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  • The four software musts you need to master.
  • What you should do if you need software help.

I am a horseback rider. And when I say “horseback rider,” I mean that I have ridden a horse. And when I say “ridden a horse,” I mean that I once sat upon a horse, and while I was in the saddle the horse moved.

The horse in question was a chestnut gelding called Ahab. A tall, thin woman named Tate owned Ahab. Tate was teaching my daughters how to ride.

In a moment of confusion, I mentioned to Tate that I would like to learn the sport myself. I was assigned Ahab. They say that horses know the rider as soon as he or she sits. Ahab knew.

So while my daughters were trotting and cantering all over the place, Ahab slowly walked back to the barn. I couldn’t stop him. I couldn’t steer him.

So, I rode him back to the barn and pretended that I was in charge — but Ahab knew.

A piece of software is like Ahab. A suite of software is like a stable of Ahabs. An app store is like a herd of Ahabs.

If you are in business, any business, you need to know how to operate four pieces of processing software:

  • A word processor — Microsoft Word is good.
  • A number processor — Microsoft Excel is good.
  • A visual presentation processor — Microsoft PowerPoint is good, if much maligned.
  • A contact processor — whatever contact management application you like.

You can ignore all other software and applications until you master those four.

Knowing how to operate a piece of software does not mean asking innocent bystanders for help every time you open an Excel workbook.

That is you being lazy and callously wasting everyone’s time.

If your company does not offer training for various applications, then switch companies or find a school that does offer software training — community colleges and career centers usually do, and usually in the evening.

I teach software to adults at night at the local career center. Some things are better left to the night, and teaching software to adults is one of those activities.

The darkness provides a degree of welcome anonymity, and the courses are peopled with strangers. I admire the folks who take software courses at night because they freely admit that they have no idea what they’re doing, and they want to change that situation.

The introductory software courses start at the beginning: how to launch the applications — which is a good place to commence.

The instructors are professionals. The students are focused and attentive. The classrooms are filled with computers. The training manuals are up-to-date.

The entire process is hands-on. And if you cannot learn the software in that environment, well, there’s always a cake decorating class down the hall. So, take a course and learn the software.

However, should you decline, for whatever reason, to master the required tools, and you stop me in your office, point to your monitor and ask, “How do I make these cells taller?”

I’ll say to you, “You should take an Excel course.”

You’ll answer, “Oh, I know how to run Excel.” To which I will reply, “And I’m a horseback rider” — without changing the subject at all.

David Redic has worked as a programmer, data analyst, website builder, tech writer, educational filmmaker and IT director. He is currently the webmaster at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Kovack Realtors.

Email David Redic.

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