EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.
Do you abandon an idea if it requires that you download and install some software?
Have you given up on something you wanted to do when told you need to install Adobe Reader or the latest version of Flash?
Have you kept using a browser that you know isn't the best because you are unsure about how to install a better one?
You would probably enjoy your experience on the internet much more if you didn't let those kinds of things block you. Let's break it down into small steps. The example will involve Adobe Reader, but the steps are the same for any download and install.
Find the software to download. In the case of both Flash and Adobe Reader, this is at the adobe.com site in the downloads section. The web site should recognize what kind of operating system you have and offer you the correct version of the software for your system automatically. Here you see that Adobe is offering me the version for Mac OS in English, which is what I need for my setup.
Click the Download button. What you do next is important, but it may not look exactly like my illustration image. Here's what I see.
On a Mac, my choices are either Open the file with a package that will unzip it, or Save. On my computer, I have it set up so that anything I download will be saved on my desktop.
If you don't have your computer set up that way, you may see a dialog asking you where you want to save the new download. Pick Desktop. If I choose Open, it unzips it and saves it on my desktop. If I choose Save, it saves the unzipped file. Either way, you want it on your desktop.
If you chose Save, next you need to double-click the downloaded file to unzip it. You have a zip file and another file with an icon that looks like an open box on your desktop. The box represents the installer. These two may be anywhere on your desktop, so look around for them. Once you find them, drag them to an open spot on the desktop where they are close together so you can find them again easily when you're finished.
On Windows, when you click the download button or link, you may have to click a bar at the top of the browser to allow an add-on. If you're downloading from Adobe, they are trustworthy, so you can OK this. You will be asked if you want to Run or Save the file. You can pick either Run or Save.
As with the Mac, you want this to end up on your desktop. You'll download an .exe file, which may end up on your desktop with some other file extension, however you should be able to identify it as Adobe.
Double-click the icon on your desktop to install the new software. A dialog will open. It's different depending on whether or not you use Windows or Mac.
On a Mac, you most often drag an icon representing the program into the Applications folder. Sometimes there are a few steps to click through asking questions like, "Do you want to install this in the Applications folder?" Your goal is to get the program into the Applications folder, so follow whatever instruction it tells you to do in order to make that happen.
On Windows, double-click the new item to start the installation. You may have to click Continue a couple of times to get through the steps before it is finished. When you're finished, an icon for the program should be on the desktop, which you can double-click to open the program any time you need it.
You may also have to click to agree to licenses or terms of service for some things you install. Don't be afraid to agree to things that pop up when you are installing software from a trustworthy company. Everything should go smoothly if you agree to what they ask and let it do its work automatically.
Every version of Windows may not handle this the same way. Don't worry. The key steps are to get the downloaded item on your desktop, then double click to install it. After that just approve whatever it wants until it's finished.
You may need to do some clean up on a Mac. Make sure you close the installer program so you can clean up.
The two files on your desktop - the zip file and the installer (the box icon) - are now trash. You no longer need them, because you have the software installed. Put them in your trash and empty the trash. This applies to any old zip files you might have sitting around on your desktop. Once the program is installed, you don't need those things cluttering up the place and using storage space. Trash them.
On Windows, the .exe file or other installation files may just go away and you may not need to clean up your desktop. But if you see them still sitting there, drag them to the trash. Be careful not to drag the icon that you use to start the program, just the installation files, if any.
The Adobe Reader can be used independently, but it may be used by your browser, too. If you try to read a PDF document in the browser, it may go looking for the Adobe Reader and use it to open the PDF document right in the browser. The same thing applies to Flash. It's generally used in the browser to play videos or animate something.
Your browser may or may not need to be "told" that the new Reader or Flash software is there and ready to go. If it doesn't seem to realize that the software is there, it may ask you what application you want to open something with. Click through your Program Files or Application Folder to find the name of the software and choose it.
If you install a better browser such as Firefox [http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/] or Opera [http://www.opera.com/download/], you want to configure it by importing the bookmarks or favorites from your old browser. In Firefox, choose File > Import. In Opera, choose Bookmarks > Manage Bookmarks. In the Manage Bookmarks window, choose File > Import.
That's how to download and install. Give it a try.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, George J. Measer: A Reception at the White House.