Mastering English

Mastering Computers

These days, almost everyone does their writing on a computer. This has numerous advantages, but it's a whole new skill, and involves a host of frustrations.

Our W2P members must also deal with AOL and its unending foibles. These tutorials cover some of the basics.

The spread of tablet and smartphone computers, and ever-newer operating systems, makes the upkeep of a page such as this a major project. By now it's more relevant to older computers and AOL software versions, which are still utilized by millions of people. (Meanwhile the basics, if not the exact steps, probably do apply for most computers.)

Guide Books

Cutting and Pasting

AOL User Tips

Creating an Address Book

Making a Session Log

Checking Email Status

Guide Books

I recommend the 'how to' title Writing With a Computer, by Joan P. Mitchell (©1989, Houghton Mifflin) It's a bit old, but the essential functions remain the same.

(Most of the newer "bloatware" word processing applications have so many bells and whistles it's ridiculous. Better to stick with simple and effective cyber-methods.)

(Thanks to California's onerous Internet tax law, we can no longer offer any 'how to' book titles, via Amazon.com's Merchant Associates program.)

Cutting and Pasting text

Doing written critiques is a creative process. Our members find it helpful to work directly with the text of the submission they are commenting upon. Also, this makes the critiques more specific, thus far more useful to the receiver.

Doing so requires the "cutting and pasting" of email text. This is a simple technical process that, once mastered, will prove useful in every aspect of computer use, and in your writing career.
Cutting and pasting is one of the most basic functions of ALL computers, and of ANY word processing, office, email, or other text-based software.

The reason you can't alter an email (you have received) is that it is secured as a "hard version" of the document. Just think, you wouldn't want someone to change an email you sent and then pass it off as yours. So, what you have to do is copy the entire email into the text of a brand new one. To do this on most computers, either you use the Edit menu to copy and paste, or the function keys on your keyboard.

Using keys:

This will COPY everything that is highlighted. Go to the new email you are creating, move the cursor there, and hit control and the letter "v" key. Now you will have PASTED the entire text into the new email and can edit to your hearts content.
On a Mac computer it's the same, except instead of the Control key, use the Command ("apple symbol") key.

Using menus:

Use your computer mouse. Open up the email document you wish to critique. Hold the clicker down (on a Windows machine, the left-clicker) and pass the cursor over some text. You can see it getting dark in the background, or being 'highlighted.' On the 'original,' you have to either use Select All (as with a submission) or 'highlight' the part you want to talk about.

Next, create a new email document. Just click Write on the main AOL menu. Or, with AOL running, type command (or control) and "n" -- and leave the new email open. Click on its text window (it will be blank) to put the curson there (instead of in the 'address' window or 'subject' line.

Saving documents:

Now use Save (or control -"s") to keep the document on your hard drive. (Macs use the Command - s buttons instead.)

You should create some new folders for your documents.

Getting Organized:

We suggest making a fresh folder for each week's Writing to Publish activities. Place those folders away from your AOL software folder. Perhaps create a main folder called Writing, and put each new folder in there. That way, if AOL crashes, or you have to reinstall it, your personal documents and emails will not vanish.

Microsoft Word and many other word processing applications use almost identical processes. Master these techniques with AOL, and the rest of your computer will become far more useful.

AOL User Tips

You can banish much of that junk email you've been getting. Go to Keyword: MAIL CONTROLS, from your original, or 'master,' Screen Name.

Select your most-heavily-plagued screen name (and others, next, if you wish), and set it to "Allow email only from AOL members and these addresses." Then type in the addresses of any specific non-AOL sender you expect to be getting email from.
This will cut down your junk email to only those "Forged Address" emails that appear to originate within (or even from) AOL, plus the countless short-lived AOL accounts opened by spammers.

These usually advertize diets, porno, easy money, miracle cures, and other chintzy stuff--but will likely attempt to rip you off big time! If--and only if--you follow the hyperlink they always include, and thus launch your AOL browser,they will want your credit card info, and heaven help you if you give it to them. Some of them will even load a Trojan Horse program, or a virus, onto your computer, and rip off your screen names, passwords, and account information. The likely result is that AOL will have to shut down your account, at least temporarily. The only way to completely avoid junk email is to set AOL to allow email "only from" approved addresses. Then type (or paste) in everyone you can think of who sends you email. The drawback is that you'll miss any legitimate messages from sources you didn't list, and you must update the list every time you expect to get email from someone new.

Creating an Address Book

First, start up AOL. Open the email (or your W2P Named Log) with the current Active Member's List in it. Select (only) that part of the text, by passing the cursor over it, with the mouse button held down. The background will turn dark, so you can see that it's being selected.
Then go to you computer's main menu (at the top of the screen, or wherever you keep it), and click on Copy. Or use the proper keyboard strokes. (Mac and Windows computers differ on this.)
Next, make sure AOL is on your computer desktop's active window. (That it's "in front.")
Now go, by pointing and clicking, to your: AOL Menu --> Mail Center --> Address Book --> New Group.
When the New Group window opens, type in a name like Writing to Publish. Then click on the window under it (or press Tab), and Paste in the current Active Members List.
Lastly, click on Okay to Save the new group file. Then Quit. That saves it for sure. (I've had problems, when a later crash erased changes I thought I'd made.)
From then on, when you want to send an email to the group, just create a new (blank) email, and open your Address Book. There is a button for it on every email window! Double click on the file you've created (called, Writing to Publish), and that entire list will automatically appear in the Send To window of your email!
To upgrade the List, as we must sometimes do, just follow the main steps above. Open Address Book, but when you are looking at the file(s) there, select on Writing to Publish (with one click), then click on the Edit button instead.
Then you can either Select and Clear the entire list, and Paste in a new one, or (as I do), simply remove, or type over, any screen names that are to be added or subtracted. And them, click Okay to Save it.

Making a Session Log

Have your AOL software up and running, and be "in" the Den already. Bring your cursor (mouse) onto your AOL menu bar, and select My Files. Under this, go to Log Manager and click it. It'll show you System, Chat, and Instant Message. In the Chat section, select New Log, and Save it to where you can find it again (another common error we see!), most likely in the same special Folder you're using for your story's emailed critiques and related stuff. (Newer AOL versions may have slightly different Drop-Down Menus, but the basic procedure remains the same.)
Just Close the log after the session is over, and you'll have a complete record of all that is said in the Den tonight. (This works for any other AOL chat you may visit.)
Make a test run if you wish, in any chat room at all. If this doesn't work for some reason, mention it right away, and we'll talk you through it before the session gets rolling.

Checking the status of AOL email

Here is a quick primer on what AOL can do for you, that most email servers cannot.

"I've totally lost track of who I sent emails to."

AOL can show you, and with its normal built-in functions.
Just open your normal email window, then click on the Sent Mail tab. (The blue one up top, near New Mail. (The Old Mail tab is also useful.)
In the Sent Mail window you will see which emails you have sent lately, including the date, subject line, and receiver -- if to a group, the first one on that email list.

There's more information on our FAQ page. (Also some alternates for the procedures explained here.)


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