Learning all available features is necessary. But how exactly do you do it?
Here is a simple but effective process.
Estimated reading time 7 min
There are lots of menus, drop downs and dialogs. Too many options to understand and learn. There are thousands of them. If you are regular reader of this blog, you already know that although there are so many options, we should not just ignore them. We should at least try to find out what each option does, what problem it is solving and then decide if you need it or not.
I know that it is easy for me to say this. But when you try to actually understand each option, at least initially, it is not easy. You will get confused.
There are two things you need to learn quickly and without confusion.
- A method to understand many options quickly.
Well, I am not going to give you meditation exercises. Just remember that the learning you are doing is for YOUR GOOD … a lot of good. It is going to liberate so much time for you to utilize to your advantage. That is the reward. For that you just have to focus on learning for few minutes at a time.
I am sure you can do that easily.
Why are the options confusing
Good question. The main reason is this – we humans understand things when we read proper complete sentences. Unfortunately, in the menus and dialogs, there will almost NEVER be a full sentence written.
Why this apparent cruelty? Because of lack of space on the screen.
You may see that your screen seems to have lot of space. But remember that software must be designed for smallest available screen size. Therefore, on your screen there may appear to be lot of space, but in the original design, there was no space.
Never mind, You cannot control that. Let us focus on what we CAN control.
Example of confusing options
Here is a part of Go To Special dialog from Excel. I am not showing the whole dialog intentionally. Just read on…
Not a single sentence. All single words of short phrases. To make matters worse, these options do not seem to have anything common amongst them.
But wait. Don’t lose heart.
How to convert cryptic options to full sentences
This is not as difficult as it sounds. It is quite easy – once you know what to do.
Just look above all the options. What is this dialog called ?
GOTO – SPECIAL – and there is a common title for all these options : SELECT
The word SELECT applies to ALL the items below. It is the COMMON element.
Now let us try to use the word SELECT with each option and try to make sense of it.
SELECT COMMENTS = Select all cells containing Comments.
SELECT Blanks = Select all blank cells
SELECT Visible Cells Only ( sentence already complete!)
You get the idea. Was that difficult?
Another example in Word
Format – Paragraph dialog – (Right click in any paragraph and choose Paragraph) – Line and Page Breaks tab.
Widow and Orphan control cannot be learnt by the method I am discussing. These are specific words used by people who designers. It basically means paragraphs which have one line on a page and remaining paragraph on the next or previous page. We will discuss it some other time.
Focus on the next three options. Perfect candidates for our method. All of them are incomplete sentences!
So look up and see what this whole dialog is about – PARAGRAPH. Now use it to complete the sentences and suddenly – you know what it means!
Interesting method – is it not?
Try it out in every dialog you go to. You will not only start understanding things – it will help you discover many hidden treasures.
We just “understood” three options in the format paragraph dialog in Word and GOTO special in Excel. But we have not “Learnt” them yet. Why? Because we still don’t know the practical situation when you would like to use these features.
We know the “HOW” part – not the “WHEN” part!
HOW to use + WHEN to use =
We will cover this part in the next two articles.