- By Ruth Davis
These days, if you’re not Skyping, texting and shopping online, you may feel like you’re somehow behind the times.
But how do you keep up with all of this new and changing technology? How do you use your computer, tablet and smartphone without getting overwhelmed by everything they can do?
These are the kinds of questions I’ve been hearing from clients since 1987, when I started helping people learn how to get the most out of their Macs. When I work with people in their 50s, 60s and 70s, I’ve found that these three basic tips help people get past fear and intimidation and begin to embrace the possibilities that technology offers.
Customize Your Experience
Working with technology shouldn’t be painful. If you can’t read the print on the screen, make the font bigger. Don't be afraid to turn up the volume and the brightness of the screen if necessary. And if you prefer to see things as an alphabetical list instead of icons, change how you view the contents of a window.
On a Mac, you can customize many settings in System Preferences under the Apple menu. Click on Desktop/Screensaver to choose your favorite pictures for your Desktop wallpaper. Click on Mouse or Trackpad to set how fast the cursor moves and how quickly you have to click. Look in your Settings or do a Google search to find out how to do these things on your computer.
And be sure your computer screen isn’t too high or too low. If you have neck and shoulder pain, you may need to make an adjustment.
Keep Track of Passwords
It seems that every website requires a user name and password. While it’s easier to use the same information everywhere online, that may not be the safest strategy.
Experts advise you to use a random combination of letters and numbers, both upper and lowercase. Not your pet’s name. Not your birthday. Not the number of your street address.
To create a secure, easy to remember password, you can use a phrase like “I Love My Family” and take the first letter of each word, alternating upper and lower case letters, and combining it with numbers for the password. So the password would be 2iLmF82.
(MORE: How to Create a Smart, Secure Password)
If you’re not willing to create a different user name and password for each site, consider using four passwords: one for your online banking, one for online shopping, one for junk stuff and one for website subscriptions.
There are many online companies that will store your passwords for you. But beware. Who are these companies? How secure are their sites? How do you know they’ll be in business next year? I recommend against this.
The safest solution is to write everything down in a notebook that you carry with you when you travel. You can also create a password-protected document on your computer and also save it on the Cloud as a backup and for access from all of your devices.
Understand Upgrades and Updates
Software and hardware are constantly changing to give us bigger, better, faster technology. You'll want to understand the difference betwen updates and upgrades.
Updates are free fixes to existing versions of a product. Upgrades are new versions, with new features; software upgrades often take advantage of new hardware features.
It’s important to keep up with updates, to ensure that your equipment is secure and fully functioning.
Upgrades, on the other hand, can be a double-edged sword. The new software may not work with other software you have. And you may need to upgrade your hardware so that everything is compatible.
That said, the best strategy is to upgrade within six months of any new software release, if you can. Stay as current as your hardware will allow, because manufacturers tend to stop supporting and updating older versions.
If you choose not to upgrade because everything you do works fine, you may find that, at some point, a new printer is not compatible and you can no longer upgrade, because you’ve waited too long.
But There’s So Much It Can Do…
Maybe you hear your friends talking about all of the fun things they do with their computers and you feel you should be doing more.
(MORE: What's a Mobile App and How Do I Get One?)
It’s perfectly OK to only use your computer for email and information gathering. Maybe you’d rather be outside hiking or on the tennis court. Maybe you’d rather talk to a friend on the phone than send an email.
Technology is supposed to make things easier, more fun. It’s supposed to offer you simpler ways to do things, keep track of things, stay connected. Use it to suit your needs and let that be enough.
Ruth Davis has been helping people love their Apple technology since 1987. She offers online classes, self-paced video tutorials as well as virtual one-on-one training to users of all ages and levels of experience through www.mac2school.com.