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The mighty mouse: enhancing spreadsheet productivity.

The mouse became popular in the early days of personal computers because it simplified their use. Today the mouse and other pointing devices increasingly are being integrated into mainstream accounting applications, especially those for Windows. Richard A. Johnson, CPA, PhD, associate professor of accounting, Frostburg State University, Frostburg, Maryland, provides an overview of some of the innovative ways the mouse is being used to increase spreadsheet productivity.

When computer users first encounter a mouse, they generally have difficulty synchronizing its movements. With a little practice, they discover the device speeds computer commands, adding significant power to many software applications.

While the examples in this article are drawn from using a mouse with Microsoft Excel 4.0 for Windows, similar effects can be achieved with other Windows spreadsheets.

With the growing popularity of graphical environments, pictures representing program functions - called icons - increasingly replace menu selections or typed commands. Such icons are depicted along the sides and top of exhibit 1, page 92. For example, in this exhibit a dollar sign is the icon that represents currency formatting. By clicking a mouse button while the cursor is on the icon, users can launch the command it represents. (Using a mouse with a spreadsheet program is an efficient way of maneuvering around the screen, too.)

In Excel, individual icons are called "tools," and sets of related icons are grouped into categories called "toolbars." While many tools available through toolbars also can be accessed through a drop-down command menu, toolbars provide a visual cue of the available functions move or copy objects to different screen locations. It's especially handy when working with a range of spreadsheet cells. Individual cells or groups of cells can be moved simply by dragging the border of selected cells to a new location. If the CONTROL key is held down at the same time, the cells are copied instead of moved.

Exhibit 3, page 93, shows such a group of cells. When the mouse pointer is properly positioned on the selected cells, it transforms into an arrow, providing visual confirmation that it is correctly positioned to begin the drag and drop process.

Another innovation is Autofill, also shown in exhibit 3. Autofill quickly enters a logical sequence of months, days, dates, times or numbers in a range of cells. For example, suppose the cells of one spreadsheet row should contain the months of the year. With Autofill, only the first month has to be entered manually with the keyboard. Subsequent months are added by dragging the small rectangular "fill handle" located on the bottom right corner of the cell.

Efficiently using the mouse takes a little practice, but the investment of time is well worth it. A swift movement and a few clicks substitute for complex commands. The net result is that spreadsheet users are able to significantly streamline many of their most common tasks, gaining more time to focus on the underlying purpose of their spreadsheets.


* SPREADSHEET SOFTWARE publishers continue to integrate the mouse and other pointing devices into their programs, making the programs easier and faster to use - and enhancing accountants' productivity.

* SOME OF THE MORE popular innovations include on-screen icons that can be selected with a mouse to adjust font size, shade selected cells and draw lines, arrows, circles and boxes.

* A MOUSE ALSO CAN be used to adjust automatically a column's width to accommodate the widest entry in that column, eliminating the need to count characters.

* WITH THE CLICK of a mouse, users can add columns or rows of numbers automatically or enter the logical sequence of quarterly periods, months, days or numbers after typing in the initial figure.

The latest in mouse fashions

Today's mice come in many different forms, some of which don't resemble the conventional device that fits in the palm of the hand and contains two buttons.

There are mice designed to resemble Mickey Mouse; there are upside-down mice, called trackballs; there are small, flat surfaces built into a keyboard with which a moving finger maneuvers the screen cursor; and there are devices squeezed between the H and J keys of a keyboard that look like a rubber eraser at the end of a pencil (wriggling the tip steers the cursor on the screen).

While most mice are connected to the computer by an umbilical wire, some designs are wireless. They contain tiny radio or infrared transmitters that communicate their movements to the computer.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Institute of CPA's
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:for accounting
Author:Johnson, Richard A.
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Aug 1, 1993
Previous Article:Reforming accounting education.
Next Article:The long or short of it.

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