Google Maps vs Live Search Maps

I’ve been using MapQuest and Expedia for years to print maps and get directions and was delighted when Google Maps added features that allowed you to annotate maps and add custom information. I was even more delighted with Microsoft’s Live Search Maps added the Bird’s eye view that appears to be photos taken from a helicopter flying overhead. For some reason, my little corner of Macon County was one of the first to be available with this new feature. I noticed last month that Illinois Wesleyan University of now fully visible online from at least four different vantage points and the imagery is stunning. Many of the residential communities around the county are also available in the Bird’s eye view so check out your house to see what it looks like flying overhead.

The quality of the photography will sometimes amaze you. Try viewing Paris, Rome, Dubai or Washington D. C.–or even EPCOT and DisneyWorld. Some locales do not have bird’s eye views but offer high quality aerial images, while others are blurred and dithered. It’s fascinating to start at a country or island view and then keep double-clicking your way down to more and more detail. You can see when the different satellites kick in and the detail changes–fascinating!

Google is still the leader in interactive maps that allow you to mashup (combine maps and other databases) with other collections–from restaurants and real estate to personal photographs or wikipedia articles.

If you want to see ground level images tryout Google Street View. Only a select few regions of the country are available currently, but I was amazed to see Dubuque, Iowa on the list already.

As always, update your operating systems and browsers to the latest versions to enjoy the fullest experience on the web. You may also be delighted to know that many of these features are available on your mobile device or web enabled phone.

Let’s us know what you think of these tools, what works best for you and any suggestions you might have for us.

Alternative Group Tools

We have had several requests in the past few months for tools that offer features similar to the discussion tools and file sharing available through Course Tools and Group Tools in Luminis and allow for participants who do not have an IWU login and password. We are currently experimenting with two of these web-based applications: Google Groups and Yahoo Groups. But before taking a look at features, I want to make it clear that these are not recommendations of the IT office and we can not guarantee their reliability, their continued support or even the fact that they will be freely available. And, of course, as with many web-based tools, advertising and promotional material are abundantly plentiful.

Google Groups

Many of you already have a Google account, and perhaps Gmail, and have played around with several of the Google services like Reader, Blogger, YouTube or Google Notebook. Google Groups offers many of the tools that are available via Luminis Course or Group Tools, e.g., discussions, file sharing and the ability to easily create and edit web pages. There are lots of management tools for inviting or adding members to the group and determining who can see, edit and delete resources. Each participate can choose how to be alerted when content is added to the group site, e.g., an email message every time something is added, a daily digest of activity or no email at all. It works very much like your Course Tool page with the added benefit of allowing participation from off-campus.

Google Groups

Yahoo Groups

Following on the traditions of Usenet groups, Yahoo Groups started as huge international discussion forums to share messages with thousands of folks all over the world. Usenet resembles bulletin board systems (BBS) in most respects, and is the precursor to the various web forums which are widely used today. Recent improvements have given you to ability to create restricted groups with many of the same features listed above. Yahoo Groups adds a few services more familiar to Luminis users, calendar, links, photos, and a couple of new features, database and polls, heretofore unavailable with our group tools.

We have created experimental groups with both services and would be happy to add any interested colleagues. We’d be happy to hear your thoughts on these tools and your recommendation on anything else you have found valuable for exchanging messages and sharing resources.

Image problems with Windows PowerPoint

It’s been quite a while since I had to explain compatibility problems between programs running on Macintosh and Windows PCs…here we go again.

If you’ve created a PowerPoint presentation (or Word document) on a Macintosh and transfered your file to a Windows PC in a campus classroom or lecture hall, you may have been greeted with the following caution:

QuickTime(TM) and a Photo – JPEG decompressor are needed to see this picture.
QuickTime(TM) and a TIFF decompressor are needed to see this picture.

The problem is in HOW the image is inserted into Powerpoint or Word. Any image that is inserted using the menu option “Insert:Picture: From File…” will be viewable on both platforms. If you drag and drop from the web, for example, or paste into Powerpoint, the image will appear in Powerpoint on the Mac, but will NOT be viewable on PC’s.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that Windows PowerPoint doesn’t support QuickTime compression and installing QuickTime on the PC won’t help. You’ll need to go back to the Mac to fix the problem by re-inserting the graphic into PowerPoint.

DO NOT drag and drop or copy and paste the graphic into PowerPoint. That’s what probably caused the problem in the first place. Save the image to a folder on your Mac. Then use the Insert:Picture: From File… options to insert the image into PowerPoint.

There are several variations of this problems that require additional consideration. If you have experienced any of these problems, let us know. If you have found other solutions, we would be happy to share them on this blog.

AutoCorrect options

Have you ever noticed how Microsoft Word will automatically correct a misspelled word as you type or perhaps offer a Screen Tip predicting what you are about to type? These are both features of Microsoft’s AutoCorrect Options. Let’s take a look at both of these and see how they differ.

AutoCorrect is used to detect typos, misspelled words or incorrect capitalization. It can also be used to add accented characters, symbols or short formulae quickly and easily, e.g., résumé, ©, H2O. Words are only evaluated after pressing the spacebar or hitting a punctuation key. AutoCorrect entries can be created or modified using the AutoCorrect Options dialog box. I would encourage you to become familiar with this feature and not simply discard it because it may seem irritating. If you are constantly disrupting your thought process to routinely format text, this is a great tool for you. Please notice that there are formatting features available within AutoCorrect Options (e.g.,“smart quotes”,fractions, hyperlinks) that can be individually enabled or disabled.

You can undo formatting or turn options on or off by clicking an option on the AutoCorrect Options button. The button first appears as a small, blue box when you rest the mouse pointer near text that is automatically formatted, and it changes to a button icon when you point to it.

AutoText is useful for saving keystrokes while typing in your document. An AutoText entry is composed of an abbreviation and an associated phrase. This is an excellent way to reduce the number of keystrokes for frequently used phrases such as your department name, the University’s address, and a signature block on a letter. AutoText entries can include both text and graphics. AutoText allows you to retain the formatting (i.e., font, size, justification) used when you created the entry or match the entry to the current document’s formatting. Once an entry is created, it can be used throughout the current document and other documents associated with the same template. Screen tips are available after typing the first four unique characters of an entry, e.g., Illinois Wesleyan University and Illinois State University entries would offer no screen tip until the first unique word is typed.

If you find yourself using quite a few AutoText shortcuts you might want to insert them using keyboard shortcuts or customized toolbars. Let us know and we’ll be happy to assist. As always, if you have tips you would like to share, add a comment below.

Quick and Easy Screen Capture

I’ve had a couple of calls in the last few weeks involving making a printed copy of what can easily be read on the screen. Either Adobe PDFs were acting up of or screen colors didn’t print well and what you see is not what you get. One quick and easy solution is to copy the contents of the screen to the clipboard and paste it into Word…then print.

Both Windows and Macintosh have built-in screen capture utilities that are very easy to use. They are wonderful tools for creating tutorials or demonstrating a step-by-step process. Sometimes call screen-shots, images can be created using a simple keystroke combination.

If you a using a Windows PC, press the Print Screen key (often located in the cluster of keys to the right of the standard keyboard, above the arrow keys) to copy the current screen to the clipboard. If you want to capture only the current window, press Alt-Print Screen. Remember that only one image can be stored in memory at a time. Open Word or PowerPoint and paste the contents of the clipboard into the current document — Edit: Paste or use the keyboard shortcut, Ctrl-v).

If on are using a Mac, press Control-Command-Shift-3 to copy the screen to the clipboard. You can also press Command-Shift-3 to copy the contents of the screen to a file on your desktop. Use Control-Command-Shift-4 or Command-Shift-4 to select only a portion of the screen. The cursor changes to a cross-hair that will allow you to select any size rectangle. The Mac also has a built-in utility called Grab that allows more sophisticated features (delayed capture, menu capture, conversion to other formats.) Grab can usually be found in the /Applications/Utilities folder.

Once you have captured the image you can paste it into Word or PowerPoint, resize or crop the image, and Bob’s your uncle.

Organizing your files…a beginning

What a can of worms this is.

I’ve had this topic on my list for quite a while and have never been satisfied with how to start the conversation. File management or the lack thereof is a preference of the most personal order. Let me start with a few a my favorite tricks for managing files and folders on the Windows side. Then we’ll open up the comments box for suggestions from our colleagues.

Most of us have become very comfortable with saving our work somewhere in the ‘My Documents’ folder. Hopefully you have subdivided the clutter into course folders, committee folders, and professional and personal interest folders that aid in locating a file when you need to return to it. It’s not necessary to create special folders for PowerPoint presentations or PDFs because Windows explorer will allow you to sort your files by type and arrange them in groups if you like.

If you’re looking for something you did last week or four semesters ago, display the contents of your folder in the detail view, arrange your files by ‘modified’ and turn on ‘Show in groups’ to automatically organize your files into smaller sections labeled Today, Yesterday, Last week, Two weeks ago, Earlier this month, Last year, Two years ago, and A long time ago.

If you’re looking to free up some space, arrange them by size and move the larger files to a CD or flash drive.

When moving from one folder to another or to an external device use the following tips to transfer multiple files in one easy process.

  • Edit: Select All or Ctrl-A to select all files in a folder.
  • Click on a file and then hold down the shift key and click on another file down the list to select all files in between the click and shift-click (sort your files first by type, size or date modified to make the most of this technique).
  • Click on a file and then hold down the Ctrl key to select multiple non-consecutive files (click again while holding down the Ctrl key to unselect if you make a mistake).
  • Drag an imaginary rectangle around a range of files (being careful to start in white space and not on a filename) to select a group of files. Once highlighted you can use the Ctrl-click trick to add or remove files from the selection.
  • Once selected use Edit: Move to folder… or Edit:Copy to folder… to transfer the files.

Experiment with the different folder views to see which one work best for you. Pictures are displayed well in the Filmstrip or Thumbnail views. Music files are easy to arrange by Artist or Year. Videos can be sorted by Duration or Dimension (Screen Size).

Use the comment box to add your favorite tips. Perhaps we even create a new Wiki page to help solicit ideas.

If you’re really daring try, Google Desktop and make finding files on your computer as easy as searching the Web. It’s a desktop search application that provides full text search over your email, files, music, photo tags, chats, web pages that you’ve viewed, and more.

Moving to Office 2007

Several months ago we gave you some tips for reading Office 2007 documents and files using your current version of Office. While we have not released the 2007 version on campus, many of you have purchased machines for home that come with Office 2007 pre-installed. You will notice immediately that the user interface has been changed and the menus and dialog that you have been accustomed to are no longer available — and there is no option for reverting back to the previous interface. Rick and I will continue to offer workshops throughout the semesters updating you on tips and trick for working in this new environment. Keep your eyes open for the Thursday IT Newsletters or subscribe to our blogs for more information.

Interactive Word 2007 Command Reference Guide

Microsoft has released an interactive guide that will help you find the commands and tools you have grown to know and love with previous versions. You can access the guide by clicking the link above or by search help topics for “Interactive Keyboard Guide” into any Office 2007 application.

Once the guide has started, rest the mouse pointer over a Word/Excel/PowerPoint 2003 menu or button to learn its new location in Word/Excel/PowerPoint 2007. To see an animation of the location of the command or button in Word/Excel/PowerPoint 2007, just click it.

Bookmarks and Notebooks

I have long advocated using more than one browser at a time and I will frequently have both IE7 and Firefox open, sometime with multiple windows and always with multiple tabs. But it does play havoc with my bookmarks (called Favorites in Internet Explorer). Here are some tips and suggestions for mastering bookmarks and for clipping elements from webpages you find interesting.

Creating and organizing bookmarks

Most browsers provide tools for creating folders, and for moving and renaming bookmarks. It’s a good habit to frequently clear out old bookmarks and rename ones that no longer make any sense to you.

Sharing bookmarks between browsers

IE, Firefox and Safari all have options for either importing or exporting bookmarks (or both) among themselves or to an external file. It might help the clutter to save all your bookmarks to an external file — name it Bookmarks 2007 — and then delete all but the most essential reminders from your current list. When you need to go back and locate a URL from 2007, simply open that file from the browser using the Open File… option.

(Mac OS X only) AllBookmarks adds a new item to your Mac OS X menu bar giving you quick access to all your bookmarks. All your Safari, Firefox and Flock bookmarks are shown and can be selected.

Synchronizing bookmarks on several computers (Firefox)

The Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer automatically synchronizes your bookmarks between two or more computers running Firefox. It also lets you access your bookmarks from any computer anytime via my.foxmarks.com. An easy-to-use wizard guides you through the quick startup process. Then Foxmarks works silently in the background to keep your bookmarks up-to-date on all your computers. Simple. Solid. Free. And ready to use.

Access your bookmarks from any computer online

Google Bookmarks is an online service that lets you save your favorite sites and attach labels and annotations. Unlike the bookmark feature from your browser, bookmarks are stored securely online, so they are accessible even if you’re using other computers. The most important features that set Google Bookmark apart from other services is that all your bookmarks are private (nobody else can see them) and fully searchable. You are no longer restricted to the title of the page, the description and the URL – you can search the entire page. A similar service is the new version of Yahoo Bookmarks.

del.icio.us is a social bookmarking website — the primary use of del.icio.us is to store your bookmarks online, which allows you to access the same bookmarks from any computer and add bookmarks from anywhere, too. On del.icio.us, you can use tags to organize and remember your bookmarks, which is a much more flexible system than folders. You can also use del.icio.us to see the interesting links that your friends and other people bookmark, and share links with them in return. You can even browse and search del.icio.us to discover the cool and useful bookmarks that everyone else has saved — which is made easy with tags.

Clipping and sharing highlights from a page

Clipmarks lets you clip specific pieces of web pages, then share what you clip with your friends on Facebook, MySpace or anywhere else. Unlike bookmarks that let you share a link to an entire page, the free clip button lets you capture and share the highlights from the page. Clips can also be saved privately, emailed or printed.

With Google Notebook, you can browse, clip, and organize information from across the web in a single online location that’s accessible from any computer. Planning a course? Researching a lecture? Just add clippings to your notebook. You won’t ever have to leave your browser window. You can also quickly clip Google search results by clicking on the Note this link at the bottom of any search result.

Rick and I are sharing a Google Notebook to experiment with its features. Feel free to join us. Just comment to this blog or contact either one of us. Try out some of the other tools descried above and let us know what you think.

What else can Google do?

Nary a week goes by that I don’t find a new Google trick to make my life easier. So many that I began bookmarking numerous sites that have sprung up singing it’s praises and deciphering esoteric little features heretofore unhyped. I will list several such sites near the end of this post but I wanted to take a few characters to point out some of my favorite tips.

To search for exact phrases, place quotation marks around the text string, e.g. “Illinois Weslseyan”

To include synonyms use a ~ (without a space) before the term e.g. Google ~tips

Notice that your Google results highlight not only Google tips, but also Google Tutorial, Google Secrets, Google Help, Google Guide, Google Advice, etc.

Another helpful tool hidden within Google Labs called Google Sets will help predict terms from a list of similar terms. You type in Moe, Larry and Curly and Google Sets expand the list to Curly Joe, Shemp and several items that may not even make sense to you. Of course, you could have looked up the Three Stooges in Wikipedia and arrived at the same place. Try it out a few times and let me know what you think.

If you’re looking specifically for a PDF file use the advanced search feature and designate PDF as the file format. You can use the language tools to specify searches on pages written in other language and Google will translate the page for you (more or less.)

In the coming weeks we will dissect the Google results page and show you how customize the results and add features to make it easier to organize and annotate to information that you find.

For revised and extended discussions of all the search options and features, peruse the following sites:

Google Tutors Google Search Manual and Google Guide

Find on this page…

Google and the all the other also rans have made is quite a bit easier to find what we are looking for on the Internet. In a future post we will discuss some tips for enhancing your ability to use these great tools. Today I would like to point out some nice new tools for finding text on an individual web page. Most browsers provide a “Find in this page” or “Find on this page” function to search for text on a page and move to the next or previous occurrence of your keywords. The Google Toolbar (free download) offers a few additional tools that you might find helpful.

But first, let’s distinguish, for the purposes of this discussion, the difference between search text and find text:

Search text refer to the keywords you type into the Google Search box

Find text refer to the exact words you enter into the Find box

When the ‘Highlight” icon is enabled each word from your Google search text will be highlighted on the page (each word in a different highlight color.) When you enable ‘Word Find’, the toolbar will generate an individual button for each word in the search text and each click of the button will find the next occurrence of that word. If you are searching for a phrase, place quotation marks around the phrase, e.g. “Illinois Wesleyan”. Try it out and let me know what you think.

Click here for help with Google Toolbar features

When you want to find a word or series of words on a page, use the ‘Find on this page’ function to open a Find box. If you are using Firefox 2.0 or later (highly recommended) use the shortcut Ctrl-F to bring up the find box at the bottom of the screen just above the status bar. As soon as you begin typing Firefox will begin to locate words beginning with those letters and offer a next, previous, and highlight option for your current find text. If you’re still following this, you will realize that it is possible that both search text (from your Google Search) and find text (from the ‘Find on this page’ function) will be highlighted at the same time.

In a later post, we will discuss what to do with the text once you find it. Use the comment section of this blog to let me know what you do now…bookmark?…cut and paste into another document?

Note to Safari users:

Use the Edit> Find> Find command (Cmd-F) to open a Find banner at the top of the webpage. Use the arrow keys to move to the previous and next occurence of the find text. Click Done when you’re finished.