For the Beginner
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Loading Your First Software Application
If you recently got a new computer for the holidays, you will soon be shopping for new software. Here are a few tips to help you install your first software application.
The first thing to understand about new software is you cannot expect the box to match the user's manual, and the manual to match the software. While this may sound a little crazy, it is often true. It seems the marketing people, who design the box, and the technical writers, who write the user's manual, do not always keep up with the changes being made to the actual software.
At Computer Times, we receive 30 to 40 new software products per month. Few products have matching boxes, books, and software. For example, we recently loaded a product that said to click the YES button on the dialog box that was supposed to appear when the installation began. Not only was there not a YES button, there was not even a dialog box. Further investigation showed that the manual was written for an earlier version of the software. This seems to be quite common, as it is virtually impossible to reprint large user manuals each time the software receives minor improvements.
As a beginner, this can get very confusing. You try very hard to follow all the instructions, yet they don't match what you are seeing on the screen. So, what do you do? You fly by the seat of your pants most of the time, following your common sense rather than the manual.
To help you with common sense, it is important to know a few software basics.
Most software applications, whether they are distributed on diskette or CD-ROM, use a load program titled SETUP or INSTALL, or some variation of these names (SETUPC, INSTALLH, etc.). Occasionally, software will contain both a SETUP and an INSTALL program. If this is the case, the batch program (SETUP.BAT or INSTALL.BAT) is the program that will start the installation process. Knowing this, you can usually ignore the manual and simply look at the diskette using Explorer (in Windows 95/98) or File Manager (in previous version of Windows).
A much easier way to load programs in Windows 95/98 is to simply click on the Start button, choose Settings, Control Panel, and finally double-click the icon titled Add/Remove Programs. Windows 95/98 will automatically look at your diskette drive, and your CD-ROM drives for SETUP type programs. You simply click the CONTINUE buttons, and finally the FINISH button to get the installation started.
If you use File Manager or Explorer, you can manually search for a SETUP or INSTALL program and double-click it to begin the installation process. This may save you the chore of reading several pages of the user manual that may not match the software anyhow.
Another thing you may encounter when installing new software is something called a "Read Me" file. These come in a wide assortment of formats. Some are text files that you can read using a word processor. They will be titled README.TXT, READ.ME, or any other variation that does not end in EXE or COM. If the Read Me file ends in EXE or COM (i.e. README.EXE or README.COM), you can simply double-click on the file to read it.
The "Read Me" files usually contain information about your new software. They may give you tips for properly installing the software, provide a list of known software problems and incompatible hardware, or tell you about all the new software changes not included in the user manual. If there is a "Read Me" file on the diskette or CD-ROM, it is a good idea to read it BEFORE you begin the installation process.
Finally, some software applications will tell you to make a copy of the original diskettes and install the software from the copies. You can easily copy a disk in File Manager by selecting the menu item DISK, and choose COPY DISK. In Windows 95/98, you can simply double-click on the icon titled MY COMPUTER, single-click on FLOPPY (A:), press the RIGHT mouse button, and select COPY DISK.
On some CD-ROMs, you will be offered the option of FULL installation, or MINIMUM installation. The full install will take a lot of hard disk space but the program will run faster each time you use it. The minimum install will take minimal hard disk space, usually require you to have the CD-ROM loaded when using the software, and run slightly slower.
While this article does not include every possible scenario when installing new software, it does introduce you to a few of the situations you may encounter. The main thing to realize if you are a beginner with computers is that you can follow the instructions exactly and still encounter problems when loading the software because the instructions are not always correct.
If you find yourself totally confused when trying to install new software, do not hesitate to call the software company's customer service center. They should be happy to assist you in enjoying their product. You can also look them up on the Internet (there is usually a Web address on the software packaging) and go to the area on their Web site titled "Contact Us" or "Customer Support." While some companies seem to ignore your e-mail replies, most reputable companies will respond to your e-mail within 24 hours.
Till next month . . .
Happy Computing! J
What Comes First - Hardware Or Software?
Software is like a recipe. It should always come first. You first decide what you want to do, then you search for the best set of instructions to do it. Computer hardware is like the cooking utensils. After you find the best set of instructions (software), then you acquire the proper hardware for the task. Any other sequence of events can have disappointing results.
Imagine using a frying pan to cook a pot of chili, or a deep soup pan to fry bacon. There is nothing wrong with the frying pan or the soup pan. They are simply not the best utensil for the task.
Imagine using a low-end graphics monitor to do engineering drawings, or a high-speed engineering computer to do simple word processing. There is nothing wrong with the low-end system or the engineering computer. They may simply not be the best computer for the task.
So do yourself a favor. Decide what you want to accomplish, find the best software for the task, then match the computer to the needs of your software. It could save you a bundle of time, money, and frustration.
WHERE DO I BEGIN?
If you are so new to computers you don't even know where to begin, here are a few tips.
1. Find a computer you can practice on (buy, rent, borrow, or beg).
2. Find someone to teach you the basics of the computer, like turning on the power, loading a disk, getting a list of files, copying files, etc.
3. Decide on one program to learn. It may be a word processor, a database, or even a game.
4. Find someone to teach you the basics of the program.
5. Play with the program and try out every feature. Make mistakes. Explore. Try to make it work. Try to make it fail.
6. Read all help screens, and use any built-in tutorials.
7. Browse through the manual for interesting things that the program can do. DO NOT try to read it cover
8. Find someone to show you things beyond the basics.
9. Try to use the program for serious work, or play. Selectively look up things you can't remember in the built-in HELP screens.
10. Repeat steps 3 through 9 for other programs.
11. Keep your sense of humor. Exploring new software can be lots of fun if you just sit back, relax and enjoy it.
To find great prices on hardware and software we recommend you start withOffice Depot. Just click on the Office Depot ad below and you will be connected directly with Office Depot on the Internet.
Till next month . . .
Happy Computing! J
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