Category: Productivity

SubToMe: Subscribe to RSS Feeds Easily

So now you’re using an RSS feed reader, such as Feedly, to keep up with what’s new, right? (If not, see this blog post.) SubToMe is a browser tool that will make subscribing to new feeds a breeze. With a few mouse clicks, you can start getting content sent to you from your new source.

On the SubToMe webpage, click on “Settings”.

There are two ways you can use SubToMe to subscribe to a new feed. 1.) Drag the “Subscribe” button to your browser’s bookmark bar. Any time you want to start getting content from a site you’re visiting, click the button in your bookmark bar.

Or 2.) Install the SubToMe browser extension. For Chrome, I visited the Chrome Store, and searched for SubToMe. Once installed, the green SubToMe icon appears next to the rest of my browser extensions in the top right corner of my browser. (Go directly to the extension in the Chrome Store.) To add a new feed from the webpage I’m visiting, I just click the icon.

Connecting SubToMe to your RSS reader

On the settings page, click on “suggested apps”.

Here are the RSS readers they support (as of this writing). Since I just use Feedly, I clicked “Install” to, well, install it.

Ready to roll!

That’s it. To subscribe to a site – such as this one, just to pick one at random – click the SubToMe button. You’ll see this little popup. Click “Feedly” – or whatever RSS feed reader you chose.

Your RSS feed reader will load giving you a preview of what the feed will look like. If you want to subscribe, in Feedly’s case, click “+add to my feedly”.

Feedly then asks where you’d like to put the new feed. Click the appropriate box or boxes – or create a new category. Click the “Add” button at the bottom.


Remember, your RSS feed reader, e.g., Feedly, is creating a personalized newspaper for you. Just like any other newspaper, don’t feel compelled to read everything. Some of my categories have content that are weeks old. I’ll read the newest content, and then for the rest “mark as read.”

LastPass: The Last Password You Will Ever Need

I have been a LastPass advocate for some time, however I’ve been remiss in not dedicating an entire blog post to it. It’s time to remedy that. I have usernames and passwords to over 400 websites. Each of those passwords should be complex and unique. How often do you reuse your passwords?

LastPass is a password manager – and a vault for saving other kinds of data, like credit card information. Use it for free, or pay them $12 a year for the mobile app; if you have a smartphone, it’s well worth the price. By letting LastPass manage your passwords, you can get rid of all of your sticky notes/little black book – and stop letting your browser save your passwords. Let LastPass generate random passwords for you. Share your passwords with trusted LastPass users, like your spouse; if one of you changes a shared password, it’s automatically changed for the other person. Store your credit card information in LastPass.

What it can do.

When I visit a website where I need to enter my username and password, LastPass automatically enters it for me. I have LastPass installed on the three major browsers I use (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer), so my passwords seamlessly follow me regardless of which browser I’m using.

When you first install LastPass, the program will pull your usernames and logins from your browser. Anything you have saved there will automatically be moved into LastPass.

This is the menu from the LastPass web browser extension. From here I can go to my “vault” which holds all of the data I have saved in LastPass. “Recently Used” gives me a list of websites LastPass has recently accessed. Clicking on the links takes me to those sites. “Sites” gives me clickable links to all of the websites I have LastPass passwords for arranged by categories (folders) I’ve created. “Secure Notes” lets me save any kind of text I’d like, like my home WiFi access code. “Fill Forms” has my saved personal data, like phone number, address, and credit cards. I have different form profiles for my address, such as one with my home contact information and another with my work contact information. I have different form profiles for each of my credit cards. That means that when I’m ordering something online, I don’t have to search for my wallet. I just select the credit card I want to use, and, BAM, the information is entered.

Because I have LastPass installed on my laptop, in “Preferences” I have chosen to have LastPass “logoff when all browsers are closed and Chrome has been closed for” 10 minutes. Honestly, if my computer were stolen, the very first thing I would do is hop on the internet, say, with my smartphone, and change my LastPass password. If I’m traveling where the risk of losing my computer is greater (although I’ve never lost one yet!), I turn on multifactor authentication. (See below for more on this!)

When you need to create a new password, use “Generate Secure Password.” You decide the parameters, and LastPass will generate a password. If the bar is in the green, you have a strong password. LastPass will automatically paste it into the web form you’re using, and it will automatically save the password.

When I’m away from my computer, I can access all of my LastPass data through the LastPass mobile app or by logging into my account at

Now you’re getting nervous, right?

“That’s a lot of private data you’re giving them. Do you really trust them?” Yes, yes I do. Because LastPass doesn’t actually have my data. They don’t even have my LastPass master password – if I forget my password, they can send me the hint I used when I created my account, but they can’t send me my master password because they don’t have it.

The short version. LastPass encrypts all of the data you have stored in LastPass on your local machine. Your LastPass master password is the key to decryption. If someone were to break into the LastPass servers, all they would get is gibberish. They can’t decrypt your passwords without your master password.

You can read more about LastPass security. Want to learn even more? Here is what Steve Gibson had to say about LastPass in 2010 on the Security Now podcast (watch below).

For those who want extra security, enable LastPass’ multifactor authentication. With this, you need two keys – one key is something you know (your master password) and the other is something you have (e.g., your smartphone). I use Google Authenticator, but there are others. On my phone I installed the Google Authenticator app. When I log into LastPass, I enter my password, and then I’m prompted to enter a code. I run the Google Authenticator app on my phone, and there will be a code for LastPass. The code is only good for 30 seconds, and then a new code will appear. Once I enter the correct code, then I will be logged into LastPass. Even if someone did get my master password, they would need to have my phone, too, to get into my secure data.

Now think about how many usernames and passwords you have saved in your browser. All someone has to do is open your browser…

Stuff to Try in July

It’s July!

Remember how you said back in January that you wanted to try out some new things when you finally had the time for it?

Your challenge for the month of July: Pick two of these to try out. The first of your picks is #1; we’re not even going to debate that. Your second pick is your choice.

  1. Stop talking on your phone while driving. This one is the easiest since it’s about not doing something instead of doing something. Watch this 55-min video of David Strayer from the University of Utah discussing his researching on multitasking while driving. This was a talk he gave earlier this year at the Association for Psychological Science convention.
  2. LastPass. This is a password manager. Remember one password and have access to all of your passwords – even on your smartphone. LastPass will generate random passwords for you – and remember them for you. You can even share a password with someone else, say, the person you share a bank account with. If you are already using a password manager and are happy with it, by all means keep using it.
  3. Text all of your students at once or just texts individuals without getting their phone numbers or revealing yours. Send out a multiple choice question, and will tally the results for you. Read more here.
  4. YouCanBook.Me. Let others schedule themselves into your Google Calendar – and automatically send them a reminder notice. Read more here.
  5. Feedly. Create your own personalized newspaper courtesy of the internet. When new information is posted to sources you’re interested in, that information will come to you. Ask your favorite librarian about how to get information from the library databases (search results, tables of contents) sent to your newspaper. Feedly is one of many tools in the RSS feed reader genre, but it’s a good one to start with. Read more here.
  6. OneNote. You have this on your computer now. Look in your Microsoft Office folder. In there you’ll find OneNote, an incredibly useful note-taking/organization/task management program. It’s even more useful now that they have a nice mobile app. Read more here.
  7. Akindi. Print test bubble sheets instead of purchasing them. Scan the answer sheet and the student exams into one big pdf, then upload to Akindi. The tests are graded automatically, and all of the data pulled into a spreadsheet. If you attach your student learning outcomes to each of your questions, you have yourself a very easy and very powerful assessment tool. Download the scored tests for printing or sending electronically to your students. Read more here.

  8. IFTTT. “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.” Read more here.

IFTTT: “Put the internet to work for you”

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!

CleanPrint: Print/Save Only What You Want

CleanPrint gives you the power to print or save only the content you want from a webpage. Add a note if you’d like. Add CleanPrint as an extension to your browser.  What’s especially cool is that multi-page articles are automatically combined into one.

With this NYTimes article, you can see the CleanPrint toolbar on the left. The top half gives you several places where you can print or save the webpage.

You can choose which of these print/save options you’d like to display by making changes to the browser extension. In your browser, go to where you can see your extensions. Look for the extension under “Print or PDF with CleanPrint”. Once you find it, select “options” to see this screen.

But before printing or saving, I want to edit the page. There is a lot of content on this page I don’t want. CleanPrint is also telling me that the page will print 5.45 pieces of paper. Let’s see about reducing the amount of paper I’ll need.

The top of the page is all other headlines. I don’t want that. Mousing over it selects that area turning it green.

Clicking on the green area makes it disappear. With that section gone, the new estimate is 5.25 pages.

Let’s take a look at the bottom half of the CleanPrint toolbar.

Clicking “remove images” removes images. And clicking the small A button reduces the font size. After clicking that button a few times, I’m down to 2.68 pages.

Before saving or printing the page, I can add a note by clicking the “add a note” button. A note, at this writing, can only be added in this location in the page but it seems like a feature that could be expanded by allowing additional notes and an option to change the note’s color.

Check out the final PDF.

The “less ink” button grays the font so that, well, you use less ink when printing this document.

If you’re interested in this kind of service, also check out my blog post about PrintFriendly.

Akindi: Update

Not long ago I wrote about Akindi (see this post). Print out your own bubble sheets or send to students to print their own. After the test, scan the completed bubble sheets into a PDF to grade them.

The good folks at Akindi have just added some much-needed functionality. You can now download the corrected tests as a single PDF or download them as a zip file. If you’re going to print them to give back to students, then go the PDF route. Zipping them will give you each corrected test as its own PDF. Do this if you’ll be returning them to students electronically, such as via email or your LMS’ dropbox.

This is what a corrected test looks like.

Keep an eye on this company. They’re building a very powerful tool.

Scantron Alternative: Akindi

[Update 4/3/2013: At the time of this writing, the answer form has 75 questions; they’re working on a 100-question form.  In this post, I suggested using a mobile app like CamScanner for turning the completed forms into a PDF. Akindi does not guarantee the results from scans using a mobile app. It worked fine for me, but if you have to use a mobile app, double-check the results.  And, one last thing.  They’re close to giving you And now you have the power to generate a PDF for each student that has their incorrect answers marked. Read this more recent post.]

Instead of having your students purchase preprinted testing forms (e.g., Scantron), why not print answer forms on regular paper? Or have your students print them? After scanning the completed answer forms into a PDF (a smartphone works!), Akindi, a free service, will dump all of the data into a spreadsheet to use as you’d like.

After creating an account, create a course, and then create a new test.

Test sheet

Download a blank test sheet by clicking the “Download Blank Test Sheets” button (or get it here; you can also find a link to it on the login page). It is just a pdf. Download, print, and copy for your students or make the link available for your students to print. Individual students are identified by a unique ID number, not name. I’d recommend having students write their names on the back of the sheet, and then bubble in, say, the last 4 digits of their student ID number in the “Identification #” area, or, better yet, assign students a number to be used just for this purpose.

Answer key

The answer key is identified by bubbling in 0000 in the “Identification #” area on the answer sheet.


Scan the answer key and the student answer forms into one big PDF. If you’re lucky, you have someone who can do that for you or you have a scanner, ideally with an automatic document feeder (ADF). If you don’t have access to a scanner or a kind soul with a scanner, but you have a smartphone, you can use your phone’s camera to create PDFs. I use CamScanner (Android/iOS).

Once you have the PDF done, upload it to Akindi by using the “upload” button or email it to the unique email address Akindi provides you. The email is a great option if you’re that lucky person who has an elf scanning the forms into a PDF. That person can just email the PDF to that email address; they don’t need you.

Results summary

For each course, you will see a list of your tests. Here you can see two: Practice test and Test 2. Click on the “Download CSV” to get a spreadsheet depicting the overview of the test results.

Test results

Click on an individual test, to get that test data. At the bottom you can see the results for each student; 0001 is the ID number from the “identification #” area on the answer sheet.

Click “Download CSV” to get the data in a spreadsheet. This is what it is looks like. At the very bottom is student 0001 (or “1”). Wrong answers are designated in parentheses. Now you can do easy analytics. For example use the Excel “countif” command to count how many students responded with each answer for each question. Knowing what students choose as the wrong answer is often more illuminating than the number of students who got an answer correct. You can also do a discrimination analysis where you compare the top third of scorers on your test to the bottom third of scores for each test question. Here’s a wonderful explanation of how do this kind of test analysis using Excel.

Getting feedback to students: Mail merge

Since the test forms themselves are not marked with right and wrong answers, it doesn’t make much sense to return the answer forms to the students. Instead, create a form letter in Word. Include whatever content you’d like and then do a “mail merge” with the Excel spreadsheet. Just delete rows 2 through 5. If you’d like students to have the questions from the test, you can do a mail merge with the test itself. (See this blog post for instructions on how to do a Word/Excel mail merge.)

Let’s say that your test results spreadsheet looks like this, with the “key,” “weight,” “common answer,” and “correct students” rows deleted.

This is what the Word form letter might look like. The stuff in brackets are merge fields. Those are the column headings in the Excel document.

When you tell Word to run the merge, Word will create a new page for each row. Here’s how the first row of data gets rendered.

You can print out the merged document if you want to hand each student a physical copy of their test results. If you include email addresses in your Excel file, you can have Outlook email each of your students with their information in the body of the email message.


Akindi is a new product. Look for updates and improvements as they get feedback from instructors who are using their product.

YouCanBook.Me: “Units per slot”

For the YouCanBook.Me users (see this blog post for more info about this service), did you know that you can let more than one person sign up for a given time slot? Let’s say that you wanted to do group advising, or perhaps you’re signing up, say, 10 participants at a time for a study you’re doing. On the “advanced” tab, change “units per slot” to the number of people you want to be able to sign up at one time. If you change this to 10, then YouCanBook.Me will show each time slot as being available until 10 people have signed up for it.

But there’s an interesting quirk. If you change “units per slot” to some other number, say 3, any time you have blocked off in the Google Calendar that YouCanBook.Me is using will show as available since only one person (you) has signed up for that time slot. YouCanBook.Me will let 2 others sign up for that time. If that time is blocked off in your Google Calendar, I’m willing to bet however you don’t want anyone signing up in that time slot.

Here’s the work-around. For each of your Google Calendar entries, add YCBM-OVERRIDE-BPS in the calendar entry’s description. YouCanBook.Me will show that calendar entry blocked off. Remember, this code is only necessary if the “units per slot” is set to more than one.

Bonus tip: If you use a text expander, like Phrase Express (see this blog post; or TypeIt4Me for Macs), create a keyboard shortcut for entering the YCBM-OVERRIDE-BPS code in your Google Calendar description boxes. Something like #yo for “YouCanBook.Me override” or #pita if you’d like to be a bit more expressive.

Screenhero: Screen Sharing with Dual Control is my go-to screen-sharing application with Google Hangouts running a close second. However, both only allow one person to “be” on the screen at any given time. ScreenHero (Windows and Mac) allows two people on the screen simultaneously.

Getting started

After installing Screenhero, you will need to “Add People” you can share your screen with. You’ll be asked to enter the email address and name of someone with whom you’d like to, at some future point or now, share your screen. If they already have a Screenhero account, enter the email address they used to create their account.

I invited myself under a different email address and received this email as the recipient of the invitation. The invitation comes with a default username (email address) and password.

I installed Screenhero on a different computer, and now I can see in the Screenhero window that my alter ego is online. When the person is offline, the chat icon and “Share” button disappear.

Screen sharing

When you click the “Share” button, you get two options. “Share Window”will let you choose which window you’d like to share. The screen-sharing buddy will only be able to control what’s in the window you share. “Share Screen” let’s you share everything on your screen.

Once you select which you’d like to share, the other person will get this pop-up notification along with a pleasant-sounding chime.

After clicking “Accept Share,” you will see the other person’s pointer on your screen, labeled with their name, plus your own pointer.

The other person will see both your pointer and their own.

But you cannot type simultaneously. You can switch back and forth without issue, but both people cannot control the screen at the same time.


Screenhero comes with built-in chat. Use it to communicate or go old-school and just talk on the phone.


As of this writing, Screenhero is still in beta, so watch for the addition of new features.

Everything: Windows Search

A student emails me asking for a letter of recommendation. Before I respond, I want to refresh my memory of the student, beginning with the work the student produced in my course. I go to “Everything” and type in the student’s last name, and as I type, filenames that match the characters begin to appear. By the time I type in the last letter of the student’s name, I have all of the files at my disposal. How cool is that?

Everything is not the only Windows indexing and search tool out there, but it is free. Its search is limited to just the filenames. If you’re willing to pay the price, X1 will search filenames and file content.

Once you have Everything installed, create a keyboard shortcut for it for quick access. (See this blog post for instructions on creating hot keys.)

[One person asked how is this different from the built-in Windows search.  It is much, much faster.]