Introduction to the Techy Section
This area has now been brought up to date, March 2021 and vastly reduced as there is much more online help these days
Please note these pages were originally compiled back in early 2000's, when XP was still the flavour of the day, and hence were based around that Operating System (OS).
Since then we've had Vista, Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and now Windows 10, not to mention Apple and Linux, neither of which get a mention in these pages as I have no experience of them.
Windows 10 is now the OS of the day and is the best to date although a few people might still say Windows 7 was!
These days we have a lot more help and support available online via the likes of Google Search other search engines are available, but Google is by far the most popular. I've never been a Bing fan but we all have our preferences!
When doing a search try to remember you might need to rephrase your search sometimes as US & UK phrases can be different!!
In this section I will highlight some software I use and maybe why these are my preferences. There are other apps available and if you find anything you feel is better than what I have written about feel free to use the Contact Us page and let me know. Always good to get feedback. Things change so fast in IT and it's difficult to keep up with the rapid change!
We get used to using certain pieces of software/apps and tend to stick with them rather than learn how to use newer apps. It can be expensive in terms of time to learn new/newer apps and that's what's happened over the years. I think it would be fair to say some companies have been guilty of change for financial gain sake!
I hope you find the following pages both useful and helpful. Do let me know.
One of the first things one should do on a PC is to create a log-on password.
Passwords are an essential part of using your computer and when on the network and working online we have the benefit of the likes of Google Chrome suggesting Strong Passwords whenever we need to create a username and password to use a site.
It's a good idea to use a password generator to both create and manage your (strong) passwords and another advantage is these will be stored and you won't generally have to remember them as they will be saved within the likes of Google Chrome.
Stay well clear of using the likes of 12345, the word 'password' and names etc. as your passwords set as these are easily guessed!
Always Password protect your PC, laptop, phone etc., as you'll have private information on there that you don't want just anyone to be able to access and as we are doing more things like banking etc. it's important to protect it!
On new Windows 10 systems the default browser is Edge and it's a choice of which one you use or like as to what you do here.
It's always best to have more than 1 browser so using Edge download your preferred browser and install it, following the instructions on how to make it your default browser. You will also get the option to import any current settings during the setup which is useful.
AntiVirus & Firewall Software
As it comes, the MS AV software is in place and running and at this moment in time I use this. I've used AVG & Avast in the past but I reverted to the MS software as I became annoyed at the ads etc from both the AVG & Avast offerings. Avast has since taken over AVG but it's no better.
A word of warning here. Ccleaner is from the same stable, again taken over by Avast and if you just do an install of Ccleaner it will install Avast so be warned. Do NOT do an auto install!
We'll talk about that later.
I always advocate having at least 2 email addresses and no doubt you've currently got at least one I would guess. For security reasons it's worth creating a second one with a different supplier, for instance if you have a gmail account create another say with outlook or someone. Useful if need to recover an email it's helpful to have another email address to send recovery details to.
Also if it's available, use the two stage authentication for additional security. Check your email supplier for further information on setting that up.
Consider Having a Gmail account
What I like about this is that you get various other bits & bobs with a Gmail account, like Drive with 15Gb of online storage; an online area for Photos which you can share with others to view, access to online Office suite, etc; & lots more.
If you want to create a Contact Us/Feedback form for instance, there's Google Forms, and you can also use Forms to create Surveys, questionnaires and quizzes fairly easily. This is something I've just been “playing” with and finding it quite good. I've put together some notes on how to get started with Forms which can be accessed here - How to create a Google Form.pdf
Also if you're thinking of maybe creating a web site for any reason, like a club or personal, there's Google Sites. It's free and fairly easy to create a site with little to no web design experience. It won't have al the bells and whistles of the professional sites but it's quite good really.
I have built a couple of sites using Google sites in the past and more recently built one using Google New sites, which is now the current standard.
At this stage you might want to consider an office suite as no doubt you'll be doing some Word Processing, Presentations and possibly spreadsheets. Check what you want out of MS Office in order that you buy the right version for you.
The obvious one is MS Office365 or whatever its official title is this week! There are several flavours to choose from depending on what you want to do in the suite. This is a chargeable suite but there are free versions out there which are very good.
Of course, there's the online free office suite in Google and with that I'm told you have access to a lot of free stuff. If you have a different primary email address it could be worth while creating a Gmail account purely for access to these additional goodies!
A web search will find others if you want to give them a go!
A simple yet useful text and source code editor that's better than the inbuilt Windows Notepad is Notepad ++. This has more going for it than the basic Notepad as you'll see if you download and install it. My advice would be to try it out. It's my preference for text editing. see - https://notepad-plus-plus.org/downloads/
If you're editting html code you might prefer to use Visual Studio Code so check that out! - https://code.visualstudio.com/
I always suggest putting an app called Crap Cleaner onto your PC as this does exactly what it says – cleans the crap off your system, hence name Crap cleaner, ccleaner.
You'd be surprised what dross gets left on your machine at the end of your session. It has another useful feature in that it will remove cookies that you've collected during surfing the web! Always useful I feel.
I mentioned above to be careful when installing ccleaner.exe by just letting it install in auto mode as it has a tendency to install Avast AV software if you're not careful. I suggest you actually download the file from and select the SLIM version to download and run. This avoids adding anything we don't want!
Snip & Sketch
Built into windows, this allows you to capture something on screen and either save, paste into an app and I've found it very useful.
I added the shortcut to my taskbar or you can use the keyboard shortcut of Windows key + Shift + S and select the area of the screen you want. You can then paste into another document or save.
Windows Photo viewer
This came from earlier windows versions but I like it as my default graphic viewer as a right click on a graphic file will allow you to view a picture and to do a couple of things with it like rotate for one.
The best way to share documents with others is to convert the document into a pdf file before sharing as this will preserve the formatting and maintain the font used to create the document.
Most Office Apps these days offer the opportunity to Save As a pdf format document. Just select Save As and then select Save As Type from the save menu.
In the absence of this option there is another way and that is to Print the document to a printer such as Microsoft Print to PDF.
Saving this way generally means anyone can read the document without requiring a copy of the original app it was drawn up in.
A web search will bring up a number of readers, the standard and probably most known one being Adobe, but historically I have used others due to the fact that Adobe was a very large file and others were smaller and quicker, hence I've used Foxit Reader for years.
Graphics & Photo Editor
A good online one is Canva https://www.canva.com/en_gb
IrfanView is a fast, compact and innovative FREEWARE (for non-commercial use) graphic viewer https://www.irfanview.com/.
GIMP is a free photo editing software often cited as the best open source image editing software on the planet but can take a bit of learning to get to grips with. https://www.gimp.org/
It's very important to back up important documents and photos and these days you can do it quite easily online as a number of companies offer free storage for free up to a certain size and another option is to use a USB portable deice such as a Hard Drive, which over the years have come down in price.
A lot of people using cameras or phones to take their photos, which are usually personal to them forget about backing up their precious memories until something happens and by then it can be too late!
Video & Audio Player
Over the years I've always used VideoLan (VLC) https://www.videolan.org/vlc/index.en-GB.html software for playing both audio & video files but more recently I've started to drift away from VLC to play audio files from the Network Drive as it seems to suffer “stutter” whereas the inbuilt MS Groove Music doesn't faulter!
VLC is also good for downloading some YouTube videos which you can then use Audacity to rip the soundtrack!
Audio recorder and converter
I tend to use Audacity, https://www.audacityteam.org/ to edit and record music and rip sound tracks from mp4 video files.
I have connected a turntable with a pre-amp connected to my desktop to convert LPs to digital format and connected an audio tape again to convert to digital. Really good piece of software!
If you have various audio formats and want to convert them to say mp3 then a good app is LameXP, https://sourceforge.net/projects/lamexp/. It can convert Apple music files, WMA, etc and very quickly too!
Tired of long url's (web addresses)?
When you want to send someone a web address, url, and it's very long then use something like tinyurl.com and shorten the link to something manageable. Much easier to send and less room for errors in the address.
There are others and Google will offer to shorten links for you on some of their pages
Scam & Reporting
A useful site I've used recently is Who Called Me as we seem to be getting more unsolicited telephone / mobile calls recently. By using 1471 on phone and checking incoming calls on mobiles one can find the number that called you and enter it into this app. You can then find out what others have also said about that number and even add your own comments to help others. Useful.
You can also complain to the Information Commissioner's Office at https://ico.org.uk/
And register with the TPS, Telephone Preference Service, https://www.tpsonline.org.uk/
A very useful piece of software to install is Team Viewer.
This will help if you require assistance from a remote techy as they can then open their version and along with input from yourself they can effectively log into your machine and remotely help you to resolve your issues.
Very useful when it's not realistic to expect someone to pop round and help you. Worth the insatllation if you know someone who also uses it and willing to help!
Download Teamviewer here and run it to install it. Free to home users so just make the right choice on installation.