Thanks for your responses and sorry for my delay. I clearly waited too long to start shopping; I haven't been able to read the forums all day because the display on my laptop won't stay on for more than a few seconds. I have no clue why and don't plan to pay the geek squad to fix a laptop that's almost four years old.
Optical drive - yes
Graphics - issue was that Dell would not provide updated drivers and the manufacturer would not allow me to download new drivers from their site because I had a Dell; that's the main reason I don't plan to buy a Dell again.
Touch screen is something I hadn't thought about but sounds interesting.
More research needed to try to identify my needs more clearly and I'll check out the web site recommended by cfrizz.
I'm going to need to make a decision soon so do continue to make suggestions.