Almost three-quarters of the adults in the United States own a desktop or laptop computer. Any tech store will likely have between five to six brands of laptops available, including Lenovo, HP, Dell, ASUS, or Acer unless it is an Apple store. HP, Lenovo, and Dell account for 60% of the laptop models sold worldwide.
Laptop computers have become lighter weight and more powerful. Knowing how to use a laptop will allow you to bring out its full potential.
Setting Up Your New Laptop
It is always wise to take a few minutes to read through your owner’s manual and keep it in a handy location for later reference. If you have been operating a desktop computer, the set-up procedures are similar.
Despite their name, laptop use of these portable computers is not necessarily the best or most comfortable place to work. A hard flat surface works best. If you will be doing extensive typing a computer desk or adjustable table works best because it puts the keyboard at a comfortable height for your wrists.
Do not place the laptop on soft or fuzzy surfaces that can block the fan vents located on the sides and bottom. Free airflow is critical to proper operation.
Laptops have a rechargeable battery making them easy to take with you. Many laptop batteries last about two hours, but some newer models have batteries that last almost 30 hours.
Determining how long your battery will last between charges depends on the computer and how you use it. The best option if working near an outlet is to leave your laptop plugged in.
When leaving your laptop connected to power at all times, check to see if your laptop has a “battery saver” option. This option preserves the life of your battery by preventing it from overcharging. When it reaches a low percentage it stops charging.
If you activate this option, you will need to turn it off and fully charge your battery before using your laptop without plugging it in.
Open the Lid
Do not open the top more than a 45-degree angle to avoid damaging the hinges. Locate the power button and turn the laptop on. The power button is usually marked with the universal symbol of a circle with a vertical line halfway into it.
Once the computer boots up you will receive a prompt to register your operating system, create a user account, and configure your system preferences and settings.
There is a flat surface between you and the keyboard, which is the touchpad. Use your finger on this surface as your mouse. Sliding your finger back and forth to move the cursor, or pushing on the left or right of the pad to “right-click” or “left-click.”
The touchpad can take a bit of practice to master, so have fun and try different things using one or multiple fingers to fully learn its operation. If you find the touchpad not to your liking, you can purchase a wireless mouse and easily connect it to your laptop.
You plug the small device that accompanies the mouse into one of your USB ports. The computer automatically recognizes the mouse and is fully operational. You will often find discounts on computers and computer accessories, including a mouse, external CD/DVD drive, and gaming accessories to enhance your laptop use.
There are many useful ports on your laptop computer, and knowing what they do is beneficial to use your computer to its full potential.
Locate the USB ports on your computer, they may be on either side or in the back near the hinges. This is where you will connect things such as your external mouse, portable external drives, flash drive, or digital camera.
SD Card Slot
This small slot is where you insert the SD card from your camera to easily download photographs into your computer photo program. You generally push the SD card into the slot to use, then push gently on the edge of the card for it to pop back out.
This is located near the back of your laptop. This is the port you use if you choose to plug your laptop into a network cable when not using a wireless system.
This port is on the back of your laptop and is blue. It is what you use to connect your laptop to a projector or another screen.
Some laptops have an optical drive (DVD/CD-ROM). If your laptop has one, it will be on either the right or left side of the computer. The drive opens by pushing the small button on it. The other way of opening the drive is to go into your operating system, right-click on the optical drive icon and then select “eject.”
Many laptops are now made without the built-in DVD/CD-ROM drive. If this is the case with your laptop, you may purchase an external drive to use when playing music on your laptop. It plugs into one of your USB ports to use.
Close to 60% of the population, or 4.66 billion people, use the internet worldwide. There were an additional 321 million new internet users in the twelve-month period prior to October 2020. More than three-quarters of the world’s internet users go online using their laptops or desktop computers.
If you do not have a home internet network or portable hotspot, you need to obtain that first. You will purchase and install the majority of software programs by going online and downloading.
Most laptops have a socket that will connect to your modem using an Ethernet cable. The easiest connection is Wi-Fi, and both Mac and Windows operating systems have built-in wireless utilities. If you do not have the ability to obtain cable at home, you will find free Wi-Fi available for free in many locations including libraries, cafes, and fast-food restaurants.
You will need to select your browser, either Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer. You may also try all three and choose the one you prefer.
Word Processing Programs
Each brand of laptop arrives with some basic accessories. These may include a simple word processor, a calculator, and maybe a simple photo-sharing program.
The word processing program that comes with your computer will be very basic and not sufficient for any serious work. The best way to obtain everything you need is to download a full office suite.
OpenOffice is a program that is available online for free and offers programs for doing word processing and spreadsheets similar to Microsoft Word. Another option is to use Google Docs online. This is a cloud-based option that is similar to OpenOffice, is free, and makes it is easy to share documents with others.
For those who do more serious writing, spreadsheets, and publishing, Microsoft Office Suite is the way to go. This program eliminates the need to be online when operating it, making it ideal for those with limited internet access.
Office Suite provides you with Word, Access, Excel, and Publisher. This is a subscription program that can be paid monthly or yearly. If you are a student you may be able to obtain the program at a reduced price or for free. It is easy to go online to Microsoft, purchase the programs, and download.
Photo and Video Processing Programs
There are many free photo processing programs available online. Picasa is a popular program for organizing and sharing photos. This Google program and has the basic tools to perform tasks such as cropping, recoloring, and retouching.
For more serious photo editing Adobe Lightroom and/or Adobe Photoshop are subscription programs that provide you with all the tools necessary for serious editing of both jpeg and raw photo files. Adobe Bridge allows you to download, view, and organize your photos, then open them in the photo editing program of your choice.
For video and slide show production there are free programs available online. For more serious editing CyberLink PowerDirector 365 is an excellent choice for producing videos and slide shows with voice and music overlays. This program is available online as a subscription program and many of the tools operate in the same manner as Adobe PhotoShop.
How to Use a Laptop for Work and Fun
The laptop computer provides you with numerous options for both work and fun. Word processing, photo processing, and video production are just the basics.
Making your screen dual allows you to work with two documents side-by-side. Click the small box in the upper right corner of your screen located between the minimize and close symbols. This reduces the page to a smaller size.
Open a second page or document and also reduce it in this manner. You can then fit them side-by-side on your screen by dragging into position and pulling the sides to the appropriate size. You now may click and work on either document back and forth on your screen.
Play Movies, Stream TV Shows, Show Photos
If your laptop has an HDMI or DV-1 connection, as well as a DVD or Blu-Ray player, you can use your laptop to play movies on your large screen TV. You may also use the laptop for playing movies, TV shows, etc. found online on the computer for your own enjoyment.
If you connect external speakers to your laptop you will be able to convert your laptop into a surround sound MP3 player. This is also fun if you are a gamer and want to have surround sound for your gaming fun.
Explore Your Options
Now that you know how to use a laptop have fun exploring all options for expanding its use. Whether playing movies, gaming or using a dual-screen for remote work, the benefits of owning a laptop are obvious.
We invite you to check out our website for more great ideas to use at work or play.