Keyboard and mouse basics

Being able to use a keyboard and mouse is an important part of using a desktop computer or laptop and you'll find helpful tips below to get you started and where to get help.

keyboard image with keys highlighted Using a keyboard

Whenever you use a desktop computer or laptop, you’ll probably use a keyboard. The most common kind is called a ‘QWERTY’ keyboard. QWERTY describes the top row of letters on the keyboard.

What a keyboard looks like

A keyboard is for putting information including letters, words and numbers into your computer. You press the individual buttons on the keyboard when you type.

The number keys across the top of the keyboard are also found on the right of the keyboard.

The letter keys are in the centre of the keyboard.

The symbol keys to the right of the letters include symbols such as the question mark and full stop.

The keys that surround the letters, numbers and symbol keys on the left, right and bottom of the keyboard help you to choose where and how you type.

Using the keys

When you open a document or click in a box to type, you will see a vertical flashing line. This is the cursor, it shows you where you are about to start typing on a page or screen.

Pressing the 'shift' key allows you to type capital letters and the symbols at the top of the keys.

The 'shift' keys are on the left and right of the keyboard, with the arrow pointing upwards.

For capital letters, hold down the 'shift' key and hold and type the letter.

For symbols at the top of a number key, press down the symbol key and then type the symbol. You can use the 'shift' key to type any symbol at the top of a key.

The 'caps lock' key allows you to write in capital letters. To turn it on, press it once and type. To turn it off, press it again.

Putting in spaces, moving your cursor and deleting text

The 'space bar' puts a space between words. Press it once to put in a space.

The 'tab' key puts a bigger space between words. Press it once to put in a space.

The 'enter' key moves your cursor down a line.

The 'arrow' keys allow you to move your cursor in all directions on the page or screen - up, down, left and right.

To delete your typing you need to put your cursor to the right of a word. Press the 'backspace' button to delete your word. The cursor will move to the left and delete as it goes.

Using a mouse

There are lots of different styles of mouse, but most have a left and a right button.

illustration of left and right click of computer mouse To hold your mouse, rest your hand over it and put your index finger on the left button and your thumb resting on the side. The cable needs to be pointing towards the computer. The mouse needs to always be in contact with a mouse mat, desk or hard surface.

You use your mouse to move the cursor around the screen. The cursor changes, depending on what you are doing on the computer. As an arrow you use it for moving and selecting things, as a hand for clicking on links when you are on the internet and it becomes an hourglass when you are waiting for the computer to do something.

Single clicking

You single click with the left mouse button to select things. Just quickly left click and then let go of the button.

Double clicking

You double click with the left mouse button to open things, such as a folder. You need to double click quickly, think about the ‘knock, knock’ you do on a door.

Drag and drop

Drag and drop is when you move something from one place to another. 

First select the item with the left mouse button and keep the button pressed down. Then move the mouse and the item on screen will move with the cursor. When you have the cursor and item in the position you want, release the left mouse button.

The item will now be dropped to where the cursor is positioned on the screen.

You use drag and drop to move things around your computer, such as files between folders.

Right button

If you ever accidently click the right mouse button, a list of computer commands will appear. To remove the list just move the mouse and single click the left button.

Laptop trackpad or touchpad

Laptops can have a built in mouse within the keyboard. This is operated by finger touch. This specialised surface is used instead of a mouse and needs only very short finger movements to move the cursor across the display screen.

Improve your computer skills

Why not develop your computer skills - there are courses for beginners and beyond. These range from free online learning through to training, which can lead to qualifications.

More useful links

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.