Email and internet searching

When you use a computer for the first time there are two things you will need to do early on – send and receive email and search for things on the internet.

Getting started with email

Your internet service provider (such as BT, TalkTalk or Virgin Media) will give you an email address as part of their package, and you can just use this if you prefer. However, this has the disadvantage that the email is tied to your internet service, so you will probably lose it if you decide to change to another provider later.

For this reason we always prefer to set up a free email account with a provider such as Gmail (Google), Outlook/Hotmail (Microsoft) or Yahoo. If in doubt our suggestion is Gmail because you can also use the same account to download apps if you get a smartphone.

To get started, go to the provider’s page and select ‘Create a new account’ or ‘Sign up’ and follow the instructions. Occasionally you may need a mobile number that can receive texts as well.

Once you have your email account set up you can log in at any time and use it to send and receive emails. You can recognise an email address by the @ sign in the middle of it (for example You will need your email address later to sign up for online services such as shopping sites.

Searching the internet

To search the internet on a computer you will need a web browser. This is a program that runs on your computer that displays pages from the internet (web pages) – your computer should have at least one installed already. Examples of commonly used web browsers are Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox – they all work in the same way.

Open a web browser. This is usually done by clicking on te respective icon at the bottom of your screen. Web browsers usually start with a search page – often Google or Bing.

To search for something, move your mouse so that the pointer is over the search area in the middle of the screen and click the left button once. You should see a blinking vertical line (the cursor). Type whatever you want to search for, say ‘Tesco online’ or ‘Diabetes advice’, and press the Enter key or click on the ‘Google Search’ button or magnifying glass icon. You will get a list of search results – the one you want is usually near the top of the list.

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