Introduction to Text
A computer is primarily thought of as a machine used to perform word processing. Although that almost remains the major role assigned to computers at the home and office levels, it is not the only one. The fact is, the techniques used in word processing are applied to most other applications. That's why it is imperative that you grab all the intricacies of manipulating text. Thanks to its electronic features, the computer offers techniques of copying, pasting, moving, and deleting text in settings that manual processing cannot match.
Any one word or a group of words that appear on the screen is referred to as text. Such text must be created before you can use it. In some cases you will use text created by someone else and in some other cases you will need to create your own. Once text displays to you, the most basic operation you can perform is to read it in order to identify it. In some cases you will be asked only to read it. In some other cases, you may be asked to remove some characters or some words. You may also be sent some text that you must examine, approve, disapprove or modify. If you are asked only to read text, you can read it and move to some other assignment.
In the beginning, you may be asked to start a brand new text, from scratch. If you are presented with some text and you are expected to modify it, you must be equipped with the techniques used to manipulate text.
The techniques we will review here are universal and you should be able to regularly apply them to any type of text you are presented with, regardless of the application.
If you are starting a new document or some control that expects text from you, the first action you may take is to type, using the keyboard and its keys as we reviewed in Lesson 2. To do this, you can first use the mouse and click in the area where you are supposed to type.
When you click in an area that either contains text or expects text from you, a short vertical bar appears and starts blinking but doesn't move. This bar is called the caret. To enter text, you press the desired key on the keyboard. When a letter or a symbol has been entered, the caret moves one character to the right (in US English and Latin based languages) and starts blinking again, indicating that it is ready. If you keep typing, the caret keeps moving to the right. If the caret gets to the most right position but you keep typing, it gets automatically moved to the next line.
The presence of the caret lets you know where the next character would appear if you type. For this reason, before typing, you must make sure that, at all times, you know where the caret is.
There are various categories of items you will create by combining keys:
As we saw in Lesson 2, a letter is a symbol recognized by the alphabet and that is used to create spoken words. To get a letter in your document, you can press its corresponding key or the necessary combination to get its uppercase equivalent
A space is an empty character; that is, a character non-visible and non-readable. A space can be used to separate two characters or two groups of characters. To create space after typing one character, press the space bar. The space bar is the long empty bar on your keyboard and closer to your body; normally, it is in the same range as the Alt key but is wider than most or all keys on your keyboard.
A word is a combination of letters that produce a recognizable item of your language, which could be part of the English language. Therefore, to get a word, you type the desired characters together. This means that there is no empty space inside of a word. Examples of words are computer, world, floor, mean.
Although most words are readable, you can also use or make up words that are not known to anybody or are known to only a few. Example are #define, or _stdcall.
An abbreviation is a word or a combination of words that represent something that would take too many characters or words to use. Abbreviations are not known to everybody and there are no strict rules as to how they are created. For these reasons, a group of people who use a certain abbreviation agree on it. This also means that an abbreviation that is familiar to one group of people may not be familiar to another group of people. This also means that an abbreviation is not part of a language: it is only agreed upon to have meaning to, or by, those who use it. Examples are EAU, US, SW, USA, U.S., U.S.A, UN, RDC, LOL, MI, i.e., etc, and eg.
An expression is a group of words that a group of people decide on its meaning. Like an abbreviation, an expression is created by some people and is not necessarily part of a language but those who use it agree on its meaning. Like an abbreviation, an expression known to one group of people may not be known to another group of people, whether both groups speak the same language or not. Examples of expressions are vis-à-vis, H2O.
A number is primarily a digit or a combination of digits. Examples are 2 or 508 or 32793. To make large numbers easier to read, there are rules applied in some languages. For example, to make a number such as 15423576497 easier to read or present, you can separate its thousands with a special character. Such a character is called the thousands separator. To know what this character is, you can open the Control Panel window (if you are using Microsoft Windows Server 2003, you can click Start -> Control Panel), double-click (if you are using Microsoft Windows Server 2003, then click) Regional and Language Options, click Customize and observe the character of the Digit Grouping Symbol combo box:
This character depends on the language that your computer is configured to use:
Based on this, the character used in US English as the thousand separator is the comma. Therefore, you can use it to easily read 15423576497 by representing it with 15,423,576,497.
The numbers we have mentioned so far are referred to as natural numbers. Another category of numbers is referred to as decimal. This type of number uses a fractional part to specify that the last part of the number is not a complete digit. To indicate this, the number includes another character called the Decimal Symbol. This character also depends on the language of the computer. You can find it out in the Customize Regional Options dialog box from the Regional And Language Options dialog box of Control Panel. The character is represented in the Decimal Symbol combo box. In US English, the Decimal Symbol is the period. Examples are 3.15 or 70,449,579.64
The numbers we have used so far are referred to as positive because they were higher than 0. In some cases, you will deal with numbers that are lower than 0. Such numbers are referred to as negative. To indicate that a number is negative, you MUST use a special character. Once again, to find out what this character is, refer to the Customize Regional Options dialog box. The negative symbol can be identified in the Negative Sign Symbol combo box. In US English, this character is the minus symbol "-". Therefore, to indicate that a number is negative, in a US English document, you must type - to the left of the number. Based on this rule, always remember that if you omit or forget the - symbol, the number is considered positive (in computer programming, if a number doesn't have a sign, it is referred to as "unsigned").
A line of text can be an empty space that stands on its own but that can display a caret. For example, here is an empty line of text between this text and the next:
A line can also be a group of letters, symbols or words that use a common horizontal alignment. A line of text can be characterized by its length. This means that a line of text can have a length of 0, 1, 5, 20, 40, or 80 characters, etc. The length of a line of text can depend on the application used or on the user. For example, in Notepad, you can set the length of its lines of text by enlarging or narrowing the Notepad window. Here is Notepad displaying a piece of text in four lines of text. In this case, the maximum length of a line of text is 62 characters:
Here is Notepad displaying the same text in seven lines. In this case, the maximum length of a line of text is 37 characters:
In some other applications, you can modify the length of a line of text inside of the document. For example, in Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, WordPad, or OpenOffice.org Text, you can narrow the margins.
To create a line of text, simply type the desired text. If you continue typing and the caret gets to the end of the line, it would automatically be moved to the next line. This means that the application would automatically create the lines of text as it judges them necessary.
A paragraph is an empty line of text, a character, a word, a group of words, or a group of lines of text that stands on its own. Unlike a line of text, and it is very important to understand the difference, a paragraph must be explicitly created: the application is not meant to create paragraphs for you.
To create a paragraph, at any time, you must press Enter. Once again, notice that you don't create a line of text by pressing Enter:
Now that you know how to use the mouse, the keyboard, and the Internet, you should learn keyboarding. Keyboarding is the ability to type professionally. Although it may appear as a waste of time, it absolutely is not. In fact, you should invest in learning it.
If you are taking a class at an institution, the school may (should) provide equipment to you to learn keyboarding. If you are on your own, you can go to a computer store and purchase software that would guide you with keyboarding. Just ask the sales person if the store has a keyboarding software, that is, software that teaches how to type professionally. You can also go to your local library, if you have one, and ask the clerk about keyboarding books. Some of them may come with software in them.
There are many sites that provide good lessons on keyboarding. On a search engine web site such as Google, Alexa, or Yahoo, do a search on "keyboarding". Check different sites to see what they offer. Because of our position, we cannot give a recommendation. Besides, sites change all the time. The features to look for are that: the early lessons should show you how to position your fingers, the early lessons should start on the middle characters, for QWERTY keyboard, these should be asdf;lkjg and h. Other than that, the whole thing is about practicing and, unfortunately, no one else can do it for you.
After creating text you can make it fancy or professionally looking by applying the techniques of text formatting. Before exploring some of the formatting attributes available to a word processor, there are two important things you should learn first: techniques of document navigation and text selection.
Navigating through text is the ability to move the caret or the mouse cursor among the various characters or sections of text. The easiest way to move the caret to any section of the document is to click the desired position. If you click between two characters, the caret would be positioned between those two. If you click in the middle of a letter, the operating system would calculate the shortest distance to a border of the letter and position the caret there: Neither the caret nor the cursor can be positioned in the middle of a character. For example, if you try clicking the letter M, if your mouse landed between the left border of the letter and the left diagonal, the caret would be positioned to the left of M. If you try clicking M and your mouse lands between the right diagonal and the right border of the letter, the caret would be positioned to the right of M.
You can also perform text navigation using the keyboard:
All these operations are managed by the operating system. This means that they usually don't depend on the application you are using.
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