Author: Sue Frantz

Google Alerts: Keeping Tabs on What’s New

You know how to search Google. Did you know that you can have Google automatically search, and then let you know what it found out?

Go to Google Alerts. Enter your search query.

Let’s say that you’re interested in hearing anything about schizophrenia that appears in the news. Type schizophrenia in the query box, change the “Result type” from “everything” to “News.” Google will give you a preview of the search results.

Next, choose how often you want to have the results of this query delivered to you: As it happens, once a day, or once a week. Do you want just the best results or all results.

Where would you like it delivered? Google will show the email addresses they have on file for you. You can also choose to have it sent as a news feed. When you’re happy, click “Create Alert.”

This bumps me to my alerts page, where I can see this has been added at the bottom. Since I chose “news feed” instead of email I can click on “Google Reader” to add it to my news feed in Google Reader.

If you’re not using Google Reader or some other news feed reader, check out this post on what Google Reader is and how you can use it.

OneNote: The Note-Taking Program You Didn’t Know You Had

Look in your Microsoft Office folder, you know, where you go to open Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. There’s a program in there called OneNote. It’s an organization machine.


In OneNote, the notebook is the top level of organization, much like folders. In the image below you can see 6 of my notebooks on the left side of the screen: APA, Conferences, Work Notebook, STP, Technology, and Personal Notebook.

Each notebook is divided into sections. My conferences notebook has 16 sections. You can see them on the left as “subfolders” of the conferences notebook, and you can also see the first ones as tabs along the top of the screen.

Each section has pages. In this example, I have the NITOP section selected, and the pages associated with that section appear on the right side of the screen.

With the “Thursday” page selected, the center of the screen shows the notes I took on the Thursday of the conference.

Working with pages

I want you to get a sense that the power OneNote has.

When you create a new page by clicking “new page” in the top right corner, OneNote will automatically add an “untitled page” to the bottom of your list of pages in that particular section of your notebook.

OneNote will automatically time and date stamp the page, but those can be changed. Clicking on the date will highlight it and generate a calendar icon. Click on the icon to change the date. Clicking on the time will highlight it and generate a clock icon. Click on it to change the time.

In the dotted box, type in the name of your page. OneNote automatically updates the title in the page list on the right side of the screen.

To enter your content on the page, click anywhere on the page. OneNote will generate a textbox. Just type. To move it, grab the bar at the top, and drag anywhere on the page.

You can tag anything you’d like with whatever tag you’d like. Here I’ve tagged content as important (yellow star), as a question (purple question mark), as a book I want to read (book), and check boxes for things I need to do. The first item I’ve already done, so I clicked in the box to check it off.

To get to the list of tags, click the little down arrow to the right of the short list of tags at the top of the OneNote screen.

Here are some of my OneNote’s tags. OneNote gives you a bunch by default, but they are fully customizable. Just right-click on one to modify it.

Why use tags? Because OneNote makes it easy for you to see them all in one place. Click on “Find Tags.”

This calls up the “Tags Summary” pane. You can see it on the right side of the image below. You can see all of the tags I’ve used. Near the bottom of the pane, I can decide the location of the tags I’m interested in. In this case, I’ve only asked to see the tags in this section of this notebook.


One of the more powerful features of OneNote is searching. In the top right corner, type in what you’re searching for. Search all notebooks by default, but if you click the little down arrow on the far right side of the search box, you can opt to search just this section or this page, for example.

Pasting stuff from the Internet

Here I’ve copied some content from a recent blog post. OneNote automatically added the “pasted from” and link at the end; that URL is clickable. Oh, and the blue “” in the copied text? That’s a live link. In OneNote, I can click on it to go directly to that webpage. OneNote handles images just fine, too. I included the keyword/name/direct link image when I copied the text. It appeared when I pasted.

Adding files

Drag and drop a file from your desktop or any file folder onto a OneNote page. You’ll be asked how you want to attach the file to the page.

If you choose the middle option, you’ll see the file type icon with the name of the file under it. If you don’t like where OneNote put it, click and drag it anywhere you’d like.


Outlook integration

I know that some of you don’t quite know what to do with that important email you’ve been receiving around some sort of project you’re working on, so you just keep it in your mailbox’s inbox. How about you move it to someplace more useful?

Here’s an email – complete with attachment – I just received in Outlook. I’m going to copy it to a OneNote page. In the Outlook toolbar, there’s a OneNote button.

That generates this screen where OneNote asks where I’d like to put it. At the bottom of the “recent picks” section is the OneNote page that I currently have open. If I don’t like any of those options, I can navigate through my notebooks to find the spot I want.

I clicked on the “Important Stuff” page and clicked “OK” to make this little piece of magic happen. And, yes, that Word icon is the file that was attached to my email. The file is named Join. Double-clicking on that will open the file in Word.


Mobile app

OneNote Mobile (free) uses SkyDrive (also free) to sync your OneNote notebooks across devices. You can find information on how to set up OneNote Mobile here.

Try it!

It’s already installed on your computer. Play with it. This post just scratched the surface of what OneNote can do. Use only as many features as make sense for you.

Super-Fast Way to Compose a New Email

Did you know that if you type mailto: in your browser’s address bar and press enter, your default email program will give you a compose screen? [Thanks to a LifeHacker reader for this tip!]

Want to do it even faster?

With your browser screen open, CTRL-L will take your cursor to the address line, and highlight it. Just type mailto: and press enter.

Even faster?

Using (see this blog post), create a new Shortmark with ‘m’ (or whatever you’ll remember as the keyword. For the direct link, type ‘mailto:’. Then save.

Now, just typing m in the address bar and pressing enter is enough to launch a new compose message.

Or if you use a text expander like PhraseExpress (for Windows – see this blog post; Mac users try TextExpander or TypeIt4Me), you can create a keyboard shortcut. You could, for example, make ‘m’ be the hotkey for ‘mailto:’.


CTRL-L highlights the URL in my browser’s address bar. I type m, then hit enter, and Outlook (my default email client) opens a new compose message.

When the blank message opens, the cursor will be in the To: line. I’ll TAB to navigate from field to field. When I’m ready to send, in Outlook, CTRL-ENTER will do it. In Gmail, if I’m writing the body of the message, tabbing one more time takes me to the send button, then I hit enter to send.

Autofill ‘To:’ field

If you know the person’s email address, you can enter it directly in your browser’s address bar this way to automatically put the address in the email’s ‘To:’ field.

Or create a Shortmark for that person specifically. In this case, typing ms would open a new compose message with automatically entered in the ‘To:’ line.

Or create a keyboard shortcut using a text expander program.

Want to add more people? Separate multiple email addresses using whatever punctuation your email program uses. Outlook uses semicolons. I created a Shortmark with mpsych as the keyword, and the direct link box included everyone’s email address separated by semicolons. Now I just need to type mpsych in my browser’s address bar to start an email message to everyone in my department. How slick is that?

Autofill ‘Subject:’ field

Want to enter the subject line from your browser’s address bar?

mailto:?subject=Your Subject Line Content Here

If you use it frequently, you can create a Shortmark for it or a text expander keyboard shortcut.

Try it out

Practice using CTRL-L to highlight the URL in the address bar, typing mailto:, and pressing enter to create a new email message. If you’re really liking it, consider using Shortmarks or a text expander program to make you even more efficient.

Google Hangout: Meet with Students or Collaborators

Google Hangout is a quick and intuitive way to work with up to 9 others in a virtual environment. If you have a Google account, you can create a Hangout. Talk in real time over your computer’s microphone, see each other via webcam, and even share your desktop.

Starting a Hangout

In Gmail, you can click on the camera-in-the-callout box icon next to your photo to start a new Hangout.

Or if you look below your name, you’ll see your contacts that are currently available. Mouse over the ones with a video camera next to their names, and a card will popup. Click on the Hangout icon to start a Hangout and invite that person in one fell swoop.

You can also go to Google Plus and find the Hangout button in the top right corner of your screen.

After clicking “Start a hangout,” a screen pops up showing you some people you might choose to hang out with. Click on the top entry box to enter email addresses, names (if Google has them connected to you), or people you’re connected to in Google Plus, including entire circles if you’d like. Next give your Hangout a name, or not, and then click the “Hang out” button.

The Google Hangout window

Since I haven’t invited anyone, this isn’t very interesting. I’m going to “invite people,” specifically, my alter ego.

This is the invitation email that I received from myself. Everyone who is invited would get this email.

Now, this is a little weird, but there are two versions of me in this Hangout. This screenshot is taken from my computer. On my Xoom tablet, I’m in the Hangout using the Google Plus app.

When you enter a Hangout, your microphone and webcam are turned on by default. As soon as you enter, you can start talking. You can turn off the mic and webcam using the icons at the top of the screen.

If your participants are accessing your Hangout using a computer instead of a mobile device, your participants will have the same tools you have. Mobile devices do not have this toolbar – at least not as of this writing.

Click the chat button to open the chat window. The chat window will appear on the right side of the screen. No chat for mobile devices, either. To close chat, click the button again.

Click the screenshare button to share your screen. A window like this will pop up. Here I can choose to share my entire screen or just one of the programs that I have open. Mobile devices will show a screenshare, but mobile devices cannot share their screens. To stop sharing your screen, click the screenshare button again.

Click on Google effects to do things like add a snorkel and facemask to your own image. And, yes, the other people in the Hangout will see it, too. Just click on what you’d like to add, and the object will automatically be added to your image. Click the object again to turn it off, or click the “Remove all effects” button at the bottom of the effects panel. To close the Google effects panel, click the Google effects button again.


Now before you dismiss this as totally frivolous, at Klutz Press, at one time anyway, they said that any time there were disagreements among the employees, the employees in question had to put on Groucho Marx glasses before discussing the issue in question. I sincerely hope that they really did this – and that they still do. Picture using this technique virtually with a self-destructing student group. Or with those two faculty members in your department who are renowned for their bickering at each other.

It certainly seems like it would help keep people from taking themselves too seriously.

When you’re done laughing, let’s get back to work. Click on Google Drive to collectively edit a Google Drive file or open a new document for notes or even a sketchpad to draw on. Unfortunately someone using the app on a mobile device won’t be able to see your Google Drive documents. To switch off Google Drive, click the “Google Drive” button again.

Click on View more apps to discover other nifty additions. I just added Symphonical. It’s a drag and drop task organizer. When you have your plan together, email a copy to everyone. It’s tied to your account so the next time you go into a Hangout and open Symphonical, it will be there. Have more than one project? Click the green “Add wall” button in the top left corner. Adding Symphonical to a Hangout will automatically get you access to your walls at You’ll get an email from them about that. And, no, this doesn’t show up in the mobile app either.

Try it out

Saving a Gmail Message as a Google Calendar Event

Did you know that you can ‘import’ a gmail message into a new Google calendar event? Did you know that what most of us call appointments, Google calls events? “I have an event scheduled with my dentist.” That makes it sound way more serious than an annual checkup should sound.

I don’t really know what ProjectX is, but it certainly sounds worthy of the “event” designation, however.

Here I’ve received a message about needing to meet to discuss ProjectX in my gmail account. When I click on the “More” button, I get a dropdown menu where I can select “Create event.”

This generates a new Google calendar appointment, where the subject line of the email becomes the subject line of the new event and the body of the message becomes the event description. The time and date default to just minutes from now so I need to manually change those. Google also includes me, the person who sent me the message, and anyone who was also included in the message as guests to the event. If you don’t want them as guests, click the “x” to the right of each person’s name to delete them.

Click save. Now you have the meeting agenda in your calendar.

DropIt: Quick File Organization

I’ve seen a lot of faculty desktops – both computer desktops and actual desk tops. It seems that for many of you, your approach to organization is to just toss it all on your desktop (or desk top) and hope for the best. And you swear that you’ll get both cleaned up over the summer, the same promise you’ve made to yourself (and the fire marshal) for the last 10 years. I can’t help with your desk top – actually I can. Just put it all in the trash and call it good. Really afraid you’ll need something that’s in that mess? Put it all in a box, date it with a magic marker, and store it above your garage.

Now let’s do something about your computer’s desktop.

DropIt is a wonderful little organizational tool.

I’m working on fictional ProjectX. The first thing I’m going to do is create a folder for ProjectX in my folder; of course I could put the folder anywhere.

Here’s a ProjectX document that I’ve saved on my desktop. When I click the document icon and drag it onto the DropIt icon…

… I get this popup telling me that I haven’t set up any rules yet that work for this particular file. I click “Yes,” I want to create an “association.”

The next popup appears. The “Name” box is the name of the rule (or “association”). It defaults to the name of the file. Here I’ve just changed it to “ProjectX.” The rule is that any filename that contains the word ProjectX will be moved to the ProjectX folder in my Dropbox folder. The asterisks that bracket the word ProjectX mean that this rule will be applied to any filename that contains the word ProjectX. Maybe I just want the files that begin with the word ProjectX to be filed here, in which case I would enter ProjectX* in the “Rules” box. When this screen comes up for you, click on the “i” (for information) to learn what the different possibilities are. Click the funnel icon to add more filters. Maybe I just want this rule applied to files I haven’t opened in over 2 weeks, for example. When you’re set, click “Save.”

My file has suddenly disappeared from my desktop and is enjoying life in its cozy new folder safely tucked away out of sight.

The next file that contains the word ProjectX that I drag and drop from any folder, not just the desktop, will automatically be filed in that same ProjectX folder I created. Once the rule is created, the file will automatically be moved. You only need to go through the process of creating rules if DropIt doesn’t have any rules that apply to the file or folder dropped onto it.

Other actions

While it’s the move function that I most appreciate, it’s not the only function DropIt has. Click the button under “Action” to see other options, such as renaming, copying, and uploading.

When rules conflict

Here I have one file where I have two rules that could apply. DropIt asks me which one I want and if I want this decision to hold for all files that meet these criteria.

Deleting/editing rules

Clicking on the DropIt icon on the desktop generates another DropIt icon that floats on top of any windows you have open. Right-click on it and select “Associations.” You’ll see all of the rules you have created. Right-click on any rule to edit, copy, or delete it.

Enough procrastination

Download DropIt. Get the files that you’re not currently working on off your desktop and into folders. Don’t wait until this summer. Or winter break. Or spring break. Now’s a good time. Really.

MagPointer: PowerPoint Add-on

MagPointer is a PowerPoint add-on (Windows only) that allows you to highlight certain areas of your PowerPoint slides on the fly. Although designed with web-based presentations in mind, it works well in the face-to-face classroom.

In the screenshot below you can see a PowerPoint slide with the MagPointer toolbar on the right – 5 colored squares. Sometimes when I run MagPointer, I get the black border you see here. Other times the slide covers the entire screen, and the MagPointer icons overlap the slide. It works fine in either case, just an fyi.

MagPointer at work

Mouse over any element to see the dotted outline of that element.

Click on the dotted outline to highlight that element. How cool is that?

Mousing over any of the squares on the right shows the MagPointer icons. The top two squares allow you to advance or reverse through your slides. Be aware that MagPointer is still in beta, so all the bugs haven’t been worked out yet. In version, when I use these icons to advance a slide with multiple bullet points, sometimes I get the next bullet point, and sometimes I get the next slide.

You can highlight any part of the slide; you’re not limited to your PowerPoint elements. Pick a spot on your slide, click once, then move your mouse anywhere on your slide to create a frame. To make the highlight disappear, click inside the frame.

Want to highlight multiple areas of a slide? Click the second icon from the bottom. Now you can click and drag anywhere on the screen, multiple times. To clear the frames, click inside each frame, or mouse over the MagPointer icons and click on the red X at the top, or simply right-click on the slide.

You can zoom in on sections of the slide. The fourth icon is a magnifying glass. Click on the icon (or right-click your mouse), then click and drag on the slide to create the size of magnifier you want. Now you can move it around the slide, magnifying as you move. When done, click the red X on the right side of the slide. In the version I was using, the magnifier would go beyond the top, left, and bottom edges, magnifying everything there. The magnifier wouldn’t go beyond the right edge, so anything on the right edge could not be magnified.

MagPointer is portable.

Portability means that you can put it on a flashdrive, carry it with you into your classroom, and run the program from there. No need to fight with your IT department to get it installed on your classroom computer. The MagPointer developers are hoping that they’ll be able to eventually sell site licenses to educational institutions. Keep an eye on that. When you download MagPointer, it will, by default, install itself on your computer. If you’d like to try out the portable version, contact the MagPointer developers directly through their webform.


Right-click on the MagPointer icon in the system tray (lower, right corner of your screen), and select “Configuration.” Here you can change how the program behaves. Set it up in a way that works for you.

Try it out

While in beta, MagPointer is free.

YouCanBook.Me: Now with Tentative Appointments

My favorite appointment scheduling service, YouCanBook.Me, lets people book themselves into your calendar. (See this earlier blog post for more about how YouCanBook.Me works.) One hesitation in using the service I’ve heard from faculty is that they want students to request appointment times, not have the appointment automatically confirmed. You now have that control.

Choose your YouCanBook.Me calendar you’d like to edit. On the “advanced” tab, at the very bottom, check “make new bookings tentative”.

The next person who selects an appointment time will get text at the top of the confirmation screen that reads “**This booking is not yet confirmed**”. You may want to change the text that you displayed on the confirmation screen to reflect that the appointment hasn’t been confirmed. The email sent to the appointment-maker includes that same text at the top of the message. Also consider changing whatever text you’ve told YouCanBook.Me to include in the email message to reflect that the appointment isn’t solidified yet.

This is the email that I received from YouCanBook.Me. I now click on Accept or Reject.


If I click accept, I get this screen in my web browser.

If I check the “send a message” box, the screen expands to this.

After clicking the “accept booking” button, I’m redirected to my “bookings profile” page, where I learn, for the first time, that I have a bookings profile page.

The appointment then appears on the calendar like it normally does.


If I click reject, I get this screen in my browser.

If I check the “send a message” box, the screen expands to this. I can edit all of the message components except the ‘to’ address.

My bookings profile page now shows the rejected appointment request.

This is the email the appointment requester gets.

Viewing tentative bookings

YouCanBook.Me creates a new Google calendar for you called “YouCanBook.Me Tentative” where it holds the appointments that are in limbo.

To see that calendar, visit your Google Calendar page, and click the down arrow to the right of “My calendars”. Select “Settings.”

In your list of calendars will be your tentative calendar. Click on the checkbox to make the calendar available for you to see.

Now, click the “Back to Calendar” link at the top of that webpage. You can now view what’s in the tentative calendar. (The calendar name will have a white box next to it. To change the color, mouse over the name of the calendar, and click the down arrow that appears. Select the color you’d like those entries to appear in your calendar.

Accepting/rejecting from the bookings profile page

The easiest way to accept or reject an appointment is from the email YouCanBook.Me sends, but that’s not the only option you have.

Log into YouCanBook.Me. The page you see will list all of your calendars. If you’re editing a YouCanBook.Me calendar, you can always click on the “dashboard” button at the top of the page to get your list of calendars. Click the “bookings” button.

Here I can see that listing of all of my appointments. The most recent one is showing as undecided.

Clicking on the “undecided” button takes me to this page. I see the details of the booking, and I can decide to accept or reject it.


Are you a YouCanBook.Me user? What do you think about this new feature?

Print Friendly: Only Print What You Need

Print Friendly lets you print what you’d like from a webpage.

For example, let’s say that you wanted to print a post from my blog. If you used the print capability of your web browser, you’d get something like this. In addition to the content that you want, you’d also get the header, menu tabs, and the right navigation bar.

Using Print Friendly, you get the name of the website, the URL, and the content of the blog post. That’s it.

Try it out yourself. At the bottom of this post, there is a Print Friendly button. Click on it to print this article.

How it works

Go to Print Friendly. On their website, enter the URL of the website you’d like to print.

Better yet, in the section labeled “Get the Bookmarklet”, click and “drag the [Print Friendly button] to your browser’s bookmark toolbar.” Any time you’re visiting a webpage you’d like to print, just click the Print Friendly button in your toolbar.

Whichever method you use, you will get a screen that looks like this. You can print, save as PDF, or email an uncluttered version of the webpage. Change the size of the font if you’d like. You can even remove the images from the page.

Don’t want to include some content? Mouse over the paragraph you want to delete and click. It’s gone.

When you save as PDF, the URL in the top right corner of the page is clickable.


If you are printing webpages or saving webpages as PDFs, this is a must-use tool.

[Note: I’ve previously recommended JoliPrint as a similar service. JoliPrint announced in mid-December 2012 that they will be closing up shop in early January, 2013.]

ZoomIt: Draw on Your Screen [Windows]

ZoomIt was designed to let a presenter zoom into a particular portion of the screen. For most presentations I don’t need a zoom, but I would like to be able to draw. Of course PowerPoint gives you drawing tools, but the menu system is a hassle. If I’m showing, say, a webpage, then the PowerPoint drawing tools are of no use.

When I press CTRL + 2, my cursor changes to a red plus sign. I click and hold to draw on the screen. When I’m done, I press ESC. It’s pretty straight forward.

After downloading ZoomIt, run it on your computer.

Look for the ZoomIt icon in your system tray (bottom, right corner of your screen). Right click on the icon, and select “Options”. Here you can see the instructions for the various functions. Once you’re familiar with them, press “Cancel” and use the keyboard shortcuts to do what you want to do. (Note: The keyboard shortcuts won’t work if you have the ZoomIt options screen open.)


The first tab shows the zoom functions. The default keyboard shortcut is CTRL + 1. After pressing and holding the CTRL key, press 1. You zoom in on the screen, and moving the mouse now moves the entire screen. Use the mouse wheel or the up and down arrow keys to zoom in and out.

Click on the screen, and the cursor changes to a red plus sign. You’re now in drawing mode. Click and hold to draw. (See the “Drawing” section below for more drawing functions.)

When you’re done zooming, press ESC.

The second tab is for LiveZoom. In regular zoom, the screen will freeze while you zoom. Usually this isn’t an issue, but if you’re showing video or other dynamic content that you want to continue to run while you zoom, LiveZoom is your better option. In LiveZoom, use the up and down arrow keys to zoom in and out.

To draw in LiveZoom mode, press CTRL + 2 to enable the drawing tools. At that point, LiveZoom will act like regular zoom in that the screen will freeze. Press ESC to exit drawing, and LiveZoom will be re-enabled.

When you’re done LiveZooming, press ESC.


You can also have just the drawing functions without the zoom.

Press CTRL + 2 to enter ZoomIt’s drawing mode. The cursor changes to a red plus sign. Click, hold, and drag to draw.

Like in other Windows programs, CTRL + Z will delete what you just did, CTRL + C will capture the screen, drawings and all, and CTRL + S will save it. Want to erase everything? Type ‘e’.

Want to change the pen color? While in drawing mode, type “‘r’ (red), ‘g’ (green), ‘b’ (blue), ‘o’ (orange), ‘y’ (yellow), or ‘p’ (pink).”

Want nice clean lines? Hold down the Shift key for a straight line, CTRL for a rectangle, and Tab for an ellipse. For an arrow, hold down Shift and CTRL.

Switch to a white (‘w’) or black (‘k’) background.

Would you prefer to type? Press ‘t’. Use the up and down arrow keys to change the size of the font.

When you’re done drawing, press ESC.

It’s portable!

If you want to use it on another computer, such as a classroom computer or a conference presentation computer, copy the files onto a flash drive. On the other computer, plug in the flash drive, and run the ZoomIt program. When you’re done with your presentation, exit ZoomIt, and eject your flash drive.

Multiple monitors

ZoomIt works on multiple monitors. However you can’t just move from one to the other. If you want to use ZoomIt’s drawing tools on, say, a presentation monitor, you need to move your cursor to that monitor before pressing CTRL + 2. You will only be able to draw on that monitor. To draw on the other monitor, you need to press ESC, move your cursor to the other monitor, and press CTRL + 2 again.


Try it out in your office or at home. When you’re feeling comfortable (it won’t take you long!), put it on a flash drive and carry it to class.