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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....

More Discussion About Left-handed Computer Users
April 12th, 2000

I want to quote a couple of the interesting responses I received when I printed the letter from an anonymous reader concerning left-handed computer users. This letter followed a discussion in the March 29, 2000 column about ways of enlarging certain things on ones computer to facilitate ease of use for visually challenged individuals. While describing a program called Biggy Lite, I mentioned that in addition to larger cursors and arrows, the program offered arrows for left-handed users. That discussion promoted the following comments from an annom.

"The benefit is I can go buy any fancy mouse on the market and I can use the mouse right handed and write down notes left handed without having to drop the mouse and pick up a pen as a right hander is required to do. It saves a lot of time. So for me, the right hand mouse is actually a left hand mouse. And since most lefties are somewhat ambidextrous from just being in a right hand world I would suggest they work with a right hand mouse and give it a chance. Most will get used to it in short time. Also, I can't even imagine trying to work with a left handed cursor."

The first commenter said that he had problems with anyone assuming that all people who want and use a lefty mouse are left-handed. He notes that this is the same erroneous assumption that manufacturers of right-handed mice make. He stated:

I use a lefty mouse because I am right-handed, and use my right-hand to jot notes and use the numeric keypad. Manufacturers assume that left-handed users use lefty mice, compelling southpaws to get used to a windows, errr, right-handed world. Handedness is not the controlling issue. Convenience is. I learned to use a left mouse after RSI injured my right hand.

I expect, based on my own status of wrist pain, that more and more people will adopt this readers method of preventing further damage.

One of my favorite readers, R.J.E. Dalziel-Sharpe from Australia, who is a lefty himself, wrote not only with comments, but with a suggestion that he has discovered that facilitates his mouse use. Richard, by the way, has been trying his darndest to teach me the difference between degrees and Celsius, but I am afraid it is hopeless. First of all, when I was in school, "girls" didn't take science because it was too technical for our little brains so I lack some basic skills. Complicating it further is the fact that I can't remember my own children's phone numbers, much less scientific facts. Richard, I am afraid it is hopeless, but you can keep trying. But, as usual, I digress. Richard notes:

"I am a lefty and always have had some interesting battles in this left hemisphere dominated world. I won't rant on about the many discriminatory practices but get back to computing. The typewriter and computer keyboard are one of the few places where we lefties have a slight advantage over the right handed as the English languages' most frequently used letters are on our side of the keyboard. I have just bought myself a Wacom "Graphire" graphics tablet. I do a little work in Photoshop, but not enough to warrant buying a graphics tablet until now. But at $99US ($199Australian) the temptation to buy was too much. But BONUS, the tablet comes with a cordless, ball less mouse that works on the tablet. It is the best mouse I have used. It has a scrolling wheel to move up and down in documents and 2 buttons. As yet I haven't been able to get the second button to double click for me (with one click that is) but I think that's me, not the mouse. I am no longer using the Apple mouse and think now that the biggest hassle I have had is that connecting cord. And no more monthly delving into the rodents internals to clean out the fluff and gunk."

Oops. Are we supposed to clean out around the mouse ball monthly? I learn something new every day.

File Freak

Another reader who is also a good friend, Clinton Kawanishi, wrote to suggest that I try out an application called File Freak 2.0. This is a pretty cool application for more experienced users (i.e., those with more than a half-dozen saved files on their computer) because it helps you find items quickly. The program is freeware, requires OS 8 or better, and you can get it from The author, John Scalo, notes at the beginning of his very good Help File that "The concept behind File Freak is pretty simple. When you want to open a file on your computer, you usually know its name (or at least some semblance of it) and what kind of file it is (program, picture, movie, etc). I always thought that the easiest way to open a file would be to just start typing the name and have a list of matching files displayed in front of me, so I created this program."

File Freak Icon

File Freak works quickly by keeping a database of the files on your hard drive. The first time you open it, File Freak will scan your hard drive and save a list of applications in your Preferences folder. It keeps a separate database for every module in the module pop-up (see below). As you switch to the different modules for the first time, File Freak will index the drive and create the database as needed. You can set up scheduled indexing to ensure up-to-date snapshots of your files.

File Freak organizes files by type rather than by hierarchy. By default it recognizes AppleWorks files, Applications, control panels, Microsoft Word files, movies, mp3s, pictures, and SimpleText files. Each of these file types is known as modules in File Freak. You can add new modules or edit existing ones by selecting Modules from the File menu (or hitting Command-M). Modules are listed in alphabetical order in the "Show Me" module pop-up within the main window.

While you can do most of this using your Find or Sherlock attributes, I discovered after using this that it is faster because of the way it categorizes documents. Also, it will take more experienced computer users about 5 minutes to get comfortable with using it. Just one note, if you use Kaleidoscope you might find some glitches when trying to use File Freak because of some glitches that exist in Kaleidoscope.

Reader Comments

One final reader letter came from Bob Mundt, a new reader of this column. Bob was noting enthusiastically why he prefers his Mac. He stated that as the oldest of 5 siblings he was the last to learn to use a computer, but that in the11 years he has been using Macs he has learned to crash and resurrect, install hard drives, install memory, clock chip etc. without having to rely on a manual.

"The beauty of the Mac is that you can crash and burn all day long and NEVER hurt the computer. Once people realize this, as your father did, they are empowered to explore what is possible with computing. My friend's wife Paula (real computer-phobic) went from sealed box to being on the internet in 10 minutes with her iMac."

My favorite comment from Bob was

"When I installed a Western Digital IDE 9.1 gig hard drive in my G3 last spring, the software was all PC and out of a 60 page instruction book exactly 4 SENTENCES referred to installation in the Macintosh".

That says it all. Thanks Bob, and thanks to all the other readers who take time to share information and tips.

If you have any tips, suggestions, or other comments about this, or any other Mac topics, send them to me so that I can share them with other readers.

Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.

Post your comments below.
Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.

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