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Savvy Tech Tips - Part 3

December 26th 2006

Excellent Tech Blog…

Just wanted to pass along a information on a neat blog that concentrates on Internet tips. The blog, called Internet Tidbits, has a wide range of posts covering beginning to advanced topics. Some interesting samples:

Enjoy!

December 19th 2006

Google Movies

Computer: All • Level: Novice

Want a quick way to find nearby movie showtimes? Well, you can once again use the versatile Google search bar to accomplish this task. Similar to our earlier Google weather trick, you can type the word “movies” and a zip code or city name in the Google search bar to pull up a listing of movies in and around that zip code or city.

Here are two examples:

google_movies1.gifgoogle_movies2.gif


The top return for this type of search shows a movie reel and a link for showtimes, as shown below. Click on the Showtimes link.
google_movies3.gif

Now, you’ve got a ton of handy movie information to examine. There are movie times, locations, information, and various links. Here is an example of the top portion of the resultant window:

google_movies4.gif

Most of this page is self-explanatory, but the
re are a couple of things to note. First, note that you can search the listings for showtimes for upcoming days. Second, note that you can click on the links in the top right of the window to reorganize the information by theater distance, movie popularity, movie rating, and movie title. “Theater distance” is great if you know where you want to go but don’t know what you want to see there. “Movie title” is handy if you have a particular movie you want to see but don’t know where it’s playing.Enjoy! As always, comments, suggestions, and feedback are welcome.

December 18th 2006

How Many Spaces after a Period?

Computer: All • Level: Novice

Pop Quiz: You finish typing a sentence. How many spaces do you add after the period, before you begin the next sentence?

If you’re like many people, you’ll likely say two, because that’s the way you were taught in high school.

Well, things change, and not everything your high school teachers taught you is correct. The correct answer is one space.onespace.gif


Two spaces after a period is a throwback to the typewriter days of yesteryear, when letters in typefaces were all the same width and two spaces were needed to help delineate the end of a sentence. Nowadays, computer characters have variable widths so only one space is used after a period.

Don’t believe me? Well, pick up any popular magazine or book and take a look. All professionally typeset pieces have one space after the period.

Think academic writing is exempt from this rule? Not true. The APA Publication Manual (5th edition, page 290) says this: “Space once after all punctuation as follows:…after punctuation marks at the ends of sentences.”

onespace2.gifDon’t feel too special if part of you is rebelling against this one-space rule. When I cover this in design seminars, it’s amazing to see the shock and disbelief it causes in a few participants. It’s as if they have been told the world is flat, or that Santa is not real. But times change, and it’s time to leave the 20th century behind us.

Period. Space. Next sentence.

December 14th 2006

OmniOutliner (Mac Only)

Computer: Mac • Level: Novice

Macs come loaded with all sorts of neat and virtually unknown programs. One such program is called OmniOutliner. If you’ve got a later version of OS X, you’ll likely find some version of this program in your Applications folder.

As you might guess, OmniOutliner, is a—surprise—outliner! omnioutliner.jpgBy learning its simple fundamentals you can quickly create project outlines, paper outlines, and lists of things to do.

Using the program is a snap. By default, a new file opens when you open the program.

Once you get the program open, you can type in the name of your list, paper, or project. If you hit return, you’ll create a second item in the outline. It will show up at the same level as the above item. If you select an item (click the black dot on the left), you can nudge the item one level to the right by hitting the “tab” key. Likewise, “Shift-tab” moves and item to the left. In this way, you create levels in your outlines and lists.

And that’s all there is to the basics. Elegant and simple, yet incredibly powerful. For more complex applications of the program, experiment with adding columns and take a look at the help file in the program. I use OmniOutliner to keep track of moderately complex projects, quickly write article outlines, and organize training seminar content.

Enjoy!

December 13th 2006

Fun Stuff: www.pandora.com

Computer Type: All • Level: Novice

If you like music, www.pandora.com may be the best thing to happen to you today. The site was created based on research done for The Music Genome Project, which is a long-term study of the essential attributes of songs. To date, the study has analyzed over 10,000 songs and broken down their essential elements. As the study progressed, the musicians involved realized that the research could be used as an excellent way for people to discover new music they liked.

pandora.jpgThe site is easy to use. When you get to Pandora.com, you enter the name of a song or artist you like. Pandora then searches its database of music for songs that have similar musical characteristics to your song and artist’s music. It then creates a “station” for you that will stream this similar music to your computer. As a song plays, you can tweak your results by selecting the “Guide Us” button and giving the song playing a thumbs up or a thumbs down. The station will alter the music based on your feedback.

This is simply a great way to find new music that you’ll like. If I hear a song that I like someplace, I’ll enter it into Pandora and usually end up discovering a couple of new artists that I enjoy. The site also makes for a great radio station while on your computer. You can create 100 stations, so there is a lot of room for creativity.

You might be wondering what the catch is, or how much it costs. Well, the news just keeps getting better.

First, there are two versions of the site: one with ads; one without. The version with ads is free. The ads are noticeable but hardly annoying. If they really bother you, or you want to support their project, or you’re just silly rich, there is a $36/year subscription fee that will totally remove the ads. With the exception of the ads, the two versions of the site are the same.

Second, you don’t have to download any programs to your computer, and nothing gets downloaded to your computer. The site plays in Flash right on the webpage, so chances are good that you’ll be able to listen to music right away. If anything, all you’ll have to do is download a free Flash player, which you really should have on your computer anyway.

The one negative, if you wish to call it that, is that you’ve got to create an account to listen to more than a few minutes of music. They ask for an email (for login purposes), zip code, birth year, and gender. In over a year of being registered with the site, I’ve never gotten an email from them, and the site seems very much on the up and up. I’d trust them.

Enjoy!

Relevant Links
Direct Link to Pandora
Read more about Pandora
Read more about the Music Genome Project

December 12th 2006

Selecting Words in Text Efficiently, or How to Save Two Days of Work Each Year.

Computer Type: All • Difficulty Level: Novice

Computer users are constantly typing, deleting, changing, and moving words. And one of the more common tasks we do while working with words is selecting words in order to move them somewhere or delete them. Everyone knows how to select a word on a computer. However, many people don’t realize that there may be a faster and more efficient method than the one they currently use. Today, we’ll talk about a better way to select words.

In training sessions, I’ll often watch people select a word by careword_selection.jpgfully placing their cursor at the beginning of a word, then dragging their mouse over the word, then slowly bringing it to a stop at the end of a word or words.

However, you can also select a word in text by simply positioning your cursor anywhere over the word and double-clicking. And this trick will work in almost all programs. Open up a word-processing program and give it a try. See? In Microsoft Word, when you select a word this way, it also picks up the space at the end of the word, which is usually helpful. Selecting words this way is faster and more efficient.

Well, you might say, that’s great, but often I want to select a series of words in a row. In that case, simply double-click anywhere on the first word, keep your mouse button held down, and drag across the line to the last word you want to select. In word-processing programs, selecting words this wayword_selection2.jpg picks up series of words, and will select from the beginning of the first word to the end of the last word in the series. You don’t have to fiddle with positioning your cursor exactly over the end of the last word.

If this multiple-word selection trick didn’t work for you when you tried it, chances are you released the mouse button after double-clicking on the word, then re-clicked on the word. When you want to select a series of words, don’t release the mouse button after you double-click on the first one: double-click, hold, drag.

What’s the value of a trick like this? Well, I ran a quick test. First, I timed myself selecting ten words in a Word document by positioning my cursor at the beginning of a word, then dragging carefully to the end of each word. It took me 37 seconds to select the ten individual words. Then I selected the same ten words by double-clicking on them. It took me 12 seconds to get all ten individual words. In short, it was 2.5 seconds faster per word to use the double-click method.

If you work with text a lot, you might be selecting words in this way this 100 times a day or more. Using the faster method will save you about 4 minutes/day. That’s not much, but over the course of a year it adds up to almost 17 hours. Even subtracting the time it took you to read this article, that’s more than two full workdays!

Happy clicking, and enjoy all your newfound free time!

December 11th 2006

Google Calculator

Computer Type: All • Difficulty Level: Novice

Can’t find a calculator? Not sure where your calculator is hiding in your Windows computer? Google has an easy alternative: just type your equation in the Google search bar and press return. That’s right. The Google search bar is also a calculator.

Here is an example:

google_calculator1.jpg

Here is what you get back:

google_calculator2.jpg

The asterisk functions as your multiplication sign. The forward slash functions as your division sign.Note that this works in any Google search bar, so you don’t have to be actually at Google’s site to use the calculator. If your browser has a search bar in the top of the window, and you have Google as your preferred search engine, the calculator will work just as well from the small search bar. If there is a Google search bar on a website, the calculator will work there as well.

The only caveat: the calculator only works when you are doing a “web” search. It won’t work if you try it in the image search or other search areas.

Enjoy!

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