When asked to write an article with a technical focus that would be meaningful to AADE members, , I considered what would be informative as well as helpful. There it was staring at me right in the face: Help. Having worked in this industry for many years, the biggest prevailing question I have faced with my clients, customers, and coworkers is “How do I…?”
I took an unofficial poll of my family, friends and acquaintances and asked them how they get the technical help they need. What I found was very interesting: many of them didn’t know the resources that are available to them on the internet. There is a plethora of tools and resources available at your fingertips. Below, I break down some of the more common and widely used tools available today.
Product User Guides: The first resource a person has at their disposal for any software or hardware system is the user guide that comes with the product. Many people may find these are too technical or difficult to navigate; however, they do hold all the pertinent information needed to use the product.
Online Product Help: Most products typically come with some sort of online help tool that is often signified by a “?” or “help” bar located at the top of a product window. There is usually a table of contents and/or a search option that will help you find topics associated with the word or phrase you entered into the search bar (usually, this is signified by a magnifying glass icon or the word “search”).
Organization Intranet or an Internal Wiki System: Many companies or organizations invest time into having an intranet or a Wiki of their own. What are these things? An intranet is a private network internal and accessible only by the organization’s staff. A Wiki is a website that allows users to collaboratively edit its contents. Both of these systems are internally organized and maintained so they may share information commonly used by all members of that organization.
“…For Dummies” Books and Website: The first Dummies book, which was titled “DOS for Dummies,” was published in 1991. It took technical help books and transformed them into user guides and made them understandable for people less computer savvy. They have since published over 1,800 titles that range from technical assistance books to ordinary titles, such as Beekeeping for Dummies. There is also a Dummies website that provides access to the extensive library and online courses.
YouTube: Interestingly enough, I didn’t realize until recently that you can search YouTube for specific topics, and it will help you find instructional videos. If you are more of a visual learner, you can find a myriad of topics on YouTube to help with whatever question you need assistance with. For instance, one of my family members learned how to tie a Windsor tie using an instructional video found on YouTube.
Finally, Google it! Have you ever Googled your name? Or Googled a question? What does it mean to Google something? Google is a web browser where you can ask for information, and it will respond with search results sorted by relevance to your question. Many times, I have searched Google to learn how to perform several types of functions in Excel or to find other information such as, “What are the shortcut keys are on a Mac?”
Wikihow Website: I was recently referred to wikiHow by our own IT Help Desk staff member. Similar to Google, you can search any question on wikiHow, and it also will give you results based on your question. This website, however, focuses on step-by-step guides for how to do particular tasks, rather than general information gathering.
I do want to issue a cautionary note on general internet searches: make sure the sites you visit are reliable sites and resources. One such as example of a reliable site is any site that ends in .edu or .gov. Make sure you visit known websites or are referred to a site that others have frequently used. Don’t assume that all search results are safe. It’s better to go directly to a product’s main website for help to get the most accurate information.
Happy Help Surfing!