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Library Subject Guides

IT Essentials: a Practical Guide



Nowadays most computers are connected to the internet which has had a transforming effect on the way we work and the tasks we can do. The internet enables us (via our devices) to access more information than ever before and communicate easily with people anywhere in the world at any time. Here we look at some ways of using the internet and your browser, including searching and communicating online.

Click Next Steps for how to put the tips into practice.

Advanced browser functions

As well as allowing you to view websites, browsers have other useful functions that can help save time and effort.

Browsers allow you to create 'bookmarks' to web pages you visit regularly. If you log into your browser, these bookmarks can be accessed across any device with that browser. You can also add plug-ins and extensions to your browser: these are pieces of software that add functions to web pages or the browser itself.

Browser functions at York

If you are using Chrome with your University account and are logged in, you can take your bookmarks and extensions with you on any University computer by opening Chrome and clicking on the person icon in the top right hand corner to log in.

IT Services have guidance on security and browser plug-ins. Keeping your software up to date will help keep your computer secure.

Next steps...

Log in to Chrome and bookmark some of your most used sites.

Web basics

The resources on this page will help you to use the web, but if you want to learn a little more about what's happening behind the scenes, try one of the following courses.

Communication and social media

There are a range of ways to communicate online. Email may seem like the obvious choice, particularly when communicating with others in an organisation, but it is worth considering whether email is always the best option. Instant messaging, updating a web page or blog, or working in collaborative documents can be more effective in many circumstances.

Social media opens up even more ways to communicate and share your work with others.

Searching online

Often you will use a search engine such as Google or Bing to search online. Search engines are websites that look through the web for pages matching the terms that you enter in your search.

For guidance, see Google's help page 'How to search on Google', or the 'Expert Search tips' at the bottom of that page for more advanced options. Most of this guidance is relevant whatever your search engine of choice is.

Searching online at York

There is no specific search engine to use at York. Many people use Google because it is familiar (and is the default option when using the Chrome browser). See below for a guide to Googling, particularly in an academic context.

The ability to use search terms to find what you are looking for is not only useful on a search engine. Many of the Google Workspace applications you will use at York, including Mail and Drive, use searching to help you find your documents and emails.


Wi-Fi is a way of transmitting computer data through the air using radio waves. You may be aware of it as a way of connecting to the internet using a range of devices including desktop and laptop computers, tablets and smartphones, and games consoles and e-readers.

Wifi at York

The University of York WiFi network is called Eduroam. To set up your mobile device, see the IT Services setup guides. Once you've connected your device to Eduroam, it will automatically reconnect to the WiFi the next time you are on campus or any other institution that is part of the Eduroam network.

Next Steps...

If you haven’t done already, why not set up eduroam on one of your mobile devices?

Pop-up boxes and cookies

Pop-up boxes are new browser windows that open when you click a link on a web page. These can be for legitimate reasons, such as selecting a date for an appointment, but the term 'pop-ups' has become synonymous with intrusive advertising and pages designed to make you click on things that might harm your computer.

Edible cookies

Photo by Jade Wulfraat on Unsplash

Cookies are also a common feature you'll experience on most websites. A cookie is a small text file downloaded onto your device when you visit a website. Information saved by cookies allow the site to do things like; keep you signed in, remember which stories you've read, and provide you with locally relevant content.

Guidance on pop-ups and cookies

If you have any doubts about the validity or security of a pop-up (i.e. you are not sure if it is doing what it claims to be doing and will not harm your computer or personal details in the process) then you should not click anything on it. Instead, use the 'X' button in the top corner to close the window.

Modern web browsers often block pop-ups by default. For example, Google Chrome - the browser we recommend you use at York - automatically blocks pop-ups. If you need to view a pop-up that you know is safe, you will have to go into Settings and add the website in question to the list of allowed websites for pop-ups.

If you want to take more control of cookies and other website data that is stored on your device, you can do so in most browsers by going into settings and turning cookies on or off.

The University of York provides a legal statement on the use of cookies on web pages.

Next Steps...

Watch this video for a humorous take on the paranoia that can surround the issue of cookies.

Embedding on the web

If you have ever shared a video on YouTube, you may have seen the word 'embed' as another option. Selecting 'embed' will usually give a block of computer code that can be copy and pasted into other websites you manage, such as a VLE site or a blog. Once you've done this, your page will now be able to have an element of content from the original page, such as a YouTube video or an image.

Embedding a video

Below is a YouTube video we have embedded onto this web page.