Mar 172013
 

“What’s an RSS feed reader?”

If you’ve been bopping around the tech blogs, you’ve been hearing a lot about RSS feed readers lately. If you haven’t been using an RSS reader, you may be wondering what the hubbub is all about. This is such an essential piece of technology that Google Reader was the subject of one of my very first blog post back in April 2009. If you’re not familiar with the concept, please check out that post. It will bring you up to speed on how an RSS reader can help you manage how you learn about what’s new in the world. Many of you have asked me where I learn about the technologies and tips I share in this blog. I use an RSS feed reader to deliver information to me from tech blogs, the popular press, and other sources. I can sift through it quickly, filtering out stuff to try. What I like, I write about here.

Google Reader has been my RSS feed reader of choice from the beginning. And the amount of response Google’s announcement regarding the shutting down of Google Reader (7/1/2013) has generated, it’s nice to see that I’m not alone in my grieving. I know that sounds dramatic, but Reader is always open in my browser. I dip into it several times during the day. I use it as much as I use email. [For those who aren’t quite ready to let Google Reader go, there are several petitions at Change.org. This one has the most votes. You’re invited to add your voice to the thousands.

Replacing Google Reader

I’ve been reading reviews of the top contenders for replacing Google Reader (one review from LifeHacker). Feedly has been getting a lot of good press. I really like its mobile app, but I’m still not sure how I feel about the web interface. TheOldReader feels comfortable since it looks and acts much like Google Reader, but some functioning isn’t quite there yet, like social media integration. I know TheOldReader developers are working their butts off right now; it’s a side project for them that is suddenly taking up much more of their time. The other readers that are getting buzz, like NewsBlur, NetVibes, and Pulse, are too magazine-y for me. I want to read information, not look at pretty pictures – not that I have anything against pretty pictures.

TheOldReader

When you look at TheOldReader, you’ll see that it looks a lot like Google Reader. In fact, it looks pretty much how Google Reader used to look. They say that this project started just as something for their friends who liked the original Google Reader.

On the left you can click the top button to add a subscription. The bottom of the left navigation bar shows the feeds. Click the “import” button in the top right corner to import your news feeds from another service, like Google Reader. Instructions on getting your Google Reader news feeds into a format TheOldReader can use, see this blog post. As of this writing (3/17/2013), TheOldReader has a pretty big backlog of import requests. As for the reading experience, if you’re coming in from Google Reader, the keyboard shortcuts are the same.

The toolbar to the right of the screen lets you use buttons to navigate up and down through the articles. The third button lets you switch between the article preview mode depicted in the screenshot above and title mode where you only get the list of titles.

Feedly

Feedly has a different feel. If you try Feedly before July 1, 2013 when Google Reader is scheduled to take its last breath, your Google Reader feeds will be automatically imported. Feedly was originally built to connect to Google Reader, and you can still do that now. The Feedly developers are currently working on the backend to ensure a seamless transition from feeds coming from Google Reader to the feeds residing inside of Feedly itself.

In the screenshot below, you can see my feed folders on the left. Clicking the cog icon in the top right corner (is it a cog??) calls up the settings. Choose the format you want. What’s displaying now is full articles, but if you like pretty pictures, switch to magazine, timeline, mosaic, or cards. At the very bottom of that menu is a filters area. Feedly will only show you your unread items by default. Uncheck the box to see both read and unread items.  One quick warning. On the left, next to each feed or folder, there is a number.  That’s how many unread items you have.  If you click on it, Feedly will mark all of those feeds as being read.  Be careful!

I’m still a big fan of keyboard shortcuts. In Feedly, hit the question mark on your keyboard to get the shortcut list. Press ESC when you’re done.

Mobile apps

As of this writing TheOldReader doesn’t have a mobile app, but I suspect one is in development. Or will be soon. Feedly already has an app that I like. My only complaint is that Feedly picks an article out of the feeds to make a “cover” article. Since we’ve already established that I don’t care for a magazine-y interface, I find the cover article irksome.

Try them both

I encourage you to try them both. If you frequently read your feeds on a mobile device you may want to try Feedly‘s web and mobile app interfaces first. Whatever is marked as read in one location will be marked as read in the other location. But it’s not like you can’t read TheOldReader feeds on your mobile device. Just use your mobile browser. And if you like magazine-y layouts, by all means take a look at NewsBlur, NetVibes, and Pulse.

If you have found an RSS feed reader that you like, please let us know in the comments.

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Mar 132013
 

[Update 3/17/2013: My recommended RSS feed readers are in this post.]

Google Reader has been my go-to RSS feed reader since it launched in 2005. I’m pained to see it go. If you’re a Google Reader user, the first thing you need to do – after an appropriate period of mourning – is get your feed subscriptions dumped into an OPML (XML) file so that you can import them into another reader.

Exporting subscriptions

In Google Reader, go to settings (cog icon on the far right of the screen), and select the “Import/Export” tab. At the bottom of the screen, click “Download your data through Takeout.”

Click “Create Archive.”

Give Google a minute to get your data together.

When it’s ready, click “Download.”

Your data will come to you neatly compressed in a zip file. Save it someplace where you can find it. Open the folder and click “Extract all files.”

Click through the subfolders until you see the files themselves. It’s the very last one that you want, the “subscriptions.xml” file.

Importing

Whatever RSS feed reader you move to – I’m trying out FeedBooster right now – the service should have an import function for your subscriptions. Since I’m not quite ready to recommend FeedBooster just yet, keep your eye on this space. I’ll let you know when I find a service that I like.

What do you use?

Do you have an RSS feed reader that you really like? Please share in the comments!

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Mar 102013
 

Join.me 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.

Communication

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

Conclusion

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

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Mar 042013
 

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.]

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Mar 032013
 

Did you know that you can create a keyboard shortcut to open any Windows program?

Find the program you want to open (Start menu for pre-Windows 8 users; here are instructions for Windows 8 users). Right-click on the program and select “Properties.”

Select the “Shortcut” tab, then click in the “Shortcut key” box.

Type what you want your keyboard shortcut to be. Pick something you won’t hit accidentally or that you don’t already use as a keyboard shortcut. If you do try to use something that’s already a Windows shortcut, Windows will provide you with an alternative. In this case, I pressed CTRL, SHIFT and ‘w’ simultaneously on my keyboard. Click “Ok”.

Now any time I want to open Word, I just hit CTRL + SHIFT + w, and Word will launch.

Bonus tip: ALT-F4 will close the program you currently have open. I know, there’s nothing intuitive about that. Write the keyboard shortcuts you want to learn on little sticky notes and put them on your monitor. Practice them. Before too long you’ll have them down and be ready to learn more.

 

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Mar 022013
 

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

Go to Google Alerts. Enter your search query.

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 012013
 

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

Overview

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

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

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

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

Working with pages

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Search

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

Pasting stuff from the Internet

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


Adding files

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

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

 

Outlook integration

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

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

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

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

 

Mobile app

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

Try it!

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

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Feb 232013
 

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

Want to do it even faster?

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

Even faster?

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

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

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

Recap

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

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

Autofill ‘To:’ field

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

mailto:snoopy@peanuts.com

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

Or create a keyboard shortcut using a text expander program.

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

Autofill ‘Subject:’ field

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

mailto:?subject=Your Subject Line Content Here

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

Try it out

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

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Feb 222013
 

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

Starting a Hangout

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

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

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

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

The Google Hangout window

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Try it out

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Feb 212013
 

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

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

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

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

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

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