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Computer Guide for Seniors

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how to use computers, computers for seniors, computer ABCs, computer basics, computer guide, senior help with computersYou are reading this so you obviously have some familiarity with using a computer.  A computer guide for seniors may be more helpful to some than others.  Comfort in using computers varies from person to person.  Some people, often older individuals who aged without computer technology, do not use them at all.  They just never had the desire to learn later in life or were intimidated by unfamiliar technology.   Others learned just enough to do things  such as reading and replying to e-mails, paying bills and searching the world-wide-web for sites of interest.  But it ends there.  And still others have embraced the new technology and enjoy learning as much as they can.

This article is for those in the middle, i.e. I know the basics but get lost when it comes to using more detailed functions of an application.  There are many versions of operating systems and programs.  There is no way to provide guidance for them all.  So I am providing information for the most commonly used and latest versions. The below summaries are for operating system Windows 2007.   Directions may also vary some or completely depending on what version of application you have on your computer.  I hope the below highlights and summary information are helpful.


Internet (Explorer)


Save a website using add to favorites and/or add to favorites bar if you prefer to have it appear and remain visible along the top (see example image below).  Saving favorites or bookmarking is a wonderful way to ensure you can find your favorite sites.  And if you visit a site regularly, using the favorites bar makes life even easier.  Favorites is often identified by a star in the upper right corner of your internet window.  Click on the star and then add to favorites.  If you just select ok it will be added to your general favorites list.   You should also see a new folder option.  If you wish to categorize your favorites, which is often a good idea, then create a unique folder name and select ok.  For your favorites bar, select the pull down arrow and go to save to favorites bar.  The site should now appear as an option along the top menu area.

internet explorer save as favorite on favorite tool bar

Find on this page

After performing a search and opening a site, sometime the content is very busy and long making it hard to find the content of your search.  If you go the toothed wheel in the upper right corner (example – yellow arrow on image below), move cursor down to file and then find on this page (example – blue arrow on image below).  Type in the word or phrase you want to find in the find field that appears about an inch down from the upper left corner.  Select next.  If that is not what you expected to find, there may be additional relevant data further in the site.  If next is still highlighted, select it again.  Repeat this and you will be brought to instance of the word or phrase on that page.

internet explorer find on this page function


On the same toothed wheel in the upper right corner, click and move down to zoom.  You will see many selections for viewing size up and down.  You may also have an icon on the lower right corner of your computer screen.  If so you click on the icon and then click on the scroll and drag up and down to change the zoom percent factor.

internet explorer zoom function

Setting a desired homepage for the internet

Open any page you want to be your homepage, google search, a news site, singlestring.com, whatever you would like.  Once you are on the site you would like to select, go to Tools on the top menu (example – yellow arrow below) and scan to the bottom selection Internet Options (example – blue arrow below).  It should automatically open on the General page.  The homepage option is at the top.  Select Use Current and then Okay.  If you have more than one site open when you do this, they will all open in different tabs.  So only have one page open when you do this unless you wish to set several sites to open in different tabs each time you open the internet.

Internet explorer options

Internet explorer homepage setting

E-mail (Outlook)

Compose or generate a new message

Select new and then mail message or Compose. (you will see this is also where you would go to create a new folder)  One a new message screen opens, type in email address of recipients in the TO field, divided with a semi colon and a space if you add more than one.   You may also select contacts and find the desired name(s) by hitting to To, which should pull up a window that allows you to search for names in your contact list.  As you type in a name, options will appear in the window.  Select the name you want and click the To> to insert the name on your message. The semicolon and space will automatically be added when you select more than one contact.   When done, hit ok.   This will bring you back to your message.  It is helpful and courteous to add a subject.  Once you have added contacts, a subject and the content of your message, hit send.

Attach a file or picture

If you want to add an image to your message before sending, select attach file or click the paper clip icon.  A browse window should open.  Either a window of folders or a  browse option will appear.   You can go to the folder where your file exists, select the specific file and hit either insert or attach.  Select ok if prompted.  You will be brought back to your message and will see your file as attached or attachment.  Hit send.


It is a good idea to save e-mails that could be of value for future reference. If you expect to have a number of different e-mails, click on new and then folder, or select create folder.  It is a good idea to make one for each category of you expect (examples are banking, friends, online orders).  Give it a identifiable name.  The default saves new folders at the top inbox level which means the folder will appear in your inbox personal folder.  If you do not expect many, you may just want to create a Saved E-mails folder for future reference.

Be sure to purge and delete message and then empty the trash can on a regular basis.  If you don’t, once the messages pile up it can slow down your mail system and even cause it to reach capacity at which time you will no longer be able to send or receive messages.  You can select deleted messages individually and either right click your mouse and select delete or click the X on the left side of your top email menu.  To empty the entire trash can/deleted items, select or open the trash folder (deleted items).   You will either see a box to check to delete all items or go to the top menu, select edit and then select all.  You can now hit the X button on the left side of the top mail menu or, if available, hit the delete all button.  Depending on your mail system, you may be able to select the trash can/deleted items folder and right click your mouse to find an empty deleted items option.  This will delete everything in the folder.

Mail hasn’t read in

Click send/receive at the top of your email menu or if available, select update now or reconcile now.

Mail stuck in outbox

There are multiple reasons a message may be stuck in your outbox.  Open your outbox, select the message that has not sent, and hit resend.   If you double click the message it will open if not already in transmission.  Since the message has not gone, you can still edit at this point.  Perhaps a “sorry this is late as I was not aware the message did not transmit” notice is in order.  You can then simply hit send.   If this does not work, make sure your trash can is empty.  It can get bogged down when full.  Also, check the e-mail recipients and be sure the addressed were entered correctly.  If this does not work, you may need to ask someone more familiar with computer settings.

No new mail will read in

Your mailbox may be full.  Try deleting unneeded messages and empty the trash can.  Sometimes the port number also mess up.  It may be best to get help with computer settings.  Ask a family member or friend if they can help.

Generate a distribution list

Select contacts or address book, select groups or distribution list, type in a name.  Enter individual e-mail addresses or select contacts or address book and click on each name you wish to be included in the list.

Calendar features

Some mail services have calendars and others don’t.  This is a great place to put appointments.  If you use outlook, reminders can be put in place for specified timeline of early notification.  If you enter an appointment that overlaps with another appointment, you will receive a warning message.  Select the day you wish to make the appointment.  Enter a title, start time and end time.  You can even invite other by selecting share or invite and either typing in their e-mail address or using contacts to select them.  If this is a recurring appointment you can select that and then enter wither it is daily, weekly or whatever the recurrence.  Then if you choose, you can select alarm or notify and enter how early you wish to be notified.

Microsoft Office Excel 2007 (spreadsheet)

For activities such as tracking general expenses and Christmas gifts.


If you are interested in generating a spreadsheet enter the titles of each column in each of the cells across the first row.  If you want to bold the headings, select the 1 and the first row should highlight.  Then select the bold B on the home menu.  If you also want row titles you should start your heading titles in the second cell (B1).  Then enter your first row title in A2.  You can select the A to hightlight the first column and chose the bold B again to highlight those headings.  Enter desired data in each cell.

If you want more space in the cell, put the cursor arrow on the edge of the top alphabetic cell and click.  While holding down drag right to make wider.  If you want the contents to continue going to the next line in the same cell, then under alignment select the wrap.  The icon is a box with an arrow to another box.  You will then not have to worry about your contacts being longer than the cell is wide.

If you are entering number and wish to have one cell add, subtract, divide or multiply the contents of another cell you can easily enter a formula to do this for you.  Type =, select the cell you want the data from, type in the math function (x, +, -, /) and then enter a number or select another cell for which you want to use as the second number.  Then either hit enter or select the check box on the left side of the data entry area.

To make differentiation between cells, columns or rows you can fill them with a color using the home/font/fill color option.  The icon appears as a bucket dumping paint.  If you click the pull-down arrow to the right of the bucket, you can change the color you wish to use as a fill.


Click and drag to highlight across the cells you wish to move or copy.  Under home select cut or copy, depending on what you want to do with the data.  A shortcut is control x for cut and control c for copy.  Select the cell you wish to be the top left corner where they new data will go and select home/paste.  The shortcut is control v.

Microsoft Office Word 2007 (word processor)

For activities such as making Christmas card list and writing a letter, MS Word is a great choice.

For a Christmas card list and mailing labels 

You could use an excel spreadsheet, but it is a bit harder to use if you want to print the list on mailing labels.  For Christmas card labels, open MS Word, select new, above the layout options you will see a row of word options.  Select labels.  You will be given many label options.  Assuming a 1” x 2 ½” label for premade sheets available at places such as Office Depot and Staples, you would have 30 labels per page.  Choose a 30 per page option (example – yellow arrow on image below) or other size of label sheets purchased at your local office supply store.   All of the information for a contact should be entered into a single label area.  Use a minimum font size of 10 to 12, so the address is readable at an arm’s length.  Once your names and addresses are entered, save the file and print using label paper.

microsoft word label printing

Microsoft word formatting labels

Letter Formatting

Open a new file.  Select your desired font and font size using the pull down arrows on the font tab of the home menu.  If you want to start the line in the middle of the page, under paragraph select the multiple lines shown in the middle.  If you want the lines to stretch evenly from left to right margin, select the multiple line option under paragraph that are evenly displaced.  If you want to make a list within your content, highlight the lines of text and select the bullet with line option under paragraph.    If you want to intent a section of content, click your pointer left of the first line and hit the button under paragraph that shows multiple lines and an arrow pointing right.  To spell check your content, go to review on MS Word menu and click on spelling and grammar.  It will walk you through any questionable content.


 In you wish to have a repeated text at the bottom or top of each page, open the insert tab on the menu and click on header, footer or page number.  Select your layout preference on the pull down layout options.  Ok or accept once you have entered the repeated text.  Double click on the main tent area to get out of the header and footer option.  You can always double click in the header or footer area you created to edit without having to go back to the menu.  Once again, double click main content area to return to main content work area.

Insert an image

If you want to drop a picture or other image into your main content area, go to the main menu item insert and select pictures.  You will be given a browse option to select the location on your computer where the picture/image file exists.  Go to the proper folder and select your file and ok or select.  Once the picture inserts can change the way it interacts with your content.  For instance, you can have image be on the left, right, middle, or float within the contents to stay where you put it in reference to specific content.

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Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 (drawing program)

Love those cards with family pictures, you can make a personalized Christmas card too.

Make a printable Powerpoint card 

Got to File, select new and then blank presentation

Go to Design, select Slide Size, go down to Custom and select Portrait.  On the same window select Slide Designed For, pull down selection to letter page size, select OK

Select menu item Home, go to Layout, pull down menu to select blank

Go to view on menu and select view, check gridlines on so you can tell the four quadrants of your page

If you have a picture or some graphics you want to use, go to the image and copy (open file to copy – can use shortcut ctrl c).  Go to bottom right corner of your Powerpoint slide.  Click and paste from Home menu (or shortcut ctrl v).  If the image is not where you want it, click it and drag to desired lower location in lower right quadrant.  If the image is too big, click on the image and the Picture Tool Format menu items should appear at the top.  Click on the format tool and you should see an option to increase or decrease the size of the image using an arrow.  This will be the front of your card.

Select Home, go to Shape on menu and select the option that is a box with an A in it.  Click in the top left corner of your Powerpoint slide and type your message.  If the box itself is too far left of the edge of the page, you can grab the edge of the text box anywhere and place it where you want.  If your message is too long to stay within the left top quadrant, once you are done, click on the text box and points will show up on the edges.  Click to grab the lower bottom point and drag left to desired width.   Now you need to invert the text so when folded the card appears correctly.  You will see a circular image above the middle point of the text box.  Click and grab the circular image and move while holding.  You will see this allows you to flip the text box.  Turn it completely upside down.

Create a textbox in the upper left corner and type your message in it- you’ll probably want it to be left, not center formatting.

Check to make sure the text is in the right place. The lower left corner will be the back of the card- you can put something there if you want.

When it’s done, it should look like this:

Card Template Rev1

 When you’re done, just click print.

For more extensive computer learning opportunities for seniors, go to Senior Net.

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