Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Software and stuff

Good midweek to all.  Hope your horse won in Iowa Monday night.

For some reason, lately I've been thinking about computer software that I've used, loved, hated, dreaded and endured.  I'm 55, and have been dealing with computers in one way or another for over thirty years.  Mine was the first generation to be converted over to primarily using computers vs. manual methods of writing, typing, financial recording and other functions, and I began long enough ago that MS-DOS was the first operating system that I used.

So let's review the recent history of the personal computer, and maybe I'll remind you of a program or two that will bring back some (hopefully) good memories.

I mentioned having started out with MS-DOS.  The first really big program business embraced for that operating system was Lotus 1-2-3.  I encountered this in a sales job, and while it was the "killer app" that helped my company sell computer equipment, it always baffled me, as it used an arcane set of commands for navigation, computation and printing.  I'm sure others who dealt with manual spreadsheets for a living rejoiced when they first got the hang of it, but not me.

Then there was WordPerfect, which replaced a number of other popular word processing programs.  My first exposure to that program was when I had just begun working in the temporary staffing industry, and when companies called in need of office employees, they were often asking for people with word processing skills on a specific software or word processing machine (Wang was the dedicated word processor that I remember most distinctly.  Anytime we found anyone with experience on that, we called the clients who used it.).  WordPerfect became something of the standard in word processing, which made things easier.  And we did some training in our office for those who wanted to learn more about using a computer in their work.

Important to remember--in the pre-Windows days, computer software was a lot like the Wild West, with little standardization, and each program's installed base was pretty small by comparison with the massive percentage of companies and people who now use Microsoft Office, for example.

One of my favorite programs I ever used was something called InfoSelect.  This still exists in a somewhat different form, but when I was using it in the early 90s, it was a free form database program that would allow you to type into a window that was not unlike a Post-It note and save it.  Then you could search based on anything in that note, meaning that if you mentioned a certain client's name in your search, all notes pertaining to that client would pop up.  It began to evolve and become more structured, but I loved how easy it was to use, and how flexible it could be!

Within a few years I was working for my first company that had e-mail for use by its employees.  I had used some e-mail programs on my home computer (and had already had a series of my own computers by this time) so was reasonably proficient in using e-mail.  My first experience was something that Lotus made called CC: Mail.  Wow, I loved that program.  Fast, easy to use, very customizable and it almost never ceased to work properly.  That program (and its close associate CC: Mobile, for use when you were out of the office and not connected to the corporate server) was a joy to use, and later became Lotus Notes, which was also a very good e-mail platform.

This particular company sold off the division for which I worked, so we became part of another organization.  They left us on our original software for a while, but eventually converted the e-mail program from Lotus Notes to a program called Groupwise.  As much as I liked Lotus Notes and its predecessors, I disliked Groupwise.  Not intuitive, cumbersome, slow, and, the way we were set up, prone to outages and failures.  By my next career stop that company and virtually all others were using Microsoft Outlook, as it comes with Microsoft Office.  That's still the case today.

I think I have mentioned on other occasions how much I love working with Macs, rather than Windows PCs.  I'm typing this on my desktop Mac right now.  And despite using a Mac, I have Microsoft Office on board, as it's just easier to use what everyone else uses and not have the worries about compatibility of a document file or a spreadsheet.  Apple makes corresponding programs that perform the same functions as Office, but it's the path of least resistance and allows me to use my Mac for work, as I have done for the duration of my time owning one (or more).

So what's my favorite software now?  Hard to say, but I'd have to give the blanket thumbs-up to Apple's OSX operating system, whose current version is called El Capitan (used to be named for animals).  Mail, web browsing, music and photo management, as well as many other programs, come with this operating system.  Fast and light and, of course, hardly ever does it just not work.  What could be better?

I would be interested in feedback from anyone out there who especially liked a program that I didn't, or vice versa.

Have a good rest of the week!


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