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In Computer Literacy for the Mac, author Garrick Chow walks through the skills necessary to use Mac computers comfortably, while improving learning, productivity, and performance. This course focuses on the Apple Mac OS X operating system and offers a thorough introduction to computers, networks, and computer peripherals such as printers, digital cameras, and more. In addition, basic procedures with software applications, the Internet, and email are covered.
I think one of the most important skills to develop when it comes to learning how to use any computer application is the skill of just exploring and not being nervous about clicking things. Many people who consider themselves non-computer people are often afraid of messing around in programs, and worry that they're going to break something. Well, I'm here to tell you that when you're working in any application, there's pretty much no chance that you can irreversibly mess up the application. Now, there is a better chance that you can mess up the document or file that you're using in the application, but let me show you a quick trick. Just about every application has a command called Save As, found under the File menu.
This lets you save another copy of your document on your computer, leaving the original document or file untouched. So for instance, I'm working in this document called Current Policy. I'll just change its name to Current Policy_copy. I'll save it to my desktop and click Save. You can see that copy has been placed here on my desktop, and this gives you the freedom to experiment as much as you want with your copy of the file, knowing that you have your original version sitting safe and sound on your hard drive. So really, the trick to learning any application is to embrace the idea of playing around with it.
Start by clicking the menus in the Menu bar. Almost all applications have menus in common, like File, Edit, and View, which we'll talk about in an upcoming movie. The other menus are the ones that are usually unique to the particular application you're working in. So really take some time to explore what's available in those menus. Usually you'll be able to infer what the application is capable of based on the commands found in its Menu bar. Generally, any menu item that ends with ellipses like this, for example, indicates that selecting that menu item will open a window in which you'll be able to make additional selections, and this gives you another area of the application to explore.
Also, note that you'll always find a Cancel button in windows like this. Cancel lets you close the window without making any changes to your document, regardless of whether you clicked some buttons or menus in that window. Many applications also have toolbars or palettes in which you'll find several buttons and menus as well. Again, take some time to look over them and read their labels to figure out what they do. You'll also find that most applications reveal additional information about their buttons when you place your mouse over them, like this. These are often called tooltips, and again, this is a quick and convenient way to learn what a program is capable of.
So just take your time, look through the buttons that are available, toggle open some menus, see what's available in each one of these, and as always, don't be afraid to click anything. Another feature I'll talk more about in an upcoming movie is the Undo feature, which many applications have in common. Undo is always found under the Edit menu, and it lets you take back the last change you made to your file or document. So this is yet another way to allow yourself the freedom to experiment and explore. Just try something out to see what it does, for instance, I'll select this text and maybe I'll click this button here.
You can see that turned all my text red. Then choose Edit > Undo to take it back. So as you explore the application menus and buttons, you'll really start to get an idea of the language of applications, how they work, how they're organized and what they can or cannot do. The goal is not to completely memorize every menu and button, but more to just learn what's possible and to learn the names of the menu commands and buttons, so when it does come time to actually do some work, you'll properly remember seeing a command or button that fits what you're trying to do and be able to find it again. Lastly, most applications have a Help menu, in which you'll be able to find instructions for commonly used features or frequently performed tasks.
This is also where you'll find the instruction manual for a lot of software applications. So here in Word Help, I can click on some of these popular topics, like change page margins, to find instructions on how to do just that. So those are just some general tips you can follow to help you get better acquainted with any particular application you need to learn. Of course, I've only been speaking in very general terms here, and it will take time to really learn any application in depth, but these steps will help you get your bearings and make any application a little less foreign and much more familiar when it comes time to do some actual work.
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