Mailinglist Archive: opensuse-edu (303 mails)

< Previous Next >
Re: [suse-linux-uk-schools] Open Source National curriculum
  • From: David Bowles <dbowles@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 2 Dec 2003 15:18:08 +0000 (UTC)
  • Message-id: <13535967046.20031202151528@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Would that it were so simple. The problem is that you know what you want
> to do, the difficulty is finding out what the application calls it.

Yes and no. To begin with it's not that difficult to make an informed
guess as to the top-level menu item below which the function you are
after is likely to reside. For example:

'File' menu child functions are usually concerned with
operations that work on the document 'as a whole'
...such as 'New', 'Save', 'Save-As', 'Import', etc...

'Edit' menu child functions are usually concerned with
making changes within a part of an existing document
...such as 'Copy', 'Paste', 'Find', 'Format', etc...

'Insert' menu child functions are usually concerned with
adding new content to sections of an existing document
..such as 'Date & Time', 'Image', 'Object', etc...

OK, so this tends to get less logical and more application specific as
one progresses across the top-level menu items. But it only takes a
few seconds to scan the cursor across the full-range of the top-level
menu, and with practice you'll find the functions you are looking tend
to 'jumps out' at you. Why? Because your mind soon learns to
automatically ignore the unwanted functions that are already familiar
to you, allowing you to quickly target the one you are after.

Furthermore once you have mastered a few applications using this
standard method of accessing their functions through the drop-down
menu system, then when you start to work an a new application you'll
quickly discover you already know how to access perhaps 80% or even in
excess of 90% of it's basic functionality.

Recognising the great similarities between supposedly different
applications also provides the user with a huge psychological boost.
For this serves to convince their all-powerful sub-conscious mind that
every application is in essence basically the same. This sets in
motion a 'virtuous circle' whereby any incongruity is quickly noted
and dealt with on a sub-conscious level, which turns this similarity
into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is why old-timers such as myself are able to master new
applications (that roughly conform to a standard drop-down menu
format) so quickly and with such comparative ease. However this skill
is not unique to those with years of experience, who usually got to
work this way through trial and error (mainly error!). It can also be
implicitly taught and quickly, in much the same way one can teach an
modern-foreign language.

> The help file is often worse than useless because it uses the application
> specific vocabulary.

Personally I don't believe this to be true, or rather it's usually
possible to pick up the gist of how an application functions extremely
quickly just from scanning the help system in the right way. Once you
understand how a standard help system is laid out, then drilling down
to a detailed explanation of the functionality you are after is 'easy

But I'll leave this lesson for a future posting...

David Bowles
TeacherLab / Education Support

< Previous Next >