Internet basics

Becoming confident in using the internet can help you stay in touch with friends and family, manage your bills, go shopping, watch TV, and lots more. We've brought together some tips to help newcomers get the most from the online world.

Once you have a computer and an internet connection, you're ready to start exploring the web. There are so many things to do online, but here are some of the most common activities you're likely to want to do.

Using an internet browser

To access the internet you’ll need an internet browser – an easy-to-use computer program that lets you search for and view millions of web pages on any subject you can think of.

Most computers come with an internet browser already installed. Here are some common web browsers you might come across:

  • Internet Explorer
  • Firefox
  • Google Chrome
  • Safari  

They all work in a similar way, so don't worry too much about which one you use.

To open your web browser:

  1. use the left button on your mouse to click the Start button in the bottom left hand corner of your computer screen
  2. choose your browser by clicking on its name in the menu
  3. your internet browser will now open, ready for you to use. If you have an icon for your internet browser on your desktop, you can also double-click on this to open it.

Visiting a website

If you know the address of a website, you can type it into the address bar on your internet browser and press the Enter (or return) key on your keyboard. The address bar is the long white horizontal bar at the top of your internet browser.

A website address usually begins 'www' and often ends in either '.com' or '.co.uk' – for example, the BT website address is www.bt.com. Make sure you type the website address exactly as it appears, with no extra spaces, and make sure the dots are in the right places.

Websites often have other pages that you can visit through 'links'. Links are displayed in a different style to normal text. They might be highlighted in bold, underlined or coloured in blue. If you’d like to visit the linked page, just click on the highlighted words (they are often blue).

Top tip
If you want to go back to a previous page, use the 'back' function on your web browser. This is usually a backwards arrow symbol in the top-left of your screen.  

Searching for a website

If you don't know the address of the website you want to visit, or you'd like to find out more information about something you're interested in, you can use a search engine.

A search engine lets you easily and quickly find exactly what you want from the millions of web pages on the internet.

How to do a Google search

There are several search engines, but the most common one is Google. To find it, type www.google.co.uk into the address bar of your internet browser.

You'll now see a white page with the Google logo in the middle. Underneath it, there’s is a long bar – this is where you type what you’re looking for. For example, if you want to find beef casserole recipes, just type 'beef casserole recipes' into the bar and click 'Google Search'.

A list of relevant websites will then appear. You just need to click on the blue writing to view the page.

It's that easy! You can now search the internet for anything you're interested in.

Top tip
Keep your searches simple – one or two key words are usually enough 

Sending emails

Email is a great way to stay in touch with your family and friends, cheaply and easily. Emails can be short or long. You can also send and receive photos and documents by email. You can email just one person, or a whole group at the same time.

Setting up an email account is easy – you can get one from your internet service provider (ISP) or you could use a web-based service like Gmail or outlook.com.

If you have BT Broadband, you'll have a free BT Mail address.

Email addresses always include an @ symbol. When you’re typing someone's email address, make sure you type in all of the characters, and that the dots are in the right place.

Staying in touch

Keeping in close contact with family and friends is so much simpler online. See how Gabby stays in touch through emails and video phone calls.

Top tip
You can find a simple step-by-step guide to setting up an email account with Learn My Way. Register today.  

Staying in touch

Keeping in close contact with family and friends is so much simpler online. See how Gabby stays in touch through emails and video phone calls.


The Get IT Together handbook

Welcome to the BT Get IT Together handbook, your printable guide to getting online. It's packed full of hints and tips with lots of space to make your own notes.

Find a free course near you

Find a course near you
See where your nearest UK Online Centre is and get free computer lessons. There are a huge range of venues and courses available, so finding help near you couldn't be easier!

We're here to help

Go to our Help and support section for tips and advice on making this site easier to use, using our services, understanding impairments, and contacting us. To get in touch right now, use the Email, Chat or BSL links.