Did you know that computers offer on-screen keyboards, similar to mobile devices? They are rarely useful, since the physical keyboard is far easier to type with. But you should know where to find the on-screen keyboard on your computer. You might someday find yourself in a jam, and suddenly need it!
How To Activate
Activating the on-screen keyboard is different for each type of computer.
Microsoft describes how to open the On-Screen Keyboard at this site. But there are others ways to bring it up. If you are at the Windows login screen, you can click the Ease of Access icon to the lower-right and then click On-Screen Keyboard. You may also press WIN + R and enter “osk” in the Open field.
Once this on-screen keyboard is open, you are welcome to click on any key you see, and get the same effect as if you touched the physical keyboard’s key.
The original intent behind the on-screen keyboard is to help offer a different way of typing, in case it makes the computer more usable and accessible. Let’s say you find yourself in an arm-cast — mouse-clicking might be preferable while you heal up. But consider the on-screen keyboard also as a tool for troubleshooting:
If your physical keyboard is typing erratically, or missing keystrokes, open the On-Screen Keyboard and test with it. The results might help you figure out if you have a defective physical keyboard or a systemwide problem.
What about when your wireless keyboard depletes its batteries? You’ll be hard-pressed to log in with your PIN or password, if you’re out of AAA’s. The on-screen keyboard will help you get back into your computer and you can go buy more batteries later.
Your on-screen keyboard may help you find a hard-to-find key that you want to press. It may even offer you keys that your keyboard lacks! Example: the Scroll Lock function on my laptop was disabled. I could not turn it back on, because I had no Scroll Lock key on my laptop. But I could press that key in the on-screen keyboard and fix my situation!
Missing a few operating system updates on your Mac computer isn’t a big deal. You can usually poke at the Software Update function and download whatever your Mac is missing. But once in a while, I meet a older Mac that has missed out on years, even a decade, of OS upgrades. Dealing with an extremely out-of-date system is not as straightforward.
But at some point, you will have to deal with it. A several-years out-of-date MacOS leads to an out-of-date browser. And if your browser has become too deprecated, it won’t be able to load secure websites well. Such an old-timer will be rejected by modern websites and show you something like the following:
Extra Steps to Update
Unfortunately, when the Apple is this far out of date, it is also not very helpful in getting up to date. If you try the normal procedure for receiving software upgrades, the OS will lie to you and claim there are No Updates. If you contact Apple Support, they often state that you are on a Legacy device, they can’t help you and that you must buy a new computer. But that is not always the truth either. I’ll go through the extra steps you would need at this point.
Identify Your Mac
You need to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what kind of Mac you have and what year it is from. Thankfully, Apple makes this easy to determine. Click your Apple menu and go to About This Mac. Here you’ll find this exact info. Take note of it!
The Bare Minimum OS Upgrade
There have been many different versions of MacOS released in the last decade. An older Mac may not be eligible to update to the latest (MacOS 13), but that’s OK. To resolve the website errors shown above, we just need to get MacOS High Sierra 10.13.2. At the time of this writing, that’s the MacOS requirement for most modern browsers to run and support updates. If you are lower than 10.13, you’re asking for trouble.
So if your Mac’s About page reports less than 10.13, it time to see if it can handle this bare minimum upgrade. Take a look on this website, and read the second paragraph about Mac Hardware Requirements.
Using the info you got About Your Mac, determine if your machine qualifies. If it does, it’s time to download the High Sierra upgrade, from this link. If your machine does not meet the requirements, it is time to retire it and buy another computer.
If you succeed in processing this upgrade, your troubles may be over! When the computer reboots and lets you back onto the internet, websites may load again as normal. If you’re using Chrome or Firefox, there may be an extra update process for those browsers. But those should process on their own after a brief wait, once they realize that the OS allows them to do so.
Beyond the Bare Minimum
Upgrading to High Sierra buys you some time, but it’s hard to say how much. You might want to upgrade your OS further, if possible.
Older Macs will not be eligible for all of these upgrades, due to their hardware. If your Mac can be only be upgraded to a certain level, you will have to accept it or move on to another machine. But upgrading to the highest OS possible for your machine will buy you the most time.
Final Note: Stepping Stones
When upgrading from a very old MacOS to a newer one, you often can’t get to the maximum in just one upgrade. For example, let’s say you have a MacBookPro that still runs 10.9, and you find out it can handle MacOS 12. The installer for 12 may refuse to run, if you try it first.
In this scenario, you have to hop from one upgrade to the next, like they were stepping stones. The 10.9 machine won’t jump all the way to 12, but it can accept the upgrade to 10.13. After that upgrade succeeds, try to upgrade to 11. If that works, next make the final jump to 12.
Oh, and after each successful upgrade, go into your Apps folder and trash the installer file for that upgrade. You won’t need it again, and it’s taking up a lot of space!
This is just for the Outlook app. If you want Word, Excel or other Office apps, you’ll still have to pay up. Or use LibreOffice.
Outlook aims to be the swiss-army tool of mail clients, with calendaring, tasks and more. If you prefer something more simplistic, MacOS Mail isn’t going anywhere. And if you need something with lots of features but want to avoid Micro$oft, there’s always the free Thunderbird email client.
Many people continue to use vintage computers, running operating systems that are past their end-of-support date. While I recommend that these users upgrade to something modern and more secure, I understand when they stick with their classic machines. I don’t judge.
But if those computers are going to hit the internet, they do need antivirus. And as they age, it becomes more difficult to find an antivirus software that is willing to run on a much older OS. Below are some links to free antiviruses that are compatible with bygone OSes, like Vista and El Capitan.
My favorite free antivirus for older PCs is Microsoft Security Essentials. But Microsoft pulled this from their sites, so use these links to get the 32-bit version or the 64-bit version . It will run on any XP, Vista or Win7 computer.
There’s some debate on whether Macs need additional antivirus protection. For now, I’ll say: You are at greater risk if you’re using an out-of-date computer, so antivirus becomes more relevant if you’re not running the latest MacOS. If your MacOS is so old to be completely out of service, please get some antivirus ASAP.
AVG offers free antivirus for Macs here, and can install on MacOS 10.13 High Sierra or newer.
Avast offers free antivirus for Macs here, and can install on MacOS 10.11 El Capitan or newer.
There are many ways to remove a piece of software from your computer.
Many Windows apps can be uninstalled straight from the Start menu! Simply click Start, look through the Apps or Programs menu for the item you want to get rid of, and right-click on it. If you see Uninstall listed, click it and see if the program disappears.
Otherwise, click Start and go to Settings. Click Apps, then Apps & Features. You should see a list of the software installed on your system. Find the program you want to remove, and click the 3-dots button to the right of it. Click Uninstall and you’re on your way.
Or, you can go to the old-school Control Panel: Press Windows + R on your keyboard, and then type the word control into the Run window that appears. Open Programs & Features for another listing of your software, click a program and then use the Uninstall button at the top of the list.
On Apple computers, users simply launch the Finder and click Applications on the left-hand column. Find the program you want to ditch and click-and-drag it to the Trashcan on the dock.
On Android phones and tablets, long-press on an app, and drag it to the top of the screen. If it can be uninstalled, you should see an option for that appear. Drop the app onto the word Uninstall, and it should be removed.
On iPhones and iPads, long-press on an app, and all of your apps will start to wiggle! Tap the — or x-marker on an app to uninstall it. When done removing apps, make sure to exit jiggle-mode by pressing the Home button, or pressing the Done button in the upper-right corner.
Some programs, though, just don’t want to leave. If you’re seeing errors or nothing happen after a basic uninstall, you may need to resort to some advanced methods:
If a program won’t leave your Mac willingly, open the Apple menu and go to Force Quit. Look for the program there and kill it, then try again to uninstall.
Microsoft makes a special troubleshooting tool you can download, and it stands a chance of fixing something, so that you can try the basic method of uninstalling again.
When all else fails, Revo Uninstaller is often the tool that will vanquish your foe. This is my go-to for anything that puts up too much of a fight, and it will rip out any recalcitrant software you point it at. Note: I only ever need the freeware edition, but they also offer paid versions, if you feel the need to show them some appreciation.
Speak to your computer and have it type what you’re saying! Windows and MacOS have voice-to-text typing tools built-in and you just have to launch them for your speech to flow into whatever document you’re creating.
Once started, you can have this tool enter your spoken words anywhere you see the input cursor flashing. Feel free to dictate into a Word doc or email or status field on Facebook. After you’re done dictating, feel free to go back and edit for punctuation by hand.
And if you ever have any trouble with these built-in tools, there are websites that offer similar tools. This Voice Notepad website is handy, because you can switch between dictation and typing more gracefully. When you’re done, simply copy the text and paste it elsewhere.
On a Windows computer, there are certain things you can’t do when naming a file. Microsoft is pretty helpful in telling you that you can’t use any of the following characters, as you type a new file name:
< > : ” / | \ ? *
But Microsoft doesn’t tell you that there are a few reserved words, that are forbidden:
Try naming a new file (or folder) one of those and you’ll get an error that is decidedly unhelpful. But try again with something slightly different (“Auxiliary” instead of “Aux”), and everything will work as normal.
Now for a small catch: Most of these Windows-based forbidden naming conventions are not present under MacOS. You can name your file “Con.docx” on an Apple. Or make a folder called “Retain for Later?” on your iMac.
But Mac users should still try to respect these Windows-based restrictions. Why? Because if down the road, you email or transfer those files/folders to a Windows computer, bad things can happen. When a file is added to a PC, and Windows finds that the file name violates the rules of the OS, then:
The file may vanish.
Windows Explorer may lock up or crash.
The file may refuse to open or allow any changes to its file name.
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