Jan 282016

If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you may be a long-time user of Doodle for helping you and others find a good meeting time. But did you know that you can also use Doodle to help make a choice? Yesterday a friend, who is one of my college’s awesome librarians, wrote to say that she works with an instructor who has her students read books related to the course content and then report on what they learned from the book later in the course. The instructor has worked with our librarians to identify a lengthy list of titles, and she doesn’t want more than one student to read each title, for the purpose of the course, of course – if students want to read all of the books on the list on their own, then great! The current approach, where students write their name and book choice in a notebook, is not working. Students have to scan the sign-up list to make sure their book is still available, and sometimes they miss it, and the instructor ends up with two or more students reading a particular book.

If you don’t have assigned books, you may have assigned paper topics or assigned topics for group projects.

How it works

On Doodle’s main page, where you create a new poll, select “Make a choice”.

On the next page, name your poll and add a short description if you’d like. After clicking through to the next page, you can add your book titles (or paper/project topics). If you need more than 10, click “Add further text slots” at the bottom of the list.

On the “Settings” page, decide how you’d like your poll to work. I have selected “Hidden poll” so that students can’t see who chose which book, “Participant can only choose one option” so that a student can’t click on three books now and decide later which one to read, and “Limit the number of participants per option” (set to 1) so that I’m assured that only one person will indeed be assigned to a book. If this poll was for assigned group project topics, I would change the number to match the largest group size I would allow.

Doodle Settings











After the poll is created, Doodle gives me the link that I can make available to students, say via email or on a page in my course management system. When students click on the link, this is what they see. Students just enter their name and click on the button that corresponds to the book they are interested in.

When I completed the poll myself, I selected, for example, Book 1. Since this is a hidden poll, the next person who went to the Doodle poll would see this; notice that Book 1, the one I chose, is greyed out. If names weren’t hidden this person would actually see my name.

Doodle Participant 1




Let’s say Snoopy chose Book 3. This is what I’d then see as the administrator of the poll.

Doodle Snoopy





What makes this approach especially attractive is that when the quarter is over, the poll can be reset by deleting all participants or the poll can be copied – both features of your poll’s “Administration” tab. If you want a more permanent record of who chose what book (or topic), perhaps just to keep track of which books are chosen first, which books are chosen last, or which books are most often not chosen, you can export the poll results as a spreadsheet or pdf – also features of your poll’s “Administration” tab.

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Jan 212016

It’s official. Our faculty contract permits us to hold some of our office hours virtually. This quarter I decided to do one office hour online (Tuesdays, 10am to 11:30am PT through March 22, 2016, if you want to stop by. Click here to go there). But what platform should I use?

Our campus has Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Elluminate). It’s a powerful program that’s great for full-on web conferencing. But for online office hours, I wanted something lighter weight. I considered both Skype and Google Hangouts. Both have an-easy-to-use interface and screensharing, but both require the other party to have an account. And in Skype’s case, it just bugs me that you can’t close the program by doing things like clicking the x in the top right corner of the window or even selecting “close.” Close should mean close, not minimize. Join.me was closer to what I wanted. If others have the room address, they can come visit without needing a login themselves. But the free version of Join.me generates a new url each time. If I want a dedicated address, and I do, I’d have to sign up for their pro version at $20/month. There’s no way I can justify that when I have free access to something like Bb Collaborate.

I had been hearing chatter through my technology news feeds about the newest kid on the video conferencing block: appear.in. It was time to take them for a spin.

They advertise themselves as “one-click video conversations,” and that’s absolutely accurate.

Go to appear.in, create a room, and follow the signup instructions. I named mine sfrantz, so my appear.in address is http://appear.in/sfrantz.

When I enter my room, this is what I see.

In “Settings” I changed the background picture to a photo of my campus. Since I don’t like to be surprised, I keep my room “Locked.” Any visitors who arrive have to knock to be granted permission to come in – a feature activated in “Settings”. In the bottom right is a chat icon. Not something I need when meeting with one on one, but if I had a group of people (me and up to 7 others), chat would be handy. Mousing over my video display gives me a mic (mute/unmute), camera (on/off), computer (share screen or specific windows/not share), and “send a sticker” (not for me) icons.

Appear.inwill use your most-recently used mic and camera. If you want to use something different, click the camera icon in your browser’s address bar to select the mic and camera you would prefer to use.

In this screenshot, top right corner, you can see that I installed the appear.in Chrome extension. From what I can tell it’s essentially a bookmark that takes you to the appear.in homepage. They may have bigger plans for it, but for now I’ve uninstalled it.

Visiting my appear.in room

Let’s say you start by visiting my college’s faculty and staff directory. When you search my name and go to my entry, you will see this – or something like this.

If my dogs, Murray and Tanner, clicked on the link provided in my Tuesday office hours, they would see this. They are visiting my room through my smartphone – they have an easier time manipulating a touchscreen than a keyboard, and it’s my smartphone because we’ve decided they’re too young to have their own smartphones. Here they’re using a web browser, but appear.in also has an easy-to-use app.







When they tap “Let me in,” they get a “waiting” message, and I get a popup notification on my computer letting me know that someone is knocking along with a live view from their camera. I can choose to open the virtual door or not. If you wait too long to say “let them in!” it will time out and they’ll automatically be rejected.

I’ve chosen to let them in, although Tanner is the only one who has stuck around – frankly, only because we’re coming up on dinner time.

In both of our windows below, you can see I muted my mic and Tanner muted hers. The white crown on a blue background on my image denotes me as the room owner. The icons at the bottom of Tanner’s camera image are controls that I have as room owner. I can mute/unmute her, share my power with her by giving her permission to lock/unlock the room, kick her out, or just ban her altogether. Her view is pretty much like mine, but without the power. Notice that the room is still locked. The next person to come along would also have to knock to be let in. Unfortunately the only option I have is to reject them. I don’t have a way to communicate to them that I’m currently with someone. I’m hoping that comes with a future update.


Appear.in makes it easy to create a room and makes it even easier for visitors to stop by. Exactly what I needed for hosting online office hours.

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Nov 172015

We want students to understand our course content, obviously. The better students know something, the better they can explain it using simple language.

Send your students to the Up-Goer Five Text Editor, and ask students to type in their explanation of that particular concept, such as poverty, classical conditioning, or Hamlet’s motivation.

Here I’ve pasted in the classical conditioning definition from Wikipedia. The words with a red underline are not included in the 1,000 most used words. Students need to edit their explanation so that all red-lined words are removed. If you’d like to grade it, have students send you a screenshot of their non-red-lined explanation.

Special thank you to Lynn Davey of DaveyStrategies.com for introducing me to this tool

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Apr 012014

When asking students during class to respond to multiple choice questions, you have a number of options. You can use a dedicated clicker system like iClicker where you can have students use a remote or a web-enabled device to respond. You can use a completely web-based system like Socrative. You can go the low-tech route and have students hold up one of their A through D cards. Or you can merge high-tech and low-tech and use Plickers, although this doesn’t feel low-tech at all.

With Plickers, each student gets a unique QR code (download the PDF). The orientation of the QR code determines the student’s answer. This is card 1 showing B as an answer. Rotate to the left and C would be the student’s answer. Ask your multiple choice question, and have students respond by holding up their cards with their answer pointed up.

Working with the app. [Updated 5/10/2014:  The day after I posted this article I got an email from a kind person at Plickers telling me that they just overhauled the mobile app. Ignore the app screenshots.  It looks different now.  I’m working on an updated blog post.] 

Open the Plickers app on your smartphone or tablet* (Android/iOS). If you have assigned cards to students, you’ll see the students’ names on the left. If you haven’t, you’ll see the card numbers. Notice how they are all gray.

Click “scan.” Your device’s camera will come on. As you stand at the front of the room panning from one side to the other, the app will register the QR codes your students are holding up. (The 5.5″x5,5″ cards are readable from 20-25 feet; I had no problem picking them up in the back of my classroom. If you have a larger room, you may choose to use the bigger 8.5″x8.5″ cards.) As each code is scanned, you’ll see an orange outline appear around the QR code and the answer the student selected will appear in blue above the QR code. This is much easier to see on a tablet than on a smartphone. As each student’s response is recorded, their gray box will turn blue. If you tap the menu button (three vertical dots), you can toggle the student names off and toggle the bar graph of results on. If you want to be the only one to see this information, you can stop here.

Working with the website.

If you want the students to their names and the results, let’s switch over to the website, Plickers.com. Go into the course you created when you signed up, and click the “Teach!” button. (More on course creation below.)

This is what the webpage looks like before scanning the QR codes. (“Grid” shows you each of the cards.)

As you scan with your device, students will see their box go blue so they’ll know their response has been recorded.

While that’s all good, what you really want to see are the results. Click “Graph.”

If you want to see how each student responded, click on the “Classes” button, select your class, then select the poll you’re interested in. Unfortunately there isn’t a way (yet?) to download the responses, but it’s easy enough to copy and paste the student responses into a spreadsheet.

Creating a class and assigning cards to students.

Click on “Classes” and then “Add a new class.”

After naming your class, you can enter your students’ names. Cards will be assigned in order. (Yes, it would be cool to upload a .csv file with names and card numbers already entered, but alas, not yet.) Click on a student’s name or card number to change it. This feature is a little buggy. Sometimes the changes stick and sometimes they don’t. Navigating to another page and coming back seems to help.

Note: Students can change their answers as long as you’re still scanning. You can even switch to the graph view before you’re done scanning, and students can watch their answers come in. Let’s say, for example, you ask students how well they believe they understand a particular concept, from A (totally get it) to D (totally confused). If you have a number of students at the D end, you can leave the question running as you try a different way to help students grasp the concept. Tell students to hold up their cards as their understanding changes, and do another scan. Have the responses slid toward the A side? If so, you know you can move on.

Plickers is a new product, so keep your eyes open for new features and improvements!

*If you are going to use your tablet, test it first. On my Ellipsis, Plickers worked great. On my Galaxy Nexus, it read the QR codes incorrectly; it read them as though the student responded with the letter on the left, not the letter on to. [Updated 5/10/2014: As part of the mobile app overhaul I mentioned above, the developers have built in the ability to “rotate answers.” Run a question as a test. With the device’s camera on, scan a Plickers card. If the top answer is not the one that’s recorded, tap the menu button (three vertical) dots, and select “rotate answers.”  Once you calibrate the device, the settings will stick, and there won’t  be any need to redo it.]


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Feb 032014

As readers of my blog know, I’ve been a big fan of Join.me for screen sharing. While Same.io doesn’t allow others to control your screen like Join.me does (yet?), Same.io does have video conferencing. Let’s take a look at how Same.io works.

Go to Same.io, and click the big “Share my screen” button in the center of the page. Your web browser will give you a popup asking if you really want to share your screen. Say yes. [Tip: If Same.io slows down your computer, close all of your other web browser tabs. I found that with the 9 tabs I had open, Chrome slowed down so much, I couldn’t do anything.]

In the center of the screen with be the URL you can share with whomever you’d like. As long as you’re in screen sharing mode, this URL will connect whoever has the URL to your computer screen. At the very bottom of the screen, you can see that Same.io is sharing your screen. When you’re done, click the blue “Stop sharing” button. If you just want to communicate via microphone, click the mic icon in the top left corner of the screen. If you want to communicate with both audio and video, click the camera icon.

Here you can see I’ve turned my webcam on. Clicking the microphone icon will mute the mic. Clicking the camera icon will ‘mute’ the camera. At the bottom of the page, you can see that I have someone who has accepted my invitation. The location is determined by IP address. Don’t be surprised if it’s not where the person actually is. It should be close, though. To the right of the location is the IP address. Now I can invite my collaborator to share their microphone (by clicking their mic icon) or both their mic and camera (by clicking their camera icon).

When the person accepts, their webcam image shows directly below mine. In all of these screenshots, I have the Same.io webpage up on my screen. I could have switched to my Word document, my email, a spreadsheet, or even just my desktop. Whatever I see on my screen is what others will see on their screen. Important note: If you have dual monitors, both monitors will be seen by those with whom you are sharing your screen.

The URL is a one-time use only URL. After I stopped sharing my screen, this URL no longer worked. The next time I share, Same.io will generate a new URL. If you upgrade ($9.99/month or $99.99/year), you will get your own custom URL and the ability to password protect it. In other words, I could send people to same.io/suefrantz, and give them a password to get in.

Your mobile experience may vary. I tried connecting to the shared screen using Chrome on my Android tablet, and all I got was the main Same.io page.

The developers are actively working on this product, so look for new features in the coming months.

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Nov 172013

I’ve written before about Join.Me for communicating with others while sharing your computer screen. (See the most recent post.) But let’s say that you don’t want to share your screen. You just want to have a conference call (maybe join via your computer or by phone), see who is speaking during the call, and maybe even share some files. And maybe you have some people who will be on the call who haven’t bothered with downloading Skype or figuring out Google Hangouts. Like Join.Me, Speek just needs users who can follow a link.

Speek.com is one of the newest kids on the audio communication block. Give your Speek URL to your conference call participants (in the free version up to 5 people can join a call including you), and Speek will give them three options for connecting to your call. Only the person originating the call needs to have a Speek account.

When you create your free account, the username you choose will be your Speek URL. Visiting that URL brings up the connect page. Before you connect, be sure to log in to Speek. This will give you administrative privileges on the call. More on those below. Your conference call participants will see the same screen when they visit the page. Connect to the call by using the mic/headphone on your computer, have Speek call your phone, or you can call in to the Speek number then enter a PIN. Your participants can choose any of the three methods as well.

Once connected, you’ll see everyone on the call. Here it’s me and my guest where my guest was actually me calling in on another device. At the bottom of the screen are a set of tabs. The “Conference” tab shows who is on the call, who is currently talking (outlined in green), and the percent of time each person has spoken displayed under each avatar. I don’t know that this last feature actually keeps certain problematic people from dominating the call, but for those who don’t wish to dominate, it’s useful feedback.

If you mouse over one of your conference call participants, you will see the options to mute them or remove them from the call altogether. How’s that for power?

To mute yourself, click the speaker icon in the top right corner of the screen. This is an essential tool for when the postal carrier comes and your dogs go bananas – hypothetically speaking.

Click the “Files” tab to share files with the others on the call. Drag and drop a file from a folder onto the gray box on the right side of the screen. Or you can click “file browser” to navigate to the file you want to upload. Participants who are connected to the call by something other than a phone can click on the filename to download it. The only people who can see the files are the people who are currently on the call. If someone arrives late, they won’t be able to see the already-uploaded files. I see the “link your accounts” option, but I’m not sure what benefit that serves when you can just drag and drop. Maybe it makes sense if I’m using a computer that is not mine. I could access my files directly through, say, Dropbox.com.

Click on the “Comments” tab to, well, add comments. This is a useful space to take notes or put together a to-do list for each conference call participant.

Have someone else you want to add to the call? Click the person icon in the top right corner, and enter the person’s phone number. Speek will give them a call. When they answer, they will hear, “Welcome to Speek,” and then they will be connected to your conference call. Since there isn’t much information for them to go on, you either need to speak very quickly once they’re connected or drop them an email or text message to let them know that Speek will be calling on your behalf.

After the call is over

You’ll be given the option to name your call. It’s not a requirement, but it may make it easier for you later.

Click on “Hey <your name>” in the top right corner to access your Speek dashboard. You will see a summary of your Speek usage for the last 30 days, which you can change to a different time period. Click on the “Call History” tab. On the left are the calls for the last week. The ones with paperclips have files that were uploaded during the call. If I click on a call, I see the name of the call (“Blog Post Test Run”), call begin/end (total time), who the participants were along with their participation time percentage (minutes) – if Speek has their contact information, it’s provided to the right of the name (phone number and Twitter handle, in this case), the files that were shared which can be downloaded again by clicking on them, and the comments that were made in the comment pane during the call.

If someone joins your Speek conference call when you’re not on, their call will also appear in your call history.


Aside from the obvious uses for collaborators or committees working at a distance, I could see where someone might want this when, say, advising students over the phone. Share files and make notes as you talk. If you’re hyperconscious about documentation, Speek is certainly the tool for you. If you want to be notified by text message when someone joins your Speek conference call when you’re not already on the call, go into your dashboard ( click on “Hey <your name>” in the top right corner), and select the profile tab. Under “SMS notification” select the number you want to use for texts.

Mobile app

There is an app for Android, iOS, and Windows phones. Interestingly the Android app is compatible with my Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone, but not my Samsung Nexus tablet. While I could connect to the call through my tablet’s web browser, the mic worked fine, but I couldn’t hear anything. I did just try one web browser though; I may have better luck with a different one. You’re probably better off with the app.

Pro version

For $10/month or $100/year, you can have an unlimited number of participants on your call. And you can have Speek audio record your conference call. Speek’s page (updated August, 2013) that describes the difference between the basic and pro accounts says that the pro account grants file sharing and commenting. The basic account, as of this writing anyway, includes those features.

If you would like to try a free month of Speek Pro, you just need to convince 3 people to join. On the dashboard page, on the far right you’ll see the offer. Click on one of the avatars to get to the sharing options page.


Ready to give Speek a try?

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Oct 152013

You are working with a student or a colleague. You are both standing in front of a whiteboard drawing, writing, and discussing your topic. But how do you do this online if you and your collaborator are not in the same physical location? I love Join.me for screensharing, but it’s not very useful if you want to draw something – unless of course you have some type of drawing program on your computer, like EpicPen.

Try Scribblar if you’re looking to share a whiteboard, in real time.

After setting up a free account (maximum of one room and only two users per room; see plans and pricing for more information), create your first room. You can play on the whiteboard without anyone else in the room, but to get a true feel for it, invite a friend by copying the URL for the whiteboard and emailing it to them.

The drawing tools

The menu to the right of the whiteboard provides the drawing tools. In Scribblar, mouse over each icon to see the popup descriptor.

Selector (arrow): Once you’ve written or typed on the board, click on this icon, and then click and drag on the whiteboard to select the elements you’d like. Dragging over any portion of an element will select the whole thing. If it’s a drawn image, you can click and drag to move it. Selected elements can be deleted with your keyboard’s delete key.

Pencil: This is the basic, freehand drawing tool. You can change the color and thickness.

Smooth pencil: You can change the color of this tool, but not the thickness of the line. It does appear to render a smoother line than the regular pencil.

Text (the “A” icon): For those who’d rather type than draw.

Shapes (straight line, square, circle, triangle, polygon, wedge). Select, then click and drag to set the size. Each shape element has its own features. The wedge, for example, includes a slider that lets you determine how much of a wedge you want to show, from 1 degree to 360 degrees. The straight line tool has options for adding arrows to one or both ends of the line. Change the fill color, line color, or both.

Highlighter: It works just like a highlighter. Change the color and the width.

Stamp: This tool comes with 6 premade stamps: Star, arrow, diamond, trademark symbol, registered trademark symbol, and copyright symbol.


The editing tools

The menu along the top of the whiteboard space provides the editing tools. Like the drawing tools, mouse over each icon to see the popup description.

Cut, copy, paste, undo, redo, delete, flip horizontally, flip vertically, lock the page to editing, unlock the page, clear the page, clear all the pages (how to add pages is explained below), take a snapshot of the whiteboard (your best option for saving what you produced), pointer (for, well, pointing – if you’re pointing, no other whiteboard tools will work for you. Click the icon again to toggle it off.), make the background a grid, equation editor, Wolfram/Alpha (for those with a paid plan), and change the whiteboard to a color other than white.

Adding new boards

In the lower left corner of the whiteboard, you can add new whiteboard pages to your room. Just click the right arrow, and a new page will appear. To switch back to the first page, click the left arrow or click the dropdown menu and navigate to the page you want.

If there is a way to delete a page once you have created it, I haven’t found it. If you erase an entire page, the page will still be listed here; it won’t be deleted. You can always delete the entire room and start over.

Audio, chat, and files

To the right of the whiteboard is the list of participants. The icons to the right of each participant’s name let you determine what kind of control that person has. Click the pencil, chat bubble, and microphone to toggle those off. If you’re the “admin” for the room, you cannot turn these off for yourself. The chat window is directly below the participant window. Above the participant window is the microphone. Click it on to talk.

The “assets” tab icons give you the power to upload an image, import a snapshot of a webpage, add a Flickr image, set a selected image as a background to your whiteboard page, download the selected image, delete the selected image, and refresh the “assets” window. If you want to just add the image to your whiteboard screen, click and drag it from the “assets” window to your whiteboard page.

Embed code

Want to embed your whiteboard room in a webpage? In the top right corner of the Scribblar whiteboard screen, click the little arrow next to “Room Options” and select “Embed this room.” A popup screen will give you the html code.


Scribblar is built on Flash, so it won’t work on many mobile devices.

Scribblar only allows for audio communication, not video. If you want video, use Skype or some other video communication service.

No screensharing. Scribblar is only about sharing this particular program; you cannot share your entire desktop. For that, consider Join.me or Google Hangouts.

Caution: If you create a room, and then don’t visit it for 60 days, Scribblar will delete your room. If that’s a concern for you, use a service like FollowUp.cc to remind yourself to visit your room every 59 days.


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Oct 062013

Your computer files. Are they locked away from prying eyes? Are they backed up? Are they backed up offsite, away from fire and flood danger?

For the most part, I don’t have super-secret data on my computer. I teach psychology.

My work computer is a laptop that I tote around with me. I have never had my laptop stolen, but that was true for everyone who had their laptop stolen for the first time.

Security I already have in place

If I left my computer sitting on the roof of my car, it blew off on the 405 and rendered junk by a passing Kenworth, I would still have access to my files through Dropbox.com. I used to have an external hard drive at home I would use for backup, but it occurred to me that this would not help in case of, say, a fire at home. I’m a big fan of offsite backup.

In the case of mischievous riffraff, the thief needs to get into my laptop by guessing or bypassing my computer login. Once in, if they go into my web browser, they won’t be able to automatically log in to sites like Barnes and Noble or, more problematic, Wells Fargo. None of that username/password information is stored in my browser. All of that is stored in LastPass (see this blog post). When I travel with my laptop, I tell LastPass to log me out every time I close my browser. Even so, if I discovered my laptop stolen, I would immediately hop on my smartphone, tablet, or someone else’s computer and change my LastPass password. Just in case.

But all of my files and folders are theirs to see. Granted, I don’t much care if they want to read my syllabus, in fact, that would be kind of nice. I can’t imagine anyone being interested in committee meeting minutes. Reading those might be punishment enough for stealing my laptop. Student grades and assignments are more problematic. Realistically, does the average computer thief really care what Jane or John Doe got on their first psych exam? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean I’m not nervous about it.

Folder Lock ($39.95, free trial).

With Folder Lock, I can lock or encrypt files or folders. There is a lot of encryption software out there. Folder Lock gets high marks for both security and usability.

After downloading and installing Folder Lock, you’ll be asked to create a master password. Make it good. And do NOT forget it. Repeat: Do NOT forget it. And do NOT write it on a sticky note you put on your monitor. Nothing kills security faster than handing the keys to the thief. I have my password saved as a “secure note” in LastPass.

Locking a file or folder

Folder Lock is ridiculously easy to use. To lock a file or folder, navigate to the file or folder location, then drag and drop into Folder Lock.

Here I have added a folder. With the folder “locked,” it no longer appears in the original folder. It’s there, but it’s hidden. In fact, since this is a Dropbox folder, I still have access to it everywhere I have Dropbox installed. [That means that I had better have good security on my mobile devices – at minimum a lock screen. Save yourself the worry and install Lookout Mobile Security ($30/year and worth every dime) – locate your mobile device or wipe it clean.] If I want to access this folder from this computer, I have to go into Folder Lock and double-click on the folder. If I click on it once, I can unlock it (it will be visible again) or remove it (it will also be visible again). Which option I choose depends on whether I’m going to want to lock it again or not.

Encrypting a file or folder

This is upping the security significantly. Encryption scrambles the file data so that it’s unreadable to everyone except the person who holds the key. In this case, your key is your Folder Lock master password. If you are going to be storing sensitive data in the cloud, say in Dropbox or any other web-based storage service, encrypt it before storing it.

In Folder Lock, encrypted files or folders are stored in “lockers.” Click “Encrypt Files” and then “Create Locker.”

Name your locker and identify where you’d like that locker to be stored.

Next you’re asked to create a password for the locker. Don’t forget this one, either. (Create another secure note in LastPass!). Now choose “type” – the default is fine. Choose the maximum size for this locker – how much crap are you going to want to store in here?

After the very satisfying congratulatory message at having set up your locker, let’s go back to the main Folder Lock program. We see the locker we just created.

In fact, Folder Lock has created a whole new drive on my computer. It acts just like any other drive. Copy or move stuff into it like you would any other folder.

When you exit Folder Lock, you will be asked if you want to close this locker. Say yes. With Folder Lock closed, the drive will disappear. To access it, you need to run Folder Lock again. Here you can see my locker status shows that it’s closed. To open it, double-click on the locker and enter your locker password.

The folder with the locker contents will open, and the new drive will appear again.


If you don’t want to save your encrypted files or folders in Dropbox or some other cloud-based storage service, you can use Folder Lock’s secure backup.   Folder Lock will not be able to access your files. They were encrypted (scrambled) on your computer. The only way to unscramble them is to have your password, which Folder Lock doesn’t have. That’s why you can’t ever forget your master password! There’s a storage fee depending on how much space you want. The smallest amount, 10 GB, is $5/month.

Backups are done automatically. All you have to do is save your files like you normally do, and Folder Lock will drop them in the queue for uploading.

Protect USB/CD and encrypt email attachments

Need to take your encrypted files with you on a flash drive? Use this option to copy your existing lockers or create new lockers on a flash drive or other portable media. If you lose your flash drive, no worries. No one can get into your files without your master password.

When you encrypt email attachments, Folder Lock compresses them into a password-protected zip file. The recipient will need to extract the files using a zip program like the free 7-Zip. The recipient will be prompted to enter a password – give them the password you attached to the file when you created it. For obvious reasons, it’s best not to do this in the same email message as the password-protected file.

A quick note on email. Email is the least secure method of sending information. In fact, at many institutions, email is considered public communication. Your IT staff – and the IT staff of your recipient(s) – can easily read your email. They probably aren’t as a matter of course because, frankly, your email is as exciting as your committee meeting minutes. That and they have plenty of their own email to read.

Folder Lock isn’t the only tool that can password-protect attachments. The aforementioned 7-Zip can password-protect zip files. But if you’re already in Folder Lock, you can do it with a couple clicks of the mouse. This feature alone, however, is not a reason to purchase Folder Lock.

Make wallets

Keep all kinds of stuff in this password-protected space – like your credit card information.  This isn’t a feature I use; anything I would store in here I already have stored in LastPass.

Xtras and settings

With these buttons at the very top of the Folder Lock screen, you can do things like shred files, or go into “stealth mode” where it’s not obvious that you even have Folder Lock installed. When you go stealth, you’ll be asked to set a hotkey combination. That’s the keyboard combination you’ll use to run Folder Lock. Don’t forget that, either!


Up your security.  You’ll sleep better at night.

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Sep 262013

With evolving modes of communication comes evolving means of citation. Tweet2Cite is a handy tool. Enter the URL for a tweet, and get the citation, in MLA or APA style.

Getting a URL for a tweet

This took a little effort to figure out. It’s not obvious.

In Twitter, under the tweet you would like to cite, click “Expand.”

Directly under the blue-fonted options, the time and date the tweet was sent will appear. To the right of that, click on “Details.”

This will open the tweet on its own webpage.

Copy the URL from the browser’s address bar. [Keyboard shortcut: CTRL+L will move your cursor to the address bar, highlighting the entire URL. CTRL+C to copy the selected text.]

Creating the citation

Paste the tweet’s URL in the box. [Keyboard shortcut: CTRL+V to paste.] Click “Go!”

Within seconds you will see the original tweet, and then the MLA and APA citations. Copy and paste to wherever you’d like to save the citation. [Keyboard shortcut: In Windows, place the cursor over a word. Double-clicking the mouse will select the word. Triple-clicking will select the paragraph. In this case, triple-click over a word in one of the citations to select the entire citation.]


This is indeed the citation format recommended by APAStyle.org and MLA.org. For APA style, the parenthetical citation would be (Twitter handle, year), in this case (Sue_Frantz, 2013). Remember, if you are citing multiple tweets from the same person in the same year, in your parenthetical citations letter the year as in (Sue_Frantz, 2013a), (Sue_Frantz, 2013b), etc.

Happy citing!

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Jul 012013

Automatically have your Gmail attachments saved to Dropbox. Tweet Feedly articles you’ve tagged. Text new appointments to Google calendar. Making these kinds of automated connections is the power of today’s internet. And you know what? It’s ridiculously easy to do.

IFTTT stands for “If This Then That.” You can connect any one of 65 “channels” to any other one of their “channels.” A channel is web service, such as Dropbox, Gmail, Google Calendar, LinkedIn, Facebook, SkyDrive, Instapaper, Feedly, and Pocket. It includes being able to use text messaging or even phone calls. For the channels you want to use, “recipes” are the connections you make between those services. There are plenty of recipes that you can browse through, or you can create your own.

One recipe I found will let you automatically save all of your Gmail attachments to Dropbox.

Overview of how IFTTT works

Services that operate via the web can choose to have an API (Application Programming Interface). Any service that has this code can be connected to any other service that uses that code. If you have services connected to Facebook or your Google account, those services are using an API. With IFTTT, you give them permission to access certain aspects of whichever services you’d like.

A specific example

After setting up an account at IFTTT, click on “Browse” then in the search box, enter Gmail as a search term. The recipe we’re interested in is fourth on the list.

Clicking on “Save all your Gmail Attachments to Dropbox” generates this page.

Since I haven’t given IFTTT permission to use my Gmail and Dropbox accounts, I need to do that first. When I click the “Activate” button under “Gmail Channel,” I’m directed to Google where I’m asked if I want to grant access to IFTTT. Since I do, I click the “Grant Access” button. And then I repeat the process for Dropbox.

Now I need to decide where in Dropbox I want to save the attachments coming in from Gmail. With the default, IFTTT will create a folder called IFTTT, and within that it will create another folder called Gmail Attachments. I’m good with that, so I just click the big blue “Use Recipe” button.

At the very top of the page click “My Recipes.” You’ll see that it’s been added.

I told you it was ridiculously easy.

Use the icons to the right of the recipe the turn it off, delete it altogether, share it, or edit it.

[Updated 7/2/2013: Recipes run every 15 minutes, unless they have a lightning bolt. Lightning bolt recipes don’t have this wait time.  If you want to check a recipe without waiting, click the edit icon next to the recipe.  On the resulting screen, click “Check.”  The recipe will run immediately.  How do you get a lightning bolt?  Only some channels have lightning bolt capability, like email and Google.  IFTTT reports that they’re working on rolling this out to other channels.]

Creating a new recipe

Let’s create a new recipe where we have any Gmail messages labeled Dropbox saved in a Dropbox folder called “Important Messages.”

Click “Create” in the top menu bar. On the new screen, click the “this” link to tell IFTTT what you want the trigger to be.

For step 1, you are asked what you want the trigger channel to be. Click on Gmail.

In step 2, choose a trigger. Choose “New email labeled.”

Step 3, enter dropbox as the label, and click “Create Trigger.”

With the “this” portion done, we’re ready for the “that.”

In step 4, you’re given that same list of channels. This time, choose Dropbox.

Step 5, tell IFTTT what you want it to do with Dropbox. Let’s go with “Create a text file.”

In step 6, IFTTT said that it would create a folder called IFTTT (if one doesn’t already exist by that name), and then it would put my Gmail messages in a subfolder called “Gmail.” I’m okay with the IFTTT folder, but I want the subfolder called “Important Messages,” so I typed that it.

Next, we need to decide what we want the filename called. IFTTT defaults to what you see here, but we can change this to whatever we’d like using the “ingredients” list given.

I decided that I want the filename to be the sender’s email address – subject line from the message – date the email was received.

When it looks good, click the big blue “Create Action” button.

Last step, add a short description.

Click “Create Recipe.”

Now, let’s test it!

In Gmail, choose a message; right above the message is an icon menu. Click on the label icon, and type in dropbox. Gmail will ask if you want to create that as a new label. Assure it that that is indeed what you want to do.

Give it a few minutes, then check your Dropbox folder. There will be a new folder called “IFTTT”, and within that folder is one called “Important Messages.”

Now do a celebratory dance!

What to do next

Browse the recipes others have created. Take a look at the list of channels to see what services you’re currently using and how you might want to connect them. For the services you’re unfamiliar with, check them out.

Happy cooking!

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