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Using Your Desktop

For good reason, the visible items on the top of your desk are the things that will soon require your attention: unpaid bills, invitations, current projects, items to be filed, etc.

Use your computer’s “desktop” the same way.

(Your desktop is the first screen you see when you boot up your computer — typically the standard Windows or Apple designs unless you have customized your screen with a personal picture).

Computer users often have too many or too few icons on their desktop; neither is optimal. If you store all of your program shortcuts, folders, and files on your desktop, you cannot easily find that which needs your attention. If you are fastidious enough to not want to clutter your desktop, you are missing the ease of access to your most pressing projects.

  • To save a new file to your desktop, choose “desktop” (rather than “documents”) when you specify where to save the file.
  • To bring an existing file (or folder) to the desktop, open your directory, locate the file or folder, drag it from its current location, and drop it on the desktop.

If you are working on a project over days or months, consider saving the folder or file(s) to your desktop, rather than in your documents; you’ll need fewer clicks to access it each time.

Once you have completed the project, however, be sure to drag the folder or file(s) back to the appropriate location in your documents, freeing up your desktop space for the next project.

Blind Copy Your Friends?

I used to think that the use of the “Blind Copy” — sending an email to someone that the other recipients don’t see as copied — was impolite. I thought I was being deceptive. It seems, however, that in some cases it is not only not impolite, it is considered proper email etiquette.

Here is a scenario:

You wish to send an email — an invitation, information, pictures, a joke — to a group of your friends and family. If you put all of the email addresses in the “To” field, everyone who receives the email will be able to see the email addresses of the other recipients. While this might not seem harmful, you have just given everyone in that group some email addresses they might not have had, ones they can now add to their lists for their own business and/or personal use.

Rather, you should address the email to yourself (put your email address in the “To” field, really, the computer won’t mind), and put all of the recipients’ addresses in the Blind Copy (Bcc) field. This way, everyone you wish to receive the email will receive it, but will not be privy to the information about the other recipients.

Of course, there are many scenarios in which you do wish your recipients to see each other, and you should address the email accordingly.

Please consider the “Bcc” option when appropriate. Your friends and family will thank you for not sharing their information, and especially for not making them scroll past all the other addresses!

Backspace vs. Delete

The Backspace and Delete keys are the same, right?

Yes. No. Sometimes.

In general, the Backspace key on a Windows keyboard does the same thing as the Delete key on a Mac: erases the character directly to the left of the cursor. However, many Windows keyboards have a Backspace key and a Delete key, and some Mac keyboards have two Delete keys.


Here’s the breakdown:

On a Windows keyboard

  • Backspace: erases the character directly to the left of the cursor
  • Delete: erases the character directly to the right of the cursor

On a Mac keyboard

  • Delete: erases the character directly to the left of the cursor.
  • To erase the character directly to the right of the cursor, hold down the Function (fn) key while pressing the Delete key.
  • If you have the extended Mac keyboard with the separate numeric keypad, you have a regular Delete key for erasing characters to the left of the cursor, and another Delete key (with an “x” symbol next to it) for erasing characters to the right of the cursor without having to hold down the Function key.

Of course, in either system you can always highlight the offending character and press any key to erase it. However, this technique is best for erasing long words, lines, or paragraphs. For a few letters, learn to use your Backspace and/or Delete keys.

Where Are Scans Saved?

Ugh! Don’t you hate that? You scan a document (or image), the scan window closes, and your computer stares at you as if nothing happened.

Hey! Where’s my scan?

If you scanned your document correctly, it’s in there — somewhere.

Unless you specify where you wish your scan to be saved (more about that in a minute), your computer will save your scan where the computer programmers decided it should be saved. Here are a few of their hiding places:

  • The “My Scans” folder in the “My Documents” Folder (Windows)
  • The “Pictures” or “Documents” folder (Mac)
  • Within the folders of the Printer/Scanner Software (Epson, HP, Kodak, etc.) that was installed on your computer when you installed your printer/scanner device.

If you locate your scan, and you are happy with where it lives, you need not change any settings.

If, however, you prefer to specify where your scan will be saved, and you wish to name the file (“Scan_001” is only so descriptive), you can!

When you next scan a document, look carefully at the choices on the scan dialogue box. Is there a “Settings” button, a “Preferences” button, or a “More Details” option? Depending on the kind of printer/scanner you have, you will have choices: Color or black and white? Document or picture? JPEG, TIFF, or PDF? And, of course, destination.

I recommend that you set the scan destination to be your computer’s “Desktop.” This way, every new scan will pop up where you can see it and act on it immediately: email it, insert it in a project, or place it in a meaningful location for later use.

Happy scanning!

iTunes Is More Than Music

Often times I’ve mentioned “iTunes” to my computer students and they say, “Oh, I’m not really interested in purchasing music.” That may be so, but iTunes is so much more than music. iTunes is also movies, tv shows, books, podcasts (digital media files like radio shows and interviews downloaded to your computer), and even iTunes U (lectures on just about anything by noted authorities) — and much of it is free!

To take advantage of this wonderful resource on either the Mac or Windows platform, go to and download the free iTunes software onto your computer. Once you create an account (an apple ID and a password) and give them a credit card that they store for your purchases, you are privy to an incredible world of education, entertainment, culture, humor, and yes, music. You will never be lonely.

  • Love the CarTalk guys on NPR? Subscribe to their free podcast and get the most recent episodes sent to your computer.
  • Miss the classic humor of The Mary Tyler Moore Show? Purchase or rent a single episode or own a whole season.
  • Wish you had heard actor Tom Hanks address the graduates at Yale in May of 2011? Watch this — and other insightful commencement addresses — on iTunes University.

The time it will take you to download the iTunes software will vary with the speed of your computer, but get it started and go make a sandwich or mow the lawn. It will be worth it!

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