If you set up your Microsoft account using the same email address you always used from a different source, usually you should be able to continue following your same old email routine with no change.
Sometimes using your email both as a Windows ID and as an Email for communicating can become confusing because of inadequate explanation about passwords. Password problems usually can be resolved with a bit of help, however.
If you don't want to use a password to log into your Windows machine, you can change your User ID for that particular computer to a "Local" account. This means you log in based on your name, not based on an email. Once you make it a local account you can remove the password requirement through user settings in your Control Panel.
Computer cleanup programs
Many computer users are becoming more interested in "all in one" type computer cleanup programs.
These are programs that run a whole variety of computer cleanup and maintenance utilities at one time. These tasks include such routines as Registry cleanup and Temporary File deletion for example.
On my own computers, I use Glary Utilities periodically based on feedback I've gotten from our local computer club.
Ccleaner and TweakNow are examples of other such programs. Each is different is the mix of tasks it performs, and other characteristics.
You may get a "pitch" on the Internet to install certain cleanup and security programs, often with the promise of speeding up your computer. You may get a "pitch" on similar websites to install programs for updating your drivers or the like also. These often are malware programs disguised as useful ones.
There are certain companies behind such junkware that I frequently remove from computers, but I won't mention them specifically here. Suffice to say, it's best to do research or get help selecting and installing such apps.
Some have a free version which will operate just as well as the paid version, but without the range of setting choices that pro users like.
There are certain utilities for cleanup and maintenance built into Windows. Some run automatically, others do not. The advantage to having a program like Glary is that you can run a comprehensive cleanup all at once.
I run a cleanup like on my machines about once a week. By my observation, most computer users in this area can get by with doing a cleanup every 1-3 months.
Hope you find this information useful.