Category: Productivity

Ditto: Clipboard Manager [Windows]

In Windows, the built-in clipboard can only hold one item. That means the next time you copy a chunk of text, the previous chunk of text that you had copied is erased. When grading assignments, I find that what I write for one student often applies to other students. I know that some of you handle this by having, say, a Word file that holds all of your common comments. But what if I told you that there is an easier (and free!) way?

Ditto saves the last 500 (or however many you want) instances of whatever you’ve copied, such as text, images, files.

I use a keyboard shortcut (WIN + ‘) to get this pop up. Here are the 13 things I’ve copied. I can click on the one I want to paste it. Or I can use the arrow keys on my keyboard to scroll to the one I want and press enter to paste it. Or if it is one of the first ten, I can press the CONTROL key and a number on my keyboard to paste it.

The item at the top of the list is a file. I can go into any folder and paste this file. Item #9 is a graphic.

Want to see more on this screen? Mouse over the top of the pop up to get the double arrow, then click and drag.

You probably don’t want to see 500 items in this screen. Nor do you need to. The search is very fast! When the Ditto pop up screen appears, just start typing. Ditto begins a dynamic search of your clipboard items. That means that as you type, Ditto starts returning items that match your search. Here I typed “cop” and Ditto immediately gave me the 8 items out of the last 500 items I copied that contained that string of letters. Again, select the item to you want, and it will be pasted.

Because Ditto works at the level of the operating system, if you can type in the program, Ditto will paste in the program.

Ditto Options

To the right of the Ditto search box is the three-dot menu. Click on that to pull up your settings options.

[Side note: See the CF_DIBs that have appeared at the top of the Ditto pop up? Those are the screenshots I copied from my screen capture software, Snipping Tool.]

Click “Options…” to open a 9-tab settings window.

From the “Keyboard Shortcuts” tab, choose your keyboard shortcut that will launch Ditto. I chose the Windows key (checkmarked the Win box) and apostrophe. When I hold down the Windows key and press the apostrophe, the Ditto pop up appears.

From the “General” tab, you can decide how many copies you want Ditto to keep. I chose 500. And, no, I don’t have any particular rationale for choosing that number. Also on this page, you can choose to play a sound when you copy something. Personally, I’d find this annoying, but if it’s your thing. (Know what would be awesome? On copy, Ditto would release a puff of smell that matched that of the fluid from a ditto machine.)

Item Options

Right-click on any copied item in the menu to bring up the options for that individual item.

You can move clips into groups. Let’s say that you copied comments you wrote on a particular assignment. You can right-click on each item, select groups, and move the clips into a group named for that assignment. [Pro-tip: Click and hold SHIFT and use your arrow keys to select multiple copies. Then right-click to select groups and move them all in at once. Or you can click and hold CONTROL and then click on the individual copies you want to move.]

I created a group called Blog. When I type blog into Ditto’s search, I see that item 7 is a group called blog. When I select that group, Ditto shows me the items in that group. And now I can select or search just within that group.

When I select that group, Ditto shows me the items in that group. Notice at the top that Ditto tells me I’m in the Blog group. And now I can select or search just within that group.


Ditto is packed with a lot of tweak-able features. Start with the basics. Once you get the hang of it, dive deeper into the settings. Or not. If what you’ve been using is the Windows clipboard where you get to copy and paste one item, then Ditto, out of the box, will give you exponentially more power.

MaxLauncher [Windows]

I’m a big fan of keyboard shortcuts – any shortcuts, really. I want to spend less time running my computer and more time doing what needs to get done.

For Windows users, hold down the Windows key and press S. Your cursor will jump down to the Windows search box. Type in what you’re looking for, and you’re in business.

MaxLauncher ups your search and launch game. Use a keyboard shortcut to run MaxLauncher (I use CTRL – ‘), and then press a key on your keyboard to run a program, open a folder, or open a file.

I have my programs on the first tab. To open Chrome, on my keyboard, I press CTRL – ‘ (to run MaxLauncher) then g.

I have my commonly used folders on the second tab. To open the Psych Dept folder, CTRL – ‘ (to run MaxLauncher), then 2 (switches to the second tab), then p.

I have my commonly used files on the third tab. To open my fall syllabus, CTRL – ‘ (yep, that still runs MaxLauncher), then 3 (switches to the third tab), then f.

How cool is that?

Running MaxLauncher

Download MaxLauncher and run the installer program.

Run MaxLauncher and let’s get you set up.

  1. Click “Settings” and select “Hotkey”. This will be the keyboard shortcut you use to run MaxLauncher. I like CTRL – ‘ because nothing else in Windows uses that keyboard shortcut. “Active tab” tells MaxLauncher which tab you want opened when it first runs. The first tab is a perfectly fine choice.

  2. Now let’s add some programs. Click “View” and select “Drag and Drop Mode”. This allows you to, well, drag and drop stuff onto the MaxLauncher keys.

    To add Chrome, we need to find it in your file and folder structure. Go to the Windows search box (mouse down or type CTRL – S) and search for Chrome. When the result pops up, right-click on it and select “open file location”.

    When the folder launches, Chrome will already be highlighted. Click and drag onto the key in MaxLauncher you want to use as the keyboard shortcut for launching Chrome. I chose g for Google, but any key will work. Just make sure the key makes sense to you so you’ll remember it.

    Change your mind and want to use a different key? Click and drag to a different key. Want to move it to a different tab? Click and drag over, say, the second tab. You’ll see the keys for that second tab, and drop onto one of those keys.

    It’s exactly the same procedure for folders and files. Find what you want and drag it onto a key.

  3. Rename your tabs by right-clicking on the tab and choosing “rename”.
  4. Click “View” and click “Drag and Drop Mode” to unselect it. This will allow MaxLauncher to “Auto Hide” – meaning after you use your keyboard shortcut to launch, say, a program – MaxLauncher will minimize itself so it’s not hanging out on your screen.

    IMPORTANT: When you want to go back to adding programs, folders, or files to MaxLauncher, switch back to “Drag and Drop Mode”.

A special note about Microsoft Office

When you do a Windows search for any of the Office products, like Word, your search will give you a shortcut to Word, not the program itself. MaxLauncher needs the program; it can’t do anything with shortcuts.

In the Windows search box, type winword.exe. Right-click on the search result, and choose “open file location”. All of the Office programs should be in this folder.

Drag and drop these exe files onto MaxLauncher:

WINWORD.EXE to open Word
EXCEL.EXE to open Excel
ONENOTE.EXE to open OneNote
OUTLOOK.EXE to open Outlook
POWERPNT.EXE to open PowerPoint

Go slowly

You’re going to be tempted to put absolutely everything into MaxLauncher. Don’t – at least not right away. Choose the content you use all the time first. Once you get the hang of it – and are remembering to use it – then expand your shortcuts.

Amaze your family and coworkers

You’ll be sitting at your computer when a coworker walks in. “Hey, do you have a copy of that file we were working on?” You’ll press CTRL-‘ then F, and up will pop the file. And your coworker will say, “Whoa! What did you just do there?” Magic – just a little magic.

Random Team Generator: Excel File

I’ve been doing a lot more small group work in my courses. When I let students choose their own groups, they tend to gravitate to the people they know best. That means that they frequently get the same perspective over and over again. I decided to assign students to groups, but counting off in class is a bit of a pain – students get all settled in their seats, they count off, and then they have to pick up all of their gear and move. And I suspect there’s the occasional (frequent) trading of groups since I don’t remember who said which number.

Sumit Bansal created an Excel spreadsheet that will randomize students into groups. Visit his website and download the Excel template file. You can find the download link at the end of the very first section of text.

The random team generator is in the first and only worksheet of the file.

Since I’m creating small groups twice a week for two different classes, I added two worksheets to this file, one for each of my classes. These worksheets only contain the names of my students. If I know a student will be absent, I move them into an out-of-the way column. For the students I expect to be in class, I copy and paste their names into the “random team generator.” If there are more names than rows in the generator page, the generator page automatically does what it needs to do to include them. If there are fewer names than rows assigned by the generator, just delete the excess rows; if you don’t, you’ll have blank spots in your groups.

Now that you have your student names in the generator, enter the number of teams you want, and click the bright orange button. If you don’t like the grouping, just click the button again.

I copy and paste the names – okay, I use the Snipping Tool in Windows – into a document I can show in class. This document is the first thing I pull up on the classroom computer so students know where they need to be as soon as they walk in the door.

Lazarus: Resurrect lost web form entries

Let me explain.

Have you ever entered information in a web form, like a long, well-crafted comment you’ve written for a student in your course management system? And then when you clicked “submit” you got a notice that your page had timed out, or that you lost your internet connection? Or maybe you didn’t get around to clicking submit before you accidentally closed or reloaded the webpage? In any case, your comment is gone. Irreparably gone. And you have to type it all over again. Or what you can remember of it. In case, you’re certain the words you are retyping are not nearly as good as what you wrote the first time.

Lazarus, a Chrome extension (and Firefox add-on), has become my new best friend.

To recover lost text from a form field, I click the ankh icon in the top right corner of the field, and Lazarus shows me what I typed in that field in a menu with a light purple background. I can also see a bunch of other content I’ve recently typed in other web form fields. I can select anything from the list. Mousing over an option gives me the entire text in white pop up box. Clicking that option enters it into the form field.

This has become very handy given how much time I spend entering comments and other text in boxes in my course management system. Just recently I entered comments into a rubric for a particular student and then moved on to the next student… without saving the comments for the previous student. Doh! When I went back to the previous student, all of my comments were gone. But then I clicked on the ankh icon, and there were all of my comments, ready to be resurrected.

Almost just as recently, I was completing an online conference registration form. One entry box asked for a 50-word statement about something. I wrote it. And then when I clicked submit, I learned that my internet had hiccupped. I got a page-timeout error. When I got reconnected to the internet, and reloaded the page… Yep. Everything was gone, including my concise, brilliant 50-word statement.

Unfortunately, that was before I had installed Lazarus.

But installing it was the very next thing I did.







Expensify: Keep Track of Your Travel Receipts

Do you need to keep track of receipts for reimbursement or for your taxes? Danae Hudson and Brooke Whisenhunt of Missouri State University recommend Expensify. Expensify is free. If you need more power, you can pay a small monthly fee.

In the past I’ve used CamScanner to turn my phone’s camera into a scanner, scanning my receipts to pdf and then uploading the pdf to Dropbox for safekeeping. Expensify uses the same technology, but to a very specific end. I should also add that those of you with flip phones are not left out. The web interface for Expensify works just fine. Use whatever scanner you have to scan your receipts, and then upload them to the Expensify website.

For those with phones with cameras, install the mobile app. This is what Expensify looks like on my phone right now. You can see that I have a number of items for a trip I named InstructureCon 2016. To the left of each item is a thumbnail of my receipt. Because I don’t have receipts for per diem because, well, it’s per diem, there is no thumbnail.

To add a new receipt, just tap the green camera icon in the bottom right corner of your phone’s screen. You can also tap “NEW” in the top, right corner and select “receipt”. In either case, your phone’s camera turns on, and you can take a photo of your receipt. You can do that sitting right at your restaurant table. If it’s one of those ridiculously dark restaurants – one where you need your phone’s flashlight app to read the menu – you can turn on the flash. The photo of the receipt will automatically appear at the top of your receipts list. Expensify guesses that your most recent trip is the trip you want the receipt attached to. If that’s not right, it’s easily changeable.

Tap on that newly-added item to add important information, like merchant name and how much you paid. Expensify enters today’s date by default, but you can change it. Include a comment – I note the reason for the expense. Tap on “Category” to assign the receipt to lodging, meals, transportation, etc. You can create your own tags to mean whatever you’d like. Since I use Expensify to keep track of all of my travel expenses, both reimbursable and, for those that aren’t reimbursable, tax deductible, I have tags called “Reimbursable” and “Tax deductible”. I also have a tag named “Non-reimbursable/non-tax deductible” that I use when, for example, my wife is traveling with me on a work trip and my portion of the meal is reimbursable (or tax deductible), but hers is not. (Expensify allows the splitting of receipts that makes this easy to track.) Be sure the receipt goes with the correct report. Tapping on “Report” will show you your active reports and allow you to create a new one. Finally, toggle the switches for “Billable” and “Reimbursable” as needed. [“Hey, Sue, if there’s a ‘Reimbursable’ toggle, why do you need a ‘reimbursable’ tag?” Good question. In the report Expensify generates, tags are prominently displayed, so it’s just easier to see.]

Expensify has an easy-to-navigate web interface. On the “Expenses” tab, you can sort by date, merchant name, amount paid, category (e.g., transportation, lodging), tag (which you’ve created), or comment. On the left side of the screen, you can search and filter as you’d like. Click on an expense to edit it. If you click on the paper (or +) icons between the total column and the category column, you can edit the details for the item, and do things like split the expense and upload pdfs. Uploading pdfs is very helpful for emailed receipts, for example. Save the emailed receipt as a pdf, and then upload to Expensify. [Want to add/remove categories and tags? Click on your icon in the top, right corner of any Expensify webpage, and click the “Personal settings” button.]

When you’re done with your trip, click on “Reports” in the top navigation menu. Click on the report you want.

Use the right navigation menu to edit expenses, share with others, print, download a pdf, add an attachment to the report.

Since my college doesn’t officially use Expensify, I don’t use the “Submit” button. Instead I download the pdf report. The pdf includes a summary of all expenses, thumbnails of each receipt, plus a full image of each receipt. Because my college accepts photocopies of receipts, I just fill out my college’s travel reimbursement form and then attach this report as the record of my receipts. Even if my college didn’t accept copies of receipts, I’d probably still submit the report along with the original receipts. When the report includes tax deductible items, I also print out a copy for my records. (Ok. My wife’s records – she handles our finances.)





Dropbox Selective Sync

Years ago you created a Dropbox account and installed Dropbox on your home computer, your work computer, your personal laptop, and maybe even a work laptop. It was, and is, a great way to access all of your files wherever you may be. Do you remember when you used to email files to yourself? Or tried to remember whether the newest version of a file was on your home computer, your work computer, or a flashdrive – wherever you might have left that flashdrive, whichever flashdrive it was? Dropbox has even more powerful functionality with Microsoft integration. You can now edit documents with others, live, via But that’s not what this post is about.

Not only did you find Dropbox useful for storing your work files, you found it useful for storing your personal files. But do you really want your vacation photos on your work computer? One issue I’ve seen with those non-work photos on a work computer is that many work computers are backed up to an institutional or company server. Even if the photos are Rated G, they are taking up tons of space on servers that don’t have a ton of space. It’s one thing if those photos are work-related. It’s another thing if they are not. Or, less ethically troublesome, maybe you just have some folders that contain files that you don’t really need anymore. You’d like to keep them as an archive, but they don’t need to take up space on your computer’s hard drive.

Let’s separate the Dropbox folders you don’t need on your work computer from the folders you do need using “selective sync”.

Selective sync lets you tell Dropbox which folders you want to sync with a particular computer. To choose which Dropbox folders you want synced on your work computer, from your work computer click on the Dropbox icon in your system tray. Click on the gear icon, & select “Preferences”.

In the Dropbox Preferences window, select “Account”. Click on “Selective Sync…” The popup will show you all of your Dropbox folders. Leave checked the ones you want to sync to this computer; uncheck the ones you want removed. Click “Update” and “OK”.

Dropbox will delete the unchecked folders from your work computer, but they will still exist at I promise. Those unchecked folders will also still sync with any other computers you have. If you want to remove, say, 2009 committee minutes from your home computer, repeat this process from your home computer.

You can always resync those folders by going back into preferences, and checking the folders you want to sync to that computer.

You’re not doing anything else this evening. Take the opportunity to free up some space on your computer disk drives.


Doodle: Make a Choice

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.

Dropbox: Save Bookmarks

Over the summer, Dropbox added a nifty new feature.

Save bookmarks from your web browser in any Dropbox folder.

Highlight the URL in your web browser, left click on the highlighted URL, and drag it into your chosen Dropbox folder. Notice that the file “type” is Internet Shortcut.

Like filenames, you can rename your URLs by right-clicking on the filename and selecting rename.

Yes, if you share a Dropbox folder (read/write privileges for your share-ees) or share a link to a Dropbox folder (read-only for your share-ees), the links are also shared.