What else do you need to know

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How to get someone to help
No time and no interest in learning how to make a computer do somersaults? If your management skills are such that you can recruit someone else to help, fine. Do try to learn some of the lingo and be aware of what's possible, so you can be a more effective leader and the team can be more efficient.

But if you want to be more self-sufficient, read on for a checklist of what you need to know. Consider taking a class at a community college or other training facility, or finding someone to tutor you on your own system. Libraries may also have resources to help step you through learning these topics. You may also find online resources (ComputerSelfHelp.org, GCFLearnFree.org) to be just what you need to demystify some of these topics. Find a buddy, be clear about what you'd like to accomplish, and use your demonstrated learning skills to tackle these new topics.

How to use your browser
The "browser" is the program you use to surf the web (e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari). You enter web addresses into an "address box," you can save web addresses as "bookmarks" or "favorites," and you may have other tools built into the program. Learn how to "search" (using a toolbar or going to a search engine site), to find information where you don't already have the web address.
How to use your e-mail program
Aside from sending and receiving mail, you should investigate how to create a "list" in your address book to broadcast information to folks (branch board, counterparts) but only have to enter one "address", how to send and receive attachments, and how to forward (or reply to) just the key parts of messages. Be careful about the difference between "reply" and "reply all" and, in general, never put anything in e-mail that you wouldn't want posted on a bulletin board. For more e-mail usage tips, take the time to review one of the many Netiquette documents you can find with a web search (e.g. Netiquette 101).
How to use an Office Suite
A word processor and spreadsheet are key personal computer applications that can vastly improve your ability to manage documents and data. No matter what your job, you can communicate more effectively if you use the formatting tools once available only to typesetters to get good looking documents whose format supports their content and makes it easier to read. If you deal with any data (addresses, finances, lists of any kind), the time you spend learning to use a spreadsheet will be very worthwhile. When you combine the two (word processor and spreadsheet), you're well on your way to the magic of mail merge for producing labels, customizable form letters, and more! A "suite" can include a presentation program (e.g. PowerPoint), a drawing program and a database. But the word processor and spreadsheet are the two key items.
For most people, "Office Suite" means Microsoft Office. However, be aware that there is an open source suite, OpenOffice (see www.openoffice.org) that runs on Windows and Macs, and can be used to share files with Microsoft Office users -- and it's a free download. If you're having trouble opening or sharing Microsoft Word documents, and you don't want to purchase Office, consider OpenOffice as an alternative. One key feature of OpenOffice is that it can create PDF files without any added software.
Do take the time to learn some of the capabilities of your suite -- a word processing program is a great deal more than just a typewriter. For instance it can automatically generate a "difference document" to show how two versions of a document differ. If you've struggled to highlight the changes between two versions of a set of bylaws, know that that can be automated. It can also generate labels and forms -- see for instance the business cards and other samples from an AAUW NC Workshop from 2002.
How to use programs specific for your job
  • Finance Officer: Quicken or similar bookkeeping software to make it much easier to generate reports
  • Newsletter Editor: Microsoft Publisher or a better page layout program can make layout much simpler than trying to do the same things in, say, Microsoft Word.
  • Anyone who needs format documents for printing, then send them in e-mail or have them posted on the web: Adobe Acrobat (or PDF995,CutePDF or OpenOffice) to create PDF files. [Acrobat has additional features for manipulating these files, but is not worth the high price if all you need is to create PDF files from your documents.]
How to download and install a program
If you want to use any program that didn't come with your computer (Firefox, Acrobat Reader), you may be able to purchase it on CD, but it's often cheaper and quicker to download the software and install it. Whether you're using Windows or Macintosh, almost all programs have a fairly standard installation method and once you learn how to do it with one program the rest will usually go the same way.
How to stay on top of what you'll need to know next
How to best use technology to accomplish your goals? Whatever the answer is to that question, it is going to change over the next year or two. Plan to keep learning as the systems change and you're asked to adapt to new tools. Pick up an occasional magazine, organize a tech self-help group, take a class or two each year... You'll also find a wealth of material on the web -- see

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