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Volume 14, Number 1..........................Supporting PC platforms.......................... January-February 1998
by: George Henderson
Microsoft Publisher is a publishing program that is a product by Microsoft Corporation, and is one of the best publishing programs that is now available.
This does not mean that it is perfect, but neither is anyone else's. One of the main problems with almost all application programs, even though they can do a million or so wonderful things, it just does not seem to do that particular thing that you need it to do. Sometimes a particular feature in a program can do about half of what you need it to do, but that is not much better than doing nothing, since you are unable to complete the task anyway.
However, there are many wonderful things that Microsoft Publisher can do. It can produce newsletters, brochures, booklets, flyers, banners, signs, greeting cards, postcards, labels, business forms, letterheads, calendars, envelopes, resumes, and electronic publications for the Internet. All these can be created rather quickly, by means of Microsoft Publisher's Page Wizard, providing you already know which button to push in order to do what you want it to do. When one starts one's publication document with a Page Wizard design assistant, Publisher inserts and positions the professionally developed design elements for you, letting you choose among various design styles. When one uses a template, Publisher gives the user a publication that has the design elements already in place. One is also able to develop one's own templates for any particular use that one wishes, such as a particular newsletter layout, at least within the limits of Microsoft Publisher's capability. Whether you use a design assistant or a template, the design elements are already in place, and all one has to do is insert one's own text or graphics. If one wants to modify the layout, one can change almost any of the design elements. The one problem with the sample text that is used in the templates of the Publication Gallery is, that it is in a foreign language. It is obvious that this text will be replaced by one's own text, but can't it be in English? It may be helpful in some cases to know what the wording is saying, so as to understand the manner and reason in which it is laid out.
A 328-page manual also comes along with the CD-ROM that contains the publishing program. The manual contains pictures of a fantastic assortment of Clip Art, Font Descriptions, Picture Fonts, and Boarder Art, which are all available for one's publication from Publisher. It also illustrates examples of all the different types of publications that Publisher can produce. This feature will save one an incredible amount of time reviewing clip art, etc., one at a time, if it were stored in one's computer. This is an extremely valuable feature to have incorporated in the manual. Publisher has done a splendid job in explaining how someone should plan and layout one's work before one actually begins to design one's work on the computer. It goes into great detail how to copy fit work, working with the background, using the various features throughout Publisher, using the Page Wizard, using layout guides, using the rulers guides, using text frames, etc. The manual states "One can create high impact publications in a few easy steps", providing one knows the steps. This is one of Microsoft's greatest irritation to its users. They don't go to the trouble of explaining in their manuals what button to push in order to attain all these miraculous features. I guess their reasoning is that it saves Microsoft money in the amount of paper that is not included in their manuals. Anyway, Microsoft says that all this information is on the help files in one's own computer, which unfortunately it is not. If one wants to have a copy, just print it out. Can anyone imagine having several binders full of loose pages containing printed-out help files, having no table of contents or index, and no order. It sounds like one big mess of hopeless information. However, Microsoft has improved slightly from their past books and manuals which they have turned out, by giving one a clue as to where to find information on how something is done. When the reader comes to that point in the text of how one is suppose to do what he or she has been reading about, the manual interjects the words "How to:", in blue, with the name of the help item one has to click on in order to retrieve this information from one's computer. Good luck! If the information found from this exercise answers one's questions of what series of buttons one is supposed to push and in what order, you will be fortunate indeed. For example, on page 36 of the manual and under the title "Creating Space with Margins, Indents, and Line Spacing", is an explanation of how one controls the location of text, which is an extremely important feature to know. If one goes to the "How to:" statement that is given with this article, which is "Click the Show Index Button, and type "indenting text", and upon executing this procedure, one will find that there is nothing explaining how to set margins or line spacing, only indenting. The manual talks about margins all throughout the manual, but nowhere does the manual explain how to set the margins around the outside of the Text Frame. After one struggles for hours about margins, he or she will finally discover, if one is fortunate, that there are two sets of margins-one for outside the Text Frame and one for inside the Text Frame. Thanks a bunch! This is only but one example, there are many more for one to go bonkers on. I don't know what it will take to make Microsoft aware of the importance of having all how-to information incorporated in their books and manuals. Without it, it is a terrible burden and inconvenience for the user to try and understand their programs.
Even though Microsoft Publisher has the familiar environment of a word processor, it is not a word processor. One will normally have those expectations from the familiar environment, but will soon be disappointed. One must lay out and design what one wants to do first, before attempting any word processing work. Therefore, there will be a learning period that one must go through in order to have any proficiency. This is true of all publishing programs, not only Microsoft Publisher. For example, in a word-processing document, one positions one's cursor, or insertion point, on the page and then starts typing. In Microsoft Publisher, however, one has to create a Text Frame first, and then position one's cursor in the Text Frame before one can type.
One of the many drawbacks to Microsoft Publisher is that it has no wizard for footers and headers. A footer and header would probably not be used very often in Publisher, but when it is needed, it is badly missed. For example, it is necessary to put the page numbers on the pages where the footer or header are normally located, in order to get it out of the way of one's text. In order to place it there in Publisher, it is a very clumsy process, by going through a series of several operations. It is guaranteed that you will not get it right the first time. Probably not even the fourth time!
One of the greatest features that Microsoft Publisher has, is being able to create folded booklets. Publisher will page the pages automatically so that the page numbers will be printed on the correct sheets, so that when folded and attached together, the pages will run in the correct ascending order as one opens each page. When one opens the first page of the booklet, page 2 will be on the back of page 1, and page 3 will be on the right page facing page 2, just like an ordinary book. This is the only publishing program that is able to produce this feature, and is an extremely useful feature for producing Address Books, Directories, Rosters, etc. Unfortunately, there is just one drawback that prevents this feature from being completely automatic, and that is one's printer will not flip the pages over, so that they can be printed on the back. One can either print them one at a time by putting the copy that is printed on one side, back into the printer upside down, or by printing the entire booklet on one side of the paper and running the entire booklet again upside down. One must be very careful to assemble the pages in the correct order for this to work. It is much easier to run the entire booklet through on one side, and then, using the entire set of pages that were produced by the computer, copy the correct pages onto the back of each page by means of a copier. You will end up with two booklets this way. What is desperately missing in this feature is a dialogue box where one could make a choice for the computer to print each page one at a time, and then ask the user to turn the page that was just printed over, and place it back into the feed box of his or her printer, so it can be printed on the other side. This will make this feature as fully automatic as possible. Without such a feature, the procedure is quite cumbersome.
Microsoft Publisher also has the capability of merging information from other sources, such as a data base, into an existing document in Publisher. However, this procedure has serious limitations. It does not have anywhere near the field codes that Microsoft Word has for setting up the text in the document. Therefore, one cannot perform as many field-code operations in Publisher as one can perform in Word. For example, if one types in a comma between field codes, and if the data in these fields is blank, it will not print blank spaces into the document, which is fine, but there is no way one can get rid of the comma, unless one edits every comma in the finished document one at a time. This is highly unsatisfactory. However, to get around this problem, one can perform the operations in Word in order to set up the document, and then import the results into Publisher. This seems like an unnecessary step to have to take. As long as we are talking about Word, there are many field codes that are desperately needed in Word, in order for one to layout the text the way one would like . For example, there are no field codes to right flush a field code, to center a field code on a single line, to fix a field code at pre selected locations on a line, to select a pre selected number of characters from a data base, such as the last two digits of a year, etc.
The field characters of the field codes in Publisher are different than the field characters in Microsoft Word. This means that they can not communicate with each other, nor is there a mechanism in either Publisher or Word to convert them. In other words, Publisher cannot read Word's field codes and visa versa, which is a serious incompatibility. One would think that all the application programs that Microsoft is developing, that they all should be compatible with each other throughout. Otherwise, one will have to learn a different language for every application program that is being developed by Microsoft. This is turning into a nightmarish problem for users throughout the world. Microsoft, please take pity on us! This incompatibility is extending into just about everything and every company, not just Microsoft. Why doesn't someone warn us that this is happening? Probably because they don't want to, in fear that they will loose a few sales. Now Microsoft uses field codes in most all of their products, none of which is compatible between products, and some are not even compatible within a single product, such as Access. For example, the field codes in writing reports in Access are not the same as the field codes that are used for designing the tables in Access. This is enough to make any sane person go mad.
Summarizing, I feel that Microsoft Publisher is on the threshold of being a great and extremely useful product. However, there is a lot of work that Microsoft needs to do in order to bring it to such a state. Serif, Inc. is running Microsoft strong competition with their Page Plus and Draw Plus Publication Programs. Serif's Art Gallery is three time bigger than Microsoft Publisher's Clip Art, but their program is not yet quite the program that Microsoft Publisher is.
Last month a friend of mine in the Washington Apple Pi user group asked me if I knew of any research being done in the field of computer use and the elderly. His persistently friendly questions piqued my interest to track down any articles or books that might have been published in this field. I love a good information hunt. A juicy research challenge can be a voyage of discovery...full of unexpected, interesting surprises. True to its nature, this research project turned up many an interesting surprise.
For starters, I went searching for the earliest article discussing the use of technology with the elderly. To my amazement the earliest article on this subject was written way back in 1973.
Writing in a visionary article titled, "Computers and Technology: Aiding Tomorrow's Aged," published in a periodical titled, "The Gerontologist," the authors of this article spell out the promise of technology use with the elderly...even before the first microcomputers appeared in our homes.
CO-written by a psychiatrist and a computer scientist, the article urges readers to consider how technological advances can be used to promote intellectual vigor and independence in the elderly.
After discussing the "intellectually stimulating" uses of computers with the elderly, the article concludes with a strong paragraph on the economic benefits of getting the elderly involved as active users of technology:
"The powerless and helpless feeling of the aged is due not only to increasing infirmity but to society's failure to set up institutions and systems that would make it possible for the elderly to overcome the handicaps they have. [The] benefits to society as a whole would be enormous as there is no greater cost in our society than the cost of personal service. An elderly person with a maximum amount of ability to care for himself/herself would save society huge sums of money. The costs of institutionalization are already exorbitant and this will not change. Technological innovations in these areas will help the senior members of society to continue as viable participants in its processes."
The Gerontologist, Autumn, 1973, pp. 323-25.
Bold thinking for 1973, for sure. And as directly relevant today as it was the day those words were written 22 years ago.
Moving forward in time, are there current publications covering computers use with the elderly? You bet. The publication I find most exciting is a scholarly quarterly named: "Computers in the Human Services." I tracked down back issues (1994 only) at Marymount University library, in Arlington, Virginia.
This publication covers a broad scope of computer uses in the human
service professions. More than a few articles are written by people deeply passionate about computer uses of this sort. And their insights and experiences make for gripping reading.
Here's subscription info for Computers in Human Service:
Another publication that gives good coverage to technology use with the elderly is, Educational Gerontologist. Here are some passages from a 1983 article, "Microcomputers and the Elderly: New Directions for Self-sufficiency and Lifelong Learning," written by James Hoot and Bert Hayslip, Jr. The thrust of this article is that microcomputer manufacturers have done very little to target older persons as prospective computer users. Sample passage: "Why is it, then, that older persons who could capitalize on a lifetime of experience in developing new computer skills are not actively sought as educational computer users? Moreover, there is much evidence in the gerontological literature to suggest that older adults are in fact both interested in and capable of continued learning....
Computers have a number of features which make them particularly conducive to use by older adults....
Presumably, mastering such skills and using them on an everyday basis would promote a sense of self-efficacy in the aged user and less dependence on others....
Never before in our history has so much potential for individualized lifelong learning been available to senior citizens....
To date, little attention in the media has been devoted to exploration of these mind tools as vehicles for improving the lives of older persons."
Here are citations to two other articles l found in Educational Gerontology:
"Computer Interaction: Effect on Attitudes and Performance in Older Adults,"
"Computer Applications in Gerontological Research: Implications for Research Training."
This publication is published by Taylor and Francis, 190 Frost Rd., Suite 101, Bristol, PA 19007-1598. Phone: 1-800-821-8312. It's kind of expensive for individuals to subscribe to, but you can find copies of this publication at several university libraries in the metropolitan area.Technology Helps Foster Independence
Perhaps the most vital aspect of the use of technology with the aged is that it fosters greater independence. One article I came across discussed the psychologically empowering effect of being able to use a word processor. Here's a short snippet from that article:
"The ability to communicate and store information in writing is an important functional skill for everyday living. Among the elderly, written communication may be an important means by which loneliness caused by geographic mobility of family and friends could be diminished. Also, the ability to prepare and maintain written personal records (i.e. finances) may be a crucial aspect of actual or perceived independence. Conversely, impaired writing may lead to a sense of dependency and decreased self-worth."Computer User Group Support
Computer user groups stand in an excellent position to lend assistance to projects involving computer use and the elderly. Within Washington Apple Pi there are several people who have been involved in interesting projects. Al Marcovitz, the computer coordinator at Maret School, in the District of Columbia, has set up a project where seniors from Iona Senior Services can learn about computers at Maret's (pronounced "Mahray") Macintosh computer lab. Seniors, paired with students, explore and enjoy various programs on the Mac. Al's project has had press coverage in the Washington Post, and has garnered considerable interest by those interested in "inter-generational computing projects."
Another noted "seniors computing" project involved longtime WAP members Bernie and Paula Benson. Back in 1981 Bernie and Paula volunteered to help the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington (in Rockville) use Apple II computers with the home's elderly residents. The Bensons modified existing Apple II public domain programs so that they were slower and more suited for use by older computer users. The programs they modified were Little Brick Out, Ribbet, Country Driver, and Hangman.
The results of Bernie and Paula's work can be found in the article,
"Computer Games for the Frail Elderly," Computers in Human Services, Vol. II, No 1/2, pp. 229-234, 1994. This article by Shulamith Weisman is a reprint of a 1983 article that appeared in The Gerontologist.How You Can Help
The initiatives by Al Marcovitz and the Benson family show that great things can happen if people take action to make them happen. If you don't have time to volunteer yourself, you can still take an active role in promoting the activities of those who do have time to share. You can do so by checking the volunteer board regularly, printing out the listed messages of people offering to volunteer, and then passing out those printed messages to people in your community who are currently working on (or are interested in working on) projects involving seniors and computing.
Another way of supporting the emerging field of "seniors and computing" is to get your local library to subscribe to the publication Computers in Human Services (and to subscribe personally, if you have a personal interest in the subject). By subscribing to this publication, you can affirm the values that the publisher has shown in establishing a publication on this topic.Resources on the Internet
In researching this article I spent some time roaming the Internet
to uncover whatever might have been written on this topic. One web page of
particular interest is the personal web page of Dick Schoech, the editor
of Computers in Human Services publication. I would recommend this web page
as a good starting point for anyone interested in this subject. The page
can be found at: http://www.uta.edu/cussn/
It appears that the field of academic interest most closely aligned with "seniors computing" concerns is the field of social work. "Neurology" and "cognitive rehabilitation" appear to be two other fields that explore issues related to seniors computing issues. Perhaps Oliver Sacks, the celebrated author of "Awakenings," might devote his attention to seniors computing topics at some time. The field needs a stirring book to help galvanize public interest in the subject.Conclusion
The field of technology use with the elderly has barely begun to be explored. While the current literature on the subject is exciting and full of promise, the sum total of recent articles on the subject can be counted on your fingers.
My sense is that within a few years there is bound to evolve several subdivisions within the larger field of computer use and the elderly. You'll see fields emerge along the lines of: Seniors online, use of computers to develop and strengthen memory skills, use of computers for the writing and sharing of memoirs, intergenerational computing projects (teaming seniors with school aged students), use of computers to assess cognitive functions, etc.
It seems to me that many older adults may be receptive to using technology if introduced to it in a comfortable environment. If introduced in the right way, technology can become a major hobby and interest in the lives of the elderly.
As for the therapeutic uses of computers, it stands to reason that the intellectual declines which are part of the natural process of aging could very well be slowed (and sometimes counteracted) by getting the elderly involved as active users of technology. A game as simple as Tetris, for instance, can engage the mind in an amusing problem solving exercise.
The same enjoyable pleasures that occur when any of us master a new computer skill can have therapeutic value to both young and old. When you learn something new on the computer the result is a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that invariably creates a feeling of well-being. The human mind can sense its own growth, and feels emboldened when that growth occurs on a regular basis.
Someday soon computer companies and the media will begin to recognize how valuable a contribution technology can have in the lives of the elderly. Until then, it's up to you and me to spread the word.
Phil Shapiro The author works as an educational computing consultant and freelance writer. He can be reached at: email@example.com He previously wrote about the use of computers in the human services in an article titled, "How Apple II Computers Are Being Used for Cognitive Therapy," in the October, 1992, issue of the Washington Apple Pi Journal. This article describes how computers are being used with psychiatric patients at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, in Washington DC. A copy of this earlier article can be found on the author's home page. This current article can also be retrieved in electronic form from the author's home page, found at: http://users.aol.com/pshapiro/
One night, a Delta twin-engine puddle jumper was flying somewhere above New Jersey. There were five people on board: the pilot, Michael Jordan, Bill Gates, the Dali Lama, and a hippie.
Suddenly, an illegal oxygen generator exploded loudly in the luggage compartment, and the passenger cabin began to fill with smoke. The cockpit door opened, and the pilot burst into the compartment."Gentlemen," he began, "I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that we're about to crash in New Jersey. The good news is that there are four parachutes, and I have one of them!" With that, the pilot threw open the door and jumped from the plane.
Michael Jordan was on his feet in a flash. "Gentlemen," he said, "I am the world's greatest athlete. The world needs great athletes. I think the world's greatest athlete should have a parachute!" With these words, he grabbed one of the remaining parachutes, and hurtled through the door and into the night.ill Gates rose and said, "Gentlemen, I am the world's smartest man. The world needs smart men. I think the world's smartest man should have a parachute, too." He grabbed one, and out he jumped.
The Dali Lama and the hippie looked at one another. Finally, the Dali Lama spoke. "My son," he said, "I have lived a satisfying life and have known the bliss of True Enlightenment. You have your life ahead of you; you take a parachute, and I will go down with the plane."
The hippie smiled slowly and said, "Hey, don't worry, pop. The world's smartest man just jumped out wearing my backpack."
.....old joke, new people!
The Board decided to change the number of Pizza Nights we do per year from five to three. The new dates will better correspond to less busy months for many people. We will now do them on the fourth Friday of February, April and October. This will avoid the travel months and major holidays. So, the 1998 dates will be: February 27, April 24, and October 23. Same place and time.
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