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Another part of progressing beyond the novice level of computer user is being able to quickly determine which applications to use to accomplish various tasks. Now, there's a world of computer software out there, and we can't possibly address all the different types and titles, but the most common types of software are probably word processors, image editors, graphic design or page layout programs, spreadsheet applications, and possibly video or audio editing applications. And it seems like an obvious point, but you should do your best to create your documents and files in the most appropriate applications. For example, I'm currently looking at Adobe Photoshop, which is an image editing application, but I could create a new blank document like I've done here. Select the Text tool, click in my document, and start typing some text.
But Photoshop isn't really designed for working with lots of text. It's great at incorporating text into images, but not for just working with large amount of text. Photoshop is an image editing program and should be used for editing images. For writing papers or letters, you should use a word processor, like Microsoft Word or Apple Pages, for example, both of which are designed to work with primarily text. You'll just find more tools and controls for working with text, especially multiple pages of text, in programs like Word and Pages. But along those lines, if you're going to be creating a long document that incorporates both text and images, word processors will work, but you might want to consider even more specialized software like say, Adobe InDesign.
This is a page layout program, which offers much more powerful tools for laying out documents like brochures, advertisements, booklets, and the like. And when you find yourself working in a page layout program, you most likely won't be working with it exclusively. Since your brochure or booklet will probably incorporate images, you'll have to work with an image editing program like Photoshop, in which you can process and prep your images before placing them into your layout. Now, programs like Word and Pages do have limited image editing capabilities, but the keyword there is limited, and you're not going to be able to do nearly as much with your images in word processing programs as you will be able to do in a dedicated image editing program like Photoshop. And if you need to design your own graphics, you might then find yourself working in a program like Adobe Illustrator, and soon you're working with an entire suite of applications, and it's important to understand which program is used for which task.
Now, part of this process is just taking the time to read up on the software you have installed, or that you're considering purchasing. All software manufacturers have web sites where they offer information on their products. So, for example, if I open up my web browser, I can go to adobe.com, and I can read about Illustrator. And right here on this page, I can click What Is Illustrator. I can get an overview, and here I can read about all the sorts of things that Illustrator does. And after reading for a while, I can see that Illustrator is a drawing program. Or I can go to apple.com/iwork, and here I can read up on the suite of applications and learn that Pages is for word processing, Numbers is for creating spreadsheets and Keynote is for creating presentations.
Also, notice that Apple offers a free trial of iWork, so you could download a working copy of the entire suite to try it out for a month. Many software companies offer free or limited trial versions of their software, so you can run them through their paces and determine if they'll suit your needs. And as you familiarize yourself with what software is available out there, you'll be better equipped to determine which application to use for which task. Now, if you're working entirely on your own, there's not really a hard and fast rule saying you can't use, say, Photoshop to type a lot of text. If the only thing that matters to you is your final product, and you're comfortable with using Photoshop to work with text, there's technically nothing wrong with that.
But if you're going to be collaborating with others, it becomes especially important to use the software appropriate to the task, in which case sending a Photoshop document full of text for someone to copyedit isn't a great idea, because Photoshop doesn't offer copyediting tools like, say, Microsoft Word does. When collaborating with others, you also need to make sure that they'll be able to open and work with the files you send them. If you're going to send a Word document, they'll need to have Word installed in their computers, or some more compatible software. In a later chapter, I talk about some things you can do, like converting your documents to PDFs, to ensure that anyone can read and open your files, but when it comes to collaborating on files, the best solution is for everyone involved to have and use the same software.
So be sure to take your time to familiarize yourself with the software that's already installed in your computer. If you're not sure what it does, you can look it up online or check in the software's built-in Help menu. If you don't have the appropriate software for what you need to accomplish, ask around your office or school for suggestions on which software you should acquire. If you work with others, you'll probably find that some or all of them have the necessary software installed on their computers, and it should be relatively easy to get recommendations of what software you need to accomplish your tasks.
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