A bunch of books for rainy days at the beach
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1996. First
published in Computer Player, July 1996
?Windows 95 Answers: Certified Tech Support?
by Martin S. Matthews and Carole Boogs Matthews
Osborne McGraw Hill
?Windows 95 for Busy People?
by Ron Mansfield
?Excel for Windows 95 for Busy People?
by Ron Mansfield
?Word for Windows 95 for Busy People?
by Ron Mansfield
-- all ?... for Busy People? books
Osborne McGraw Hill
The rate of change of computer hardware and software
leaves an awful
lot of people feeling left behind or just left out. So maybe you or
employer goes out and spends a pile of money on new hardware and
now what do you do?
Once upon a time, you could count on getting a big fat
manual. Now maybe,
like most people you never read it. And maybe, like the classic MS-DOS
manuals, even if you wanted to read them, they weren?t very readable.
least they were there, providing a certain feeling of solidity.
Now, following the demise of 1-800 number telephone
printed manuals are the next to go. Some software comes with the
on CD-- in other cases, there simply isn?t much at all.
Take Windows 95... it comes with a slim user manual,
that may get a
new user pointed towards the Start button, but certainly isn?t much
in case of problems. There?s the on-screen Tip of the Day, and an
tutorial, and help file. And if you have the CD-version, if you do some
poking around, you?ll find the Win 95 Resource Kit... in the form of a
multi-meg help file. More information than you can assimilate, but not
in a form that?s easy to get at for most of us.
Instead, books aimed at new users have achieved
IDG?s bright yellow Dummies series, for example, has spawned imitators
(bright orange ?CD-ROM for Idiots? for example), and even expanded
the computer field with titles like ?Sex for Dummies?.
I find it interesting that so many people are willing
to purchase and
carry around books that proclaim that they are stupid. Osborne McGraw
has recently debuted a series aimed at the same market, but instead,
its readers as ?Busy People?.
All the books in this series feature full colour
illustrations on virtually
every page, and the same set of quirky, post-modern cartoon figures.
all the volumes that I?ve seen are focusing on Windows 95 users. (Even
the ?Internet for Busy People? volume, not reviewed here, limits its
and illustrations to Windows 95-compatible software).
The books in this series also share a common
outline... each is broken
into chunks that can be easily assimilated in 15 minutes or so. Each
starts out with a Fast Forward section-- a detailed outline of the
letting the reader know what to expect, and what to skip over. The
of each book is sprightly-- opinionated and mildly ironic... much more
fun to read than that old DOS manual.
Each starts with enough information to get a user up
and running, and
then moves into specialized topics, along with suggestions that readers
should feel free to skip over these chapters until they actually need
The Windows 95 volume, for example, starts by getting
the reader to
start Win95, and make it past the optional password screen and Tip of
Day. Tour the desktop, the TaskBar, and the Start menu... start
Run DOS programs in windows or in DOS Mode. On to managing windows, and
using the Clipboard, then to getting help when you need it. Next,
disks, folders, and files with Explorer, the Recycle Bin., and
Vital tasks such as backup, virus checking (no, virus
included with Win 95), checking for disk errors, defragmentation, and
are reviewed, followed by a collection of timesaving techniques-- using
the right mouse button, keyboard shortcuts, scraps, drag-and-drop,
properties, and OLE. Installing and removing programs, troubleshooting
printers and fonts, and using the Control Panel to personalize your
More advanced topics include networks, modems, fax, and direct
and multimedia, ending with an appendix on installation.
With similar look and feel, the Excel and Word volumes
new users through getting started with these popular programs, then
on to review a range of features that may not be needed by
but are nice to know. Even though I?ve used both programs regularly for
years, I found the clear explanations helped me with features that have
improved my use of each application.
The Excel volume starts off with general tips for
entering data and
navigating a spreadsheet, before moving on to getting help-- looking at
special help for 1-2-3 users, and connecting to the Microsoft Network
help from other users. Templates are brought up, along with the new
features such as AutoTemplate, AutoCalculate, AutoComplete,
AutoFilter, and AutoFill (whew!).
Moving and deleting cells, rows, and columns, then
including styles. Organizing large projects, with named ranges, frozen
titles, and multiple worksheets. Functions (whole books have been
covering spreadsheet functions-- so a single chapter will be,
limited to scratching the surface). Charts, graphics, macros. What-if
ending with a chapter on auditing and troubleshooting. Appendices on
Excel, and Win95 basics.
The companion, Word volume fills a similar set of
needs for Excel?s
companion program-- it gets users up and running quickly, producing,
and saving a document that?s been word-processed, not just typed on a
Then users are hand-held through customizing the fonts and settings
by default, setting preferences, and creating personalized toolbars.
formatting and editing, and living with automatic spell checking (new
Word 95). Using Autocorrect to create boilerplate add-ins, making your
own templates, and recording simple macros.
Produce a simple report, using styles, headers and
lists and more. Importing documents in other formats. Searching with
Word and Win95?s Find commands. Designing and reusing forms-- both
and on-screen. Mail merge and envelope printing. Sharing documents with
a workgroup. E-mail and fax. Maintaining large documents. Producing a
Finally, a section on Internet Assistant, the optional free add-in that
turns Word into a combination Web browser and tool for creating your
HTML home pages. Once again, the book ends up with sections on
the program, and working with Win95.
My wife Linda, not a ?computer person?, recently
started a new job,
complete with Windows 95, Word 95 and Excel 95 on her desktop. She
barely wait for me to finish this review in order to get to take these
books to her office... as a real-life busy person, she found these
formats let her find just the information she needed, and let her
her ability to use computers on the job.
Also from the same publisher, ?Windows 95 Answers? is
aimed at a somewhat
different audience-- either the Windows 95 user who has run into
or the person called on for support. It?s based on information used by
Stream International (formerly Corporate Software, Inc.), one of
companies hired by Microsoft to provide phone-in tech support to new
Since this technical support started even before the
of Windows 95, working with the 400,000 Win95 Preview Program users,
is a good range of typical problems and questions-- along with answers.
The book is organized into a question and answer
format, organized by
topic. Installation, new features, customizing and optimizing,
use. File management, printing, networking, communications, multimedia,
and the new (or not so new) DOS. About 400 problems and solutions...
the Top Ten Tech Terrors!
Not a book most readers will want to read
cover-to-cover, instead, they
are encouraged to move quickly to their specific problem-- and get a
just as quickly.
This book could easily pay for itself if it helps you
avoid a single
technical support call, with long-distance time on hold.