Gotta Be An Easier Way

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Archive for the ‘Browsers’ Category

Readability

This is one of those simple tools that can make all the difference in the world in one’s browsing experience. In a single click Readability removes all the clutter from a web page and simply leaves you with the text formatted in a way that makes reading online very comfortable. Rather than trying to explain what Readability does consider the following:

The following is a screen capture of Tony Bates blog in its raw state. While it is not a busy as some blogs it does have some activity at the top and bottom.
bates-before
After clicking on the Readability button in the browser, Tony’s blog is now completely uncluttered and easy to read.
bates-after
The tool is so simple and easy to use that it doesn’t require any installation or usage instructions other than what are available on the Readability site.

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  • Filed under: Browsers
  • WayBackMachine

    The Internet Archive was founded to build an Internet library, with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format. Want to see what a website looked like 2, 3, 4 or more years ago–just use the Internet Archives WayBackMaching and type in the URL and see what it looked like.

    Educational application:

    Great source for a historical persepective on just how far the Internet has come.

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  • Filed under: Browsers, Networking, Research, Search
  • Post to Diigo & Much More…

    In the Can You Diigo it? post Tyler offered a plethora of reason why one should use Diigo and also offered several educational uses for this excellent social bookmarking tool. I would like to further enhance  Tyler’s post by pointing to 3 powerful Diigo tools that can be added directly to your browser that make it very simple to add and access Diigo bookmarks.

    Post to Diigo is a button you add to your bookmarks toolbar by simply dragging and dropping. It allows you to bookmark the page you are on by simply clicking the button. Once you add the description, tags, privacy setting you just click the Add New Bookmark button and your bookmark is saved and Diigo then returns you to the page you were originally on.

    Diigolet is very similar to the Post to Diigo Button in that it can be set-up by simple drag-and-drop – no download or installation needed, and it works for all major browsers. In addition to simple bookmarking it also allows you to highlight and add sticky-notes.

    The Diigo Toolbar is a power tool that can enhance your online browsing and interaction experiences by providing a full sidebar listing of your bookmarks, URLs and friends. It also provides a full featured toolbar that gives you the ability to bookmark, highlight, send, read later and view recent and unread bookmarks as well as enabling advanced searching and filtering. Despite all the power and control the toolbar is very easy to install, configure and use

    Post to Diigo, Digolet and the Diigo Toolbar are just the first 3 tools listed on the Diigo Tools page so we are really still just scratching the surface when it comes to using Diigo.

    P.S. from Tyler

    When I first started using Diigo these tools that Dwayne has mentioned were invaluable, but I always disliked how much room it took up in my taskbar. For many this may not be a problem but I have many other tools that I use in my task bar as well. I happened upon a solution (by accident) to this though, I discovered that right clicking on a page you wish to bookmark, text that you wish to highlight, or both at the same time would bring up a context sensitive menu allowing almost all of the functionality right at your fingertips without having to have the other tools in the toolbar (Diigo still needs to be installed as a plugin however). I find that this solution is faster and more convenient than using the Diigolet and Diigo button. Below I attached some screenshots of the context sensitive menus.

    diigo_menudiigo_menu2

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  • Filed under: Browsers, Collaborative, Social Networking
  • Stripping out Word formatting

    In a recent conversation with a colleague I was reminded just how troublesome it can be to cut and past content from a Word document into a Blog, Content Management System (CMS), an HTML page or any other type of document or system is unable to deal with Word’s excessive formatting. Since I do most of my work online or in the Cloud I seldom use Word but instead use text editors like TextEdit, Text Wrangler, BBEdit, PFEdit and many more. Because I do most of my writing in a text editor I am not faced with dealing with Word until I inevitably have to open Word documents that come from other people. If I have to use content from a Word document the text editors that I use all have the built in ability to strip out formatting and return the document to a basic text format.

    The issue of pasting content from word into a CMS or Blog can also easily be dealt with if you have JCE or similar type web-based text editor installed in your CMS or Blog. JCE gives you the option of stripping out all formatting from Word or similar documents by giving you a special Text Paste key that does all the work. Instead of doing a direct paste into the edit screen you use the Text Past key and paste the content into the past window and JCE does the rest. textpasteIf you want to save some of the formatting from Word JCE also allows you to paste using the Word Paste key which preserves paragraphs, ordered and unordered lists and other basic formatting. Be forewarned you still need to tweak the content to deal with some of the excessive spacing Word sticks into it’s’ formatting.

    If you do not use a text editor as your primary writing tool and do not have JCE or similar editor installed in your Blog or CMS, then you need to use a special tool that will strip out Word’s formatting from your clipboard when you cut and paste. Perhaps one the best tools for stripping out Word formatting in Windows is PureText. puretext-pt1This FREE program runs from the task bar and all that you have to do to remove the formatting from the text that you have in your cllpboard is click on the PT. You can also right click on the PT for more options. PureText can also be configured to run as a hotkey so spend a bit of time on the PureText site to find the best way to configure PureText to solve your Word formatting problems.

    If you are using OSX then you will find Plain Clip 2.0 just as powerful and perhaps even easier to use than PureText–it too is FREE. Plain Clip runs as a “faceless” application which means that it has no user interface (windows, menus etc.) at all and when you doubleclick it. You  know it is working by fact that all the formatting will be stripped out of the content from the clipboard. Its just that easy!

    http://www.bluem.net/en/mac/plain-clip/

    Plain Clip – Carsten Blüm: Mac Development via kwout

    Educational Applications:
    • Indispensable tools for Blogging, working with a CMS or LMS and HTML or any other application where you need to strip out Word formatting.
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  • Filed under: Browsers, Conversion, Editors
  • Dwayne’s Top Ten Firefox Extensions

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/

    Firefox Add-ons via kwout

    In the post Why Use Firefox I stated:

    There are thousands of add-ons to choose from and with over 30 add-ons on my system. This is perhaps one the most important personal reason to use Firefox-you can make it do exactly what you want or need it to do.

    I also indicated that I would be writing about extensions and plugins in future posts and this presents a problem. Do I write about all 30+ extensions and 12 plugins I use or do I just try to provide and overview of some of the best extension or the “ones I couldn’t live without”.

    In this post I will identity Dwayne’s Top Ten Firefox extensions and provide a list of the ten extension that I load up first when I rebuild my system or experiment with a new OS or computer.

    • Diigo Bookmarks and Web Annotations – In addition to enabling you to save your bookmarks so that you can access them anywhere on the web, the system allows you to highlight, annotate and put sticky notes on pages that others can see.
    • Greasmonkey – This user script manager allow me to use a variety of greasemonkey scripts that help me enhance the functionality of Google Gmail and Google Calendar and so much more.
    • Integrated GMail – Gmail and Google apps are fundamental to the way that I work, so being able to view my Google Calendar (Reader, Notebook, Groups etc.) in a collapsible view directly below my gmail (rather than in a tabbed window) make Google apps even more efficient.
    • Kwout on Firefox – Rather than just providing a link to a website in a blog post or web page Kwout allow you to cut out a snapshot of the page that can be easily embedded creating and instant visual and text based citation for your link–keeps the copyright police happy.
    • DownloadHelper – This slick extension makes it possible to download youtube videos and many other formats of video from the web–I only do this when I will be presenting in a location where there is no guarantee of  broad band internet access.
    • Google Gears – With Gear you can use Gmail, Google Doc and much more offline.
    • Toodedo – My current web-based ToDo list manager.
    • WOT – Web of Trust warns you about potential spyware embedded in a site.
    • Linkbunch – Captures all your open browser tabs and creates a link.
    • GTD Inbox – Even though Gmail’s latest implementation of Move to & Label make some of the GTD inbox features moot, this tool is still must have to enable you to use the Get Things Done principle to organize your gmail.
    • PDF Dowload – Gives you the options of how you want to deal with a PDF – download, open view with an external viewer.

    Educational Applications:

    While only Diigo, Kwout, DownloadHelper, LinkBunch and PDF Download have direct instructional applications because they all help one to organize and present content from the web, all these above listed extensions contribute to making one more efficient.  Furthermore, these extensions provide the easiest way to do things which ultimately saves time–which is, to an instructor, the most important commodity.

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  • Filed under: Browsers
  • Image representing Twiddla as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

    I am sure most of you have heard of online whiteboards and applications like Elluminate  and Wimba.  Twiddla is very similar to these types of applications but without all the bells and whistles. At its core it allows you to easily set up a common Twiddla session complete with audio and text chat. You have a suite of editing tools which include drawing, text bubbles, media import and the biggest reason to use Twiddla, web page importing. Drop any URL into the Twiddla online browser and voila you can mark up that page however you want. All this is done online with no downloads, no signups and a very easy invitation form to invite other attendees.

    So how can you use Twiddla for Education:

    • Have distance students attend a session where you use Twiddla like a physical Whiteboard. Like a lecture.
    • Open a Wikipedia page and show where it is inaccurate or accurate. You can then browse to different webpages and dynamically change those new sites.
    • Have a collaborative brainstorming session.
    • Solve Math problems either collaboratively or in the form of a lecture.
    • Upload images and mark them up.
    • Upload documents to send to all attendees.
    • With the ability to embed other widgets the possibilities really open up and allow a whole new host of things that are possible.

    That’s what I would do but I don’t have the opportunities that some of you have so let me know what you would use it for or what you use Elluminate for and share the love.

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  • Filed under: Browsers, Collaborative
  • Google Video Chat

    Because I continuously experiment with Netbooks, Unbuntu (Linux) virtualized installs of XP, Vista and other OS’s on my MacBook I have to often set up Firefox and add all my favorite extensions and plugins. Diigo (Tyler is writing about this extension) is always one of the first extension to be added followed immediately by Google Video Chat.

    Since its release late 2008 I have used this lightweight one-to-one desktop videoconferencing system virtually daily. If you are fortunately enough to have a Mac, Netbook, or a newer PC laptop with a built in webcam and mic then this system just works. You run the plug-in install, restart Firefox, log onto your Gmail account, click on a contact to chat with and you can turn any chat session in to a video chat–assuming the person on the other end is set up as well.

    Google Video Chat isn’t as powerful as Mac’s iChat or Skype but it is just so easy to use that I encourage everyone to install it and run it instead of the traditional text based chat.

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  • Filed under: Browsers, Video
  • Why Use Firefox

    To answer this question one just needs to look to list of advantages it has over all other available browsers which include:

    • Open-source – FREE!
    • Cross platform – Firefox will work, and more importantly, look virtually the same on Windows, OSX and Linux.
    • Security – Firefox will block many websites from trying to install spyware and other mal-ware from getting onto your computer. It is not prone to the ActiveX security flaws that Internet Explorer (IE) and other IE based browser are subject to.
    • Popup blocking – Firefox has a very good built in popup blocker that blocks all those annoying popups when you open up a web page.
    • Tabbed Browsing – While this feature is now copied by IE and all the other browsers it was Firefox that made it so simple open pages in tabs in one window instead of having every page on a different window.
    • Extensions and plugins – Because of the open source platform and huge developer community no other browser as a many optional add-ons created by users that add enormous functionality to an already very functional browser. We will be touching on some of the “best” extensions and plugins in future posts. There are thousands of add-ons to choose from and with over 30 add-ons on my system this is perhaps on the most important personal reason to use Firefox–you can make it do exactly what you want or need it to do.

    If you have never used anything but IE than you really need to give Firefox a try. Once you have used it and customized it to do what you need or want, you will find it really can make your life a bit easier.

    Download Firefox now…

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  • Filed under: Browsers