26 November 2011


When I got my first computer some 30 years ago (a NewBrain with a whopping 32k of memory) one of the things people used to say when one got stuck was RTFM -- Read The F*** Manual (where "f" was a variable to which you could assign a word of your choosing).

In other words, when all else fails, read the instructions.

Now, however, there are no instructions to read.

We recently installed Microsoft Office 2010.

It is useful for reading those .docx files people keep sending me.

But Microsoft office has no manual. There are no instuctions to read.

Recently a document opened with a fat blue stripe down the right-hand side. I wanted to get rid of it. When I hovered my cursor over it, it said "markup area". So I typed "markup area" into the help file to find out what it is, and how to get rid of it. Nothing, zero, zilch.

My daughter has been raving about Microsoft OneNote, that comes with MS Office. It sounded interesting, so I had a look at it. It has a blurb that tells you how easy it is to use. You just dump all your information into it. That's a bit like telling you to toss all your stuff into an abandoned well and cover it up. It's easy to put it in, but not to get it out again.

I browsed through the computer books in a bookshop the other day.

There was not one on how to use Microsoft OneNote. There were books on MS Office on offer, ranging in price from expensive to exorbitant. Only the exorbitant ones mentioned OneNote on the cover, and I couldn't look inside to see how many pages they devoted to it because the whole thing was wrapped in plastic.

But there were whole books on how to use Facebook and Twitter.

Back in the 80s we bought computer books to learn how to use computers and programs. But now you can only get manuals for web sites.

I wondered why anyone would need a manual for a web site, when you can't get a manual for a program. Then I saw this:

This applicaticon will be able to:
  • Read Tweets from your timeline.
  • See who you follow, and follow new people.
  • Update your profile.
  • Post Tweets for you.

That was from Mashable. All I wanted to do was vote for something, once, yet in order to do that I had to let them do all that. I had to allow them to update my profile -- so hey, if someone at Mashable wants to update my profile to say that I'm an international money launderer, wanted in sixteen principalities and native states, I must let them do it? Not a chance.

There are two buttons - Save and Cancel. I click Cancel -- but no, they won't let me do that before I've filled in my e-mail and password. Eventually I entered a bogus username and eight asterisks for my password (Ha! Those password crackers will never guess that!). Then I could click cancel and depart.

So perhaps one does need a manual to understand web sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Only problem is they keep changing them, so the book is probably out of date before you've bought it.

For weeks Facebook has been telling me that I can no longer notify people about my blog posts in my "Notes", but I will still be able to do it on my "Wall" but when I want to share something that someone else has written by putting it on my "Wall" it tells me it has been posted to my "Profile". So are Walls, Profiles and Notes all the same thing?

Perhaps I really do need to RTFM.

Meanwhile, instead of OneNote, I'll continue to use askSam, which I've been using for the last 20 years, and I still haven't managed to exhaust its capabilities.


CherryPie said...

I have a previous version of Microsoft Office Inside Out. It covers absolutely everything I could think of and much more besides.

There is a version for Office 2010 and it does cover One Note. You can look at the the Table of contents and index on Amazon UK:


But I do think that software should be supplied with a manual.

Steve Hayes said...


Thanks very much for that. I wasn't able to read the table of contents, but it did lead me to this Microsoft OneNote 2010 Plain and Simple Plain & Simple: Amazon.co.uk: Peter Weverka: Books, and I can ask my son, who works in a bookshop, whether they have it, or order it through Amazon.


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