Friday, September 9, 2016

Have you ever tried learning three kinds of software, that serve the same function, at the same time?

I haven't until this week. That's why my weekly Wednesday post is appearing today, Friday.

There are three main brands of Indexing software: Cindex, Macrex and Sky (yes, it sounds like a science-fiction law firm). Indexing training courses require that you learn all three. My course actually requires the three only for the first project, which can seem very inconvenient at first glance, but now that I have been exposed to all three I see the value in trying each one out and knowing how to use more than one. It is remarkable, at least to me, that these software which results in the same product in the same format--an index--are so very, very different in layout and method.

I approach software from the perspective of someone who a) is bad at online tutorials--I'm better at trying it out in with an expert at hand--in other words a classroom or tech center of sorts--to help until I get it right and b) as someone who has used Macs and WYSIWIG since 1990 and is allergic to anything involving command lines and DOS interface (not a good mentality because it has kept me from learning HTML). I bought a Mac in 1990, brought it to Hungary when I worked on a newspaper, bought my first Mac laptop in Vienna around 1994. Back in the U.S. in 1997, I stupidly was talked into saving money with a Mac knockoff desktop and a Dell Inspiron laptop, but by late 2000 I was back on Mac at work at home. Grad school had mostly Macs, my longtime school didn't, but my most recent school did. I have an Iphone and just got my daughter one as reward for doing well in school last year. Over the past decade PCs caught up, at least, with WYSIWIG so I can handle both but you are not likely to see me off Mac again.

Which brings me back to the three Indexing softwear programs. Naturally, I approach them from that spoiled Mac perspective. At the same time, I want the flexibility to work on any platform that is required of me. At least two these programs were developed in the DOS days and you can tell. I first tried Cindex at the request of the indexer I corresponded with in August. Cindex has the most boring interface I have ever seen. But it is very, very simple to do basics with and there aren't a ton of commands to remember. So I'm fine with it. And--unlike the other two programs--there is a Mac version. So for financial and operational reasons, I was already favoring it before I even started the course.

At the beginning of the week I got started with the other two and my first exercises and projects. Just upgrading my system to meet their requirements took a day of false starts and frustration, but it got done. Macrex and Sky CAN operate on a Mac, but you need a program called Parallels to do it. Parallels enables you to create a Windows platform that can be run simultaneously with your Mac platform (sorry if I'm using the wrong terminology here but I'm not a techie). So I paid for a year subscription to Parallels and downloaded it. I thought I would have to buy Windows, but Parallels provides you with Windows 10. I don't know if it's a demo version, but it was all I needed. I downloaded the other two programs and got started.

The Macrex phone rep/trainer who is familiar with my course requirements is enormously helpful. She got me going on both programs by using Citrix (the screen-sharing program). When I first viewed the Macrex interface, though, I sucked my breath in in horror because the interface liked as DOS-sy as anything I had seen on my college newspaper computers in the mid-1980s. And it was all about using the top-key commands, control, option, alt and top-key F1-12 commands, and that is not my thing.

Why does Macrex rely on all of these instead of menus and mice? I asked her. Her reply made sense--using key commands keeps your fingers on the keyboard and therefore gives you more speed ---and the faster you can create indices the more money you can make. Okay, that makes sense. I do use key commands, just not exclusively. It's hard for me to remember number / key combinations. But she says eventually you do get finger memory of it. It's worth the attempt, I guess. She also said Macrex has functions for doing embedded, electronic indexes that the other two don't--that reason alone is enough for me to keep at it.

So yesterday, I did my exercises on Cindex and Macrex. Next I tried Sky. I was already prejudiced against it because I already had used Cindex several times successfully, and I liked the Macrex trainer's reasoning for using her program.

This time I was also shocked at first glance at Sky, but not in a bad way like with the first glance at Macrex. Why? Because the Sky interface looks pretty much like Microsoft Word which if one is not familiar with in this day and age one should not even be working on a computer. Self-teaching was much easier. I did the exercise on it, but then got confused with all of the Windows file management stuff and managed to lose both the program and the file. So I'm going to redo that right now :).

What it boils down to is the very reasoning behind the course requirement of trying all three--they ARE very different, each with different advantages and disadvantages. It's too early for me to choose but I don't have to for quite a while. Financially and computer-wise, Cindex makes more sense--I won't have to pay for Parallels, but Parallels is not so costly that it would be a decisor. Whichever one I end up with, I want to know all three, anyway.

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