Home Contact Us
Contact Us


Section 1 Introduction

Section 2 Word Processor

Section 3 Spreadsheet

Section 4 Database

Section 5 Presentation 

Section 6 Computer Aided Design (CAD) 


Description:  This unit introduces the most commonly used computer software packages; it explains what they can do and how they are used.

Author:  Gates MacBain Associates

Section 1  Introduction

One of the major advances in recent years has been that of Information Technology (IT). In any professional employment these days you will need an understanding and the ability to use a number of the types of applications. We will be looking at the Microsoft Office suite which is the most commonly used, though others available are very similar and the principles are very much the same. In this unit we will look at: 
  •        Word Processors (Microsoft Word)
  •        Spreadsheets (Excel)
  •        Databases (Access)
  •        Presentation Programmes (PowerPoint)
  •        Computer Aided Drafting
Your ability and familiarisation with these programmes will determine the speed that you are able to work your way through this unit.  The aim is to ensure that you have a basic understanding and are able to carry out simple tasks using the software. We will start with the most commonly use application, the word processor.

Section 2  Word Processor

Aims and Objectives

  • At the end of this section you should have a basic working knowledge of Word and be able to manipulate a word document.

A word processor is a computer application used for the composition, editing, formatting and printing of any printable material. 

Word processors are applications that enable text to be imputed and manipulated prior to printing. They allow the easy working of the printed word and the inclusion of photos and graphics. They also allow the following functions: 
  • Formatting – size, fonts, colour and highlighting – can personalize a document or allow a ‘House style’
  • Spelling and grammar checks – this can automatically correct any mistakes or makes suggestions
  • Page numbering – will number all pages and automatically change the numbering if additional pages are inserted or removed
  • Indexing – allows an index to be created which is useful for academic work
  • Headers and footers – useful for multi page documents if you want something to appear on every page
  • Search and replace – enables you to search for a particular word and replace it with another i.e to change a name
  • Footnotes and referencing – inserts the footnotes which are automatically renumbered as new ones are inserted
  • Collaborative editing and comments – allows a number of people to suggest editing or make comments on a document
  • Merging of letters with addresses – enables personalised letters to be sent by extracting information of the recipient from a data base
  • Data presentation in tables – enables tables to be inserted for the display of data
  • Word count – enables the number of words or characters to be counted
  • Thesaurus function – enables alternative words to be suggested
  • Enables shapes and images to be inserted and manipulated
Word 2007 also enables a number of additional functions such as the translation into a foreign language or the insertion of mathematical formulae.   

Templates can be set up to be used for different types of documents to allow data to be inserted.   

Word processing has a number of advantages:    
  • They can create professional looking documents simply and quickly
  • Allows documents to be saved, retrieved and reused
  • Editing allows changes to be made quickly and economically
So let’s start getting to know Word.    

You will need access to a computer that has word installed on it, most computers at colleges or universities will have this, though check with your tutor.  If you have a computer at home you will need to ensure that you have word installed on this, although many computers come with Microsoft Works pre-installed and the word processor in that is very similar to Word.   

To open word or works left click on the start button at the bottom left hand side of your screen then select the appropriate programme.  This will open the programme and a new blank document. You can have a look round the screen at the icons that have appeared and try to become familiar with the screen layout.  You should then visit the Microsoft website and work your way through the tutorial.   

Once you have completed the tutorial you should attempt the Assessment task below.    


Self-Assessment Task

  • Carry out the practice exercise and the test at the end of the Word tutorial.

Section 3 Spreadsheet

Aims and Objectives

  • At the end of this section you should have a basic working knowledge of Excel and be able to manipulate a spreadsheet document.

A spreadsheet is a computer application that simulates a paper worksheet. It displays multiple cells that together make up a grid consisting of rows and columns, each cell contains either alphanumeric text or numeric values. The cell may alternatively contain a formula that defines how the contents of that cell is to be calculated from the contents of any other cell (or combination of cells) each time any cell is updated. Spreadsheets are frequently used for financial information because of their ability to re-calculate the entire sheet automatically after a change to a single cell is made. 

  • Record and store data
  • Carry out a search for a particular item of data
  • Perform calculations
  • Produce charts and graphs to display the data
Microsoft have a number of tutorials, which you can find at the Microsoft Website Excel Tutorials. Look at the options and select the one which is appropriate to your level of knowledge. 

When you want to work on the spreadsheet go through the opening procedure that you learnt for Word, though click on Excel.  


Self-Assessment Task

  • Carry out the practice exercise and the test at the end of the Excel tutorial.

Section 4  Database

Aims and Objectives

  • At the end of this section you should have a basic working knowledge of Access and be able to use and produce a basic Database.

A database is a structured collection of records or data that is stored in a computer system. The system is similar to a phone book or a card catalogue and is designed in such a way that it enables the computer to search and the retrieve the information very quickly. They are particularly useful if you have a lot of data which you need to be able to retrieve quickly. You can also use them to generate reports which provides specific information i.e what are the marks for the students first assignment.


Self-Assessment Task

  • Carry out the practice exercise and the test at the end of the Access tutorial.

Section 5  Presentation Programmes

Aims and Objectives

  • At the end of this section you should have a basic working knowledge of PowerPoint and be able to produce a PowerPoint Presentation.

A presentation program is a computer software package used to display information, normally in the form of a slide show. It typically includes three major functions:  
  • an editor that allows text to be inserted and formatted,
  • a method for inserting and manipulating graphic images
  • a slide-show system to display the content.
If you have to give a presentation at any time the use of a presentation programme such as PowerPoint enables you to project a professional image and convey information in an organised and interesting way.  

Use of Presentations 

You will probably be familiar with lecturers using this and the most common way is to project slides onto a screen and the lecturer to talk about them, moving on to the next slide when finished. 

An alternative is to include the voice into the presentation and for the slide to automatically advance when the audio has been delivered. Animation can be built into the slide so that pictures fly in or out or graphics can show how something is built up.  It is also possible to insert a video and to have music in the background. 

Microsoft have a number of tutorials at the link below. You should play the “Up to Speed with PowerPoint” to get a guided tour of PowerPoint.  If you subsequently want to learn more, or if you are familiar with PowerPoint then you can run some of the other tutorials.  


Self-Assessment Task

  • Carry out the practice exercise and the test at the end of the PowerPoint tutorial.

Section 6  Computer Aided Design (CAD)

Aims and Objectives

  • At the end of this section you should be able to explain the purpose of CAD.

The letters CAD stand for computer-aided design. Architects, architectural technicians and engineers use CAD software to create plans and construction drawings. 

Before the age of computers, drawings and blueprints were drafted by hand, which was a time consuming task and it meant that any alterations would involve the redrawing and replacement of plans or drawings.  CAD is more efficient because the software records lines as vectors based on mathematical equations. Portions of a drawing can be twisted, stretched, or moved. The picture as a whole will automatically adjust which then just needs to be printed off.

CAD also has a number of other advantages in that the drafter can:
  • Switch between two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) views.
  • Zoom in and out for close-up and distant views.
  • Rotate images to view them from different perspectives.
  • Change the scale of images: When one value changes, related values are automatically adjusted.
  • Manipulate the shape of images: Changing one portion of an image automatically changes the entire picture.
There are many CAD software applications. One of the most popular programmes is AutoCAD and details of this can be found by clicking on the AutoCAD link below.

It is possible to find tutorials on the web (See Tutorials link) but CAD is a specialist subject area and if you are interested in it you should do a special course, your tutor may be able to advise you on this. 


Self-Assessment Task

  • Discuss the use and advantages of using CAD over a drawing board.

Site Map