Your computer
Using your computer
Homework guide
About this guide
What is the point of homework?
When and where should you do it?
Tools you need
Essential furniture and equipment
Planning your homework
Curriculum help
Ages 6-15
Ages 15-18
Your computer
Using your computer
Word processing
Spreadsheets and calculators
Using the Internet
More advice
Rules to follow
How teachers can help
How parents can help

Sections: Using your computer | Basics | Health and safety

The desktop on a PC contains folders and shortcuts to programs
The desktop on a PC contains folders and shortcuts to programs. You can personalise the way it looks with a photo

What programs do I need?

Your computer will almost certainly come with some basic programs and accessories - things like a simple word processor (such as WordPad or SimpleText), text editor, calculator, file management and utilities to keep the system working well. It may also come with other applications already installed.

For most kinds of schoolwork, you will need to use one or more of these:

  • word processor
  • spreadsheet program
  • paint or graphics program
  • simple database management program

Depending on your own interests, you may find the following useful, too:

  • desktop publisher
  • HTML editor and/or text editor
  • presentation graphics program

It is easy to add new programs. Some can be expensive, but many are available as shareware (try for free and pay later) or freeware (you don't pay anything). Schools and businesses commonly use Microsoft's Office suite, but there are plenty of alternatives, such as StarOffice for a PC or AppleWorks for a Mac. You can also find free word-processing, spreadsheet and image editing programs by searching online. A good way to get trial versions of software, or even full programs, is to buy a computer magazine with a cover CD or DVD.

Keep your files organised

When you first turn your computer on, you see your desktop. The desktop contains icons - small pictures that represent hardware features, programs, folders or files. Clicking on the icon causes a program to run, or files and folders to open.

It's a very good idea to set up a "folder" (a specified area on a data drive) for each user of the computer: eg mom, dad, John, Sarah etc. Each user can organise his or her folder into sub-folders - areas for school subjects, personal things, to-do list and so on. You can then save files directly into the appropriate folder. With an organised filing system it will be much easier to find your documents and pictures. On a Windows PC you can use the file-management utility program (on recent versions this is Windows Explorer) to help you.

You can choose the way you view folders, for example: putting them in a list, with details. The best view for you depends on whether the extra information in a list tells you anything useful.

Finding lost files

You may still "lose" things but you can let your computer search for them. On a PC, click on the Start button, and select the Find option; on a Mac click on the apple icon and select the find tool (on recent versions, this is called Sherlock). You can either look at files of a particular kind, or those containing specified words, for example.

Sections: Using your computer | Basics | Health and safety