Gmail, first of all, is the EMail service most people nowadays use. For seniors, it is important because it is the easiest to use: See how here:
Once you have it, the Gmail login and password open up the magic door, though not all Google “apps” even require that.
The necessity of setting up the GMail account puts off some seniors who want to keep their old Email address. The idea, though, is to go ahead and sign up and keep your old Email until ready to use GMail for its Email benefits. Mail can be forwarded to Gmail without changing your old Email address!
Gmail searches your past Email and keeps it in folders. Old mail is never lost.
When you do change to Gmail later, just Email your new address from the old one in a single group mailing to everybody and make sure your critical Email partners, such as your doctor, confirm it. First, make sure that all your contacts are up to date.
What else does Google then do?
Even without GMail, the Google Chrome browser is now dominant. The browser, remember, is your window to internet, like IE Explorer, but better. Chrome offers voice searching of Google, and Chrome also searches as you type and offers suggestions along the way to save typing. If you need a microphone, they can be found on Amazon for as little as $5.
Chrome offers a simplified screen. Bookmarks or favorites appear across the top of the screen for easy access to all favorite and commonly used sites. Tabs also appear above them across the screen to make it easy to go back without losing your place.
Within Chrome, Google Voice can be added to make and receive phone calls in Gmail, also send and receive text messages.
Though you need to wait in line for it, Google+ offers a more rational alternative to FaceBook. It is growing quickly.
More basic, Google offers Picasa, the easiest photo organizer and editor. When signed up, all photos are automatically organized. Clicking on a photo makes touchup simple. Picasa is known for its polish and simplicity.
A single click can send your photos for safekeeping on the web. From there they are accessible with slide shows, anywhere, including HDTV sets with AppleTV, TIVO, etc.
As if the Picasa photo editor were not enough, Google also offers Piknik. a superb professional photo editor Google bought for the purpose.
If you are changing computers, Picasa Web is the place to put your photos during the changeover and also a safe place to keep a backup of them.
Another major Google app is the “cloud” word processor, Google Docs. Documents are kept there safely and shared or accessed from anywhere, also important when changing computers or working from somewhere else than your home computer. Documents can be kept in MSWord format. Spreadsheets may also be done, and presentations.
Music is kept on Google Music beta, a new service and another place accessible everywhere, desirable when changing computers.
Google’s “Web Store” offers mostly free bookmarks and apps accessible from Chrome browser home screens, with icons for easy use. Tiny bookmarklets can also be added to Chrome without taking much space. One bookmarks hold all my “cloud items”. One bookmark is to eHow website (for help in how to do things), and, another to YouTube (for “how to” videos and music).
Another bookmark holds a folder for all accounts such as doctors, finances, etc. Still another, quick ways to send a web page, Gmail, or notes to Evernotes, my indexed and searchable notebook). Others bring up CNN, Amazon, Google calendar.
Google calendar keeps your appointments for access when you need it, and for sharing with others such as on smartphones, where Google contacts from GMail may also be shared.
Google Reader sifts through media to assemble items of special interest in one place, up to date. It also gives easy access to radio and video podcasts (recorded broadcasts).
Google Books brings up a place to search and read books directly on the webpage, online and onscreen, without further ado. Kindle has just recently opened up a similar “cloud website”. Google News brings news with one click.
How paid for? You already paid for them in advertising for almost anything you buy. For years advertising supported media, and it is no different with computer media. Free.