The reading level for this article is All Levels
There was a time when I didn’t think I’d ever be a “computer” person. I was in the seventh grade, taking a class in MS-DOS and learning some program called Turtle. (I know why they called it Turtle. It was pretty darned slow.) I had to key in about 50 commands just to draw a half-inch line. I wasn’t all that skilled at doing this. One little typo, and my line was going in the total wrong direction. I got a C+ in the class.
Today, I’m something of an unofficial computer geek. I can pretty much learn any graphics, word processing or utilities program on the fly, and I even surprise myself with html tricks from time to time. Now for the good news: so can you. “No, I can’t!” you say. YES, you CAN.
Today’s kids are little tech-heads. Ever seen a four-year-old grab the mouse and start web-surfing like it was nothing? It happens all the time. By age fifteen, kids are designing websites and manipulating photos like old pros. How can this be? Do they grow them smarter these days?
Well, I know some parents who’ll tell you so, but the truth is, today’s computer programs are designed so that the average untrained human being can learn them quickly and apply them in myriad ways. We call them Applications because they’re meant to be applied for practical use to enhance our quality of living.
I mentioned MS-DOS in my intro. For the most part, today’s user doesn’t need to know a thing about MS-DOS. The reason? Modern computers run on operating systems, such as Windows for PC and OS for Mac. The operating system covers up all that wacky-looking MS-DOS code with windows and buttons that practically beg us out loud, “CLICK ME!” And click them we do.
Just like the operating system, most programs use what’s called an interface: that shell or skin that hides the code, and allows you to navigate and manipulate using simple clicks and commands. This interface is what enables us to just stroll on over and start making things happen on the computer without knowing a darned thing about programming or codes or much of anything.
It’s these windows that we can open and shut, buttons we can click, and menus we can pull down using our trusty mouse, that let us accomplish tasks of great magnitude in record time, using these powerful machines. We can do some pretty incredible things just by POINTING AND CLICKING. If you think about this long enough, it might blow your mind.
Point and click. That’s the basic concept of using the mouse, and it’s such a simple method that 3-year-olds take to it with ease. SEE IT, GRAB IT. This is how today’s computers work, in a nutshell. With this concept in mind, computer programmers did a beautiful thing for all of us humble users: they were kind enough to develop a standard method of navigating through most programs.
Seek… and find. That’s basically what your brain is doing as your hand points and clicks. Every time you use a program, you’re searching for a word or a symbol or a button that will perform a desired action or take you to a desired destination. So, what’s the big challenge? To think of the word that describes the action that you need performed. Words like… SAVE. MOVE. DELETE. CHANGE. COPY. PASTE. You know those words! And you can learn even more words, easily.
Now I ask you, what could be easier than learning the very BASIC language of computer use?
If you want to perform any action in any program, go to the top of the screen and read the words there. With some exceptions, most of them say things like FILE, VIEW, EDIT, FORMAT, TOOLS, HELP. If you click on each of these words in any program, they bring down a menu of more options. (I probably don’t need to explain this to you, but I’m trying to make a point here.)
Let’s use the FILE menu as an example. We all know what’s behind door number one. NEW FILE, SAVE, PRINT… damn, this is too easy isn’t it. So let me now point out five more general facts about computer programs:
In most word processing programs, the pulldown menus are all pretty much the same.
In most illustration programs, the pulldown menus are all pretty much the same.
In most utilities programs, the pulldown menus are all pretty much the same.
In most photo-manipulation programs, the pulldown menus are all pretty much the same.
In most Internet Browsers, the pulldown menus are all pretty much the same.
Why am I taking such pains to point this out? Because I want to shed some light on a fact that’s often overlooked by the skittish user. Because of the fact that most word processing menus contain identical or nearly-identical pulldown menus, if you know one word processing program, you pretty much know all of them. That goes for all of the other categories of programs as well. And even if the menus are not identical, you know the language. You’ll be able to hunt for the words that perform the desired actions.
At this point, I’d like to thank you for sticking through this tirade with me, so that I can make my final point:
The only thing holding you back from learning new computer programs is your own closed-minded attitude. Point and click. Seek and find. There is nothing easier than this. So for anyone out there who claims that they’re “just not a tecchie” and can’t learn the programs: DO NOT DOUBT YOURSELF. You CAN learn the programs!
If you master Photoshop, you’ll be able to use any Photoshop knock-off program with relative ease. If you learn Microsoft Outlook, you should have little to no problem with other email management programs. This goes for all kinds of programs.
How can you become skilled in the major categories of computer programs? Search for free, downloadable instructions on the internet, or pay a small amount for training books. Hook up with a computer-savvy friend for a little tutorial. Click the Help menu and read each topic explained. Do all this, and master programs while saving thousands on computer training classes that you don’t need.
Just open your mind, and you’ll see what’s before you; the incredible world of computers and the miraculous acts you can perform through them by your own miniscule hand. You know a lot more than you think you know. So click the mouse, and take your power.
Copyright 2005 Dina Giolitto. All rights reserved.