Read an Excerpt
Laptops For Seniors For Dummies
By Nancy C. Muir
John Wiley & SonsCopyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
All rights reserved.
Discovering the Laptop Advantage
Get ready to ...
* Understand the Difference
between a Desktop and
* Understand Different
Types of Laptops 12
* Explore All You Can Do
with Your Laptop 14
* Appreciate the Portability
Laptop computers started as very expensive options for those who travelled for business and were willing to carry almost ten pounds of machine to be able to use a computer on the road.
Move forward in time, and you'll find that laptops have become a much more affordable, portable, and ubiquitous option that many are choosing as their only computer, whether they travel much or not. If you're thinking about joining the laptop revolution, it's time you understand the advantages a laptop can offer.
In this chapter, I introduce you to the key differences between a desktop computer and a laptop, the computing opportunities your laptop offers, and the different styles of laptops available.
Understand the Difference between a Desktop and Laptop
The fact is that when it comes to performing computing tasks, a desktop and laptop are pretty much identical. They both have an operating system such as Windows 8.1 or Mac OS X. They both contain a hard drive where you store data and computer chips that process data, and they both run software and access the Internet.
Where a desktop and laptop differ is their physical appearance, size, and weight. Here's a rundown of the key differences:
* Appearance: A desktop computer is typically encased in a tower, into which you plug a separate monitor, keyboard, and mouse. (Some newer models have the brains of the computer incorporated into a monitor base.) A laptop has all its parts in one unit, as shown in Figure 1-1. The central processing unit (CPU) — chips, monitor, keyboard, and touchpad (a laptop version of a mouse) — all fit in one compact package that includes slots called ports for plugging in other devices (called peripherals), such as a little toggle that acts as a transmitter for a wireless mouse or printer.
* Power source: A laptop contains a battery that you charge by plugging it into a wall outlet. You can run the laptop off of a charged battery or plug the laptop into a wall outlet so battery charge isn't a concern.
* Portability: Having a battery and coming in a more compact package makes a laptop more portable (although some larger models are a bit hefty to tote around); a desktop stays put on a desktop as a rule.
* Extras: Very small laptops might not include a CD/ DVD drive and therefore require an external drive, like the one shown in Figure 1-2, to be attached.
Understand Different Types of Laptops
Today, there are several types of laptop that vary by size and weight, functionality, and the way you enter information into them. Here are some options available to you:
* The garden-variety laptop (also referred to as a notebook computer) runs around 5–8 pounds and has a monitor size ranging from about 13 inches to 16 or so. It's portable and can handle most computing tasks. Multimedia/gaming laptops are laptops that have more sophisticated graphics and sound cards.
* Desktop replacements are laptops with more heft. They might weigh more than 10 pounds and have larger monitors (perhaps as big as 20 inches). Their keyboards are roomier as well. However, although they aren't too difficult to move around your home, they aren't meant to be as portable as other types of laptops.
* Ultrabooks are thinner, lightweight laptops that have lower-power processors for longer battery life. Whereas laptops usually weigh in at about 4 to 7 pounds, ultrabooks (see Figure 1-3) weigh a mere 3 pounds or so and their screens come in at around 12 to 15 inches. Of course, their light weight has tradeoffs, mainly in the form of a smaller keyboard, no DVD drive, and a heftier price point.
You may be wondering about netbooks, very small, inexpensive laptops that came out around 2007. Netbooks had less powerful processors than most laptops and very small keyboards. By 2009, netbooks had grown to become essentially small laptops, using the Windows 7 Starter operating system (still a bit limited compared to the full Windows 7). Netbooks are still around, but have pretty much been upstaged by ultrabooks and by tablet computers such as iPad or Microsoft's Surface that provide the same functionality in an even sleeker package at a similar price.
Many people own both a laptop and a tablet. If you decide to buy a tablet and choose an iPad, you might want to check out my book iPad For Seniors For Dummies, 5th Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).
Explore All You Can Do with Your Laptop
Your laptop is a computer in a smaller package, so you can perform all the typical computing tasks with it. If you've never owned a computer of any type, your laptop purchase will open up a world of activities.
Even if you're buying your laptop just to do e-mail (I hear this a lot from seniors!), do yourself a favor and explore a few other computing tasks that your laptop will allow you to do, such as these:
* Run software programs to accomplish everyday tasks. Utilize word processors to write letters or create flyers, spreadsheet software to organize your finances or household inventory, or photo-imaging software to work with your snapshots.
* Work with financial activities. From storing your checkbook and credit card records to doing your taxes, a computer can help you gain control over your finances. You can manage your investing, pay bills, and do your banking. Performing financial activities online can be very safe if you know the ins and outs of staying safe online (described in Chapter 21), and working online can be incredibly convenient, with your accounts available 24/7.
* Keep in touch with friends and family. The Internet makes it possible to communicate with other people via e-mail; share video images using webcams (tiny, inexpensive video cameras that capture and send your images to another computer); and make phone calls using a technology called VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) that uses your laptop and Internet connection to place calls. You can also chat with others by typing and sending messages using a technology called instant messaging. These messages are exchanged in real time so that you and your grandchild, for example, can see and reply to text immediately. Part IV of this book explains these topics in more detail.
* Research any topic from the comfort of your home. Online, you can find many reputable websites that give you information on anything from expert medical advice to the best travel deals. You can read news from around the corner or around the world. You can visit government websites to find out information about your taxes, Social Security, and more, or even go to entertainment sites to look up your local television listings.
* Create greeting cards, letters, or home inventories. Whether you're organizing your holiday card list or figuring out a monthly budget, computer programs can help. For example, Figure 1-4 shows the Hallmark greeting card site with lots of options for creating electronic cards to send to your friends' e-mail inboxes.
* Pursue hobbies such as genealogy or sports. You can research your favorite teams online or connect with people who have the same interests. The online world is full of special-interest chat groups where you can discuss your interests with others.
* Play interactive games with others over the Internet. You can play everything from shuffleboard to poker or action games in virtual worlds.
* Share and create photos, drawings, and videos. If you have a digital camera or mobile phone with a camera, you can transfer photos to your laptop (doing this is called uploading) or copy photos off the Internet and share them in e-mails or use them to create your own artwork. If you're artistically inclined, you can create digital drawings. Many popular websites make sharing digital movies easy, too. If you have a digital video camera and editing software, you can use editing tools to make a movie and share it with others. Steven Spielberg, look out!
* Shop online and compare products easily, day or night. You can shop for anything from a garden shed to travel deals or a new camera. Using handy online features, you can easily compare prices from several stores or read customer product reviews. Websites such as www.nextag.com list product prices from a variety of vendors on one web page, as shown in Figure 1-5, so you can find the best deals. Beyond the convenience, all this information can help you save money.
Appreciate the Portability Factor
Because your laptop is portable, you can move it around your house or around town with relative ease. What does this portability allow you to do?
* You can access your e-mail account from anywhere to stay in touch with others or get work done away from home or the office. You can also store documents online so that you can access them from anywhere.
* Use public hotspots — locations that provide access to the Internet, such as airports and Internet cafés — to go online. For example, some hotels today provide Wi-Fi access free of charge, so you can work on your laptop from the lobby or your room.
* Even if you're staying in town, it might be fun to take your laptop to a local café and putter while sipping a latte.
Check your laptop battery-life specifications. Recently, one laptop was shipped from Lenovo with a 30-hour battery life, but some still offer only about 2 hours. If you plan to use your laptop for an extended time away from a power source, be sure you've charged your battery (find out more about this in Chapter 4), and keep an eye on it. You could lose some work if you haven't saved it and the battery power runs out.
Tablets versus laptops
What's the difference between a laptop and tablet? Tablets, also called slates, are more like a hefty pad than a computer. There is no keyboard and no mouse. Instead, you tap the screen to make choices and enter text. The onscreen keyboard is still smaller than a laptop keyboard, but there are physical keyboard and mouse accessories that you can use with tablets to make input (typing text and commands) easier. Tablets also have super battery life at as much as 10 hours — almost a month in standby mode (when you're not actually using them). Tablets connect to the Internet using either Wi-Fi or 3G technologies (Wi-Fi is a network that is in close proximity to you; 3G is what your cellphone uses to connect virtually anywhere). 3G models require that you pay for your connection time.
Tablets, which are coming out from many manufacturers to compete with the iPad as of this writing, weigh about 1.5 pounds (more or less), and were first planned as devices for consuming media (watching videos and listening to music, to you and me). Whether used to read eBooks, play games such as Scrabble, browse the Internet, play music, or watch movies, these devices have proven incredibly popular. The big surprise since the launch of the iPad has been how big a hit tablets are with business and educational groups. Applications (called apps) range from credit card readers for retail businesses to eReaders such as Kindle and reasonably robust productivity tools such as word processors and spreadsheets.
However, tablets are pretty darn small. If you want a computing solution that's comfortable to work on at a desk for a few hours and pretty easy to take on the road, a laptop still has some advantages over a tablet.
Excerpted from Laptops For Seniors For Dummies by Nancy C. Muir. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Excerpted by permission of John Wiley & Sons.
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