Here are a few significant applications that you should be familiar with, along with a few notes about some useful features or hidden dangers.
This application allows the user to create, modify, and print documents containing text, and sometimes images. Some examples include Microsoft Word, Word Perfect, or Emacs. Most modern word processing software allows the user to view the text on the monitor just as it will appear on the printed page. This capability is called What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get, or WYSIWYG. Word processors have several advantages over simply using paper and pencil or a typewriter. First, a budding writer can edit the text with ease on a word processor, moving words around, deleting phrases, fixing spelling mistakes, or completely reorganizing the structure of a manuscript. These same edits on a typed document would be daunting. Global changes, such as changing the name of a main character in a novel, can be done in a few keystrokes, whereas if done by hand, it would take hours, if not days. Second, the text can be formatted to look like a published work, complete with various fonts, styles, emphasis, and so forth. Third, it is easy to duplicate previous work. For example, imagine that you have written a letter to a business asking for a refund on a defective item. If you save this letter (in an electronic file in the computer's storage area), you could easily edit the letter if you need to write to another business regarding a different defective item. Starting from the existing letter is quicker.
1) Identify several goals of writing. Why do we write? What do we hope to accomplish by writing? To whom do we write?
2) Consider the writing tasks listed below and answer these four questions for each task:
Writing Tasks for questions above:
Consider the following types of writing. First, identify which types can be done well using a word processor (compared to writing by hand), and which might suffer in quality if written with a word processor? Second, and perhaps more important, for each type, identify the reasons why the word processor makes a difference (either positive or negative).
This application allows the user to organize, analyze, and chart data. A spreadsheet is made up of rectangular cells that form rows and columns. Each cell can contain text, numbers, or a formula. Text can be formatted, but usually with fewer options than with a word processor. Numbers can also be formatted, often with a multitude of options. Formulas allow the user to specify that the cell should display the result of a computation (often using the values from neighboring cells). For example, a formula might display the sum of all the cells above the current cell, in order to calculate the total sales for the year (assuming the cells above the current cell are monthly sales totals). Data can be charted in a variety of formats. The user can create pie charts, bar charts, line graphs, and so forth, based on the data in the spreadsheet. In fact, some people consider the chart making capability to be the greatest strength of spreadsheets (more than their number-crunching features).
The ability to specify complex formulas for each cell, where each formula can depend on other cells (which might themselves be formulas) constitutes a form of programming, but in a visual format that is intuitive for many people than traditional computer programming languages. For example, consider the computation shown in the table below. On the left we see the computation of total sales over 6 months in a spreadsheet. First, the labels for Months, Sales, and Total were typed and formatted. Then the number "1" was entered into cell B4, and then a formula was used to compute the cells below it. For example, the formula in cell B5 is "=B4+1". The sales figures were typed into cells C4 down to C9. Finally, the formula for adding up the sales was entered in cell C10, "=SUM(C4:C9)" which means "add up the numbers in the cells C4 down to C9" and display the result.
Compare the spreadsheet method to the program shown on the right side of the table above. Here, an array is declared called "sales" with 6 entries, as shown. Next, a variable called total is initialized to zero. A loop is used to compute the total by iterating through the 6 months. Total is incremented by the amount of sales for each of the months 1 through 6. Note that the "+=" symbol means make total larger by the amount of sales in the specified month. Finally, the total is printed after the loop is completed. The spreadsheet uses a visual format to specify which months to include, while the programming language uses a more symbolic notation. (In case you are interested, the spreadsheet on the left is Microsoft Excel, while the programming language on the right is actually a mixture of the languages C and Ada in order to make it a little easier to understand for a novice).
When performing computations with numbers, there are several tools that one could turn to:
Consider the following tasks that require computations with numbers. For each task, decide which approach from the list above would be the best approach:
Electronic mail (also known as "e-mail") is a form of communication modeled on postal delivery, and thus the language used to describe the various objects and actions are similar to postal mail. In both systems, one writes letters, addresses them, and sends them, and sometime later the recipient receives the letter in their mailbox. Although physical items cannot be sent by e-mail, one can often add "attachments" to a letter, allowing delivery of any digital item, such as a picture or sound. E-mail has several advantages over the postal service:
1) Identify some drawbacks of e-mail compared to the postal service. Are there any problems that come along with the advantages listed above?
2) Identify at least four types of communication for which e-mail would be a poor medium of choice. Explain why, and indicate what mode of communication might be more suitable.
This type of application is similar to a word processor, but usually includes more extensive capabilities for adding diagrams, line art, images, and other graphical objects to the document. The documents can also contain animated objects, which move about the page in some prescribed manner, such as titles which scroll in from the left as each page is displayed. The documents created with these applications, as the name implies, are usually intended for presentation purposes, such as overhead slides used during a conference presentation. One popular presentation software package is Microsoft PowerPoint. You may even hear the slang phrase "doing a PowerPoint talk", meaning the person is giving a presentation using a laptop and projector to display slides (created using PowerPoint) on a screen while the talk proceeds.
Software that aids in creating webpages (sometimes called Web authoring software) often has similar capabilities, allowing the user to add images and other graphics to a page which will be displayed on the World Wide Web. In addition, these packages must also specify the targets of hyperlinks, i.e., describing where the Web browser should go when a user clicks on a link. Some word processors and presentation software packages have an export feature that will generate a webpage.
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