Thursday, April 5, 2012

I don’t really like to admit it, but I’m a bit of a technophobe. I believe I’m one of about 17 people on the planet who does not own a smartphone, although I get along just fine with my basic little freebie phone. No laptop or netbook for me either, but I do have a Kindle Fire, which I received as a gift this past Christmas. Three and a half months later and I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m fairly certain that I have some kind of magnet or device implanted somewhere in my body that actually repels technology of any kind. I rarely touch the copier at my office without it jamming up, overheating, or making some kind of horrible screeching noise when I try to use it. Computers freeze up at the very touch of my finger. Internet service disappears for no reason when I get online. God help me if I ever have to have an MRI. There’s no telling what could happen. I’m always lagging behind when it comes to new gadgets, software programs, websites, and anything else that could be labeled “techy.” It’s not that I’m not interested in that stuff, because I am, to a degree. But I’m a little bit intimidated by it mostly because I don’t understand much of it. I have no patience for figuring it out and I get frustrated with it very easily, so I tend to avoid new gadgets until they’ve been out long enough that someone I know has one or answers to potential problems can be found quickly with a Google search.

Case in point: My work upgraded our Microsoft Office program to the 2010 version a while back. It’s 2012 and I’m still finding things that I used to be able to do quickly and easily in the prior version that are impossible for me to figure out with the “new and improved” Office. There’s ribbons and tabs and bubbles and I don’t know what else that you have to sort through to do something as simple as saving a document in a different place. Really, Microsoft? This is better? Before, all I had to do was click on “file” and then “save as.” I didn’t have to sort through 20 different screens to complete one little task. Like I said, patience is a virtue I don’t have in abundance, so spending half my morning trying to do something that used to take me literally seconds is beyond aggravating to me. They did put lots of pretty pictures in the bazillion tool bars that now grace the top of the page in Word and Excel, but all those pictures are just cluttering up my screen and making my eyes cross. It’s even harder to figure out what you’re doing when you see two of everything.

A couple weeks ago, I was given an assignment to make a series of line graphs from blood work data in one of our ongoing medical malpractice cases. “Easy enough,” I thought. “I’ve done this before, so it shouldn’t be a problem.” I conveniently forgot, however, that this would be the first time I made graphs in our new version of Excel. I wouldn’t say I’m exactly proficient in Excel, but I can find my way around it and get done what I need to do. Or at least I used to be able to do that. Most of my Excel work involves creating spreadsheets, so I’m usually using the most basic functions of the program. Making a graph starts with making a spreadsheet of the data, so I thought this task would be easy peasy, lemon squeezy for me. Yeah…not so much after our upgrade. Everything was going swimmingly until I got to one of the last graphs I was making. For whatever reason, Excel decided that the labels for the horizontal axis (Is it the X axis? The Y axis? The LMNOP axis? I have no clue.) should be right smack dab in the middle of the chart. “Huh, that’s weird,” I thought. So I clicked on the labels. A box miraculously appeared around them along with that little four-point arrow thingy (Yes, I’m very technical, thank you for noticing) that shows up when you need to move something, like a box, for instance. “Oh good,” I naively murmured to myself. “I’ll just move it down to where it’s supposed to be.”

So I move the arrow thingy to what I think is the box around the axis labels and attempt to drag them down to the bottom of the graph. Nothing happens. I try again, and again, nothing happens. The box doesn’t move, even though it looks like it should. It acts like it should. But there it stayed, in the middle of the chart mucking up the whole thing. “What the what?” I asked, my annoyance level rising ever so slightly. The box was there, I’m sure of it. I did learn enough in my high school geometry class to recognize a rectangle when I see one (that’s about all I learned, though). But no matter what I did, that stupid box stayed put. Forty-five minutes later, after clicking, double clicking, triple clicking, right clicking, staring blankly at the “format axis” screen, searching through the so-called “help” section, and a few choice curse words slipping out under my breath, I was ready to rip my hair out and chuck my monitor into the hallway. I sat at my desk, completely perplexed and slightly enraged that this tiny set of labels was getting the better of me. Luckily a coworker discovered my plight and offered a solution, found through a Google search, that solved the problem. She was probably walking by my office and heard me muttering, “WHAT, Excel? What am I supposed to do? Just move the box. Pleeeeeeeease move the box. Pretty please? GAAAAHHH! New and improved, my ass.” I was picturing some dweeby computer programmer sitting at his desk at Microsoft, pushing his glasses up his nose, adjusting his pocket protector, and saying in a snivelly voice, “This will be fun! Let’s make it impossible for someone to format the axis labels when they make a line graph! Payback for all those times I got shoved into my locker in high school!”  

I mean, come on. In the old version of Excel, I could make these graphs in minutes and move on to the next task. In this new version, though, I may as well have been trying to decipher hieroglyphics while coming up with a formula to build a nuclear bomb. I was a little comforted to know, though, that I wasn’t alone in my ignorance. The Google search performed by my colleague turned up message board posts, website queries, and questions from many other people who had come across the same frustrating Excel oddity that I had. Thank the lord that someone out there had the answer and was nice enough to post it online. Otherwise, I’d probably still be sitting at my desk two weeks later, bald, with a crazed look in my eye, rocking slightly back and forth in my chair, my monitor shattered to bits, mumbling, “Move the box…move the box…”

It shouldn’t be that hard. It just shouldn’t. I’m convinced that the people who created Office 2010 have never actually USED Office 2010. If they had, it wouldn’t be so user-unfriendly, complicated, and frustrating. There should be some kind of law or regulation that requires companies to have a panel of everyday people who test any kind of program that’s going to be used in offices throughout the world before it’s actually sold. The computer nerds making these programs would probably learn very quickly that what seems great and forward-thinking to them translates to headaches for normal people. The testers could point out what works, what doesn’t, what’s too hard to find, what doesn’t make sense, what’s difficult when it should be easy, and why “new and different” doesn’t always equate to “better.” That will probably never happen, though, so I better just get used to being frustrated when I sit down at a computer. And invest in wigs. Lots of wigs.   


  1. I vote for a long, bleached blonde wig. LOL!

  2. Updates are so frustrating...KIM!!