Most of the time, when I get calls for computer help I can usually figure out how to fix things out instinctively. Why? Well because I examine the contents of the different menus looking for the option that will most likely get me closer to my goal (while keeping in mind whatever it is I’m trying to do).

As an added bonus, just about every program out there that has pull down menus have “Help” listed as the last one to the right. So, by the time I get to the last pull down menu I can always open that programs help file and do a search on what I’m trying to do. The help file will then list all the topics that contain whatever words I searched on and from there I can usually figure out how to take the next step.

Let’s take a look at this in an example. Let’s say I’m writing my column with a typical word processing program and I wanted to make the next line that I type bold and larger. Let’s also say that I only have a very basic understanding of computers. At this point I have two choices, I can stare at the screen with a blank expression and then call Bob (who’s pretty good with computers) and ask him or, I can start looking around the screen for something that may help me reach my goal.

As I move my mouse (and my eyes!) around the screen I notice a couple of things; first at the top of the screen, above where the words are being typed, there are (often) rows of menus and buttons available. And, as I move my mouse slowly over the buttons, little boxes pop up telling me what each button does. When I click on the “File” option it opens (or “pulls down”) and I can see all of the commands that are available that have to do with Filing. As I move my mouse to the right, the File pull down menu closes and the Edit menu opens displaying all of the commands available for editing. Next the View pull down menu opens and then the Insert menu opens. As each menu opens I look at all the options available and for each one I ask myself “does this option look like it will help me change my text to bold and larger?” And as each menu does not present an option I go on to the next one eventually getting to the “Format” pull down menu.

When Format opens, I see it lists Bullets and numbering… Borders and shading… and what’s this? Font?? Hmmm…. Let me think… I’m trying to change the formatting of my text and text is made up of “fonts,” Thinking I may be on the right track, I click the Fonts option and a screen opens that allows me to change the characteristics of the type. Bingo! Exactly what I am looking for! It says I am typing in Times New Roman, Regular, Size 12. I change the specs to Times New Roman, Bold, Size 14, click OK and voila! My typing is now larger and darker.

OK, so, that rather tame demonstration is just an example of how intuitive computing works; at no time did I ever get the urge to go get a book or call tech support for help, I kept in mind what I was trying to do and, after seeing what options were available, discovered the answer on my own. Instinctively.

Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking; that the things you have trouble doing are far more complex than just changing the characteristics of text, how can this possibly help me? And to that I answer the lesson is not in how to change the font size, the lesson is where to go for your answers!

Notice that the menus I looked at were all within the program I was using. You should look at the menus and options available within the program where you are stuck. Also notice that each pull down menu is a category; all filing options are under “File” and we found our Font options under the “Format” pull down menu. That was no coincidence. I would have been very surprised to find the Fonts option under the File pull down menu but starting at File and moving to the right covers all the bases and rapidly gets you familiar with all the menus available.

Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at 888-752-9049 or (No Hyphens!)

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