Earlier, I said you shouldn’t try to learn or use “the computer”, but rather should think in terms of applications. Here we’ll get more specific with the advice: Know what applications you’ve got, and which application do what.

Remember: When you ask “How do I do this?” or “How do I make the computer do that?”, the question you probably really want to ask is “What application do I want to use here?” Even when you turn to people for help, that’ll often be the smartest question to ask.

What’ve you got?

If you’re wondering what applications to use for some task, you might as well start by looking at what you have. You may have all sorts of useful applications waiting on your computer, ready to use – that is, you have all sorts of applications installed, as the lingo goes. And even if you don’t recall having bought and installed many applications yourself, your computer came equipped with plenty of useful applications, right out of the box.

Take a look at what you’ve got installed. For well-designed applications, the name or icon typically hints at what the application does. (For example, say you see an application called FinanceMaster Plus, with an icon featuring what looks like a bookkeeping ledger. You can guess that it’s something good for tracking your expenditures, but perhaps not so good for creating party invitations.)

Some applications will have cryptic names or icons, though. You can always use a web browser – that’s an application you’re probably very familiar with – to search Google for your mystery application’s name. That should lead you to a product page or to pages with product reviews, and voila, there’s your overview. Or if nothing else, just start up the application, and see what it shows you!

What kinds of applications are there?

There’s no way to discuss specific applications here – we could list thousands and thousands – but we could at least look at some important types of applications. If you’ve got one or two good applications in each of several popular categories – a good web browser, a capable word processor, some fun games, and so on – you’re probably equipped to tackle whatever tasks or entertainment cravings come your way.

Even a simple overview of categories will take up some verbiage, so I’m going to use a separate page. Click the below and read or just scan; it’s valuable info for a beginner! (The page should open in a new window, so you don’t lose this page.)

Side topic: What types of applications are there?

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