Professional Beginners

I havenit submitted a column for several weeks due to the illness and subsequent death of my mother. She was 94 when she died and on the day I am preparing this column, my parents would be celebrating their 69th wedding anniversary. As most of us know, such life changing events cause one to pause and take stock.

All the more reason to pause when I read an email that awaited me when I returned home. One thing about writing a column is you get mail.

This letter writer accused me of misrepresenting myself as a beginner. They said "you have been writing this column for 10 years and you always act like you are still a beginner yourself". I thought about this for a long time. I finally decided that he or she is wrong. I am such a beginner! I will admit to being an intermediate beginner, but I am still a beginner.

I learned to type on a manual typewriter, thought the IBM Selectric typewriter was a gift of the gods, and was scared to death when I saw my first computer. I got one though. It was a Commodore 64. I didnit get a Mac until after I got out of graduate school in 1995. Between that Commodore 64 and that first Mac I didnit have a clue what a computer was really supposed to do.

It takes me forever to figure things out and almost always I have to get help. Were it not for my friends in our local Mac User Group (MUG) I wouldnit know half the things I know. I have to look things up. Heck, half the time I have to go back and look at things I wrote myself because I want to make sure I tell someone how to do something correctly. Sometimes I even have to take that dreaded step of asking my children.

So in response to that letter writer, I say it is difficult for young brains to understand how hard it is for us old timers to keep up with all the technologies, but we are keeping up with what is important to us and we keep going at our own rate. Some of us remember when there was no TV and cars had running boards. Telephones had party lines, not email, and a blue tooth sent you to the dentist. We deserve your profound respect for what we have learned and are doing to stay current and connected. Frankly we donit mind being beginners. As Minnie Pearl was wont to say "we are just proud to be here."

And speaking of being here and keeping up, here are some tips to make your life easier and/or more fun.

When entering information into a series of fields or text boxes most everyone knows that you can use the Tab key to move forward from field to field (or box to box) to enter information. But you can also move backward when necessary by holding down the Shift key along with the Tab key. This works on the Internet, in Mail, and my personal favorite, FileMaker Pro. Try it in other applications on your Mac that involve fields or text boxes.

I was working in Pages, Appleis word processing application, and needed to access the Fonts pane. The standard way is to select Format Menu>Fonts>Show Fonts. Skip all that and just select Command-T. Is that not cool?

Try it in any Apple application that allows you to change fonts. It worked in all the ones I use and since I am really into the aesthetic appearance of the documents I produce and therefore spend a lot of time working with fonts, I think it is a great find.

This trick should work in all applications that utilize text, even Microsoft apps. It will work on G4 machines and on Intel machines and I think it works on versions of the OS prior to Leopard. You will just have to try it out and see on earlier versions.

If you are creating a table there are times when you want words to be in a cell, but you need them to be on a specific line. You canit hit the return key to make that happen because that takes you to a new cell. Therefore, if you enter a list of words in the cell they line up in random order, based on the size of the cell and no other criteria. This is illustrated in Table I in the following example. The problem with the arrangement is that each flavor of ice cream needs to be on itis own line so that the tally in the next cell (as illustrated in Table 2) can line up.


The secret to making the flavors of ice cream line up properly is to put in a special return that forces the return. If you have a G4 or other pre-Intel Mac try using Control-Return after the word. For Intel machines try using Shift-Return after the word. This trick works in any text situation, not just tables.

More helpful tips for beginners can be found in my beginners manual, Tips, Hints, and Solutions For Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5.

The entire Table of Contents and a sample page are available for free review for anyone who wishes to see them.

I am making this book available in three formats: