Overcoming techno-fear

When I teach individual sessions here at the store, one of the questions I hear all the time is “How did you learn all this?” (or its twin: “Did you go to school for this?”). The answer to the question is pretty simple: although I’ve been using Macs since I was four years old, the most important thing is I’ve never learned to be afraid of technology.

We understand and sympathize with technofear. Technology moves at breakneck speed, and even keeping up with things can be dizzying. And if you started using computers when things were a little bit more delicate, you’ll remember what it was like to click the wrong button and watch something terrifying happen (the comic Eddie Izzard has a great skit with some nsfw language about this — “I wiped the file? I wiped ALL the files? I wiped the INTERNET? I don’t even have a modem!”).


So there’s the fear: that by pressing a button or tapping an app, you’ll bring the computer to its knees. Most of our customers want to be comfortable and proficient with their iPad or computer, though. And the only way to get there is to explore. And the only way to explore effectively is to not be afraid to press buttons to see what they do. Yes, thats easy for me to say — I know that I can find my way out of most problems with the help of experience and Dr. Google.


Here’s the thing, though. Most of us are only using a very small part of our computer’s capacity. I’m on my computer night and day, and I rely on it for work and for fun, but I would say I’m probably only tapping 50% or less of its potential. The things I need it to do are very common things. And that’s also the case for most of you folks out there. Therefore, the stumbling blocks you might run into are also very common, and very easy to fix.


I’m not advocating digging into the hidden folders in your hard drive, or typing commands into terminal to see what happens. But there are a few things that I think you should start doing to become more confident in the machine, starting with the computers.



Most programs have preference menus that allow you to customize to suit your workflow. In Mail, for example, the preference menu allows you to edit, add or remove your email accounts, to add signatures, to change default fonts and colors, etc. You’ll find program specific preferences under the name of the program in the toolbar.

The machine as a whole has preferences (called system preferences) as well. These can be found under the Apple logo in the upper left hand corner. These control system wide things like your desktop background, your trackpad settings, your display, etc.

Keyboard shortcuts

One of the things that will help make you feel proficient and quick on your computer is using keyboard shortcuts. Everyone’s workflow is different, but the longer your fingers stay on the your keyboard, the quicker things will move. Some shortcuts are universal — Command + c to copy, for example, or Command + s to  save. When you click on a menu on the toolbar, next to most actions will be a keyboard command.

Help menus

Up on the toolbar is a help menu. Some programs have dedicated help menus, so you can type in a topic and be brought to information about it. Sometimes they’ll even show you where a menu option is located!


It can be tough to read information on the screen and then try to apply it, switching back and forth between tasks. For the reference learners, investing in a good how-to book may be worth it (we sell/recommend that Missing Manual series for an in-depth manual or the Pocket Guide books for quick and easy to understand reference).

Apple Support Forums

If you have a question, we can almost guarantee that you aren’t the first person to ask it. Check out Apple’s support forums (find them here) for more help. You’ll see discussions from users at every level, and you’ll see what answers actually helped solve a question.


And of course, there’s always training with us. Our Customer Care Card provides ten individual lessons over the course of a year. We work to find the teaching method that works the best for you and at the speed that works for you. If you have a quick question, stop by — many things can be solved over the counter.