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Computer & IT

To set up your computer for working at LMU, and for user guides / troubleshooting guides for standard scientific software, see the subpage tabs on the left.

Computer Use Standards
Computers are the most-relied-upon tool in the sciences. They won't get you a PhD, but they ought to get you there better than in the paper days. Learn how to use them time-efficiently and properly: bad computer usage is as time- and resource-wasteful as bad lab practices, and losing access to / overview of data (file management and housekeeping) or communications (email) due to sloppy organisation is as bad as working at a pigsty bench or losing your lab-book.

* Learn to Type. Finish your work faster by investing in a few days of skills training. Check your speed: if it's less than 60 WPM then use a trainer unless you want to spend even longer typing your thesis / grant / scholarship applications. (It's not only about time; bad typing technique will hurt your hands on long documents - when writing your PhD, the last thing you need is even more pain.)
* Maintain your Data Organised. Process raw data as it comes in, file the processed data by project/type/date-description with conclusions attached, and copy processed material to a summary folder you can share with colleagues to discuss. Maintain a high-level graphical or tabellar overview of each project (Excel results or ChemDraw schemes, etc) at the top of each project folder. Tip: use Li's Rule: If you can't find "it" in 30 seconds when asked, then your file system is crap and you need to overhaul it. Use the group standards (see handout).
* Organise email into folders and subfolders using a mail client (Thunderbird, Mail, etc). When your inbox hits 100 you've lost touch with ongoing tasks, collaborators, etc. Having access to an email search function is not good enough. Apply Li's Rule as above.
* Learn about image formats, image quality and compression. When you get it wrong, your images look terrible while taking up megabytes of space & making programs crash; when you get it right, they should be crisp, vectorial / text-searchable, and take only a few kilobytes. Quick check - if you've ever depicted text on a .jpg, .png, or .tiff file, you're doing it wrong.
* Think how a computer "reads" if you want it to help you manage your data. Example: name digital files of experiments or notes starting with the date in a computer-useful format, ie. "20180913" instead of September 13th 2018 (eg. Cortisone/Analysis/CDSpectra/20180913_MX13frac4 260nm). The filesystem can now chronologically order your files for you.
* Microsoft Office is rarely the Answer. Word is for writing multi-page documents and/or where formatting the layout for a printed page is needed. If you're only going to read it on-screen, skip the complications and use a text-only filetype (no in-page formatting): plain text files (.txt) from Notepad or TextEdit are tiny (0.2 kB), load instantly on all operating systems, sync easily, never crash, and are compatible forever; rich text files (.rtf) with basic formatting are enough for on-screen reading. Powerpoint is a talk presentation tool, not a data organisation system. For on-screen presentations build PDF documents with vectorial figures instead, using a proper layout handler. Excel is only good as a spreadsheet program - build vectorial PDF graphs using graphing software (Prism, Igor, Origin) instead.