By Alex Scott, triOS College; Author of Labyrinth Learning’s Microsoft® Excel 2016 Comprehensive
Over years of using and teaching Microsoft Office programs, I’ve often wondered why there are so many ways to do the same thing. Many users are familiar with at least two methods of executing a common task like copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts or the context menu. But for new users, alternatives methods can be intimidating and difficult to remember.
In my class I tell my students there are usually at least three ways to do the same thing! For example, say I want to copy the word “Microsoft” and use it in another location. I have four options:
- Ribbon commands
- Right-click to open the menu of commands
- Keyboard shortcuts
- Drag and drop
How do students know which method to choose?
Start Where You Are Comfortable
New users can feel overwhelmed by these options, so focusing on one approach is a great way to start. I tell them to focus on the method that makes most sense for them, whatever they are comfortable with. Everyone learns differently, and each student can decide what is right for them.
As their confidence increases, I encourage them to try different ways, to see how the task might be done easier or faster using a different method. More experienced users sometimes get into the habit of using the same method to do all tasks, so even students who are familiar with Office programs can benefit from trying new techniques.
Implement Methods That Increase Productivity
In the work world it isn’t just about getting the work done, it’s also about getting things done quickly and efficiently, using the best method possible.
I’ve noticed patterns when I use certain methods. When I was writing my Excel textbook, a big part of the work was using Word to format and edit the content I drafted. I found that when I made a simple change – using shortcuts for copying and formatting – my time was drastically decreased!
Even as an advanced user, I find myself going back to the Ribbon—even for tasks that would be accomplished more quickly using the mouse or keyboard. The key is to know as many different methods as possible, and to remind yourself to look for an alternative approach to complete a task instead of always doing things the same way.
The best way to do something isn’t necessarily the way you’ve done it in the past, and methods that work for some situations aren’t always the best for others.