Hey all you new folks. Here's a thread. I'll provide some helpful links, and some useful advice.
Obviously, the Elite Dangerous Wiki has a lot of good information on it. I'm not sure out of date some things are, but it will give you good information on how to mine and explore, and if you have a question, it may very well be on there somewhere.
Next, Coriolis, the ship build tool, lets you play around with outfitting your ship, as well as giving good information on the stats of various ships. You can see how many internal slots of what size ships have, and figure out if you're going to have power problems, and so forth.
Finally, the Elite Dangerous Database has a BUNCH of useful information, such as where you can find certain comodities, where you can buy which ships, and so forth.
The Viper and Viper Mk IV are both solid early-game fighters if you're going primarily for combat. The next upgrade is the Vulture, which has two large hardpoints, and a beefy class 5 shield generator. After that, you have a lot of options. The FerDeLance is one of the most popular for PVP, but it's all personal taste at this point.
If you want a ship that can do almost anything you want to outfit it for early game, the Cobra Mk III is your best bet. Relatively cheap, you can make it a decent miner, bounty hunter, trader, or even explorer.
The next upgrade for a multipurpose is usually the Asp Explorer. You can make this ship do almost anything (although as the name suggests, it's a great explorer with a huge jump range second only to the Anaconda).
Later on, the Python can handle anything you can throw at it, although it's rather pricey, both to buy and outfit.
You can't do any better than a Type 6 early game. Type 6's are slow, but with a lot of compartments, making them great ships to haul stuff for community goals, or just ordinary trading. They also make solid early miners, again, owing to a lot of internal space.
If you're looking for something a bit more armored, the Keelback is more maneuverable than the Type 6, and can fit a fighter bay.
If you're all in on trading, later, you may want to pick up a Type 7 or Type 9 heavy, or Anaconda.
The Orca and Beluga are specialized for passenger missions, although you can fit passenger compartments into any ship. Some of these missions can have high payouts, but lots of stops and hazards.
See the galaxy! The Cobra Mk III can do some early exploring, but the two god explorers early on are the Diamondback Explorer, and the Asp Explorer. The Diamondback is short the extra internal slot it would need to be great (so you need to forgo either the AFMU or Hanger), but it's super heat efficient, so there's that.
Late-game, it's the Anaconda. Longest Jump range by a lot.
If you want to rank up in the Federation (correct), Empire (slaver scum), or Alliance (lol), do missions for minor factions allied with each Major faction. The Federation logo is the star and planets, the Empire logo is the eagle, and the Alliance is pointless.
When you are at 100% in a rank, you'll be able to pick up a promotion mission, which will get you to the next rank.
Ranking up gets you permits to systems you wouldn't otherwise be able to get into, as well as specialized faction ships.
You can't go wrong with a combination of lasers and multicannons. Fixed mounts you have to aim yourself. Gimbaled mounts have target assist. Turrets fire anywhere within their arc.
Reply to this thread with any questions, and me and other vets will answer.