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Computing with Confidence

Dear ....
First of all I would say don't be afraid of your PC. Yes it will go wrong and sometimes it will be your fault (but it could equally not be) but don't panic. Look around for things you can do, like 'undo' (usually control 'z') or cancel, or close down the program that is having a problem and possibly re-boot your PC.

Whenever you encounter a new program, play with it and explore it. Systematically work your way through the toolbars and menus to see what you can do, especially the ones labelled 'options', 'preferences' or 'customs', as these will usually be quite interesting and save you time on re-setting a style or re-doing something you use all the time. Lots of shortcuts and principles that you use in one package may transfer over into another package, irrelevant of the manufacturer. So these things are worth trying too, such as Ctrl 'a', 'z', 'c' and 'v', right clicking, click and drag etc.

Another good way to learn about a program is to use it's help files, sometimes they have tutorials included and, if you have one, you can flick through the manual.

A new programme I learnt recently was First Class, a conferencing and emailing program for the Open University. There were times when I became stuck trying to achieve what I wanted. So I followed my own advice and systematically worked my way through the menus, toolbars, help files and speaking to people that have done it before. The main problem was learning to replicate (use the offline reader), and I found I needed a combination of exploring, speaking to an expert and perseverance to achieve this. In the meantime I learnt how to do things which I didn't know the program could do, until I did it 'accidentally'.

Finally, remember that it is only a machine and although it can be frustrating at times, it is not deliberately 'out to get you'. Nowadays there are many processes that have become automated so that PC's have become more user friendly, and you don't have to be a programmer to do things. But the technology is developing at such at pace that things are also unstable. If you think of your hi-fi playing a CD, it may jump occasionally, but then it will carry on playing the disc without a problem. With PC's things have to happen in sequence, one process is dependent on the previous one etc. Sometimes the timing can slightly miss, a command might be accidentally jumped over or the computer might end up in 'stalemate' where each bit is replying on another bit and consequentially 'freezes'. Don't worry this happens to experienced technicians as well as the home user. It comes with the territory, so if things go wrong, re-start the software, re-boot your machine or re-install the software.

Happy Computing.


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