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Now browsing: Hometown News > Computer/Technology > Sean McCarthy

Computers' 'tools' have multiple uses
Rating: 3 / 5 (11 votes)  
Posted: 2013 Mar 15 - 08:53

Walk into any mechanic's garage and take a peek in his toolbox. No doubt you will see duplicate tools of all types.

You may see a half a dozen flat-bladed screwdrivers, half a dozen Philips screwdrivers, a handful of crescent wrenches, two or three socket wrench sets, etc.

What you won't ever see is that same mechanic going through his toolbox and throwing away (deleting) all the tools that are duplicates in order to "free up space" in his toolbox.

You see, the mechanic understands that although the tools may appear to be redundant, each of his duplicate tools may have characteristics that may make it the better choice for any given task that he's trying to accomplish.

For instance, he may need to turn a bolt, and the wrench he normally uses won't give him the kind of leverage he needs that a similar but less used wrench affords him.

The same concept holds true for the programs loaded on a typical computer. Click the start button, go to All Programs and a list appears showing all the programs (tools) that are installed on the computer. Windows 8 users, open the Start Screen and right click anywhere. Often, you will see two or three text editing programs, a couple of different photo editing programs, multiple accounting programs, and others.

I liken these duplicate programs to duplicate tools in our garage mechanic's toolbox. You as the user may have a favorite word processor for instance, but there are times when a different word cruncher may be better suited for a task at hand.

A perfect example of this would be my preference in using a different word processor for writing than I use for creating labels.

I typically write my column using Microsoft Word. It came with my machine, does the job and I'm familiar with how to use it to get the job done. But when it comes to creating labels, a job that MS Word does allow for, I find that my ancient, version four copy of MS Works is far easier for me to use and lets me get the job done with much less aggravation.

For me, the label wizard that comes installed in MS Works is the right tool for that job and had worked for me faithfully for more than a decade.

Now, if I were like many end users that I encounter, and had deleted MS Works from my system because, "I already have a word processor that I use and I don't need another one, especially such an old version," then every time I ran into the task of printing labels, I would be struggling to remember how to get Word to do it correctly. Especially when I know that I could have gotten the job done with far less frustration if I had just left MS Works right where it was.

Another example is image editors. Windows machines come with a basic image- editing program called "paint." It also may have Microsoft Photo Editor installed, or even a third party program, such as Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop. One program may be better suited than another for any given task. Removing all the image editors on your machine except the one you most frequently use limits you when you run into a task that your favorite application won't handle easily.

One question I am often asked is, "How do you tell the computer that you want to use a different program than the program Windows has assigned to open a particular file type?"

If you "right click" the file, an option that usually appears is "open with." Holding your mouse over the "open with" option will show all the programs installed capable of opening that file type.

If you want to change how Windows automatically opens a file when you double click it, click the "choose program" command in the open with menu, select the program that you want to use and then make sure the "always use the selected program" checkbox is selected before you click OK. Using the right click, "open with" menu to switch between "tools" or permanently change what program opens any given file.

Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at (888) 752-9049 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (no hyphens).

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