In this month's guest editorial, Apple Applications Editor and Assistant Book Editor Gregg Keizer takes a poke or two at Senior Editor Richard Mansfield. Is he left with a mouse? You decide.
—Robert Lock, Editor In Chief
Mouseketeer. 1. One who wears large, black ears—usually found in Southern California, Florida, or Tokyo. 2. One who uses a small, hand-controlled device (see mouse) to direct a computer's actions.
Last month's Editor's Notes raised some interesting points concerning the two methods of "talking" to computers currently in vogue. Senior Editor Richard Mansfield argued that entering direct commands through the keyboard—such as DIR (DIRectory) or CLS (CLear Screen)—is more desirable than using a mouse. Mouseketeers, he claimed, may have the advantage in learning to use mouse-based software, but in the long run sacrifice power and flexibility.
Not all of us agree. The mouse and its system of pull-down menus, dialog boxes, and pictorial symbols (icons) are here to stay; not only here to stay, but pushing keyboard commands out the window.
Ease of Use. The Macintosh established a new standard in making computers easy to use. And it's no accident that newer machines, like the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga, are adopting similar systems. The reasons are obvious.
There's no doubt that mouse-driven operation is easier than typing in commands. From the first time you turn on the computer, managing an operating system and using applications software are far simpler with a mouse and its environment. Intuitive is a key word here. Pointing and pressing a single button, selecting and reading, are intuitive. If a child wants something, he or she points to it. Adults haven't forgotten how to do that.
Probably the best test of ease of use is how fast you can get moving in a new program. I recently began using Page-Maker, a page-layout and design program for the Macintosh. It's definitely an advanced application. Yet, because I was familiar with mouseketeering, I was able to produce and print a page in less than an hour—without more than a glance at the thin manual. Everything was intuitive. Rulers and guides were pulled into place, words typed just where they belonged, and graphics taken from files and cropped to the right size. Contrast that with a more traditional program like WordStar, the quintessential keyboard-based word processor. For what it does, WordStar is just as sophisticated as PageMaker. Yet there are commands I have to look up when I'm using WordStar, even though I've written thousands of words with it over the last three years. Few of us can remember two or three dozen commands for every program we use.
Know one, know all. If you were simply dealing with the computer's operating system—the way the machine handles such tasks as deleting or renaming files—mouse and keyboard might be more comparable. But most of us don't spend that much time with the operating system. We use the computer to run programs for a specific task. A spreadsheet one time, a word processor the next. With a mouse-driven computer and well-written software, it's as easy to learn and use one program as another. The knowledge base is there. Knowing how to make a menu choice in Multiplan means you know how to do the same in Microsoft Word. You don't have to spend time learning the basics over and over.
What it does, not how it does it. Given these aspects of mouseketeering, why would anyone want to use keyboard commands? The usual reason is that you can get inside the computer, controlling it more directly. Power user is a term that often crops up.
Yet even the IBM PC is succumbing to mouseketeers. Operating environments like Topview, Microsoft Windows, and GEM, all which use Macintosh-like control, are having an impact. One of the bestselling accessories for the IBM PC is a mouse. Popular software like Sidekick uses extensive menus.
More people are interested in doing something easily and quickly with the computer than in trying to remember how to do something easily and quickly.
This is a key to pulling more people into computing. Most people won't stand for complex directions on a computer any more than they'll tolerate thick manuals for a microwave or VCR. We want to do something with our tools, and we want to do it now, not in three days. That may be instant gratification, but computer manufacturers must realize it's vital to their success.
That's why the introduction of the ST and Amiga, and the continuing sales of the Macintosh, show so much promise for computing. Computer intimidation will be long forgotten once the A > prompt becomes history. Mouseketeering is no Mickey Mouse concept—it's the preferred gateway to a computer.
Next month, by popular demand, COMPUTE! is kicking off the new year with an exciting new service: the compute! disk. Now you can get all the programs for your computer without hours of typing. Each quarterly disk will contain every program published for your machine in the current and two previous issues, ready to load and run. The first disk, for the Commodore 64/128, has all the programs in the January 1986 issue—including the professional-quality spreadsheet, SpeedCalc—and all the programs from the November and December 1985 issues. As a special bonus, the January 1986 disk also includes SpeedScript 3.2, an updated version of COMPUTE!'s popular word processor. The Apple COMPUTE! DISK debuts in February 1986, followed by the Atari COMPUTE! DISK in March and the IBM COMPUTE! DISK in April. The Apple and Atari disks also willz feature SpeedCalc and SpeedScript.
Each COMPUTE! DISK costs only $12.95 plus $1 shipping and handling. Or you can order a year's subscription for $39.95 (a $12 savings). Call TOLL FREE 1-800-334-0868 (in NC call 1-919-275-9809) 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. eastern standard time. To order by mail, send check or money order to COMPUTE! Publications, Inc., P.O. Box 5058, Greensboro, NC 27403 USA. Readers outside the U.S. and Canada add $2 shipping and handling. All orders must be prepaid in U.S. funds.