Sunday, January 17, 2016

Learning a Computer Program When You Don't Speak Geek

Ok, I admit it: the gobbledegook one finds in what passes for "instructions" when learning to use a computer program is total Greek to me. Or, more accurately, perhaps I should say it's total "Geek" -- unintelligible terminology that only a computer programmer can decipher. And if you think that's bad, too often it's even worse: there's no instruction provided whatsoever.

My own efforts to master certain software packages were a complete disaster. (The programs in question will remain unnamed because I do not wish to be stalked by cyber sadists who write those software manuals and Help pages.) Perhaps, if you are anything like me, you will be able to relate to my experiences:

Sitting in front of my computer trying to navigate through an unfamiliar program inevitably produced a state of frustrated rage. You do not know how often I was tempted to pick up a book and heave it at the monitor. Ranting at and cursing the computer was a daily occurrence. My recurring fantasy was imagining the delicious sense of revenge I'd enjoy as I envisioned tossing the damned thing out a second floor window.

 Meanwhile, my poor husband, who was usually listening from the next room to a colorful string of epithets, was dreading what he knew was coming next: "Would you PLEASE come show me what the @#$%^%$# I'm doing wrong????!!!

He would then rise from his chair, don a hardhat, and warily come to the rescue. Scenarios like this were repeated countless times as I tried to master email, searching the Internet, using a scanner, placing an order online, and on and on. The man truly has the patience of a saint. If we had a nickel for every time Hubs had to come bail me out of a bind, we'd be living in high cotton on the French Riviera. My learning curve wasn't just steep. It was decidedly vertical.

Then one day a thought occurred to me: why not write down each step as my husband showed it to me, using terms and descriptions of my own that would help me remember what to do and when? Writing descriptions that made sense to me, however oddly they were worded, allowed me learn the programs that formerly had left me so frustrated and baffled. I think Hubs was willing to accommodate me because he was ready to try anything, however outlandish, if it would allow him to spend his retirement in peace.

So whenever I found myself stumped by a program I couldn't understand how to use, he would come and sit down next to me at the computer, where he would describe each step and show me how it worked. Then, displaying the patience of Job, he would wait as I scribbled down my interpretation of it. My notes may not have made much sense but I knew exactly what every phrase or sentence meant. Here are a few excerpts:

"Click one time on blue thing at bottom of screen that looks like a planet."
"To leave page, click on red X in upper right corner. DO NOT hit other X in box in other corner!"
"To make a new folder, click on Pictures, then highlight My Pictures underneath it, but don't open My Pictures just yet."
"Click one time on gray triangle (lower right side) near thing with flag. DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING ELSE. Wait til OK to Remove shows at bottom of box before pulling card out."

Using my notes I finally got the hang of navigating and utilizing all the programs I needed to learn, without getting divorced or being arrested for unruly conduct. Granted, it took a while to become completely comfortable with them, and there are still certain applications I have yet to try, but now I breeze through programs like Photoshop Elements and others without hesitation. I no longer need to consult the notebook, but I still keep it handy -- just in case.

I share this with you, dear readers, not to make myself look clever (If I were clever I'd have learned what I needed to learn a whole lot sooner) but rather to suggest to others struggling with computers that there's a way to ease the pain. Buy a notebook, grab a pencil, and recruit someone patient who's familiar with the programs and processes you're trying to learn. Start making notes. You'll be amazed at how effective this no-tech approach can be, and -- thank goodness -- there's no Geekspeak to send your blood pressure soaring.

©2015 Lynn Edwards

No comments:

Post a Comment