The first thing to understand is that, contrary to outward appearances, the computer is not deliberately trying to frustrate you. Kicking it or throwing it against the wall will not make it behave any better, and is probably not covered by insurance.
If violence isn’t the answer, what is? You must beat it at its own game and out-think it. You can do it. Your brain is more capable and more complex than the superest of super computers.
Here are a five tips that might help you subdue the beast, or at least make friends:
- Back up your work often. Stopping to think about the next scene? Hit the save button before you get up and stretch. At the end of a day’s work, back up your manuscript to a new file with a date in the title. Accidents happen. I speak from experience, but that’s another story.
- Are you working with a touch pad? Remember, you don’t have to actually touch the pad for it to reposition your cursor. Starting to type with your cursor who-knows-where can leave you with strange and mysterious words and characters. I often mask the touch pad with an index card to decrease the sensitivity, or disable it entirely and use a USB mouse. Mice are easier to train.
- Watch out for invisible characters. Carriage returns, tabs, spaces, and section or page breaks may be hiding in your manuscript and keeping it from doing what you want. If you are working in Microsoft Word, there is a paragraph symbol on the top row of icons (¶ ). When this is clicked, it shows all invisible characters in blue.
- Does the hour glass or whirligig appear too often and stay too long? Many things could be causing this, but try the simple solutions first. Back up your work, close all applications, and restart your computer. That clears up clutter in the short-term memory (RAM stands for random access memory, but short-term is a good way to think about it.)
Be careful about giving commands too fast for them to be executed. That can confuse the poor thing. “Open this file,” you say, and then you notice that you clicked on the one above the one you want. “No. open this one.” That can result in a long wait, or even crash the application. Think of what it could do to traffic if you tell a driver, “Turn right.” Once he starts the turn, you shout, “No, I mean left.”
- Last but not least, YouTube is always there to help. Go to youtube.com and search for whatever you want to make the computer do. Countless people delight in making short videos that illustrate almost anything. “How to format a paragraph in Word” or “Line and paragraph spacing” or ” How to format a novel manuscript.” If you don’t get what you’re looking for, try to rephrase the request.
Do you have any computer tips for non-techies? Please share with your fellow writers.
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