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In Computer Literacy for Windows, author Garrick Chow walks through the skills necessary to use computers comfortably, while improving learning, productivity, and performance. This course focuses on the Microsoft Windows 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 just the skill of just exploring and not being nervous about clicking things. Many people who consider themselves not a computer people or often afraid of messing around in programs and worry that they are going to break something. I am going to tell you that when you are working in any application there is 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 you are working on, but let me show you a quick trick. Just about every application under the File menu has a command called Save As.
This lets you save another copy of your document on your computer, leaving the original document or file untouched. So for instance this current file is called 03_04_ggbridge. I'll just add copy to the end of its name. Save it. And now I am working on a copy of my original photograph. This gives you the freedom to experiment as much as you want with your copy of the file knowing that you have your original versions still 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. I happened to be working in Adobe Photoshop right now, but really this will apply to any other application.
Just start by clicking around in the menus in the menu bar. Almost all applications have menus in common like File and Edit, which we'll talk about in the upcoming movie. And the other ones are the ones that are usually unique to the particular application you are working in. So you really want to take some time and explore what's available in these menus. Usually, you'll be able to infer what the application is capable of based on the commands found in its menu bar. For example, under the Image menu you can see that most of these commands have to do with affecting the look of a photo.
Menus with arrows in them indicate more selections are available in the submenu. And generally any menu that ends with ellipses like any of these in here indicate that when selecting that menu item, a window will open up in which you will be able to make additional selections. And this gives you yet another area of the application to explore. You can just start playing around with whatever buttons, dials, or sliders are available in there. Also note that you'll always find a Cancel button in Windows like this. Cancel lets you close the window without making any changes, regardless of whether you click some of the buttons, or menus, or sliders in that window.
And many applications also have numerous toolbars or palettes in which you'll find several other buttons and menus as well. So again, take some time to look over them, read their labels, and figure out what they do. You'll also find that many applications reveal additional information about their buttons when you place your mouse over them. These are often called tooltips, and again this is a quick and convenient way to learn what a program is capable of. So for example here in Photoshop as I roll over some of these tools you can see their names up here along with the keyboard shortcuts for selecting those tool.s So I can see the Crop tool is invoked by pressing the C button on my keyboard.
So if I press that, you can see that Crop tool has become selected. The Lasso tool is invoked by pressing L. I can do that. And as always, don't be afraid to try things out. So maybe I want to come in here to Filters, go in to Brush Strokes, and let's see what Dark Strokes looks like. So I can see this open up another window in which I can make choices and see how they affect my photo in this case. I am happy of the way one of these looks, so I can just click OK and I have made a change to my document.
Now, another feature I'll talk about more 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 project. So in this case Undo Dark Strokes. You can see that took away that change. So this is yet another way to allow yourself the freedom to experiment and explore. Just try something out to see what it does then choose Edit > Undo to take it back. So as you explore the application's menus and buttons you really start to get an idea of the language of the application, how it works, how it's organized, and what you can or cannot do.
Now, the goal isn't to completely memorize every menu or 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 probably remember seeing a command or a button that fits what you are trying to do and be able to find it again. Lastly, most applications also have a Help menu in which you'll be able to find instructions for commonly used features or frequently performed tasks. In this case I can choose Photoshop Help. That opens up the Help window and here I can read the Photoshop manual.
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'll take time to really learn any application in-depth. But these tips 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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