Tag Archives: beginners

Blender 2.8 for Absolute Beginners [1]

There are a lot of excellent video tutorials out there, but…none of them allow you watch in slow motion. That means you have to stop, rewind, play, rinse and repeat, until you see that one, teeny thing that a beginner doesn’t know and the presenter takes for granted.

As an absolute beginner myself, I’m writing this series of posts to save other absolute beginners from the hours of frustration and research that went into learning the teeny things everyone else takes for granted. Each post will be step-by-step with screenshots, and I welcome comments that point out things I’ve missed or taken for granted. So, let’s begin!

What is Blender 2.8?

Blender 2.8 is open source, 3D graphics software.

Translation: Blender 2.8 is a free app that produces models of ‘things’ that can be viewed from all angles – i.e. in 3D.

Where can you download Blender 2.8?

You can download the app from here:

https://www.blender.org/download/releases/2-80/

As with all software downloaded from the internet, you should save the file to your computer and scan it with your anti-virus software before installing it.

Getting Started

Once Blender 2.8 is installed, this is what you will see:

The colourful bit in the middle is like a temporary shortcut menu. Common functions are on the left, and recently used files are on the right. Left click on the dark grey grid in the background to make it disappear.

You will now be looking at the Layout workspace. It contains all the tools and options you will need to create and edit a 3D model. As a beginner, this is where you will spend most of your time.

Before starting to explore the workspace, however, I need to address the elephant in the room – Blender keyboard shortcuts.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Most software programs allow the use of keyboard shortcuts – e.g. Ctrl C for Copy and Ctrl V for Paste [in Microsoft Office programs] – but these shortcuts are an added extra for those who already know the software and want to work faster. In Blender, this process is reversed – i.e. shortcuts first and menus second.

Even as recently as Blender version 2.79, the menus were all over the place, and learning how to find functions in them required as much memory as learning how to use the shortcuts themselves. I started with 2.79. It was hard, very hard.

Enter Blender 2.8. The core functions remain the same, but the interface and the menu system have been rationalized from the ground up, making the learning process much easier. Navigation functions are grouped together as are the creating and editing functions you will use the most. Better still, when you can’t find/remember a less used function, there is a fairly logical and consistent way of finding it. And finally, if all else fails, you can press F3 on the keyboard and search for the function by name.

I had to smile as I wrote about F3. Search is a core function in any software, yet even in 2.8, it’s accessed by a keyboard shortcut and requires you to remember which key it is hidden behind! Blender 2.8 may have emancipated the menu, but shortcuts are still more…equal. 🙂

Irony aside, there is a compelling reason why the experts use the Blender shortcuts; they’d go insane selecting millions of small, repetitive functions from the menus! And you will too.

To give you a simple example, you can use this navigation key to zoom in and out of your model:

Left click the zoom icon [circled in red] and hold the mouse button down as you move the mouse towards you or away from you. Moving the mouse towards you zooms the scene out – i.e. it gets further away. Moving the mouse away from you zooms the scene in – i.e. it gets closer to you.

Or you could simply use the scroll wheel on the mouse to zoom in and out.

So which keyboard shortcuts should you learn off by heart?

Opinions will differ, but I found the navigation ones a must:

Zoom in and out

Move the scroll wheel on the mouse to zoom in or out.

Free move around the scene

This allows you to view the scene from all angles. Hold down the scroll wheel on the mouse as you move the mouse around. [The pundits talk about holding down the 3rd mouse button, but if you’re like me and don’t have one, holding down the scroll wheel works just as well.]

Move the object in the scene
  1. Click the object to select it.
  2. Press ‘G’ on the keyboard [‘G’ for ‘grab’].
  3. Do NOT click the object again [this is not like the click-and-drag you are used to]. Simply move the mouse and the object will follow like a dog on a leash.
  4. When the object reaches its new location, left click the mouse to lock it in place. [If you want to move the object again, you will have to press the G key again.]
Move the object in just one direction

To understand this shortcut, imagine that you have positioned an object in just the right place and you don’t want to accidentally mess it up. But…it could do with being just a tiny bit higher [or lower or left or right or backwards or forwards]. How do you make that small adjustment without messing it all up?

The answer is by constraining [locking] movement to either the X, Y or Z axis:

Unlike the graphs you probably learnt as a child, in 3D, up and down is known as the ‘Z’ axis. In Blender, the Z axis is shown in blue, the X in red and the Y in green. The orientation of ‘X’ and ‘Y’ will depend upon how you are viewing the object. In the example shown below, I want to move the object to the right:

As you can see from the screenshot, left and right are on the X axis [the red line on the grid]. To move the object precisely to the right:

  1. Click the object to select it.
  2. Press ‘G’ [for ‘grab’] followed by ‘X’ [for the X axis]
  3. Move the mouse to the right.
  4. Left click the mouse button to lock the object in place.

If you want to move the object up or down, the shortcut is ‘G’ and ‘Z’. In the screenshot above, moving the object backwards and forwards would be ‘G’ and ‘Y’.

If you want to use the menus you will have to start by opening the toolbar on the left. To do this, point the mouse at the right edge of the toolbar. When the mouse pointer changes to a double headed white arrow, click-hold-and-drag to the right:

Keep dragging until the toolbar is open and shows the label for each icon. Click the ‘Move’ option as shown:

You should now see a kind of 3D compass in the middle of the object. Click-hold-and-drag the blue arrow to move the object up or down on the Z axis. Click-hold-and-drag the red and green arrows to move the object in the direction of the lines on the grid [red for X, green for Y].

I admit I found the whole  X,Y and Z spatial awareness thing a bit hard at first but, as with most things, the more I had to move objects around, the easier it all became. And as I learned more advanced processes, I realised that X, Y and Z are absolutely fundamental to using Blender. I suspect they’re fundamental to learning any 3D software.

Ultimately, you will learn the shortcuts that make your life and work easier. For me, one shortcut I simply couldn’t live without is Ctrl Z. It’s standard for ‘Undo’ and will save you millions of clicks as you work in Blender.

Undo

Hold the Ctrl key down while you press the letter Z. This will undo the last thing you did. You can repeat Ctrl Z up to about 30 times, or until you run out of steps to undo.

Alternately, you can click ‘Undo’ on the Edit menu [top left of the screen]:

I’ll finish this first post off with a beginners tutorial that was quite good. It takes you through the basics of navigating the viewport using both the navigation icons and the keyboard shortcuts that go with them. The ‘viewport’ is just the name given to the dark grey grid.

Whether you use the menus or the shortcut keys, I hope you have fun and enjoy the learning process.

cheers

Meeks


Blender 2.8 – a body at last!

Have I ever mentioned that I become obsessed with things sometimes?

Yes, well. I almost gave up learning Blender after the disappointment of the chair:

A couple of weeks on, I’m glad I kept at it. My ‘body’ is no prettier than the chair, but it’s an order of magnitude more sophisticated, and I’m bloody proud of it! lol

I haven’t worked out the bits that make the rendered object look good, but at least you can see my little man. 🙂

The round balloony things are light sources that give the figure its light and shade.

I’ve looked at an awful lot of video tutorials to get to this point, but the two that helped the most are:

  1. for the body

2. for the head

The reason I had to find a different tutorial for the head was because the one for the body used a function/technique that I simply could not replicate. I think that’s because the tutorial was done in Blender 2.78 while I’m using the latest version, 2.8.

In future posts I’m going to detail the translation problems I managed to solve, as well as a few very, very basic tips for people who really are just beginning. All too often, I came unstuck because of details or methodology so basic that the expert doing the teaching simply did not think of explaining it. That happens to me a lot.

For now though, I really, really need to vacuum my house. Things have been a wee bit neglected of late…

Have a great weekend everyone!

-hugs-

Meeks


How to disable Quick Access in Windows 10

I have to use Windows 10 when I’m teaching, and I’ve found that the new Quick Access option in File Explorer is confusing the hell out of my students.

Quick Access is like the old ‘Recent Places’ in Windows 7, except that in Windows 7, you control whether you see those recently accessed files and folders or not. In Windows 10, the ‘Quick Access’ function displays recent places by default, and they always appear at the top of the navigation tree. Essentially they are duplicating some of the files and folders shown under ‘This PC’, making my students wonder:

  • Which version of a file or folder should they use?
  • And if they do use the handy Quick Access area, why doesn’t it show ALL of their files and folders?
  • Have those other files and folders been lost?

For beginners, this duplication only leads to confusion and makes understanding how to save and retrieve their work even harder. For this reason, I told them to ignore Quick Access and go straight to ‘This PC’.

Why? Because only in ‘This PC’ will you find all the files and folders stored on your computer.

Sadly, it’s hard to ignore Quick Access when it’s the first thing you see and you have to scroll way down the screen before you can even see ‘This PC’. To solve this problem, I went searching for a way to tame Quick Access without requiring the powers of a super geek to do it. And here it is:

Step 1

Open File Explorer.

Step 2

Click the File button [or tab] on the File Explorer toolbar as shown:

Step 3

You should now see a menu of options. Click ‘Change Folder and search options’ as shown:

 

Step 4

You should now be looking at a popup menu of Folder options. The first option on the General tab is ‘Open File Explorer to:’ Quick access’. To change this option, click the small arrow next to ‘Quick access’ as shown:

Step 5

You should now be looking at the two available options – Quick access and This PC. Click the option for ‘This PC’ as shown:

Now, File Explorer will automatically go down to ‘This PC’ whenever you open it.

But…

Quick Access is still there, and it’s still saving a ‘history’ of every folder you’ve opened and every file you’ve created or edited. In other words, the confusion continues.

Step 6

To stop Quick Access from continuing to duplicate your movements, you’ll have to stop it from saving that history. With Folder options still open, go down to ‘Privacy’ and untick the two options shown there:

 

Step 7

File Explorer will no longer track what you do on your computer, but your past movements are still there, in Quick Access. To clear everything out of Quick Access you have to clear out the history as shown below:

Once you click the ‘OK’ button, all of the File Explorer history will be gone from Quick Access, and it won’t come back!

There doesn’t appear to be any way of getting rid of the Quick Access option entirely, but at least now it won’t duplicate every thing you do on your computer, and you will be in control of what you see on File Explorer. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 

 


How-to guide is now free!

Good morning all. 🙂 It’s 6:57am here in lovely Melbourne, and I just realised I forgot to post about the freebie here on WordPress. So….

‘How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing’ is now free on Amazon:

https://preview.tinyurl.com/y8fl4bks

The promotion ends at midnight US time and about 5pm-ish Australian time.

For those who have never tried any of my how-to’s, all my guides are pitched at the true beginner and include step-by-step instructions, with examples for the ‘why?’ and pictures for the ‘how?’.

If this appeals to you, please download the ebook version while it’s free. This ebook can be read on Kindle Fire tablets or on the free Kindle reading app for tablets, pc, mac and phone.

cheers

Meeks


Australian #Selfpublishers needed to beta test KDP how-to guide

Apologies! I’d love to send beta copies of the paperback overseas, but the postage is a killer so this plea is for Aussies only.

So what do I want and what do you get?

I’d like 5 volunteers, anywhere in Australia, who’d be prepared to test the KDP how-to for functionality. I’ll send you a questionnaire to make things easier, but essentially, the questions I’d like answered are:

  • do the step-by-step instructions leave anything out that a real beginner would need?
  • do the examples make sense?
  • are the screenshots good enough?
  • are the page numbers in the Table of Contents accurate?
  • are the page numbers in the Index accurate?
  • if dipping into a guide is your style, do the Table of Contents and Index help you find what you’re looking for? Quickly? Easily?
  • is the cover too garish? Tone down the green? Pick another colour for the back cover entirely?
  • and of course, typos, but only if they hit you in the face. Don’t worry about combing through each page.

In return, you get to keep the proof copies I send you. No strings, no obligations. However, if you return the questionnaire, I’ll also send you a ‘first edition’ of the final, finished version. If you want it signed, I’ll do that too, but you can have it naked if you prefer. Again, no strings, no obligations. 🙂

Almost as important are the things I won’t do:

  • no using your email address in any newsletters, either now or in the future,
  • no contacting you directly with any promotional stuff, and
  • no pressuring you to write a review.

So there you have it. I’m hoping to have the proof copies ready within 2 weeks, so if you think you’d be interested, please contact me on:

meeka at triptychacf dot com

or

@acflory on Twitter.

Many thanks,

Meeks


31 Self-publishing Tips 4 Absolute Beginners

  1. Print-On-Demand is new tech that allows books to be printed one at a time instead of in hundreds.
  2. Print-On-Demand means authors don’t have to buy 100’s of their own print books.
  3. 3 biggest Print-On-Demand printers are CreateSpace [Amazon], Lulu and IngramSpark. Amazon KDP is now offering print as well.
  4. Lulu & IngramSpark have print facilities in Australia. Both are more expensive than CreateSpace or KDP but you save a lot in postage [and time].
  5. Aussie authors wanting to print with IngramSpark must have an ABN and pay a $53 setup fee for each book.
  6. Aussie authors wanting to get an ABN should read this how to first: https://acflory.wordpress.com/2018/04/22/how-to-apply-for-an-abn-the-basics/
  7. Print-On-Demand works with standard trim sizes only. For table of trim sizes see : https://www.createspace.com/Special/Pop/book_trimsizes-pagecount.html
  8. Trim size = physical size of book after pages glued inside cover & trimmed.
  9. Page size templates for all trim sizes can be found on CreateSpace forums: https://forums.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-1323
  10. Convert Word A4 pages to trim size pages via the Word Page Setup dialog box.
  11. ISBN = 13 digit no. that identifies your book worldwide.
  12. Buy your own ISBN or accept the free one offered by CreateSpace and KDP.
  13. Aussie authors can buy ISBNs from Thorpe-Bowker: https://www.myidentifiers.com.au/
  14. As a rule of thumb, print, ebook & audiobooks all need their own ISBN.
  15. Books printed via CreateSpace are listed on Amazon automatically.
  16. To publish Kindle ebooks go to: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/
  17. Amazon supplies ebooks with ASIN identifiers so ISBN not strictly necessary.
  18. If you want to ‘go wide’ & sell with other retailers as well as Amazon, your own ISBN is a must.
  19. Most POD printers prefer PDF files but will accept Word files.
  20. Before converting from Word to PDF, ensure all Word fonts are embedded in the document. See:  https://acflory.wordpress.com/2018/05/19/how-to-make-word-16-embed-all-your-fonts/
  21. File/Export completed Word doc. to PDF. Then upload that PDF to the POD printer of your choice. 
  22. With CreateSpace, royalty = List Price – Print costs.
  23. With CreateSpace, Print costs= Sales Channel % + Fixed Charges + Per Page Charge.
  24. With CreateSpace, Standard sales channel % = 40% of List Price, Expanded sales channel % = 60%. 
  25. Spine of cover = trim size & no. of pages. See: https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do 
  26. Total page no. of book = pages AFTER conversion to chosen trim size [not A4 Word pages].
  27. Amazon deducts 30% withholding tax from each sale. Aussies can claim exemption to reduce tax to 5%.
  28. Withholding tax exemption: US TIN = Australian Tax File No.
  29. Aussie authors must deposit 1 copy of each published book with the National Library of Australia: https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit
  30. Aussie authors must also deposit 1 copy of each published book with their state library: https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit/australia-wide
  31. Aussie authors – for Legal Deposit FAQ see:https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit-faq

 

 

 


#Howto use #Twitter – a tutorial for absolute beginners

Just read this excellent tutorial on Indies Unlimited and thought I’d share. Honestly, I wish I’d seen it when I first started out on Twitter. In it you will find everything you need to know to get started :

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2015/12/23/how-to-use-twitter-for-the-complete-newbie/comment-page-1/#comment-3488092908471486080

If you’ve heard about Twitter but never had the courage to give it a try, now’s the time to do it.

cheers

Meeks


Gmail for Beginners, Part 5 – opening an attachment & attaching a picture [Windows 7]

Part 1, Getting Started is here.
Part 2, Finding and Reading emails is here.
Part 3, Replying to an email & Saving a Contact is here.
Part 4, Composing an email & inserting a smiley is here.

Warning! Some of the screenshots and step-by-step instructions appearing in Part 5 are only applicable to Windows 7.

The screenshots and instructions pertaining to Gmail – i.e. how to open an attachment – will be the same for everyone, but the instructions for finding a picture on your PC [in order to attach it to an email] will only be relevant to Windows 7 users. This is because people using other operating systems – such as a MAC or Windows XP, Vista, or one of the 8’s – may not see the same things on their own PCs.

What are attachments?

Attachments are simply files that you send along with your email message. Most of these files cause no problems whatsoever, but some hackers will use attachments to sneak viruses onto your computer. These viruses are triggered when you ‘open’ the attachment. For this reason, ALL attachments should be treated with caution.

Internet security and staying safe

When I first started browsing the internet I thought I would be safe from viruses because, well, you know, how would a hacker even know I existed? It was not as if I was someone important.

-blushes with embarrassment-

What I did not know was that hackers do not care about me personally. In fact, they do not target me at all. Quite simply, hackers throw out huge, baited nets and wait to see what bites. And yes, my PC did get infected.

I’ve learned a lot since then, and one of the things I’ve learned is to be very, very wary of attachments. Before I click on an attachment I check a couple of things carefully:

  • do I know the sender? If the answer is ‘no’, I automatically assume the attachment is suspect and  delete the whole email,
  • does the sender [someone I do know] sound a bit odd – i.e. is the email a generic sounding one-liner such as ‘hi, thought you might like this’ or something similar? If it is, I’ll delete the email and the attachment first and apologise, if necessary, later.

This lack of certainty when it comes to attachments brings me to a bit of netiquette – if you are sending someone an attachment, it is a really good idea to tell them about it in the email message itself.  It’s a small thing but will reassure the recipient the attachment is safe to open.

As a general rule, however, I will never open an attachment if the filename ends in ‘.exe’ or ‘.zip’.

[Note: for a description of filenames, seeHow can you tell what’s a picture file and what isn’t?below].

There are exceptions to this rule of thumb, but beginners should probably delete first and ask questions later.

So what attachments are safe to open?

Picture files are generally safe to open, unless there is something else suspicious about the email – e.g. it’s from someone you’ve never heard of, or promises something unsavoury.

How can you tell what’s a picture file and what isn’t?

Like people, files have a ‘first name’ and a ‘family’ name. The ‘first name’ describes what’s in the file while the ‘last name’ describes what kind of file it is – i.e. one of the picture files, a text file, a music file, etc.

To illustrate this naming process, have a look at the following example:

picture file exampleThis is a simple picture created in Windows Paint. It was saved as a file called:

picture file example.jpg

‘picture file example’ = the first name of the file

‘.jpg’ = the family name of the file – i.e. what type of file it is. In computerspeak, this part of the file name is called the file extension. The file extension tells the computer how to handle the file – i.e. as a picture file rather than, say, a music file.

Examples of picture files

The following are examples of the most common types of picture files. Notice that only the file extension changes in each filename:

mypicture.jpg

mypicture.bmp

mypicture.png

mypicture.tiff

If you get an email from a friend, and if the attachment in that email ends in any of the above file extensions, the attachment is safe to open.

How to open an attachment in an email

Returning to our friend, Kenneth, I discover that he has sent me an email at meekasmind@gmail.com. The email has a file attached. When I read the email, this is what I see:

gmail attachment received 1

As you can see, part of the picture has been truncated in the preview. To see it all, I point the mouse at the picture. This causes an overlay to be displayed:

gmail attachment received 2This overlay shows the full filename of the attachment, including its file extension which tells me it is a picture file. Also of interest is the ’15 KB’ which tells me how big the file is.

[Note: A huge picture file would be shown in GB, an average picture file would be shown in MB, and a small picture file would be shown in KB. Thus the attachment from Kenneth is quite small and will take next to no time to load]

The overlay also contains the buttons for two options – Download and Save to Drive.

Save to Drive option

Clicking this option will save the file to Google Drive [a storage area in the Cloud]. This option is not covered in the Beginners guide.

Download option

Clicking the ‘Download’ option will copy the file from the email and save it to my own PC. Once the file is on my PC, I can do whatever I want with it. This is the option we will be exploring.

When I click the Download button [in Windows 7], the screen changes to display the last location at which I saved something. In the example below, you can see that it was in ‘Libraries, Documents, My Documents, My Games, Final Fantasy xiv – A Realm Reborn’. This is not where I want to save the attachment.

gmail attachment download 1

To make it easier to see where I’m going, I will close the Documents folder I am in. To do this I simply click on the small arrow next to ‘Documents’ in the navigation pane:

gmail attachment download location

I can now see the main folders quite clearly, including the folder I want to reach. It is called ‘Pictures’ :

gmail attachment download location 2

A single click on the ‘Pictures’ folder causes the ‘Pictures Library’ to be displayed. In the Library is a folder called ‘Sample Pictures’. This is where I want to save the attachment:

gmail attachment download location 3

The easiest way to open the folder is to click on the ‘Sample Pictures’ icon once. This will highlight the icon, and it will cause the ‘Save’ button to change to ‘Open’ [as shown above]. Now all you have to do is click the ‘Open’ button.

Once ‘Sample Pictures’ opens up, the ‘Save’ button reappears.

Click the ‘Save’ button to save the attachment to this location.

Now that I’ve saved the picture file to my PC I can edit it if I want to. I do, I did, and this is the result:

picture file example black and whiteNaturally, I want to share the new picture with Kenneth so I compose an email to him [see Part 4].

Before I click the ‘Send’ button, however, I click the small ‘Attach Files’ icon shown at the bottom of the compose form.

It looks like this:

picture file attach icon

Clicking the attach icon in Gmail causes the following screen to be displayed in Windows 7:

gmail attachment send location 3

This screenshot is almost identical to the one we saw before…except that in this one, the image peeping out of the folder is of the edited house. That’s because I saved the edited file to the same location as the attachment.

Click on the ‘Open’ button [as shown above]. The following pictures are available for you to attach to your email:

gmail attachment send location 4

Clicking on an image displays information about it, including its dimensions and size. You will also see a much larger preview of the image. When you are sure you have the correct image, click the ‘Open’ button as shown.

You should now be back in Gmail, looking at the message you typed to Kenneth. Down near the bottom of the form, you should also see the name of the file you have attached to the email. This is what mine looks like:

gmail attachment send location 5

Click the ‘Send’ button and that’s it. As always, Gmail will display a yellow confirmation message telling you your message has been sent.

Before I finish, a quick word about the other way of attaching a photo to an email. And yes, there is another way. It looks like this:

gmail attachment insert photo1

The difference between ‘Insert Photo’ and ‘Attach Files’

If you click the ‘Insert Photo’ button, you will be given the choice of inserting an image as an attachment or as an inline picture.

If you select the ‘Inline’ option, the image will be embedded into the body of your email message like this:

gmail attachment insert photo3

Sometimes it’s nice to embed a photo like this because it means the recipient doesn’t have to do anything but look at the email. Unfortunately, the drawbacks are that:

  • the process is not quite as straightforward as it should be, and
  • the recipient cannot easily download the image onto his/her own PC. It can be done, but not in a straightforward way.

If I ever do an Advanced Gmail how-to [shudder], I will include the ‘Inline’ function, but given the unfinished state of Gmail at the moment, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

I did not intend to review the new version of Gmail, but after a month of working on it for this series, I can honestly say I am not impressed. I had to work around certain key functions – like Contacts – because the interface was so poorly designed and/or implemented. And even the Inbox functions leave a lot to be desired. Too much is hidden, making not-so-advanced functions hard to find, hard to use and hard to explain.

In many ways, the new Gmail reminds me of Windows 8. There too, key functions were hidden, or implemented in ways that were not at all intuitive. And people hated it, myself included.

I truly believe that function should never be subordinated to form. I don’t care what something looks like so long as it works. Sadly both the new Gmail and Windows 8 placed form well and truly over function.

To be fair, I understand that mobile devices have made it necessary to simplify all applications in order to conform to the new ways of doing things, but we have not yet reached the point where serious work is done on those devices. Imagine trying to write your magnum opus on your mobile phone! Or if that’s not your style, imagine trying to create a complex spreadsheet on your phone.

Mobile devices are simply too limited for the kind of work we currently do on desktops or laptops. Therefore it does not make sense – from a user’s point of view – to reduce everything to the common denominator of the mobile device. Yet that is exactly what Windows 8 and this new Gmail are attempting to do.

As the younger generation would say – ‘Fail’

cheers

Meeks

 

 


Gmail for Beginners, Part 4 – Composing emails & attaching a smiley

Part 1, Getting Started is here.
Part 2, Finding and Reading emails is here.
Part 3, Replying to an email & Saving a Contact is here.

Although replying to an email and composing one are very similar, the few small differences can be tricky, and they all involve your Contacts. If the email address of your Contact is already known to Gmail  – i.e. you have already saved it [as detailed in Part 3], composing an email will be easy. However, if you want to send an email to someone brand new, you will have to type their email address in from scratch, and that could cause problems if you do not do it properly.

Taking care with email addresses

One thing you have to remember at all times is that computers take things very literally. With a computer, close enough is not good enough, and this is especially true of email addresses. When you type in an email address from scratch, it has to be exactly right. For example, let’s look at the email address of Kenneth’s friend Single Pixel. It looks like this:

singlepixel.soft@gmail.com

Typing in Singlepixel.soft@gmail.com will not work [the capital letter instead of a lowercase letter counts as a mistake]

Typing in single pixel.soft@gmail.com will not work  [the blank space counts as a mistake]

Typing in singlepixelsoft@gmail.com will not work [the lack of a ‘.’ also counts as a mistake]

The three examples shown are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of typos, but they do demonstrate how precise an email address must be. This is one very important reason for saving Contact details when you reply to emails.

[Note: you can also enter Contact details manually, but the process is more involved and will not be covered in this Beginners series. If you do want to know how to do it, you can find the Advanced how-to here.]

How to compose an email

Click on the big, red ‘Compose’ button located in your navigation pane [circled in blue below]:

6 gmail compose 1

You should now be looking at the ‘New Message’ pop-up. Notice how the blinking cursor is in the ‘To’ field? This means it is ready for you to type the email address.

After you have finished typing in the email address, click in the ‘Subject’ field and type in a short description of what the email is about. Leaving the Subject field blank could make some spam filters think your email is junk, or malware, so it is always a good idea to type something that makes sense.

Finally, click inside the big, blank text area and type the actual message. When you have finished, your message form should look something like this:

6 gmail compose 2B

Click the big blue ‘Send’ button down the bottom of the message form as shown above [circled in red]. You will get a bright yellow confirmation message from Gmail to let you know your message has been sent.

How to compose an email using saved Contact details

As always, Gmail provides more than one way of doing something, and entering the addressee of your email is no exception.

Method 1

Click the ‘Compose’ button. Once the ‘New Message’ form pops up, start typing the first few letters of the email address you wish to use.

As you type, Gmail checks all the email addresses you have saved, and it presents you with what it thinks you might want. For example, let’s say Kenneth wants to send an email to David Prosser. He starts typing and this is what happens:

6 gmail compose 3

The first match shows the email for David Prosser [because the letter ‘b’ is the first letter of the actual email address]. The second came up with Honie Briggs [because the letter ‘b’ appears in Honie’s surname].

To select one of the options provided by Gmail, you can either click on the correct addressee or, your can simply hit the Enter key on your keyboard. Either way, your chosen addressee will appear in the ‘To’ box like so:

6 gmail compose 4 Notice how Gmail inserts the name of the addressee rather than the actual email address? This is an easy way to check that you are, in fact, sending the email to the right person because ‘Barsetman@mail.com’ could be anyone.

Method 2

This method is particularly useful if you know someone is in your Contact list but you can’t remember anything about their email address – i.e. you can’t just start typing something and expect Gmail to come up with a reasonable match.

In the following example, Kenneth wants to send an interesting quote to one of the three new contacts he has made. He remembers that she liked quotes, but he can’t remember her name or email address.

After clicking on the ‘Compose’ button, Kenneth points the mouse at the word ‘To’ in the ‘New Message’ form. A small, context sensitive tooltip [help message] pops up. It says ‘Select Contacts’:

6 gmail compose 5

What that rather cryptic message means is that you should click on the word ‘To’ in order to select a contact[s] from the list of available contacts.

Kenneth clicks the word ‘To’ and the following list pops up:

6 gmail compose 6

When Kenneth looks at the list of Contacts, he sees the small graphic [picture] next to the name of Dale Newling and remembers that she is the one who sent him all those interesting quotes.

To select Dale Newling as his addressee, Kenneth clicks her entry [anywhere on the line will do]. The line is highlighted in pale yellow and a tick appears in the checkbox next to Dale Newling’s name:

6 gmail compose 7

Before Gmail will accept this Contact as the addressee, however, Kenneth must click the blue ‘Select’ button at the bottom of the pop-up. [This is because Gmail does not know whether you want to ‘Select’ the Contact or save it to a Group.]

Once Kenneth clicks on ‘Select’, the email address for Dale Newling is inserted into the ‘To’ area of his email and he is ready to type a message.

Before Kenneth hits the blue ‘Send’ button, however, he wants to insert something into the email, something fun, like a smiley face.

How to insert a smiley face [emoticon]

With the cursor positioned at the spot where he wants the smiley face to appear, he points the mouse at the emoticon button displayed at the bottom of the ‘New Message’ form:

6 gmail compose 9Clicking the emoticon button causes the following set of options to pop up:

6 gmail compose emoticons

To insert an emoticon into your email, simply click on the image you want and it will immediately appear at the spot where you left your cursor [or as close to it as possible, space permitting]. As the following screenshot shows, you can insert as many emoticons as you wish.

6 gmail compose emoticons 2

When you are finished with the emoticons, simply click on the ‘X’ button as shown above. Last, but not least, click the blue ‘Send’ button to actually send your new email to its recipient. Then sit back and wait for them to reply. 🙂

In Gmail for Beginners, Part 5, we will be looking at how to insert something more serious than a smiley face into an email. We will be attaching files and pictures located on your own PC, so you will need to have some knowledge of how to find your way around the files and folders of a PC. If you need some help, my post about basic folders in Windows 7 can be found here.

You can find Part 5 – opening an attachment & attaching a picture [Windows 7], here.

Cheers

Meeks


Gmail for Beginners, Part 3 – Replying to emails & saving Contacts

Part 1, Getting Started is here.
Part 2, Find and Reading emails is here.

To make this section feel a little more realistic, I called for help from the blogging community, and they responded by sending Kenneth Wu, [Gmail username kenzomuramasa] the fictional character I have been using in all my examples, lots of mail! This is what Kenneth’s Inbox looks like now:

1 new Inbox list

You can tell at a glance that Kenneth has received five new emails because the number (5) now appears next to the Inbox. 😉

Now have a look at the ‘date received’ column. All the emails are displayed in date order with the most recent one [from Honie Briggs] at the top of the list. Notice that Honie’s email does not have a date next to it. Instead, it has a time-stamp. This indicates the email arrived during the current day, hence no need for a date. By tomorrow, it will show a date like all the others.

And now to the emails themselves. As Kenneth looks at the sender of each email, he realises that he only knows two of the people who have written to him – Single Pixel and David Prosser. Single Pixel is an old friend from university days while David Prosser is both friend and mentor.

Unable to face the sympathy of an old friend, Kenneth reads the email from Single Pixel and then ‘stars’ it for later.

Another way to ‘star’ an email

In Part 2 you learned how to star an email while it was sitting in the Inbox list. Now you will learn a more intuitive way of starring an email – from within the email itself.

With the email open, click on the ‘More’ option as shown:

1 new Inbox more and star

A drop-down list will appear. Click the ‘Add star’ option as shown above.

Gmail will display a bright yellow confirmation message like this:

1 new Inbox star confirmed

After starring the email from Single Pixel, Kenneth returns to the list of emails by clicking ‘Inbox (4)‘ in the navigation pane. The (4) indicates that there are only four unread emails left.  From those emails, Kenneth clicks on the one from David Prosser who, along with his team of dedicated researchers, is working to make Kenneth’s dream a reality.

It’s a long email and Kenneth has two ways of replying to it. The first is circled in red on the screenshot below:

2 david prosser long read

Clicking the ‘Reply’ button takes you to the very end of the email and displays a text box [for typing in your reply].

The second method is to manually scroll to the end of the email until you see:

2 david prosser long reply to box

You cannot actually type anything into this text box. It is there only as a visual cue. Instead, you have to click the Reply link shown inside the box. [The Forward link is used when you want to send the email on to someone else. For example, you might receive a funny joke from one of your friends. Using the Forward link, you could send it on to one of your other friends]

Whichever method you use, you will be presented with the following reply-to form:

2 david prosser long reply to form

Notice that the cursor is already inside the form, ready for you to start typing.

When you have finished typing, click the bright blue ‘Send’ button as shown above.

Gmail will display a bright yellow message confirming that the reply was sent:

1 new Inbox reply confirmation

Kenneth now has three more emails to deal with. All three are from friends of his friend Meeka and are clearly from kind, generous people, exactly the sort of people he would want to keep in contact with. He decides to add all three to his contact list.

How to add Contacts

By a strange coincidence, Kenneth discovers that Gmail provides a different way of saving the contact details of each of his new friends.

Method 1

Opening the email from Honie Briggs, Kenneth hovers the mouse over her name as shown:

3 save contact honie briggs

Gmail displays a small pop-up with information about Honie Briggs as well as some options down the bottom. One of those options is ‘Add to contacts’ [circled in the screenshot above].

Clicking ‘Add to contacts’ will save the Honie Briggs’ name and email address to Kenneth’s contact list. When it’s done, Gmail displays another bright yellow confirmation message:

3 save contact honie briggs confirmation

Method 2

The next email came from Dale Newling. After opening it up, Kenneth clicked the small arrow next to the ‘Reply’ button [as shown below]:

4 save contact dale newlingClicking the down arrow causes Gmail to display another small pop-up. This one contains a long list of options, but the one of interest to us is about half way down – ‘Add Dale Newling to Contacts list’.

After clicking the option, Kenneth is presented with yet another yellow, confirmation message.

Method 3

The last email in Kenneth’s list belongs to Carrie Rubin. This time he decides to save her to Contacts directly from the Inbox list. He hovers the mouse over her name in the list until a pop-up appears:

5 save contact carrie rubin

This is exactly the same pop-up that appeared when Kenneth saved Honie Briggs to Contacts. Clicking on the ‘Add to contacts’ option [circled in red], Kenneth saves Carrie Rubin’s details to Contacts and is presented with the same, yellow confirmation message as before.

Exhausted from his labours, Kenneth decides to take a nap while I thank my friends – Honie Briggs, Single Pixel aka George, David Prosser, Dale Newling aka EllaDee, and Carrie Rubin – for their time and generosity!

In Gmail for Beginners, Part 4, we will explore how to write an email from scratch by:

  • using Contact details we have already saved,
  • typing in the email address of someone not in our Contact list, and
  • inserting a smiley face into the email

cheers

Meeks

 


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