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Education in word processing

Posted in General | Office at Thursday, September 01, 2005 1:46 AM W. Europe Daylight Time

I've had my first experience in word processing at the age of 13. After some months working with Works for DOS I typed my first lines in Lotus AmiPro 3.0. Every time the cursor came to the end of the line I hit the return key in order to move the cursor to the next line, like in the days of typewriters. Only minutes later I discovered that AmiPro was able to perform the line break on its own as I forgot hitting return in my writing flow. With the upcoming of Word 6.0 I digged into the basic concepts of document and formatting templates and the like. A book my parents bought was of great help. The basic concepts haven't changed much since then and the knowing them helped me to get even large documents done smoothly (ignoring the fact that Word had some quirks you have to get around - some of them even remaining today (and new ones introduced)).

However, in school these concepts were never covered in such a depth. The students didn't have basic knowledge in word processing so the teachers focused on basic formatting (i.e. making fonts bold). The concept of real document processing was never introduced. Even during high school education, word processing hasn't been a topic to talk about. All that stuff was either made a prerequisite or one did it the bad way: For example the error-prone typing of the table of contents. Of course, most people in the CS department have a deep knowledge about Word and LaTeX. But what about people with less technical background?

I've seen some documents since then, handed to me by friends that needed to get their work (i.e. document) done. I offered to do the formatting because I like pretty laid out documents. Unfortunately most times they gave me the documents just when their contents were nearly done. Some basic formatting was applied, added as the user typed, and the most times it was horribly inconsistent. No one thought about the layout and text elements before beginning to write. Almost no one has heard of formatting templates, their function and advantages. Every time I explained these improvements, they were happily using them.

I don't see why no one cares about such issues in our current educational system. Every student is supposed writing papers for seminars or his/her thesis. The fact that a human being has to be introduced to how to tell a complex system like a word processor to do the work that can be automated seems of no interest.

I hope this will change in the future. Employees working on documents is key to the economical success of companies. The skills taught to me in this area definitely won't help working fluently on documents beyond 2 pages. Self-study needs to be done. But who does, I ask?

Rant over.

Now playing: Moodorama - Listen - Sweet toffee

Friday, September 02, 2005 12:14:19 PM (W. Europe Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)
I totally agree, but I'm not sure if this is governments, i.e. the educational departments, task to teach. It's like having a nice or at least readable handwriting... it's up to you to care about how you present yourself and your stuff. I agree that some hints would be helpful, at least to make people conscious of what horribly formatted documents they create. Hail to LaTeX,

enjoy your day and million thanks for your music dvd... it's a treasure!!!

Christian
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