Sometimes you know better than your software does what you want to accomplish with it. Making your tools smarter and faster will make you more productive.
Early word processing applications made hyphenation a no-brainer for typewriter and computer users. But today’s more sophisticated tools don’t always eliminate similar detail-relatd headaches that consume so much of your time and attention. As versatile and familiar as these tools are, their increasingly complex user interfaces can slow down everyday tasks, making deadlines more stressful, and not always producing better work.
The graphical user interface (GUI) with its pointing device turned many competent typists into layout artists, freehand illustrators, photo retouchers, and “digital creatives”. This got many of us away from thinking as programmers. But “more visual” is not the same thing as “more intuitive”. All those on-screen menus, dialog boxes, and mouse gestures add up! Accessing and executing commands with gestures instead of keystrokes still requires a similar level of accuracy and memorization for a user to be productive.
Fortunately, most leading desktop applications feature programming languages, and application programming interfaces (APIs). Different applications have different names for them: Microsoft Office applications call them commands, and group them in macros; Adobe’s PhotoShop and InDesign call them actions and group them in action sets. These can be accessed inside of each application’s native user interface. Alternatively, they can be executed inside of other programs called shell scripts.
In many cases, projects can become so large and repetitive that it no longer makes sense to do it all by hand. In these situations, you can benefit from some degree of automation.
Designing a process that significantly reduces the amount of manual effort is worth the investment. Users that don’t want to entrust an exacting task to full automation can use partial automation to factor out of their concern the routine details that only slow them down. These same tools and APIs allow you to automate as much of the process as you are comfortable with letting go of.
A partially automated process:
- Reduces user interactions: Locating commands, accessing pulldown menus and clicking through those default buttons on pop-up windows are all actions performed by humans – at human speed. A feature-rich – even over-engineered – software interface will require more care and attention than the task itself! With partial automation, you save time lost to visual search, and repetitive point-and-click operations).
- Increases the number of pre-set values: Tools come with many default values. Some of these you may want to set once, even though the user interface is designed for you to set them each time you access a dialog box. Partial automation saves time lost to repetitive low-level data entry and detail management.
- Focuses user attention on only the details that matter: You can go as fast or as slow as it takes to produce the desired level of quality.
- Allows for human interaction while minimizing human error: You can step through a photo conversion or search-and-replace process where each item’s details are unique but the end result is the same. You can address peculiar cases and perform additional operations that an unusual or non-standard item will require. This way, not only do you gain speed in the majority of cases, your partially automated solution is able to handle more exceptional cases easily.
All of these benefits improve your precision and your efficiency. In a fast-paced design or marketing department with many external deadlines, time (savings) is of the essence. Automation doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” proposition. Let us help you get started on a comfortable – and cost effective – approach for helping you get a little more done in a little less time!