Operating with Confidence 


"Commonly used applications like word processors, spreadsheets and presen- tation software, though  available individually, are also offered as a single suite. This software package can prove to be of critical use to you. How? Read on…"


This section aims to cover a few important software products that you will need just to use your computer. The most critical among these is the Operating System (OS). An office suite is another software package you might need if you intend to do business work on the computer. So, this section will deal with how effectively you can use these software on your computer.

What is an Operating System ? 

An OS is a complex software platform. It translates the instructions that you provide to the computer into the digital signals that the machine understands and processes. The OS software provides the user interface- the visual display on the screen – that helps you in operating the computer by selecting the programs to run.

            Of the many Operating Systems doing the rounds these days, MS-DOS, UNIX, LINUX, WINDOWS  95/98/ME/XP, etc. are the prominent ones being used widely. Without doubt, the most sought after platform is Windows.

            Windows is a graphical operating environment. A graphical user interface (GUI) presents you with easily identifiable pictorial representations (icons) of computer functions and data, which ease your interaction with the computer. The idea is that you don’t have to type out the commands, nor is there a problem of spelling mistakes or syntax errors. All you need to do is just click on the icons. As the Operating System. Windows controls the basic functions of your computer, such as loading and running programs, saving data, and displaying information on the screen.


The Desktop 

The screen you see when Windows 98 starts is called the desktop. The appearance of your desktop and windows will depend on the installed software and the configuration of the setting on your computer. The basic components of the desktop are the icons and the taskbar. Optional components are the wallpaper, toolbars, screen savers and the Active Desktop.


These are pictorial representations of a task, program, folder of r file. Double-clicking on an icon will start the program or file assigned to it.


The taskbar is your guide to the applications running on your desktop. Each open application creates its own program button on the taskbar, so switching between programs is simple. While the taskbar is usually found at the bottom of the desktop, you can relocate the taskbar by dragging it to any edge. 

Active desktop 

Windows 98, the first version of Windows to be integrated with Internet Explorer, incorporates an Active Desktop. The Active Desktop option takes full advantage of the Web capabilities of Windows98, enabling you to integrate live Web content into your desktop.


Start Menu Options 

The start menu can be activated by clicking on the Start button on the taskbar. It opens up a popup menu that displays many icons like Programs, Favorites, Documents, Settings, Find, Help, Run, Shut Down, etc.

Programs : The Programs menu holds the shortcuts to applications installed on your  computer. The applications can be run by clicking on these  shortcuts. The Accessories sub-menu contains shortcuts to common programs such as Notepad (text editor), Calculator, Paint (Image Editor), WordPad (Word Processor) etc. 

Favorites : The Favorites menu is one of the Internet integration features of Windows 98 providing you with links that are bookmarked by you in Internet Explorer. 

Documents : The Documents menu contains a list of the last 15 files that have been opened, and is useful for locating your most recently used data. 

Setting : In the Setting menu, you will find folders that contain utilities for altering your computer’s software and hardware setting. 

Find : The ability to quickly locate specific information in a computer is an essential requirement. With the Find menu, you can look for files or folders on  your computer, a computer on a local network, or for Website and people located on the Internet. 

Info tip : You can use wildcard characters (*and?) when searching for a file by its name. The asterisk represents any number of characters while the question mark represents one character. For example, assuming you have two files named 'Docs' and 'Document' a search for doc* will display Docs as well as Document, whereas a search for doc? Will display only Docs. Find can also be used to search for files containing particular text or even files of a particular type, size or date.


What’s in My Computer ? 

My Computer is where you can browse through your computer’s contents, which includes drives, folders, files printers, etc. It also contains the Control Panel from where you can customize Windows, the hardware and the software on your computer. Windows setting include Display, Sound, Regional Settings, Data and Time, Fonts, Passwords and so on.


Recycle Bin- custodian of deleted files

When you delete a file, it is moved from its original folder to the Recycle Bin. Double click the Recycle Bin from the desktop to see the deleted files. To recover deleted files, select the Recover option in the file menu. 10 per cent of each drive’s total capacity is assigned to the Recycle Bin by default. You can edit the properties of the Recycle Bin by right – clicking on the Recycle Bin icon and selecting Properties from the menu.


Desktop Shortcut keys




To switch between applications  Alt + Tab 
To open the ‘start’ menu  Ctrl+Esc 
To rename the selected file/icon F2
To open the ‘Find’ window F3
To close a window Alt+F4
To refresh screen F5
To cut selected item and keep in memory Ctrl+ X or Shift + Delete
To Copy selected item to memory Ctrl + C
To paste (recall) from memory Ctrl + V  or Shift + Insert
To go to the beginning /top of a Document Ctrl + Home
To go to the end of a document  Ctrl +End

Windows Explorer

Perhaps the most important utility in Windows 98, Windows Explorer is a file-management and navigation tool that allows you to view the contents of your computer, such as files, folders, and drives. It also enables access to other computers on the network, and to view shared contents.

            Windows Explorer is a two- panel window. The left panel displays a list of the disk drives and folders on your machine It also displays icons for Printers, Control Panel and Network settings. The right panel lists the contents of the folder or drive selected in the left panel.

            The layout of the Explorer facilitates easy file management and manipulation. To add a new file to a folder, select the folder and click on New in the File menu. To delete a file, just press the Delete key (or click the delete button).  To  copy a file, click on the file and keeping the Ctrl key depressed, drag the selected file to  its destination folder. To move a file, click on the file and drag the selected file to its destination folder.

            To select contiguous multiple files, click once at the top of the list of files to be managed, press the Shift key and click at the bottom of the list of files. To select random files, press the Ctrl key and keeping the Ctrl key depressed, select the files to be managed. You can then proceed to move, copy or delete these files.


How to change the desktop the way you want

You can change the way the desktop looks by opening Start> Settings> Control Panel> Display. The Display properties can also be accessed by right clicking on the desktop and clicking on properties form the menu. A window titled Display Properties will appear where you can make your  changes. 

            The first tab is that of the background. This is where you can set wallpaper on the desktop. The wallpaper is a bitmap image, which you can create in any image editing software or download form the Internet. To add any image as wallpaper, copy it to the Windows. 

            A Screensaver is a program that activates after the computer has been inactive for a period o time. Earlier this was used to avoid a possible ghost-image on the screen, which might occur if one image is constantly displayed on the screen for a long period of time. However, with new monitors, a screensaver is just of ornamental value. You can set the screensaver to be activated. To add new screensavers, for example from a CD or Internet, simply copy the screensaver files to the windows folder.

Office suites

The most commonly used applications on a computer are word processors, spreadsheets and presentation software. Though available individually, they are also offered as a single suite. Some of the common office suites are Microsoft Office, Star Office, Lotus SmartSuite and Core suite.  Microsoft Office is possibly the most widely used suite. There are two flavours to choose form. The standard Edition includes word processor (MS word), spreadsheet (MS Excel), presentation software (MS power point) and an Image Editor (Photo Editor). The Professional Edition also includes Database management software (MS Access). Since these are all included in the same suite, sharing data amongst the applications becomes very simple.


Microsoft word

Microsoft word is word processor used for creating documents such as letters, prescriptions, reports, etc. The most important difference between a text editor and a word processor is that the latter allows formatting of text. You can underline headings, bring out important words by making them bold, type slang in italics, start a paragraph with a drop cap; or a hanging indent, use bullets and numbers for lists, etc. You can also include graphics, charts, and animations and so on to either beautify of the document or provide more meaning to it.

            With Microsoft word you can start off with a new blank document (File > New .. Blank document) and format it the way you want to, or select a template (File> New … Template). A template is a previously formatted document, where you simply add the correct data in the right places. This saves a lot of time and is also useful for standardizing similar documents. You can create you own templates too, for example, for a prescription. You can include you name and details in a header (View> Header and Footer), so that all printed documents look like you letterhead. 

            The automatic Date and Time (Insert> Date and Time) feature can be used for case histories. Since the date is updated every time you open the document, all you have to do is open it and  type out your patient’s new illness. Table (Table> Inset Table), bullets and numbering (Format > Bullets and Numbering) can be used to create your bill.  

            A built in spelling Checker (Tools > Spelling and Grammar ) informs you of spelling mistakes as you type by underlining the world with a red vary line. The Grammar Check (Tools> Spelling and Grammar) keeps a tab on your grammar with green wavy lines in similar manner. Since Word’s default dictionary may not understand all the terms used, it tends to show these errors on correct words and sentences too. This is when the feature to create you won dictionary comes in handy. There are two ways you can use this. You can simply add the word to the existing dictionary, or leave this dictionary alone and create a new one for medical terms (Tools> Options> Spelling and Grammar> Dictionaries). 

            You can insert scanned images or pictures (Insert> Pictures) into a case history or summary for a ready reference or simply for adding life to a dead report (no pun intended). Add a comment (Insert > Comment) to a particular paragraph to remind you later that the patient smokes too much. 

            Using the ‘Auto’ features of Word makes life very simple. Auto correct (Tools> Autocorrect) automatically corrects common spelling errors. Auto text (Insert> Auto Text) can insert commonly used words at the click of a button. Auto format (Format > Auto format) will apply predefined styles to the documents, tables, charts etc.


Word 97 shortcut keys



Print preview Ctrl F2
Move document window Ctrl F7
Resize document window Ctrl F8
Maximize document window Ctrl F10
Next word Ctrl right arrow
Previous word Ctrl left arrow
Previous Paragraph Ctrl up arrow
Next paragraph Ctrl down arrow
Start of document Ctrl Home
End of document  Ctrl End
Right align paragraph Ctrl R
Left align paragraph Ctrl L
Split a document Alt + Ctrl + S
Switch to page layout view Alt + Ctrl + P
Switch to outline view Alt + Ctrl + O
Change the font Ctrl + Shift + F
Change the font size Ctrl + Shift + P
Increase the font size Ctrl + Shift + >
Decrease the font size  Ctrl + Shift + <


            Mail Merge (Tools> Mail Merge) is probably the only complex feature for first-timers. It is used to send the same document to different people with a few different details. For example, if you send a Due for Check-up reminder to you regular patients, you need to type the letter only once. And no, you don’t require your secretary to write their names after every Dear …  You can simply connect your list of patients with the letter and print them as individual letters. 

            Here’s how you do it. Open the Mail Merge dialog box from Tools> Mail Merge. Click on Create> Form Letters and select either an existing documents or create a new one. Once you have done this, go back to the dialog box and click on Get Data. Again, select an existing data source (it has to be in tabular format with each column for a particular field-it is best to use an access database or an Excel spreadsheet for this) or create a new one. Go back to the document and insert the fields in the correct places. That is all. Your letters are ready to print. Go back to the dialog box and click on Merge. You can now merge it to a document where each letter will appear on a separate page (as if it had been typed that way) or directly to a printer. 

            All the functions of word can be accessed from the Menus and Toolbars that are, by default, at the top. These are pretty self-explanatory, especially once you get used to them, (which does not take very long). Almost everything can be customized to suit your needs, making it very user-friendly.


Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet application. Primarily a calculating software, it can be used as a readymade table, too. Excel can be used for keeping a track of accounts, inventory, bills, patient’s statistics, research data, etc. 

            A very basic worksheet can contain the name of the patient, the nature of treatment, date, follow-ups and billing amount. You can go on filling these and then sort them by name to group each patient’s details together. To total up the amount (numbers), all you have to do is click on the S icon on the toolbar and select then numbers you want to sum by clicking and dragging across the cell.  

            A very basic worksheet can contain the name of the patient, the nature of treatment, date, follow-ups and billing amount. You can go on filling these and then sort them by name to group each patient’s details together. To total up the amount (numbers), all you have to do is click on the S icon on the toolbar and select the numbers you want to sum by clicking and dragging across the cell.


Excel 97 Shortcut keys



Resize window Ctrl F7
Move window Ctrl F8
Minimize active window Ctrl F9
Maximize active window Ctrl F10
Insert new sheet Ctrl F11
Format cells Ctrl 2
Italicize Ctrl 3
Underline Ctrl 4
Strike through Ctrl 5
Remove standard toolbar Ctrl 7
Change row height Ctrl 9
Change column width Ctrl 0
Delete cell Ctrl –
Edit the active cell F 2
Repeat the last action F 4
Go To F 5
Move to the next pane F 6
Calculate all sheets in open workbooks F9
Create a chart F11
Enter date  Ctrl ;


            If you keep a daily record, for example for an inventory, you can quickly fill a series of dates. Fill in first value. Position the cursor at the bottom right corner of the cell the cursor should change to a ‘+’ this is called a Fill Handle and drag it across the cell that you want to fill with the series. If you do the same thing with the right mouse button, you can click on series and choose the kind of series you wish to fill in. The same trick works with numbers, too.  

            The text box below the toolbars is called a Formula bar. You can enter data or formulas here too, instead of the cells. Formulas always begin with '=’ , indicating that it is formula. You can also let Excel write the formulas for you (Insert > Function), so you don’t need to remember cryptic syntax or confusing details.  

            Once you have all your data, you may want to analyze it. For example, it could be a graphical representation of a patient’s progress. Excel has many sophisticated tools for creating reports, future projections, scenarios, etc., but most of these are too complicated. However, the Chart Wizard is a pretty simple and powerful tool to create graphs of various types within minuets, you can start the wizard from Insert> Chart or by clicking on the icon on the toolbar. 

            Just like in Microsoft word, you can insert comments, images, etc. in Excel too. Excel has an additional insert option labeled Map. You can insert various available maps into your spreadsheet.


Microsoft PowerPoint

The impact you need to make on your audience when explaining to them why the hospital requires them to collect funds or about the latest discovery of a cure for the HIV virus cannot be understated. A mere speech may yield a lot of nodding heads-a few nodding out of compulsion, the rest nodding off to sleep. With the use of transparencies and charts, they many even understand a bit of what you are saying. But, make a compelling presentation, and you’ve got them or there money, or whatever it is you are seeking. 

            This is where Microsoft PowerPoint comes in. A very versatile presentation package, it allows you to create good, effective, yet interesting presentations in a jiffy. Just like word and Excel, you can start off with a blank prevention or select a template and add your content. Wizards (File> New>  Presentations) can guide your to create an entire slide show in just a couple of minuets. All you have to do then is place the text and graphics in the correct places.  

What you can do with PowerPoint  is bound only by your imagination. Creating slides is very simple since there are already predefined slides to choose from (Insert> New Slide and Format> Slide Layout). Select a Title slide for the first screen. A chart & Text slide will hold a graph accompanied by text. Similarly, clipart & Text will take an image with the text. Though there are ample such predefined slides (Which are enough for most presentations), you are not limited to these-these are only to guide you. You can modify these or, if you have the time, start with blank slide and place objects as and where you want to.  

Make you slide appealing by giving them a good background (Format> Background)- this could be a logo, an image or just color. A Quicker way is to apply a predefined Design (Format > Apply Design).  Set a color Scheme (Format> Slide> Color Scheme) to provide uniformity of color to similar objects across slides.  

If you want certain elements to appear on all slides, for example  a border, you can place it in the Master Slide (View> Master>  Slide Master). You can create Speaker Notes (View> Speaker Notes) to help you along with your presentation. A good presentation could also be accompanied by Handouts (View> Master> Handout Master) which the audience can follow.

            Once you think your slides are ready, you can give them Transition Effects (Slide Show > Slide Transition). Each object can be given its own Animation Effect (Format> Custom Animation). You can provide sounds at every step to liven up the presentation. If you have a microphone, you can even Record a Narration (Slide Show> Record Narration) so that you do not have to memorize your speech and you don’t have  to worry about synchronizing your speech with the speed of the presentation. Now is the time to run the Style Checker (Tools> Style Checker) which will check your entire presentation for spelling errors, visual clarity and case and end punctuation. Another handy feature is Rehearse Timings (Slide Show> Rehearse Timings) where you can rehearse your entire presentation and can alter the amount of time each slide stays on screen. It is recommended to rehearse your animation on the machine you intend you make your presentation on, since transition speeds vary, depending on the machine configuration. If you are not sure how long each slide should stay on screen, for example in a question and answer session, you can set these slides to change only when you click the mouse (Slide Show > Slide Transition ).


Power Point 97 Shortcut keys



During Slide ShowsGo to slide <number> <number> Enter
Display a black screen, or return to the slide  Slide show from a black screen B
Display a white screen, or return to the slide Slide show from a white screen W
Stop or restart an automatic slide show  S
End a slide show Esc
Erase on-screen annotations E
Go to the next hidden slide H
Set new timings while rehearsing T
Use original timings while rehearsing O
Use a mouse-click to advance while rehearsing M
Change the pointer to a pen Ctrl P
Change the pen to a pointer Ctrl A
Hide the pointer and the button temporarily Ctrl H
Hide the pointer and the button always Ctrl L
Display the shortcut menu Shift + F10
See list of controls F1
Go to previous slide Backspace

    Another useful feature is of custom Shows (Slide Show > Custom Show). You can build one presentation that contains details regarding your research on DNA. However, you may not want to show certain slides to interns. Using this feature, you can create separate presentations each containing only the slides you want. Hide Slides (Slide Show>  Hide Slide) can be used for the same purpose, but you would need to toggle between hide and unhide every time you wish to alter  the presentation. To help your audience navigate among slides, or jump from one slide to another and then come back, you can use Action Buttons (Slide Show > Action Buttons). Each button can be  assigned a predefined action. You can create another slide with the same chart, but this chart will cover the entire screen, When the person click on the chart, it takes him to this slide, giving it a Zoom In effect. Clicking on the chart again will take him or her back to the pervious slide. In this way, presentations can be made slightly more interactive.


Know the medium of output in advance

It pays to know in advance the medium of your presentation. It can be an on-line presentation, 35 mm slides, or using overhead transparencies. 

35mm slides

For this presentation, first your have to design slides that are the correct height and width for 35mm slides. Click ‘Page setup’ in the File menu, and then select 35mm slides in the ‘Slides sized for’ box. Besides, you would be required to get your electronic slides into 35 mm slides. One way is to try the option in the File menu. Point to ‘Send To’ and then click Genigraphics. You will be assisted by Genigraphics Wizard to follow the instructions. 

On-line presentation

This is a real-time presentation that involves multiple participation. The slides you create for an electronic presentation can have text, charts, drawn objects, and shapes, as well as clip art, movies, sounds etc. The advantage is that you can make last-minute changes to your presentation and can use slide transitions, timings, and animation to control the pace of the presentation over a network on multiple computers, or even the Internet (Tools> Presentation Conference)! In fact, each person can also be allowed to dynamically make changes to the presentation to convey his or her point of view. If you cannot get everyone at their computers at the same time for the presentation or everyone does not have PowerPoint, you can make a self-extracting setup that will install the PowerPoint Viewer and start the presentation (File > Pack and Go). This contains the required files in compressed format and is easy to distribute.

Overhead transparencies

It is always wise to take printouts of slides. If there is no computers insight, you can still make the best out of your toil by giving away the presentation through overhead transparencies. For this, ensure that your print your slides as either black-and white or color transparencies.


Microsoft Binder

Microsoft Binder is a very underused but powerful tool with Microsoft office. It is basically like a paper clip, but is as good as a project Manger. You may be keeping your patient’s case history, payment details, prescriptions and related documents all in one file. Similarly, you can keep all word and Excel Documents (and any other related data)  in one single file with Microsoft Bidder. It has a two-pane view the left pane showing you all the documents. The pane changes dynamically as you click on each document. It takes on the appearance of the associated application (word, excel, etc.). Since the left pane can be hidden or displayed with a single click,  you always get the feeling that you are working in the same application, hence there is no discomfort in using it. The options are very simple to understand. You can Rename or Duplicate a file, save it as a separate file outside the binder, open the document outside the binder (in the associated application windows) and so on.


Paint shop Pro

Should you often need to ready on pictorial representations to explain certain terms, etc., paint shop Pro (PSP) is what can be of use to you. 

            PSP is one of the easiest and best software for editing graphic and image files. It comes with a very easy to use interface and a few filters that could be used to spruce up your graphical creations.

            With PSP you can add that extra bit of Pizzazz to your pictures. Add color to plain black-and -white diagrams (you would of course have to get those diagrams scanned first), crop unwanted elements, add depth to a picture, resize it – if any of the above needs to be done, PSP can do it to an image.

            So, let’s see how PSP works. 

Touching up

Open the file that needs touching up in paint ship pro. To get most of the filters to work, choose 16 million colors. First select the area you want to touch up using the selection tool or Lasso tool for freehand selection. Use Shift to add to a selection and Control key to remove from a selection. The color Picker option will get you the color you want to add to the image. Right-click to set the back ground color and left click for the foreground. Save the picture in .GIF or .JPG format so that they can be used to make slides in PowerPoint.

For screen Shots

First open the file of which you require a screenshot. It could be a Website, software, anything. Start PSP-Go to the ‘Capture’ option in the menu. Click on setup. If you want a screen shot of the full screen select the full screen radio button followed by selecting the delay timer radio button.  After this all you have to do is click on the Capture Now button-PSP will automatically minimize and take an screen shoot of the screen that was open before you started PSP. 

            Another way to take a screen shot would be to press the 'Print Scrn' button on your key board-open PSP and press Ctrl +V – that ‘s it you now have your screenshot.


Get started now

With a basic understanding of how these common software packages work, and how you can use them, you are now equipped to do most of the common tasks on your computer. This section will have also given you enough confidence to start exploring these packages on your own.

Copyright © 2002 Dr. Subrahmanyam Karuturi