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Creating Presentation Slides: A Study of Task-Specific vs. Generic Application Software

Johnson, Jeff A.; Nardi, Bonnie A.



Abstract: A study was conducted to investigate the use of task-generic vs. task-specific application software by people who create and maintain presentation slides. Sixteen people who prepare and maintain presentations as part of their jobs were interviewed to determine: what is involved in that task, what software they use for it, how well the software they use supports the task. The informants varied in how central slide-preparation was to their jobs. The hypothesis driving the study was that: 1) some software applications are intended for use in a wide-variety of tasks, while others are intended to support very specific tasks; 2) software that is specific to the task at hand is preferable, but is often not used because of cost, learning effort, or lack of availability; and 3) people who infrequently perform a task tend to use generic tools, while people who often perform it tend to use task-specific tools. Our findings suggest that the truth is more complex: 1) task-specificity/genericness is not a single dimension: there are different kinds of task-specificity; 2) how much the user knows about the task is at least as important as how frequently s/he performs it in deter- mining what type of software is most suitable; and 3) most informants use several software products of varying degree -- and type -- of task specificity in combination to produce and maintain slides.

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