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Meet Windows 8!

Last Friday, Microsoft launched its latest operating system, Windows 8.

And, I must say, it is kind of cool.

Windows 8 follows Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows 98, and Windows 95, to name a few. It is is perhaps the most different of all its predecessors; you may like or not like the new features of Windows 8, and you may miss some of your old features. It is best to learn about Windows 8 before you decide whether it is for you at this time

Windows 8 is designed for desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smart phones. Traditionally, you needed a mouse for a desktop computer and a touch pad for laptop — and you can certainly use these pointing devices with Windows 8 — but Microsoft has really engineered Windows 8 for use on touch screens: tablets, smartphones, desktop touch screens, and the brand new laptop touch screens.

The most significant new feature of Windows 8 is the “Start Screen:” the customizable application screen displayed in “tiles,” many of which update in real time (mail, social media, weather, etc.) without your having to open the program. From the Start Screen, you can get anywhere (internet, documents, programs, applications, email) and, for the most part, these destinations will look familiar.

You can also get to your familiar-looking desktop from the Start Screen, which functions the same as always, with the exception of the Start Button that used to be in the lower left corner of the screen; it does not exist in Windows 8. In Windows 8, when you move your mouse to the lower left corner of the screen, you will see a thumbnail-size image of the Start Screen. When you click on the thumbnail, the full-size Start Screen appears. The controls that you used to access from the Start Button, are available from the new Start Screen.

Windows 8 also includes an integrated Windows Store (from which you can purchase and download apps of all kinds), as well as the ability to wirelessly synchronize data among Windows devices.

Should you upgrade?

Here are some things to consider:

  • Cost $39.99, downloaded from the Microsoft website, billed to your credit card.
  • You can upgrade to Win 8 directly from: XP, Vista, or Win 7 (assuming minimum requirements; see Microsoft website for details).
  • The start of the process includes an “upgrade assistant” that reviews the programs in your computer and tells you which will work in Win 8 and which will not. You can run this analysis before committing to purchasing the upgrade.
  • The upgrading process includes a step where all of your files are moved to the new operating system, however, it is still a good idea to back up your data to an external storage device before you upgrade to Windows 8.
  • Upgrading takes at least an hour; you will not be able to use your computer for most of that time.
  • There is enough different about the new Start Screen that there will be a learning curve to become comfortable with it.
  • Because Microsoft is introducing a system that will be the same across all of its devices, investing the time in learning one device, will benefit you if you purchase other Windows 8 devices.

For more information about Windows 8, or to purchase the upgrade, click here: Meet Windows 8.

Make a Selection!

If you use a computer on a regular basis, you know that in order to select an item — a picture, an email, a document, a song — you must hover your pointer over the item and click on it. The clicked item will become “highlighted” and then you can move it, copy it, or delete it.

If you try to select more than one item at a time, your second item will light up, but the first item will become de-selected.

Isn’t there a way to select more than one item at a time? Yes.

The Control (Command) Key

To select more than one item at a time, hold down the Control key on the keyboard (the Command key on a Mac keyboard) while you click the items one by one that you wish to select. The first items stay highlighted as you click on the others.

The Shift Key

To select a group of files, folders, pictures, or songs in a row, you can use the Shift key: click on the first item in your list, hold down the Shift key on your keyboard, and then click the last item in the list. The first item, last item, and every item in between will be selected.

The Control (Command) and Shift Key and the Shift Key Together

If you wish to select most, but not all, of the files, folders, pictures, songs, in a list, you can use a combination of these keys to do this quite efficiently. Hold down the Shift key to select the whole group (as described above) and then let go of the Shift key. Then hold down the Control (Command) key and click (de-select) any selected items that you don’t want in the group.

Once you have your group selected, you can move, copy, or delete it. If you are dragging these selected items to another folder, you must click on one of the selected items to drag them all to the desired location. If you don’t click on one of the highlighted selections, you will de-select everything in your group and you will have to start selecting all over again.

If you are used to cutting, copying, or moving one file at a time, try using these keyboard keys. They offer an easy way to work more efficiently.

Web Browsers and Search Engines

You don’t need to know the terms “web browser” or “search engine” to be a confident computer user. But, since you already use at least one of each of these, you might want to know more about them.

Web browsers are software programs that act as gateways to the Internet. In a web browser, you set a home page, type website addresses, save favorites, see the sites you’ve visited, and use tabs to toggle among multiple pages. Examples of web browsers are Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.

Search engines are software programs that act as gateways to every encyclopedia, catalogue, yellow page directory, brochure, video, and business represented on the internet. They return to you a list of links to websites that contain your search words. Examples of search engines are Bing, Google, AOL Search, Ask.com, and Yahoo.

And … you have choices.

Once your computer is powered on and has access to a network, you use a web browser to get you onto the internet. Windows computers come pre-installed with Internet Explorer; Apple computers come pre-installed with Safari. However, you can chose to use Internet Explorer on a Mac, or Safari on a Windows computer. You can also choose to use Firefox, Chrome, or Opera on any computer.

Each web browser offers basically the same features, although some people like the look and feel of one over another, and each program has some unique subtleties. In addition, you could come across a feature that displays or works better in one browser than in another. My advice is to use one web browser most of the time, but have another one on your computer in case you need a “backup.”

Once you open any web browser, you can use it to access your chosen search engine. There are no absolute pairings. Just because the web browser Chrome is made by Google, you do not need to use it in order to use Google’s search engine. Similarly, even though Bing is Microsoft’s search engine, you can access it from web browsers other than Internet Explorer.

There are differences among the search engines. Each one employs its proprietary formulas for turning keywords into meaningful results. The most thorough way to get your search results is to try the same search in more than one search engine. You may find similar — or very different — results.

Most computer users settle into familiar patterns: one web browser and one search engine. There is nothing wrong with that. But it’s good to be aware of new versions and features in the other programs. After all, these companies are all in business to attract your attention, and you might find a feature on one web browser or search engine you like enough to make a switch. Nice to have choices.

Email Groups (and Photo Albums, Too!)

I love email groups. I create a name for my group and then choose the contacts I want to place in it. When I type that group name in the “to” field of an email, all of the names in that group appear. Pretty efficient.

But what happens when one of my friends in an email group changes his/her email address? Do I need to change the address in my master contact list, in the group list, or in both?

The answer — change it in either and it changes in both — brings up some important points about email groups:

  • The contact you put in a group is not an independent copy of the original contact. It is a virtual copy and remains linked to the original. If you change information in one, you are changing it in the other.
  • Any contact you wish to include in an email group must first be in your list of all contacts.
  • A contact can be in more than one email group at a time.
  • If you remove a contact from an email group, the contact is removed from the group, but not from the master list. If, however (and this is really really important), you remove a name from your master list, the name will be removed from the master list AND from any email group that contact was in.

This same concept is true for the digital pictures you store in your computer, tablet, or smartphone. If you have the ability to organize the pictures in your picture library into albums — just as you organize email contacts into groups — the same rules apply:

  •  A picture you put in an album is not an independent copy of that picture. It is a virtual copy and remains linked to the original. If you edit the picture in one place, you are editing it in all its locations.
  • Any picture you wish to include in an album must first be in your library of all pictures.
  • A picture can be in more than one album at a time.
  • If you remove a picture from an album, the picture is removed from the album, but not from the picture library. If, however (and this is really really important), you remove a picture from your picture library, the picture will be removed from the picture library AND from any albums that picture was in.

These groupings can be very helpful as you strive to be an efficient computer user. But here is the danger: if you think that because you have organized your contacts into email groups and your pictures into albums that you can delete the “originals,” you are wrong! Don’t do it! As you now know — from the last bullet point in each of the above lists — this would be catastrophic.

Moving Your Virtual Address

The two biggest reasons to keep the email address you currently have are:

  • It’s working just fine for you
  • You don’t want to go through the hassle of changing it

If you don’t need to change your email address, don’t. If you feel you want to or need to change your email address, you may find it is not as difficult as you think.

The hesitation is the same for everyone: how do I notify all of my family, friends, organizations, stores, banks, clubs, etc., that I have a new email address, and will my contacts transfer?

If you move to a new house, the post office at your current location forwards your mail. On the internet, it is the “post office” at your new email address that will help make your transition. This is a very effective feature.

Here is one way it can work:

  • Create a new email address with your new provider.
  • Authorize the new provider to accept all the mail that is sent to your old address. This is usually done in the “settings” area of the new provider’s site. (If you are creating a new email address to use in addition to your current address, do not set the forwarding option.)
  • Begin to send out email from your new email address. When your recipients respond by clicking “reply,” they will be sending the response to your new email.
  • Update any account in which you use your old email address as your “user name.”
  • Send a group email to your friends, relatives, and colleagues, informing them that you have a new address. (Don’t forget to address the email to yourself and “blind copy” all of your recipients).
  • Add a “signature” to your outgoing emails that says something like “Please note new email address.”

If you use Apple Mail, Microsoft Outlook, or Windows Live Mail to get your email, you must enter your new email account information into these programs to be able to get your new email the way you got your old email. If you currently get to your email by going to the website of the email provider, you will need to log into the site of your new provider to get your new mail. The look of your new email provider’s site will be unfamiliar at first, but most of your features are there.

Will contact addresses transfer?

The answer depends on where your contacts are stored, and which email providers are involved. If your address list does not seamlessly appear in your new account, you may need to export the list from your old account and import it into your new account. In some cases, you will need a third-party program to make the conversion for you. Any of these options is preferable to re-typing all of your contact information.

Like moving your residence, changing your email address, if necessary, can be a hassle, but it’s worth it. It’s also a good excuse to clean out your closets, I mean contact lists….