Getting Started Using Computer Software
Learning to use a new computer system is an inherently frustrating task. Relax and accept it.
The trick is to learn enough to get done what you want to get done, not to master the application. That will come with time if you use the package a lot.
Don't be afraid to explore by pulling down menus and clicking. It is very difficult to damage anything especially you have backups of all of your work on a floppy disk not in the machine.
Figure out where the on-line help is and learn how to use that first. RTFM!
Don't fight it if there is a some minor stylistic thing you would like to do but can't figure out how. Keep things simple. Remember that you are using the machine as a productivity tool.
Windows and GUIs
A user interface defines how people interact with machines. Bank money machines have a good user-interface, while VCRs have a bad one.
A graphical user interface or GUI combines text and graphics to make user-interfaces easier to use.
Windows 95 provides the graphical user-interface we will use in lab. It is the most popular interface for personal computers.
Icons are pictures which represent applications or options in a GUI.
The mouse is a device for pointing to a location on the screen.
Clicking on an icon with a mouse is a good way to make something happen. Icons which do something when clicked are called buttons. On certain systems, multiple clicks are necessary.
Clicking on an icon typically brings up a menu, describing a list of possible commands to choose from.
Sometimes menu entries bring up other sub-menus with more specific options.
One option is usually cancel, so don't be afraid to explore.
Eventually, there is often a need to enter some text information, which brings us back to the keyboard.
Although GUIs are easier to learn to use than text-oriented command line interfaces, they can also be more limiting to experienced users. Consider typing through a mouse and menu!
Often applications have keyboard commands which can be used instead of going through the menus.
Conventions for Word Processing Systems
Every word processor is slightly different, but all obey certain conventions.
You must store your permanent files on a hard or floppy disk. Anything in main-memory will be lost when the power goes out.
All action happens at the cursor position, typically highlighted and/or blinking. The cursor position can be changed by moving the mouse and clicking, or via arrow (cursor control) keys.
All provide some mechanism to scroll to the rest of the document, via mouse scroll bars or keyboard commands.
Text can be selected by the mouse, for example to delete or move a paragraph. Typically we point at the start, click/hold, then point at the end.
They differ in how they handle word wrap, the automatic adding of line returns. Microsoft Word has word wrap, so you only explicitly add returns between paragraphs. The word processor I use does not word wrap, giving me more control at an ease-of-use cost.
Features of Word Processors
The basic features any system offers are text entry, editing (cut and paste, insert/delete), text searching, and formatting.
Modern systems permit you to change the size or style of the fonts used in your document. Beginners usually spend a lot of time making their documents unreadable by using too many fancy fonts - keep things simple.
Most systems have special facilities to format tables and equations, prepare bibliographies, integrate images, etc.
Most systems have spelling checkers available, which identify words which are not in a dictionary and suggest alternatives.
Spelling correction is not a well-defined, mechanical process to program. Clever algorithms must be used to decide what to do.
Many systems have other features such as as grammar checkers (eg. double word elimination) or thesauruses.