It’s 2008. Can you move a window?

During the last four years of writing The Ultimate PC Primer, I’ve often found myself wanting to pull the plug on the project altogether. I doubt my calling, often musing, “Does anyone really need this? Am I really helping anyone?” Hey, ask yourself: Aside from brand new users, don’t most experienced PC users know all the basic computer skills they need?

Invariably, it’s not many days later when I find myself in another situation with a modestly experienced user that convinces me that I must continue. This was one of those weeks. I had no time to make progress on the final edits and illustrations. No time to review my analogies to make sure they’re just right. Not much time to even sneak out a blog post. I was growing fairly frustrated, and then, once again, I had “the moment.”

A few days ago I was sitting through a presentation dealing with some rather non-technical stuff: career goals, business writing, etc. The presenter was experienced and well respected in his company for having this experience and knowledge, and the presentation was flowing well until it became evident that the image on the presenter’s laptop computer wasn’t matching the image on the projection screen. The edge of the Web browser window didn’t show for the audience as it (apparently) did for the presenter. After it was evident this was going to cause the audience to miss some relevant information, someone informed the presenter (with back still to the screen), “We need the window moved over.” The presenter spun around, observed the problem, and turned to the audience. We all expected a 2-second fix as the presenter re-positioned the window, but….

A rather blank stare greeted us instead, and what followed was like a crowd of parents attempting to direct young children lost in a maze. “Grab the top! No, the very top! Move your mouse up to the top! The blue bar! No, the blue bar at the top of the Browser! Yes… no! The top of the window!”

I observed silently and experienced once again the realization that has driven me for the past four years: there are still users — skilled, tenured, old, young, experienced and inexperienced — that have no grasp of basic computer operation concepts. After all, this presenter was not new to using a computer nor a newbie within company or profession. Yet, moving a program’s window was apparently never learned, even though that concept has not changed in well over a decade.

Just FYI, the section in my book that explains repositioning a window is already complete, and after reviewing this recent experience, I’m confident in the explanation, analogy, and illustration I’ve used.  But the presentation was what I needed to sigh, gather my determination, and forge ahead “explaining technology” once more.

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