Laptop or notebook computers are increasingly powerful, portable alternatives to smart phones and desktop computers for getting serious work done on the go. If you’re moving up to your first laptop or just sitting down at an unfamiliar one, things might seem a little odd at first. Fear not – follow these steps for getting started with all laptops and we’ll get you up and running like a pro in no time.
Setting Up Your Laptop
If you are using the laptop in your home, find an outlet and plug the charger in. Laptop computers run on batteries that can deplete rapidly, especially if you’re using your laptop intensively. Unless you’re somewhere remote or foreign where you absolutely have to go without, it’s better to leave your laptop plugged in
Place the bottom part of the laptop on the table/desk you are sitting in front of. They’re called “laptops” because they can go on your lap, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always the best or right place. Try to find a comfortable angle for your wrists and hands – this might mean moving the laptop around until you find the best position for you.
Don’t place your laptop on soft, fuzzy, or shaggy surfaces that can block its vents. Most laptops have fan vents located on the sides and bottom that should be left unblocked for the laptop to run.
Lift the lid to open up until the screen looks comfortable for you. Most laptops have some type of clasp or latch which allows the screen to open. If the laptop won’t open, don’t try to force it! Look for a latch instead. You shouldn’t have to force the screen open. Do not pull back the lid too far. A 45-degree obtuse angle is the most the laptop should be open to. The lid or hinge mechanism may be damaged or broken if pulled back any further
Find the power button and turn it on. On most laptops, the power button is located slightly behind the keyboard. The power button is usually marked with the universal symbol for ‘power on’, a circle with a line going halfway through it.
Wait for the laptop to boot up. Since laptops are designed for portability as well as computing power, your laptop may have specialized hardware that will cause it to take longer to boot up than a desktop or smart phone.
Use the laptop’s pointing device. On most computers, this is a flat, touch-sensitive area called a touchpad which will allow you to use your finger as your mouse. Simply slide one finger on the touchpad area to move the cursor.
- Many touchpads are multi-touch – using multiple fingers will produce different user interface actions than using just one. Experiment with your laptop by dragging one, two or three fingers across it and trying different ‘gestures’ or movements with your fingers.
- Lenovo laptops may use a small, red joystick-like button called a “trackpoint” located in the middle of the keyboard between the ‘G’ and ‘H’ keys. Use it just like a very sensitive joystick for just your finger.
- Some older laptops may have a trackball. Rolling the ball on a trackball will cause the mouse pointer to move around.
- Some laptops are equipped with a pen interface. A pen will be attached to the laptop in these cases. Hover the pen over the screen to move the pointer and press the pen to the screen to click.
- Do you find laptop pointing devices tiny and difficult to use? You can always attach a mouse to a laptop. Locate the laptop’s USB port and attach a mouse if you’d like to use one. The laptop will automatically recognize the mouse and make it ready for you to use.
- Use the touchpad’s left click button as your primary mouse button. On most touchpads, you can click using a button located on the bottom left of the touchpad.
- Some touchpads may allow you to tap lightly on the pad surface to click. Experiment – you might discover additional functionality to your laptop you didn’t know you had
Use the touchpad’s right click button as the secondary mouse button.
You’ll do anything involving a “contextual menu” or a “right click” by just pressing the right click button located at the bottom right of the touchpad.
Locate your laptop’s optical drive if it has any. If your laptop is not a ‘netbook’ it probably has an optical drive which you can use to install software or play music. The optical drive is usually located on the right or left side of the laptop.
In Windows and Mac OS, you can open the optical drive by pushing the small button on it, or by right clicking the optical drive icon in your operating system and selecting “Eject”.
Keep your laptop’s software up to date. Your laptop probably came with some basic accessory software: a simple word processor, a calculator and maybe some basic photo sharing software. Laptops also have special software for controlling power and graphics; they’ll will often require a lot of driver updates before they’ll be ready to use. With a little know-how, you can add software to dramatically boost your laptop’s capabilities — in many cases, for free.
Install office software. For basic drafting and note-taking, your laptop’s built-in software accessories will suffice, but for more serious academic or professional work, you’re going to want a more full office suite.
- OpenOffice can do word processing, spreadsheets and presentations, similar to proprietary software like Microsoft Word – but for free.
- Use Google Docs as an online alternative to office suites. Google Docs is ‘cloud-based’ office software that offers a lot of the same functionality as OpenOffice or Microsoft Office. It’s free to use and very powerful, in particular if you have to share documents with others.
- If you simply have to use Microsoft Office, you might be able to get it for free or a discount if you’re a student. Check before you go down to the store and buy a copy.
Install photo editing software to organize, touch up and share your photos. Your laptop may have come from the factory with some basic photo software. It’s quick, easy and in some cases free to upgrade it.
- Use Photo Stream to organize and share your photos. If you have an iPhone or if your laptop is a Mac, you can follow our basic setup instructions to get Photo Stream up and sharing your photos.
- You can use Picasa to organize and share your photos. Picasa is made by Google and provides you with a lot of the basic tools you’ll need to work with photos like cropping, retouching and even recoloring and making panoramas.