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But I can't even type.

But I Can't Even Type

For computer-shy executives, current software packages leap even that hurdle.

I've been a computer user for what seems like my entire life--my whole business life anyway. It's hard to imagine not using a computer, but I know executives who don't use them. What's more, I know executives who don't want to use them. I haven't conducted any scientific studies, but the group of people who don't want anything to do with computers does seem to be dwindling.

The previous decade saw a proliferation of computers as tools to support our routine office duties. They are great number crunchers and word processors. Executives quickly saw these speedy drones as essential to running a business, but not as useful tools in the executive suite. Now, however, computer software has become more advanced, and businesses have become more sophisticated about potential applications. As a result, executives are seeing computers as sources of information and organization.

So, what if you've decided to take the plunge, but you haven't gotten past that last remaining bugaboo? What if, unlike Ollie North's secretary, unlike your secretary, you can't type?

Computer vendors have developed "executive" software packages, which are designed to make it easy for executives to learn how to use a computer with minimal training--and minimal typing. These executive packages usually share three characteristics. First, they are usually "scaled down" versions of other computer software. They have some, but not all of the features of the full-blown packages. Second, many packages use a "mouse," which minimizes typing. Third, most executive software systems come bundled as one package of executive tools: word processor, spreadsheet, personal calendar, address book, and notepad.

The central feature of most of these systems is the word processor. Microsoft (Windows Write), Software Publishing Corporation (Professional Write), Symatec (Q&A), Volkswriter, Dac, and WordPerfect all have executive packages.

Generally, one of these packages might work like this: You would enter the system in the morning and check your schedule, making any necessary changes. Then, you would move into the word processor to draft memos and letters. Later, you might need to use the spreadsheet to work on a budget. During this time, the computer might sound an alarm to alert you that it is time for a meeting. While in your word processor, you could flip over to the phone book on the computer to look up an associate's number. You could make the call and move into a notebook to record notes on the conversation--all without leaving the keyboard.

Most of these systems make use of "pull down" menus. By guiding the system pointer to a function using your mouse, you would select the function by "clicking" the mouse, and its options will appear (or "pull down") on the screen below the function. This provides a quick help list and makes it easy to remember how to use the system's functions.

One interesting product, Tandy Corporation's Deskmate, has added these features to its popular Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet product, making it far less complex for the beginner. Spreadsheet programs, as the name implies, simulate the spreadsheets that accountants use for tabulation. You've seen them--those dull green, narrow-ruled sheets that strike fear in our hearts at budget time.

Spreadsheet systems are relatively simple to learn. To become functional on a spreadsheet system, the new user needs to know very few functions. It can be as simple as knowing how to get into the system, call up an existing spreadsheet file, enter data, add up the columns and rows, print, and file the spreadsheet.

Once properly set up, a spreadsheet can easily handle those little "what if" questions we all encounter. Once our staff at the American Nurses' Association, Inc., Kansas City, Missouri, caught on to the power of our spreadsheet system, the variety of applications seemed to increase geometrically. I have seen spreadsheet applications in our organization that calculate reorder points for stock, make apples-to-apples comparisons for proposed equipment purchases, and project revenues. I have even seen them used in employee evaluations and for budgeting.

In addition to Lotus, other well-known spreadsheet systems include Allways, Excel, Lucid 3-D, Quattro, and Supercalc. As a beginner, select one of these products. Their advantage: plenty of users and plenty of support.

I don't mean to minimize the power of these systems. They can get pretty complex. But as a beginning tool for someone who is not a typing whiz, I can't think of a more practical way to get started.

Steven L. Harrison is director of information management systems at the American Nurses' Association, Inc., Kansas City, Missouri.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Technology at Work; computer software packages for executives
Author:Harrison, Steven L.
Publication:Association Management
Article Type:column
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Words:764
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