Having run workshops and courses for women returners and administrative staff over the past 8 years Jackie Sherman is very much in touch with the concerns women have about working with computers. She is well aware of the fears female learners and work returners have of being out of date. If you are one of these, there is no other book that specifically covers the issues that concern you.
Many computer users let the machine rule their lives and accept basic settings and standard screen layouts, even if these are difficult to work with. This chapter will put things right, giving you the confidence to re-assert your authority over the machine. You will then be able to carry out tasks more efficiently, correct errors, find missing items and receive help when you need it.
SPECIAL KEYS ON THE KEYBOARD
You may be familiar with the main keys on the keyboard, but have probably ignored many round the edge. However, these can be useful if you are in a hurry or want to find an alternative method for carrying out a task.
Number pad: if you prefer, you can use this block for entering numbers, mathematical operators such as * (multiply) or / (divide), and for pressing Enter. Make sure that a light shows the pad is on, or press Num Lock if you find no numbers appear as you type. Instead, you may find 7 takes you to the start of any line (the Home key), 1 takes you to the end of the line (the End key) and 9 and 3 take you up or down the page. These keys are also available in the block above the arrow (cursor) keys.
Overtyping: If you find letters are replaced when you try to insert new text, you have probably hit the Insert key by mistake and moved into overtyping. Return to normal by pressing the Insert key again.
Function keys: the top row of keys all begin with an F. Each one is a shortcut to a different task, depending on the package you are using, although Fl will always open the Help menu and F12 will open the Save As dialog box.2
Try pressing one or more of these keys when word processing or using Excel or PowerPoint to find out if they have a use e.g. in Word, F5 opens the Find and Replace dialog box and F7 starts the spell checker. In Excel, F2 will allow you to edit entries and in PowerPoint, F5 starts a slideshow.
Ctrl and Alt: Sometimes, a menu is not available and you will need to use the keyboard to carry out an action. Here are some shortcuts using Ctrl and another key. Select your entries, hold down Ctrl and press:
B – Bold
1 – Italic
U – Underline
2 – Double space
1 – Single space
C – Copy
V – Paste
X – Cut
You can also carry out these general tasks:
N – Start a new document
P – Print dialog box
O – Open dialog box
S – Save your work (update if the file is already named, NOT Save As)
Z – Undo the last action
Alt plus a key will replace the mouse if you want to open a menu. Each menu has one letter underlined, so Alt plus this letter will open the menu e.g. F for F ile, O for F o rmat and A for T a ble.
Having opened the menu, key in the underlined letter to open the dialog box e.g. with the File menu open in Word, P opens the print box and with the Insert menu open, U opens the page numbers box.
When word processing, you may find the ruler is missing, and in other applications such as Excel and PowerPoint you may want to add the Formula Bar or Grid lines if they are not showing. You may also want to add or remove the Task Pane that appears on the side of the screen offering links to parts of the system, or the temporary memory store known as the Office Clipboard if using Windows XP. All these items are available from the View or Edit menus – either click the tick on or off to change your screen display.
When you start working in Word, it can be incredibly irritating if the font type and size set by default are wrong, but when you change them they keep changing back during your typing or as soon as you start the next piece of work. Fortunately, you can set your own formats and maintain them. Do this by changing the default settings via the Format – Font menu. (A similar option is available from the File – Page Setup menu if you want to change the default margin settings.)
- 1.Open the Format menu and select Font.
- 2.Select all your preferred fonts and styles from the various boxes but, instead of clicking OK, click the Default button.
- 3.When asked if you want future documents to take on these formats, click Yes.
- 4.For the settings to take effect, you MUST start a new document. From now on, you will find your formats stay in place.
CARRY OUT A SEARCH
However carefully you save your work or install new programs, they may go missing and you need to be able to find them again. The quickest way is to use the Search facility from the Start menu or within folders on the desktop.
The more you know about the file or program you are looking for, the easier the search. For example:
- Do you know its full or partial name?
- Do you know the drive, folder or sub-folder in which it is stored?
- Do you know the date it was last modified?
- Do you know what type of file or program it is?
If you can answer some of these questions, your search should be very simple.
For example, imagine you want to locate any word processed files labelled Calendar 2004. When you open the Search box, in Windows XP machines you can select the type of search you want to carry out e.g. is it for pictures, programs, music or documents? Either pick a category or, if you are not sure, select the All files and folders option.
You will be offered a search box in which you can type in the file name and select the lowest level location you believe contains the file e.g. My Documents, a sub-folder or a floppy disk. If you don’t know, select the drive you normally work on e.g. C.
Where you do not know the exact file name, use an asterix * to represent missing characters e.g. Cal*r, Calendar 200* or Calendar*. If you don’t even know the name of the file or program, you could select the option to specify the date or period in which it was modified, or even type in some keywords contained in the text, but this will result in a very long search.
When you have completed all the boxes, click Search and the results will appear in the main window.
The results can be quite confusing, so if it is possible, specify the type of file you are looking for more exactly. For example, if it is a word processed document, you can add the extension .doc after the file name and if it is a spreadsheet, type Calendar 2004.xls. For pictures, you could add .jpg, .bmp or .gif if you know that it is a JPEG, bitmap or GIF image (file types are covered in more detail later).
Having located the file, double-click it in the window to open it on screen.
ORGANISING THE VIEW
Most new computer users put up with the display that is offered to them, but it can sometimes be more helpful to organise the display of your files or pages differently.
After a search, or when looking through a folder on the desktop, you may want to see details of a file’s size or location, or change from large icons to a neat list. With pictures, you may like to view them as ‘thumbnails’ before opening any. You can change how files are displayed by selecting an alternative from the View menu.
You also have a similar option from the Views button.
To change the order in which the files appear, select Arrange Icons by from the View menu and then choose to sort them by name, type, size or when last modified.
Within the various applications such as Word and PowerPoint, you can view your active screen in different ways – again either choosing from the View menu or buttons. Page view buttons can be found in the bottom, left-hand corner of the window.
Normal view may be easier for editing, but a Print Layout view shows you how the page will look when printed, letting you work with images and other objects and check margins and spacing. Outline is useful for long documents or presentations as it allows you to restrict the view to headings and sub-headings, and the Web Layout view displays the contents as they would look on the Web.PowerPoint has other views related to working with slides.
There is nothing more annoying than receiving a file by e-mail or on a disk that you cannot open. This is because, when you double-click a file, it tries to open into an application with which it is associated. If you don’t have the program, you cannot open the file.
Fortunately, you can change this association to another program that you do have which may allow you to view the file.
- 1.Right-click the file you wish to open and select Open with. (Sometimes you must hold down Shift as you click to be offered this option.) You may be offered an appropriate choice of programs or you will need to select Choose Program.
- 2.When the dialog box opens, scroll down to find the best option. Click it to open the selected file or first click in the Always . . . checkbox so that all future files of this type are opened by the same program.
For some reason, computerised Help menus have a bad reputation. You should ignore this and use the help screens often; they are really quite straightforward and extremely useful if no-one is around to help sort out a problem.
If you have a Windows XP machine, you will see a small box at the top of the screen in certain programs displaying the text ‘Type a question for help’. This is a short-cut to the main help menu, so type your topic e.g. changing margins, and then press Enter to display a list of links to the relevant information.
Select this option from the Help menu, press the function key Fl or click the toolbar button to open the main Help window.
You will see three labelled tabs at the top left and a main display on the right.
Contents: this allows you to work down through a menu of options similar to chapter headings and sub-headings. This is useful if you want a general introduction to a major aspect of the software.
Answer wizard: like the Question box, type in a phrase or question to be shown related topics.
Index: search for topics related to a single keyword or phrase, or choose from an alphabetical list.
The Clippit paperclip ‘helper’ used to arrive unannounced in earlier versions of Office, but you can now decide whether or not to turn it on. It works in a similar way to the question box or Answer Wizard, as well as second-guessing the help you might need when you start carrying out particular tasks. If you like to have an Assistant around but prefer a cat, dog or magician, right-click the image to choose an alternative.
Select this option to add a question mark to your pointer . Now click any toolbar button or other object and you will be offered a definition or guidance. Some dialog boxes contain a button that works in the same way.