a la carte

I’m a queer duck in more ways than one, as I’m sure many would agree. One of the ways in which I differ from most people is that I really enjoy exploring new software, finding out what it can do, and learning how it will permit me to tweak it to my own personal preferences. That explains in some measure why I am so fond of my favorite text editor, TSE Pro, why I use The Bat!, why I like Firefox and Flock, and why, most recently, I have fallen in love with xplorer2, a Windows shell replacement for Windows Explorer. They all give me exquisite control over how they function, and that to me is a joyful experience.

Most Windows users it seems just accept what they are given by the operating system that was installed on the computer when they bought it and never risk trying to get a “better” alternative. I suppose I understand their hesitancy to make any changes, lest they go down an unfamiliar path and get “lost in the woods” as it were, but this timid approach to using software denies them the pleasure that fully using the features that a software program has to offer can provide. And because of things like spyware, even those who might be adventuresome enough to try downloading something new may have gotten burned by doing so and forever after they resolve to “never do that again.” And that, I think, is a pity.

There are a number of sources of free software on the Internet where some wonderfully imaginative tools that will enhance your experience of using your computer can be downloaded. For instance this program, PixVue, is a free tool for digital photographers that, once installed, permits you to catalog your digital photographs and add tags to them so that you can locate them, group and display them in meaningful ways.

Of course, the decision to try new software brings with it the “burden” of learning how to use it, and for a lot of folks, that is considered not an opportunity and a pleaure but a chore to be avoided at all costs. Really good software has the characteristic that it comes with a help file that explains the options available in the program and the procedures for using it to its maximum advantage. Unfortunately the quality of help files varies dramatically. Some are atrocious, in that they don’t cover all the topics that are needed or they are written in such a poor grammatical style that they are almost opaque, but when they are good, they are the icing on the cake of a wonderful program. And one of the reasons I am so infatuated with the xplorer2 program I mentioned above is that it comes with a 289 page PDF help file that is very well written and complete.

If I could offer one tip to other computer users that I think would help them to enjoy their computer more it would be to become familiar with the help file of the software they are using and to explore what options are offered for “making it your own.” Sure, it will involve some time spent in reading the help file and some effort in learning what is there, but it’s amazing how much time is spent struggling with not knowing how to do something, and that is usually time wasted that could have been avoided if they had just bothered to try to learn in the beginning how the program is supposed to operate. There is an old saying that there is never time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over, and I’m afraid that is the source of much of the frustration that many computer users experience with their system. Be brave. Don’t just accept the default starch and the default green vegetable that comes with your entree, pick something you love from the menu that’s available to you. You’ll enjoy your meal much more.

2 thoughts on “a la carte

  1. perry Post author

    Yes, Alan they might be a bit difficult for you. It would require that you read a lot of the documentation on how to use them and that might be a challenge for you.


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