All Our Technology Tips
Screenshot Entire Webpages With FireShot
Here’s a handy browser extension to add to your toolbox: FireShot, an add-on that captures entire webpage screenshots – even scrollable areas.
Install FireShot in just a few seconds, then screenshot any website just by clicking the “S” icon in the top right corner of your browser and selecting an option:
Once you click an option, there will be a short pause, and a new tab will open up, allowing you to work with your screenshot: edit, save to various formats, add text annotations, share, copy to clickboard, print, etc.
The first time I saved an image, I was prompted to allow FireShot to manage my downloads. Then a “Save As” prompt appeared where I could chose the name and destination to save my screenshot. Here’s what the output looks like (click to see a larger version):
FireShot Lite is free; a pro version with more functions is also available. Works with Chrome, Firefox, and several other browsers.
Finding RSS Feeds for Podcasts and YouTube Channels/Playlists
Is there a podcast or YouTube channel you’d like to keep track of or display using RSS? Determining the RSS feeds for videos and podcasts can be tricky. Here are a couple of tips on how to find the RSS feeds for YouTube channels and playlists, and podcasts on iTunes or Soundcloud.
To determine the RSS feed for a YouTube channel:
- View the page source for the YouTube channel (right click on the page and click “view page source”
- Do a search for the text “channelID” and copy the value next to it. It will look something like this: UCqoH4oSIEttrjmasHPBx5Ug
- Paste that Channel ID value into this URL: https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?channel_id=YOURCHANNELIDHERE
To determine the RSS feed for a YouTube playlist:
- Go to the playlist homepage you want the feed for, and copy the playlist ID from the end of the URL. It will begin with PL, and will look something like this: PLoKLMZAP5PVfgB9d7IpdZRO4E1m4WFXBM
- Swap in the playlist ID in this URL: https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?playlist_id=YOURPLAYLISTIDHERE
To determine the RSS feed for a podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud:
- Go to getrssfeed.com, paste in an iTunes or Soundcloud URL and hit enter – it will determine and display the public feed, which you can view by clicking on the RSS button.
Do you have any other handy RSS hints? Please share in the comments!
Restore Support for RSS in Firefox
Not long ago, as I was working with some RSS feeds, I was dismayed to discover that suddenly, Firefox wouldn’t display them. Instead I was being prompted to save or open the file using another program. What a pain!
Turns out that with the release of Firefox 64, Mozilla dropped support for feeds and live bookmarks.
Luckily I found a solution without much hassle. There are several add-ons that will restore this functionality to Firefox. I picked one called Feed Preview that had good reviews. So far, so good; feeds are displayed cleanly and elegantly. Here’s what the Slaw Tips feed looks like with the Feed Preview add-on.
Upgrade Your Device Charge Cables
I recently made a couple of small purchases that made a big difference: new charge cables for my phone and tablet. And as soon as I started using them, I was kicking myself for not having bought them sooner.
My old cables had been on their very last legs: they still worked, but one was starting to become loose at a connection point, and the other had actually lost a piece of casing. They weren’t charging as quickly as they once had. Plus, their lengths weren’t ideal either–both had always been just a bit too short for the locations I used them in, which meant there was always either a phone falling off its charging surface (thank heavens for OtterBox!) or a cable pulled just a bit too tight. Not great for my devices OR the cables. I knew continuing to use them wasn’t safe or practical.
I took a few minutes and browsed the options and reviews on Amazon before treating myself to some quality cables that are double the length of and much sturdier than the originals.
Now I don’t put off charging my devices, because I can easily leave them plugged in and still bring them over to where I want to use them, and I suspect they will also last a lot longer because they’ll be under less stress.
If you’ve got cables that don’t charge as quickly as they used to, or are looking damaged, or are too short, why not treat yourself to some new ones? You’ll wonder why you waited so long. Happy charging!
Launch New Google Drive Files From Your Browser Address Bar
While scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day, I learned a fantastic little trick for creating new files in Google Drive. Do you know this one?
You can start a new Google document, form, spreadsheet, site, or presentation simply by typing one of the following shortcuts into your browser’s address bar and hitting enter.
- Docs: doc.new, docs.new, document.new
- Forms: form.new, forms.new
- Sheets: sheet.new, sheets.new, spreadsheet.new
- Sites: site.new, sites.new, website.new
- Slides: slides.new, deck.new, presentation.new
Pretty slick, eh?
How to Save a Specific Paragraph From a Decision From CanLII on Lexbox
Administrator’s note: thanks to Lexum for sharing this tip by first appeared on the Lexum Blog.
Lexbox was designed to make your legal research faster and easier. To help you use Lexbox to the best of its ability, we are sharing Lexbox tips with you from time to time. Here’s one if you are using Lexbox on the CanLII website.
Today’s tip is about saving a specific paragraph from a decision on Lexbox, so that you can include it in your research record, and revisit it anytime.
- If you are not already logged in, login or create a Lexbox account here.
- On CanLII, go to the case that you are interested in and find the paragraph you want to save.
- Click on the blue paragraph number in square brackets.
- The paragraph is highlighted and a blue upload cloud button appears on the top right of the paragraph. Click on this upload button.
- A box appears that allows you to edit the case name, file it into a folder, and add notes. All saved items come with metadata, such as a citation, issuing court, decision date, and keywords.
- Once you click “Ok”, your paragraph is saved to your Lexbox account! You can access it from the drop-down located under your username, or by clicking on the Lexbox logo.
- Within your Lexbox account you now see the corresponding decision listed under the folder structure you selected. When clicking on the title, you are redirected back to that exact paragraph in the decision.
Convert PDF to Text
You know what really grinds my gears? When I open a PDF file containing what appears to be digitally-formatted text and find that it is non-copyable and non-searchable. The ability to search, copy and paste text are essential functions of digital communications – so the idea that a text is born digitally and therefore ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) encoded, and that somebody wittingly or unwittingly should remove that functionality – it leads to much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth on my part.
Well just last week I was sent a large PDF document with more than 70 pages of text. So I opened it in Adobe Acrobat, and tried to execute a search for a key term, and found that it was (you guessed it) another one of those documents that had signs of ASCII-formatted text in its progeny, but through the manipulations of some kind of monster, been reduced to the mere semblance of text, no more searchable than a stack of paper.
So naturally I commenced with my usual process of wailing and gnashing, but after a few minutes of that I got a notion that maybe I should try something different. In near desperation, I got the idea that – just maybe – if I “select all” and paste it into a text editor then some hitherto-hidden ASCII-encoded text might appear. Worth a try, right?
So I hit control-A, and THIS happened:
“Why yes,” I said out loud, “in fact I WOULD like to run text recognition to make the text on this page accessible – THANKS for asking!”
I clicked Yes.
Then I got asked for some settings, which I ignored and just clicked OK – opting for the default option in my excitement.
Adobe Acrobat then leapt through my document, systematically performing the miracle of breathing life into the dead letters at the rate of about a page a second – slightly faster for the “born digital” main portion, and a bit slower for some appendices that bore the stigmata of pre-digital technology.
The result was perfectly copyable, pastable, searchable text in the main body of the document. As for the typewritten appendices, Acrobat almost flawlessly converted them into digital text as well, while maintaining the visual features of the original typed text. Basically, the document looked identical to how it had looked prior to the procedure but was now digitally functional. The only letters and numbers that resisted the resurrection were data from a single table with a very small typeface – those few characters remained a heretical community of graphics in the midst of a near-universal mass conversion.
Optical text recognition technology has come a long way in a few short years.
Now if you work anywhere in the legal industry (or do any kind of office work), then there is a good chance you have been able to follow right along, and to some of you, this is already old news and why am I boring you. But if there are any among you who don’t know what I’m talking about with text that can be searched and copied – you need to learn a few tricks that will make your life a whole lot easier. Begin with learning these commands, which work on almost all text-editing software:
CTL-F … Find text in document
CTL-A … Select All
CTL-X … Cut selected text
CTL-C … Copy selected text
CTL-V … Paste the last text you cut or copied
CTL-Z … Undo last operation
CTL-Y … Redo undone operation
CTL-H … Find all identified text in document and replace with other text
You can use point-and-click menus for these operations as well, but I find the keyboard shortcuts easier. These features, and many others, are now standard practice in office work – so learning them will not get you ahead so much as get you caught up with the rest of us.
And if you ever come across a text, especially a longish one, for which the above commands do not work, try to do minimal weeping & wailing and tooth-gnashing. And when you are done that, wipe the tears off your keyboard and try the simple operation described above. Failing that, try something else. And if all else fails, ask your friend in IT to perform a miracle. Because there is no reason to tolerate text in a digital file that cannot function as digital text.
[This tip by Ken Fox originally appeared on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog]
Save Time With Text Shortcuts on a Mac
In certain situations, I need to type something I’ve typed dozens or hundreds of times before. Rather than type it out, I prefer to type three to four letters. My Mac recognizes those letters and offers me the option of the full text I’ve typed in the past.
Here are two examples:
- my name and phone number, for calendar invitations to schedule phone calls
- a message I send people who I don’t know when they want to connect with me on LinkedIn
Name and phone number shortcut
Each time I schedule phone calls with people, I put my name and office number in the “Location” field of a calendar entry. Now, instead of doing that, I type “LBPN” (for Luigi Benetton Phone Number) and my Mac offers me my name and number.
This is a system-wide shortcut. In simple terms, this means my name and number appear in just about any program I type those four letters. It happens when a correspondent asks for my number in an email. It happens when a computer support representative asks for my number in an online text chat. It happens most anywhere I can type text on my computer.
LinkedIn Reply shortcut
The LinkedIn message is a more compelling example, since three letters trigger a message several lines long.
When I type the letters L, I and R (LinkedIn Reply) in sequence, my Mac replaces them with this message:
Thanks for reaching out.
I don’t think we know each other. Did something in my profile catch your eye? Is there something I can do for you?
Looking forward to your reply,
Here’s what the option looks like on screen.
I simply click this popup, or press the Space bar, and the Mac replaces LI R with these words. (I normally add “Hello” plus the person’s name to the beginning of this message.)
Setting up text shortcuts
Here’s how I set up system-wide text shortcuts on my Mac.
- Open System Preferences by clicking the apple icon in the top left corner of the screen and choosing System Preferences… The System Preferences dialog appears.
- In the System Preferences dialog, click the Keyboard icon.
The Keyboard preferences appear.
- Click the Text tab. Text preferences appear.
- At the bottom left of this dialog, click the “+” sign to create a new shortcut. The dialog creates a new line at the bottom of the list of shortcuts.
- Enter the shortcut in the “Replace” column and the text to replace it with in the “With” column.
The phone number shortcut was easy to type directly into the “With” column. I had typed the LinkedIn Reply message earlier in a text document, then pasted it into the With column. If I want to check this text, I can copy it all and paste it into a text document.
- You don’t need extra software to do this on a Mac. The tools you need are included when you buy a Mac.
- Other tools may offer features other than the basic ones shown here.
- Certain programs enable the creation of shortcuts that work only within those programs.
- Windows computer users may need to install other software on their computers to create system-wide shortcuts,
What do you do when you want to save time retyping things you need to type often? Share your solutions in the comments below.
—Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)
[This tip originally appeared on luigibenetton.com]
Speed Up Your Computer by Dealing With Energy Hogs
Are you reading this post on a computer that has slowed down significantly? To the point that you want to replace it?
Before you whip out your credit card, try a few simple things on your computer. You might make it more useable without spending a dime.
I’ve already posted two ways you can improve your computer’s performance.
Here’s a third tip – finding energy hogs on your computer.
Your computer expends a certain amount of energy to run each program you open. Programs that demand more energy frequently hog your computer’s resources, making the whole machine run slower.
Find out what programs are energy hogs. One you fine the energy hogs, you can deal with them.
The macOS ship with Activity Monitor, a utility that shows how much various applications use RAM, the processor and so forth. (I couldn’t find an equivalent piece of software in Windows 10, but I presume one is available from a third party.)
Rather than deal with the complexity of Activity Monitor, Mac owners can instead use an elegantly designed list to find energy hogs.
To find out which applications demand “significant” energy on a Mac, click the battery icon in the menu bar at the top right of the screen. The following menu appears.
The middle part of this menu lists any apps using lots of energy.
Note that each open app can vary in its demands on your Mac. At one moment, it demands lots of energy, the next it takes hardly any. For instance, Safari was using significant energy at the moment I took this screen shot, but minutes later it didn’t appear in this list. In fact, it read “No Apps Using Significant Energy.”
Once you find energy hogs, you can deal with them in several ways.
Uninstall energy hogs
If you don’t need the software at all, considering uninstalling it from your computer entirely. Be careful with this idea: your computer needs certain processes to run properly. If you aren’t sure whether you need the program, search for an explanation of it in Google. If you’re still not sure about it, leave it on your computer. Removing an application your computer might need could be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.
Shut down the program
You ought to get an immediate performance boost by quitting the program.
If you need the features an energy hog offers but it consistently hogs energy, consider trying other software that could take its place.
Do you have any tips on tracking specific pieces of software that slow down your computer? Please share them in the comments below.
—Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)
[This tip originally appeared on luigibenetton.com]
Speed Up Your Computer by Keeping an Empty Desktop
It’s common for people to replace their computers every three or four years. They seem to believe performance degrades so much that they need new machines to gain speed increases.
Sometimes that’s true. Hard disk drives,for instance, can wear over time. Inexpensive machines aren’t usually built to be upgraded.
But if you want to keep working with your current computer, there are a number of things you can do to keep it moving quickly.
I covered one tip in a 2016 blog post. (Here’s something I forgot to mention in that post: Even though I claimed useless utilities are a Mac issue, Windows PC users also need to know when such “utilities” are “recommended” to them. Cheaper Windows computers usually ship with “bloatware” i.e. trial versions of frequently useless programs that promise to keep your PC in shape if you just buy them and use them. My recommendation: uninstall these programs and, if you must, buy reputable stuff.)
Now for this week’s tip, something that applies equally to Windows PCs and Macs. Why? Because they both have desktops.
Rendering complex graphics on screen can take so long that users may need to wait while the computer churns through the task. “Rendering” in this sense means putting all the pieces of a picture together on a screen.
It’s a sacrifice people who work with graphics-intensive software (e.g. photo, video, graphic design, architecture) often had to make. This process is slower on computers with:
- older, slower processors
- less RAM
- older, smaller hard disk drives
Somebody must have realized that the computer had to work just as hard to render the desktop as it does graphical element that people need to work with. The more stuff people keep on their desktops – from fancy images to icons for documents and folders and so forth – the more computing power the computer needs to render the desktop. Most people don’t realize how often they go to the desktop, when they quit programs, minimize windows and so forth.
To keep your computer from chugging along just to redraw your desktop:
- turn the desktop background entirely black. A black screen is the easiest thing a computer can render. To that end, remove any fancy images, especially software that changes your desktop image periodically.
- keep very few, if any, files on your desktop. Put them instead in your Documents folder, or subfolders you create in the Documents folder. Each icon is one more thing your computer needs to render when you go to the desktop.
Whenever you minimize your programs, your computer ought to show your desktop much quicker if it’s plain black. That makes for one less type of delay during your computing day.
Do you have any tips that readers can use to speed up their computers? Please share them in the comments below.
—Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)
[This tip originally appeared on luigibenetton.com]