My experiences creating a journal entry using a word processor, calculating percentages in a spreadsheet, developing a presentation, and manipulating a database were more challenging than I expected. I am familiar with all four of these applications, and most of my time was spent decoding the instructions to make sure I satisfied the assignment requirements. Each application is appropriate in different situations. Skills using each are valuable in both professional and personal pursuits.
The word processor Microsoft Word is best suited for producing documents that will be printed on paper or viewed online as scanned pages. I used it for this assignment to create a descriptive list of ten tasks I completed in one day, and I am using it to write this essay. The functions I used were formatting text and fonts to create an easy to read numbered list. The ease of use is taken much for granted these days. My first word processor was WordPerfect 5.1. It had a preview option that saved paper by letting you see what the pages would look like before printing. The next version had a “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) graphical component that modern word processors now run natively.
The spreadsheet program Microsoft Excel handles number well. Word can create tables, but math functions are limited, and the manipulation of data is difficult. I used Excel to complete the exercise of calculating percentages with formulae, sorting rows according to the contents of cells, and creating a pie chart. I do not remember when I first learned about spreadsheets (perhaps Lotus 123), but I use Excel every day at work. I am always looking for new ways to use Excel. Several months ago I learned to use the Absolute Reference $ and used it in this exercise to quickly copy the percentage formula down using Ctrl D.
The presentation software Microsoft PowerPoint is well suited for use as a visual aid while presenting to a live audience. I created a visual tour of my day at work for giving a short presentation to an audience interested in what I do for a living. PowerPoint is also useful for creating training slides. I have used it at work to document modem activation procedures with our telecommunications provider. I agree with Hans Rosling that physical props (analog) on stage can be more effective than a PowerPoint (digital) presentation (Rosling, 2010). I have presented several times in professional situations, and I prefer real-world demonstrations because I like using hands-on technology to share what I know.
The relational database software application Microsoft Access is useful for storing data in structured tables. The assignment provided a template for experimenting with the functions of a database using two related tables. I entered task data and performed sorts according to priority. This application is appropriate for storing large amounts of data that need validation for input and can be queried to find useful correlations of the data (Vahid & Lysecky, 2017, sect. 5.4). Excel has many of the functions of a database but lacks a robust set of commands and a secure method of storage. Access would be a good choice for maintaining a large mailing list.
For documenting the journal of a day, my recommendation depends on the end-use of the document. Word is appropriate if publishing a list and short explanation of each task is all that is needed. PowerPoint would be a better application to convey a sense of how each task looks and feels. Access can include the document created with Word, so I recommend it for inclusion on a web site or blog.
The functions of each determine the role of the four applications discussed here. Word’s ability to format text is best for creating printable content. Excel is best for crunching numbers and creating charts. PowerPoint’s ability to incorporate graphics and animation is great for presenting to an audience and creating training aids. Access stores data in a structure that is useful for making sense of the data. Having the knowledge and skill to use each application effectively is valuable.
Rosling, H. (2010, June). Global population growth, box by box. [Video file]. Retrieved from www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_on_global_population_growth?/
Vahid, F., & Lysecky, S. (2017). Computing technology for all. Retrieved from zybooks.zyante.com/