Tech Tips for Non-Technical People

Have you ever been confused by your computer?  Are you afraid of your phone?  Many of us use powerful technology every day, but we don’t always know how to make the most of it.  I write weekly tech tips to educate regular people about the technology they use. I’d like to share my love of technology with you and help you make friends with your software and devices.

Create your own return address labels

Sending mail is always more fun with custom labels, and it’s not that difficult to create your own! Here’s how I do it:

  • Purchase Avery Return Address Labels at your local office supply store. I use #8167.
  • Download the Microsoft Word template for your product.
  • Open the template in Word, design your label, and print!

Parental controls

Parental controls

Want to allow your kids to use your computer, but don’t want them surfing unsafe websites or using the computer for too long? Parental Controls is a feature that allows you to create a separate user account and limit that that user can do. For example, you can create a simplified desktop that’s easier to use, limit application use, limit which websites can be accessed, limit who can be emailed or chatted with, limit time usage, hide certain words using a profanity filter, and more.

  • Go to Apple menu > System Preferences and then click Users & Groups
  • Click the lock icon to make changes, and then type in your computer name and password.
  • Click the plus (+) sign under “Login Options” and choose “Managed with Parental Controls”
  • Fill out the remaining fields and Create User.
  • Select the account and then click the “Open Parental Controls” button
  • From here you can customize your settings.

More information on

Mac guest accounts

If other people in your house (or visiting guests) use your computer, you might not want to allow them to access all of your files and programs on your Mac. It’s easy to set up a guest account that doesn’t require a password and can be restricted to use certain programs/websites (using Parental Controls). Once they log out, all the information and files in the guest account are deleted.

  • Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, and then click Users & Groups.
  • Click the lock icon to unlock it, and then type an administrator name and password.
  • Select Guest User in the list of accounts.
  • Check the “Allow guests to log in to this computer”
  • If you let guests log in, you can also set up parental controls for guests by selecting “Enable parental controls” and clicking Open Parental Controls to manage those settings.
  • To let guests use your shared folders and their contents from another computer on your network, select “Allow guests to connect to shared folders.”

More information on OSX Daily

Guest accounts

Renew your Web Hosting & Domain Names

I’ve talked before about Domain Names and Web Hosting. If you have purchased either of these services in the past, don’t forget that you need to renew them either monthly or yearly! If you don’t remember to renew, you could lose your domain or your entire website. Your registrar/hosting company should email you when it’s time to renew, so keep an eye out.

Convert scanned documents to editable text

OCRIf you need a physical document scanned and turned into text, don’t type it up yourself! Online OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is a free service that will convert PDFs and other image files (TIF, JPG, PNG, GIF) to editable Word, Text and Excel formats.

Just upload your file, choose the format you would like, and the program will convert it so you can download the editable version.

Try Free Online OCR now »

Keep track of your reading

Good ReadsIf you read a lot of books, it’s nice to keep track so you know what you’ve read and what you might like to read in the future. GoodReads is a great (free) website that lets you save book lists, write reviews, and share recommendations with friends. They also have a mobile app for updating your book list on the go.

Watching YouTube videos later

YouTube is fun, but sometimes you don’t have time to watch that whole 15 min video on the 1960’s Digital Future.

Did you know that you can save videos to a “Watch Later” list in your account? Just log into YouTube and view a video. Click the “Add to” link under the video and then choose Watch Later. The next time you log into YouTube, just click the “Watch Later” link in the left column to see your videos.

YouTube watch later

Encrypt your important information

lockFinancial information, passwords, account info, and other sensitive data on your computer should be protected securely. Here are a few pieces of software I use to encrypt my important data so only someone with the password can access it:

  • Knox (Mac): Create a special encrypted drive to store data using either a portion of your local hard drive or an external hard drive or thumb drive.
  • 1Password (Mac/PC): Encrypt passwords, bank account information, and any other secure notes with this amazing Password manager. It also syncs with Dropbox, which enables you to use the software on multiple computers and access your passwords via the web.
  • Apple FileVault (Mac): Encrypt your entire home directory. Be careful! If you lose your recovery key, you lose all your data.
  • TrueCrypt (PC): A popular free encryption software for PC. I haven’t used it myself, but it looks similar to Knox.

Note taking software

Note takingIf you’re like me, you’re much faster at typing than writing with a pen and paper. Here are some great applications to try if you’d like to take notes and organize them on your computer:

  • Google Drive - Create documents, presentations, and spreadsheets for free on your Google account and access them anywhere.
  • Evernote - Create notes and collect your documents in one place. Keep your files in sync over the web so you can access them anywhere.
  • Notational Velocity – Free and basic note taking database. Just search for a note and if it doesn’t exist yet, create it. Makes it easy to organize your notes.
  • OmniOutliner – Simple outlining program for the Mac. It isn’t free ($50-99) but still excellent for basic note taking.

Generating dummy text

Need to quickly generate placeholder text for a website, brochure, or newsletter? Here are a few dummy text generators you can use:

Don’t forget to swap in your real content before your project goes live/gets published!