Big concepts for using Windows software effectively

Right click to see a context menu

Whenever you want to know what the possibilities are, click with the right mouse button to see a list of choices about what you can do to the object you clicked on.

Use booster keys

The Ctrl, Shift, and Alt keys don't do anything by themselves, but are considered to be "boosters" since they change the way other keys and mouse clicks function.

For example, in MS Word, pressing Enter creates a paragraph mark. Ctrl+Enter makes a page break. Shift+Enter makes a line break. Ctrl+Shift+Enter makes a column break. Each use is creating a break of some sort, but the booster determines which one.

Shift and Ctrl also change the way items are selected. Generally, Ctrl+Click selects non-touching items, while Shift+Click selects a group of items.

When working with graphics, the booster keys can be used to constrain items or modify them based on centers. Different programs use different boosters, but generally, one key used with the mouse button forces the object to be perfectly regular or to move in a perfectly straight line. The other causes it to grow or shrink around a center anchor point. Just try it to see what works in your own program. You can always "undo".

It's probably in the menu structure somewhere

Explore the menus within your program. If a menu choice has three dots (...) following its title, it means it'll bring up a dialog box. Dialog boxes are always safe, because you can click the cancel button.

If you're doing something repetitive, the computer should probably be doing it for you.

Any time you type the same text over and over again, or perform the same calculation, the computer should be doing it for you. The sophisticated programs like MS Office have many automation features built in so that you only have to do things once. After that, the program should be able to help you.

For example, in MS Word, here's a list of some of the built-in automation features.

Spell and grammar checker (right click on squiggly lines to correct the mistake)
Format paintbrush to copy formats easily
AutoCorrect and AutoText
Styles
Templates
Macros

And don't forget the good ol' Windows features of Cut, Copy, and Paste and their cousins Drag 'n Drop.

Save frequently, and back up consistently

Power failures, software lockups, human errors, and yes, even hard drive failures happen in the real world on a regular basis. Anything you have not saved (and backed up) may need to be done over again.

Do not rely on the software to save you. For example, MS Word's AutoRecover feature sounds like a lifesaver, but doesn't have the ability to save you from every type of failure. There is no substitute for your own personal paranoia and good saving and backup habits.

Save using a smart filing system

Instead of asking "what should I call this", you should ask yourself "what would I look for if I lost it?" Use the recommended folder (My Documents for non-networked users, usually Personal for networked users), and create a subfolder structure that makes sense based on document content, not the program used to create the document.

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