Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My best "find" of 2006!

Ureka! For more than a year (well, not steadily, but off and on), I have been searching for a convenient and economical method for converting certain files (specifically created by Microsoft Works, Microsoft Publisher and Corel's Word Perfect) to PDF. Being a Mac user, I have had little, if any, success in viewing these -- until now.

While I was researching and preparing for several sessions I will be presenting at the NICE Mini-Conference on Jan. 27, and the IL-TCE (Illinois Technology Conference for Educators) at the end of Feb., I landed on the Technology & Learning's Podcast Archives -- which sadly seems to have halted production in Aug. 2006. Texas educator Miguel Guhlin's entry on Feb. 13, 2006, a PDF Primer, lists several web-based conversion programs, including a free Online PDF Converter from Neevia: http://convert.neevia.com. Miguel writes, "While this online PDF converter has a 1 megabyte limit per file--which may limit you if you have a document that has lots of images -- you can convert from a wide variety of formats (easily over 50) to PDF. Two nice features is that it allows you to add a watermark image of any text you enter on multiple pages. It also enables you to encrypt your PDF document."

Using the Neevia converter, I was able to view several student papers created using Works, and a club flyer created with Publisher. This is one helpful tool for those of us supporting educational technology!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Holidays!

Here's a little holiday "freeware" treat for Mac users called SantaSnaps, created by iClip developer John Casasanta for the Cocoa Duel charity programming competition, with graphics and program icon created by Adam Betts.

SantaSnaps a Photo Booth clone with a holiday twist, and works with your external iSight camera if you don't have one of the new Intel Macs with the built-in iSight. Launch SantaSnaps, select a Santa beard, glasses, and hat, then position yourself behind the props. (Requires OS 10.3 or higher). Cheers!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Get Firefox... how do they do it?

Firefox 2.0 is now available. Their website states this version is "now faster, more secure, and fully customizable to your online life. With Firefox 2, we’ve added powerful new features that make your online experience even better."

I updated my version last week and I am experimenting and enjoying some of the improved features. My favorite discovery happened yesterday when my computer was shut down unexpectedly. Once I restarted and launched Firefox, I was presented with a message asking whether I would like to resume browsing the page(s) that were open before the shut down.

This feature is called "Session Restore" and is explained on their "new features" website: "Session Restore: Losing your place while you’re doing things on the Web is a pain. Now, with Session Restore, if Firefox has to restart or closes when it comes back you’ll pick up exactly where you left off. The windows and tabs you were using, the text you typed into forms, and the in-progress downloads you had running will all be restored. You can even set Firefox 2 to always restore your previous session instead of loading a home page, so you’ll never lose your place again." What a concept! Read about other new features at: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/features.html#experience

There are also more than 1,000 add-ons for personalizing your web browsing experience. Check out: https://addons.mozilla.org/

Download your new version at: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/

Monday, December 04, 2006

It's the little things...

A major portion of my day is answering questions about the "little things" that people are sometimes "stuck" on. Someone said I should publish a tip book, but I don't think anyone would actually read it... I'm sure I would still get calls. So, I thought I would do the next best thing and publish a few pearls of wisdom here.

Soft Paragraph Return
Many computer users are unaware of this common "Word Processing" feature. A soft return is explained on Wikipedia as: "one can manually enter a soft return by pushing shift and enter instead of simply enter." (On the Mac, that would be Shift + Return.) A major benefit of a soft return is to begin typing on a new line, without starting a new paragraph. In most cases, you would want a new paragraph, but if you were using the bullets and numbering feature in Word for example, sometimes you would like to itemize your thoughts without starting new bullets or numbers. Try it!!

Lost House, a.k.a. ... There's No Place Like Home!
(File this one under OSX tips). Someone recently explained how their "House" on the dock accidentally got "poofed" when attempting to move a file to the trash. Efforts to restore the House on the Dock by dragging it from the left shortcut pane in the Finder only made it "poof" from there as well. Where is your House when you need it?

Your "House" is your home directory in OSX's file structure. It can be located by opening (double-clicking) the Macintosh HD and then opening the "Users" folder. Every user who logs into the computer has his or her very own "house." Drag the House from the Users folder to the dock (to the right of the vertical line) for a new shortcut. You can drag it into the left window pane for an instant shortcut there too!

Your Window Doesn't Look Like My Window?

This is a tip for PC users who are unfamiliar with navigating on the Mac. The small "bubble" that is at the top right corner of every Mac "window" (technically called a widget -- but not the same as the Widgets available in Dashboard), when clicked, will hide all the tools or shortcut icons at the top and left panel of a window. Go ahead, click it now in your browser! When you want your tools to return, click it again. PC users intuitively click here to close a window and then wonder, "What happened?"