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Computing made easy for the over 50s


Computing Made Easy for the Over 50s

Reviewed for Laterlife by Jackie Sherman, IT trainer and author.


computing bookThis new book published by Which? Is another one to add to the wide range of publications aimed at older computer users.

With clear images and well-spaced out bullet points on each page, it has a clean, uncluttered design which makes finding information very simple. The book is targeted at those running the Windows Vista operating system and introduces basic setup and security as well as a range of activities that include word processing using Microsoft Office 2007 Word; organising pictures, videos and music; carrying out Internet activities such as emailing, surfing the Internet or chatting to others and looking after your computer.

The sections on setting up broadband, watching YouTube, buying with PayPal, using an Internet telephone system such as Skype and setting up email are particularly helpful and there is good coverage of many of the security risks all computer users need to be aware of today. Some of the basic problems users come up against are also covered, and readers are offered the chance to send in their online queries to the Which? Computing team.

Although Word is covered in some detail, I was surprised that the authors felt it worth introducing Excel when they only cover a rather bizarre collection of activities such as grouping data and freezing panes. With no mention of charts, date and number formatting in general or how to copy formulae across columns, it hardly seems worth the effort and would be little help to someone completely new to, but serious about using this particular application.

My main problem with this book is understanding exactly who it is for.

  • It doesn’t appear to be particularly relevant to “older” computer users as the content could apply to people of any age, and my guess is that it is simply jumping on the “silver surfer” bandwagon to sell more books. For readers over 65 who haven’t had a computer before, I would expect far more emphasis on the basics such as how to control the mouse pointer and what saving really means, and rather less on things like setting parental controls.
  • It is certainly not a book for the complete novice as it makes far too many assumptions about previous knowledge and experience. And how many beginners are ready to edit their videos or make Skype calls?
  • The limitation of a book that aims to make computing easy is that it can be superficial: anyone really wanting to get to grips with an application or activity will find it frustrating because there is not enough coverage. In particular, social networking, searching the Web and using digital cameras and scanners are far more complex than this book would suggest. Even the word processing section only covers a single, quick method to do things so you can set text in columns but not know how to change which word starts column 2 or 3, and you are shown how to add bullets, but what about removing them if they are unwanted?

My conclusion is that this book could be valuable for people who would like an overview of the scope of activities you can perform with an Internet-ready computer and would be particularly helpful for anyone reasonably confident with a computer who has recently bought a Vista machine and needs an introduction to this very different operating system. However, i believe there are better books to buy someone who is elderly and wants to start getting to grips with IT.

Computing Made Easy for the Over 50s can be ordered on 01903 828557 for £10.99 p & p free, or at




View previous editions of YoucandoIT for more useful Questions and Answers

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