We’re not going to geek out here but we need to talk about:
Read on and discover today’s mystery word. Spolier alert: this is a choose-your-own mystery word adventure.
Here we beg the document engineering question. Do most people need all the features that Microsoft Word offers? Most users think they need to “buy” software to be able to effectively design their documents. This is highly unlikely. We know most patrons do not know about free or open source software. Most people would be fine typing their paper in something as simple as Notepad or a free Word Processor like AbiWord. AbiWord has most of the features you need. If our patrons truly need to do advance document engineering, Word may or may not be the best candidate.
As for writing the paper, could we suggest to our users that 2-steps make a better writing process? First: pure, simple, hacking, away at the keyboard to produce their work of literary greatness. In Microsoft Word, there are far too many distractions to take you away from the task of writing. I’m sure you’ve played the Font Game, (Hmmmm, Times New Roman is starting to look dated…What about Verdana? Oh too modern). Possibly you have tweaked and re-tweaked your headers, footers and page numbering too? I usually do this when my forehead starts bleeding from trying to think of that elusive word while re-writing and re-writing and re-writing. Or maybe that’s just me.
Next, the intrepid writer can port their new literary work to a piece of software that will allow them to create a document with formal page margins, headers and footers, a cover page, image, sections, and tables. (Most email systems can be thought of as the first step in document creation too. Unless you’re constantly checking your email.) Users also seem to not know that you don’t need MS Office. Those patrons, unless doing very serious document formatting, can use a free word processing software to engineer the final copy.
Here’s the “converting a MS Office 2007 document” part for our user who gets home and can’t open the latest greatest file from Microsoft. For 2007, Microsoft changed file formats. Documents get an x tacked on now -actually it’s Microsoft’s version of XML. You get a strange look when you tell people they don’t need to buy the newest edition of Microsoft Office 2007 to open any of the new Office file formats. If they have a version of Office from 97-2003, there are no worries. They usually don’t believe me so I give them the quote below and this link in an email:
“By installing the Compatibility Pack in addition to Microsoft Office 2000, Office XP, or Office 2003, you will be able to open, edit, and save files using the file formats new to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007…“
Also, it’s not a bad idea to inform your users to keep a copy of, say, their resume as a plain text file. Again, locking your most precious documents up in proprietary formats is not the wisest move. What if you can’t afford to buy the newest software that will open those MS file formats? That’s speaking from experience. I’m sure you don’t do that. Also, it’s far less likely over time and multiple saves, that a simple text file will become corrupted. Again, the idea is to separate content from presentation while not getting crazy with it. Obviously your PowerPoint presentation should not be separated into images and a text file. Or should it? As long as you have an internet connection you’d have your presentation with Slidy. Some folks also use flickr.com.
Getting used to playing with Microsoft Virtual PC will do two things for you. (Sorry, I know I am ignoring Macs here; forgive me.)
1. If you learn how to do a Microsoft Windows XP installation you will feel more empowered over your technology and will help yourself demystify some of what IT actually does. How so you say? The great thing about working on a virtual machine, as opposed to your own actual PC, is that you can break it
with no care -recklessly. You just delete the virtual drive and start over.
2. Having a Virtual Machine on your own PC allows you to:
a.) test software you think you may need,
b.) test software patrons want you to install
c.) keep your PC “clean and secure” by not accelerating rot on windows. There are few others you can use like VMware but you have to use their virtual machine player and are limited to the VM builds they offer -unless you have the workstation edition to create your own virtual machines.
Imagine having disposable XP computing instances? Each time you reboot you have a new Windows installation. There are several programs you can use to secure your personal computer or the work computers you oversee. Microsoft SteadyState is not bad. Returnnil gives you controls to return your system to a pristine state. There are others and it can get quite costly. The free stuff holds its own though. Why would you do this? Public computers should be for public use. These kinds of controls give a user complete access to their PC. Maybe they need to install some software to do their taxes. Let them. Then reboot the computer and it’s back to your baseline image.
Finally, you’ve heard of Linux but don’t want to go through the trouble of installing it. With andLinux you can explore Linux and use thousands of Linux applications -from within Windows XP. Get a taste of Linux without getting all geeked out.
I guess we did just geek out. I’m choosing stenographic as my mystery word for today.
TTW Contributor: Lee LeBlanc