You’re cutting out, do you copy?

I overheard two people working at a computer, one an apparently skilled user and the other a less-skilled observer. I believe the user was highlighting and either cutting or copying text, pasting it somewhere else in the document they were both working on.

Observer: “How are you making it highlight that?”

User: “I’m clicking it like this.”

Observer: “Oh! Really?”

User: “Uh huh.”

Observer: “But how do you keep doing that without going up to the top?” (I assume the observer was referring to the menu bar, probably the Cut option.)

User: “I’m using the keyboard.”

Observer: “Oh! I wondered how you were making it disappear without going up to the top.”

An interesting exchange. In this case, the observer knew about Cut and Paste, but apparently didn’t really understand highlighting and certainly didn’t know Cut/Copy/paste could be achieved using keyboard shortcuts. I have to hand it to the observer; she was brave enough to ask questions. Most won’t do that.

That’s why highlighting, Copy, and Paste are a topic I cover fairly thoroughly in my book (and I do mention that there are keyboard shortcuts for these and many more features). I’ve discovered a lot of people still don’t know how to use them, or more specifically, that they’re even available. Yet, the ability to know how and when to use Cut/Copy/Paste is assumed in many work situations. Reader, you wouldn’t think twice about copying what you’re reading right now and pasting into another browser window, a Word Processor, or an e-mail message. Yet, this thought never occurs to a great many computer users. I realize that’s hard to believe for you, reader, but you’ll have to either trust me or begin to diligently observe other computer users around you as I have. I think you’ll come to the conclusion I did: many people are lacking the ability to use one of the basic necessities for personal computer usage. Copy/Paste is nearly its own core concept. Think for a moment about how many tasks you could not complete as easily if your computer didn’t have Copy and Paste.

And then think about this: for those users who don’t know what you already know, Copy and Paste don’t exist. Since they have no idea what those critical productivity helpers are, their computing experience is built on other manual processes (which you and I would see as unnecessary workarounds.) Can you begin to see why their productivity with (and their perceived usefulness of) personal computers is low while their frustration level is high?

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