I often get asked, “How did you learn so much about computers?”
My answer is, “I learned most of my knowledge and skills through online research.”
That answer is often met with blank stares because it seems like such an impossible task. But this week, I’ll teach you 5 easy tips that anyone can follow to become more computer savvy!.
Tip #1: Google It
The first and most important step in becoming computer savvy is to learn how to use Google to your advantage. It’s important to learn how to correctly pose a question for search, and how to use Google to find your answer. I like to refer to this as exercising your “Google Fu.”
What’s awesome about Google is that there are tons of different ways you can search for something. So no matter what you’re researching, knowing how to find what you’re looking for is a pretty universal skill.
To learn how to get better at Google, check out my episode, How to Use Google Like a Pro. It includes some of my favorite ways to use Google, such as searching for something within a specific date range, from a particular site, or even finding an exact phrase.
If there’s something I don’t know about a computer, the first thing I do is check out the first few hits of a Google search to get some information. For example, when someone gets a specific virus or has a specific problem affecting their computer, a quick search will often show how to resolve it.
After a few years of using Google to research different things about technology and computers, you begin to form a solid working knowledge without even trying.
Tip #2: Just Try It
Don’t be afraid to try something on a computer. After all, there is hardly ever an action you can perform on a computer that will permanently break it. That being said, make sure you have back-ups of anything important.
This especially goes for parents with children who show an affinity for computers. If they like to take things apart and put them back together, or they just like to tinker, find a used computer on Craigslist for cheap. This provides a great platform for kids to learn on.
If you don’t have a computer you want to experiment on for fear of breaking it, checkout my episode on creating a virtual computer, How to Use a Virtual Machine. Just a warning though, you will have to use Google!
A virtual machine allows you to mess up anything you want because you can reset it back to any point in time, or just start over. Plus, this can all be done while keeping your actual computer working perfectly.
Tip #3: Read the Manual
The first two tips may seem like no brainers to some people, and to others it may seem like not enough guided advice. Either way, you’re in luck. There are free courses for Windows, Apple, and Linux users on the internet.
If you want to get more acquainted with Windows, you can find a ton of tutorials and other learning material on the Microsoft website. The same goes for Apple, which provides more than enough documentation for you to study. If you want to learn about Linux, there’s a full course on edx.org that is partially narrated by the creator of Linux himself.
For anything else, Eli the Computer Guy provides an awesome series of YouTube videos that covers almost any computer topic you can think of in extreme detail.
A little bit of time and practice with this material and you’ll gain a pretty comprehensive understanding of computers—and it’s all free!
Tips #4: Look for Shortcuts
One of the best ways to be tech savvy is to look for shortcuts for everything. It can be as simple as using a keyboard shortcut to open a program or installing software to help you work faster. If you get really good, maybe you can even write your own program that will help you and your coworkers be more productive.
I’ve done two podcast episodes on keyboard shortcuts and how much time they save (one for Windows and one for Apple), but this goes for anything with computers. If you run into something that seems fairly repetitive that could be made easier, there’s probably a program for it.
See also: Pogue’s Basics: Tech Shortcuts to Improve Your Life
For example, as an engineer I had to process tons and tons of Excel spreadsheets—checking them for errors and combining them into multiple documents. After two hours, I wrote a program that would check for errors, combine the tables, and even drop them into a report for me.
Shortcuts like that save time and money, and with that time and money, you can learn more. Now you may not be ready to just drop everything and write a program, but look for areas in your life that can be made simpler by a program or a shortcut. (Yes, many of these can be found with a simple Google search).
Tip #5: Help Someone
A lot of what I’ve learned about computers came from helping others with their technology problems and questions.
As with any subject, the best way to understand a concept is to teach it to someone else. Plus, you get the added advantage of people asking you questions that you may not have ever thought of, or that you don’t understand as much as you thought you did. In either case, you’ll expand your understanding, help someone in the process, and might even make some money while doing so.