During my working years I wrote many technical reports. Decades ago, when desktop computers became popular, I taught myself keyboarding. My handwriting was atrocious. I recall the first word processing program I used was WordPerfect. I came to like WordPerfect and grew fairly proficient with it. Naturally, the word processing experts at my company took my drafts and polished them into final report format. I didn’t try to do their job, although over the years so many new employees had keyboarding skills and used personal computers that the word processing department shrank, being replaced by one or two secretaries.

As Microsoft expanded their takeover of the personal computer applications business, they developed their own word processing application called Microsoft® Word. Over time, MSWord grew in popularity. Even so, I resisted switching to it as I wanted to avoid having to spend hours learning a new application when I was perfectly happy with the one I was using. However, when my company’s clients began asking for documents in MSWord format, the handwriting was on the wall. I made the painful switch to MSWord.

Except for keyboarding, the procedures for using MSWord were totally different from those of WordPerfect. Still, it was simply a matter of learning new procedures. Over the years as new versions of MSWord were released, changes continued to be made in its functions and procedures. This was not surprising since the product design was still maturing and new features were being added. However, Microsoft also became notorious for moving icons around and changing buttons and functions for no apparent reason. It was this change for change’s sake that caused me to realize that learning, and then re-learning, and then again re-learning procedures is just plain dog work. It doesn’t take a genius to be proficient in MSWord. Rather, it takes a reasonably intelligent person with time and patience to read and study the user manual, and then practice. And then do it all over again when the next version comes out.

A word processing application is a tool for me to do my writing. As long as it meets my needs, I don’t want to be bothered with new versions having bells and whistles that are of no interest to me. In retirement, I continue to use older versions of MSWord and I’m happy to say that most places I submit write-ups to use older versions, too.

On a related topic, I recently got to the point that it was time for me to switch from my old analog cell phone with its physical keyboard to a new digital smartphone. Here again, I had been putting off having to re-learn procedures; in this case, re-learning how to make phone calls when all the buttons, keypads, and keyboards were virtual.

So now I’ve had my smartphone for about nine months and I really like it. Of course, in the early days of using it I discovered that there really weren’t any useful user manuals online for it or most of the applications I downloaded. I was frustrated by this situation. It got worse when I came to realize that, in the few cases where user manuals did exist, they were outdated! I found the same to be true when I looked on YouTube for instructional videos. The applications on my android phone are constantly being updated and sometimes I have to re-learn how to do something I used to be able to do on a prior version of the same application.

Instead of user manuals, which I admit can be boring to read, it appears that applications now come with built-in prompts that help guide the user through the process they want to perform. I’ve found these prompts to be helpful on many occasions, but also totally useless if I’m trying to do something not addressed by any displayed prompts. In these latter cases, I’ve come up with a solution that is not very elegant but seems to work more often than not.

I start pushing virtual buttons until something happens that looks like it might take me in the direction I want to go.

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