Friday, September 23, 2011

Windows 7 and the curse of retraining

As a computer person, I am in the position where I need to constantly retrain myself. Many of the things I learned in college are already obsolete. A career in computers always presents new challenges and new opportunities, and that is part of what I like about it.

I find that many people hate the fact that things change. Computerization of jobs is one thing. I know two doctors with small offices who are pretty computer illiterate. They both plan on retiring if and when they have to submit all medical claims electronically instead of faxing or mailing them. I certainly can understand that. In that situation they feel there is too much added expense (in time and/or money) in retraining themselves, buying equipment, and possibly hiring an assistant to do the computer work.

However, even computer literate users generally dislike retraining. I understand the thought. People who are not in the computer field seem to look at computers as an appliance, much like a stove. If I had to retrain myself on how to use a stove every year I'd dislike that and just order out more.

Since people don't like the idea of retraining, they tend to use a new tool the way they used the old tool. However, newer versions of tools generally include better ways to do things. For example, since Windows 95, I used the same process to take a picture of what is on my screen and save it. I would hit the print screen button on my keyboard (or hit alt+printscreen to only capture the current window). If I wanted to only keep a part of the image instead of the whole thing, I would then open a program like Photoshop, create a new file, paste the screen image, select the part I want, crop it down, and save. This process is clunky, but it works, and this was just how I did things.  Windows 7 (and some versions of Vista) include a tool called the Snipping Tool. This tool would let me take an image of part of my screen in many less steps. Were I not constantly playing around with new features, I would be less efficient. For those of you who haven't started using this cool tool, here is the Microsoft Snipping Tool tutorial.

Rather than learn new versions of a tool, people may even actively seek ways to make the new tool look like the old tool. For example, when Office 2007 came out, people hated the Ribbon interface, which replaced the old menu interface. A number of companies released tools (such as ubitmenu) that allowed users to display the old menus back in Office 2007.

For me, retraining is part of the allure of computers, but if you are among those who view it as a curse, I can understand the thought.

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