Mobile Apps Overload?!

Overwhelmed by the amount of Mobile Apps out there?  You are not alone.  I personally have a very difficult time keeping up with the latest Apps and choosing which ones may be useful for me.  It can become frustrating when you download an App that doesn’t work the way you expected it to.  Our reliance on electronic devices makes it necessary for us to keep current with this information.  But how? 

Recently, I found a web magazine that was helpful for me.  PC Magazine provides lists that can help you navigate the App world.  The latest Apps are categorized by topic, device, cost and ranked on their functionality.  They also provide summaries and tips for using a particular App.  For instance, if you are an Android user like myself, they recently published the list of the “100 Best Android Apps of 2016.”  There are other resources out there.  Please share resources you have found useful in the comments section. 

Resume where You Left Off in Firefox

Did you know that you can set Firefox so that it will open with the same webpages you had open last time you closed it instead of opening with your homepage? If not, I'm going to you show you how you can make it so.

First, click on the "hamburger" button in the upper-right corner, then click Options:


Next, from the option "When Firefox Starts:", choose "Show my windows and tabs from last time":


That's all there is to it.

Screenshots with Microsoft Word

I like to use Microsoft Word for much of the documentation that I write.  I also like to include screenshots in my documents when they can be more effective than words.  I am embarrassed to admit that I did not know until recently that Word has built-in screenshot capability.  There's no need to bring third party screenshot software into the mix! Screenshot

Next time you need to add a screenshot to a Word document, simply select the Insert tab then click Screenshot.  You'll have the option to make a screenshot of any window that you have open or to make a custom screen clipping on your own.  Once you have the screenshot inserted into your document, the Format menu will appear in the toolbar.  You can change the color and shape and add some artistic effects to enhance the screenshot.


Adjusting website content settings in Chrome

You probably already know that you can adjust Chrome's settings to choose how Chrome handles things like cookies, images, plugins, notifications, and more on a global basis.

Did you also know that you can adjust these (or even just view how Chrome is set up to handle these settings) on a website-by-website basis?

Packers arrowWhen you're at a website, simply click on the icon to the left of the URL in the address bar. You'll see all all sorts of information about what Chrome's global settings allow the page to do, as well as details about how many cookies the site is deploying.  It's also an easy way to allow specific pages to show/not show pop-ups or notifications.


Solid State Drives vs Hard Disk Drives

Photo curtesy of pcmagIf you have seen the SCLS PC order form recently you may have noticed the addition of Solid State Drives (SSD) to the list of options available for you to choose. Previously we’ve only offered traditional Hard Disk Drives (HDD), but now you have the option to get either one.

What is a Solid State Drive and what’s the difference between the old and new technologies?  I’m glad you asked! A SSD and HDD perform the exact same function in a PC or laptop; they store system files and your data. A HDD uses spinning metal platters to perform this function while the SSD utilizes flash memory chips to store data.

The advantage of using a SSD is that it accesses the data much faster than a HDD. A typical patron PC using a HDD with MyPC and DeepFreeze installed on it takes roughly 2 minutes from when a patron logs out to when the next patron can log in. The same PC with a SSD takes about 30 to 40 seconds before the next patron can sign in, from what I’ve seen it’s closer to the 30 seconds, I’m just hedging my bet.

The disadvantage of the SSD is that it costs more than the HDD per gigabyte. Since SSDs cost more the typical size of a SSD is between 128 and 256GB whereas the HDD is between 256 and 500GB. These sizes are based on the systems we currently purchase. If you look in the consumer market you will see HDDs in the 500 GB to 2 TB range for the same price as the 128 to 256 GB SSDs.

To learn more about SSDs check out this informative article in PC Mag.

Photo from

Some useful Excel keyboard shortcuts

At the "Advanced Microsoft Excel Techniques" class, that I recently attended the instructor told us something that I never realized before.  What he told us was that it was faster to use keyboard shortcuts in Excel than to use the mouse.  His reasoning was that if your fingers are already on the keyboard that you waste time moving them over to the mouse.  Since he loved keyboard shortcuts so much he gave us a lot of them in class.  I thought I would share some of them with you to help you save time, which I'm sure we all like to do.

Moving Around

  • Ctrl-PageUp/PageDown: Move to another worksheet
  • Ctrl-Down/Up Arrow: Moves to the top or bottom cell of the current column that contains data
  • Ctrl-Left/Right Arrow: Moves to the cell furthest left or right in the current row that contains data
  • Ctrl-Home: Moves to the beginning of the worksheet (cell A1)
  • Ctrl-End: Moves to the end of the worksheet (last cell with data in it)

Data Selection

  • Ctrl-Spacebar: Select entire column of the active cell
  • Shift-Spacebar: Select entire row of the active cell
  • Ctrl-Shift-Down/Up Arrow: Selects all the cells above or below the active cell
  • Ctrl-Shift-Left/Right Arrow: Selects all the cells to left of or to right of the active cell
  • Ctrl-Shift-Home: Selects from the active cell to the beginning of the worksheet (cell A1)
  • Ctrl-Shift-End: Selects from the active cell to the end of the worksheet (last cell with data in it)
  • Ctrl-a: Selects the entire worksheet; only those cells that contain data


  • Ctrl-Shift-!: Format selected cells to have two decimal points
  • Ctrl-Shift-$: Format selected cells to currency
  • Ctrl-Shift-%: Format selected cells to percentage
  • Ctrl-Shift-#: Format selected cells to date
  • Ctrl-Shift-@: Format selected cells to time


  • F2: Opens the active cell for editing in the formula bar
  • Alt-=: Autosums the cells above the active cell

There are many, many more keyboard shortcuts for Excel.  This was just some of the ones that I use and I hope this piqued your interest to go searching to see what other ones are available.  So the next time your mouse stops working you'll still be able to work on your Excel spreadsheets.

Browsers and Responsive Design Modes


The set of mobile devices is ever changing, with screens large and small. Website designers have had some significant challenges in recent years. The many solutions tend to fall under the heading "responsive design", as first coined in this article by Ethan Marcotte on It's all about flexibility in windows.

We can't possibly cover the whole topic in a single TechBits, but here's how to easily get a taste of what it means. Open Firefox, go to any website, and press Control-Shift-M to put the browser in Responsive Design Mode. You can select from multiple screen sizes, in portrait or landscape orientation, to give yourself a view of what end users are experiencing with that website.

The controls are simple enough that you can probably figure them out just by playing. Or, you can read more about the Firefox interface on the Mozilla Developer website. To get out of this mode, press Control-Shift-M again or click the X button at the top left of the interface.

Safari has a similar mode. It is very much oriented to Safari use on Apple devices, but if that is your development platform and target audience, it's great for that. A good summary of the Safari interface on can get you started.

If you're really into such things, the Chrome DevTools interface has a similar offering, with more complex options and a range of specific presets to help you richly simulate quite a few popular mobile devices. There's a great article about Chrome DevTools on

Last but not least (well OK, yes, it actually is my least favorite of these tools), Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge both have their F12 Developer Tools and Emulation mode.

More to Paste Special than Values


I was working with a spreadsheet and needed to convert some numbers from negative to positive.  While I knew I could add another  column with a formula to multiply each of the numbers by -1 and then copy and use paste special: values to paste the results back into the spreadsheet or I could select the column of numbers and do a find and replace to replace the – with nothing, I decided to see if Excel had a quick widget that would do the work for me.

I didn’t find a quick “switch from positive to negative” button but I did find a different way to go about changing the numbers.  

  1. Put -1 in one of the Excel cells.
  2. Copy that cell.
  3. Select the numbers you want to convert.
  4. Right click and choose Paste Special. 
  5. In the middle of the Paste Special window, there’s a section called Operation.  Select Multiply and click on Ok.  Your numbers have now been switched.

I’d seen the Operation choices before but, frankly, I’d ignored them. Until now I’ve always wanted one of the choices from the upper section (Formulas, Values, Formats, etc.) so I’d never really looked at any of the Operation (Add, Subtract, Multiply and Divide) options.

Now while a simple find and replace would have worked for my original problem, something like this could really come in handy for other situations. For example, if I needed to subtract 10% off of a set of numbers, I could put .9 in the cell instead of -1 and I'd get the numbers without having to insert a column and create a formula.

TechSoup for Libraries

TechSoup for LibrariesDo you know about the TechSoup for Libraries blog? It's one of my favorites!

TechSoup for Libraries is a project of TechSoup, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit devoted to making technology and technology education available and affordable to nonprofits and libraries all over the world. TechSoup for Libraries continues to gather and share stories from the field so libraries can keep learning from each other.

I was just looking over the blog recently and was amazed all over again at what a helpful collection of topics it covers. Some recent examples:

And those are just some of the posts that I find most appealing given my interests! There are many, many more posts on a variety of library technology topics.

You can browse to the blog, sign up for their monthly newsletters, follow them via RSS, or follow them on Twitter.

Guest Post: Madison Public Library's Personal Archiving Lab

This Guest Post is from Samantha Abrams, a soon-to-be graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Library and Information Studies. You can find her on Twitter as @sabramse.

Inspired by similar projects like the Memory Lab (in Washington) and the Inspiration Lab (in Vancouver), the Personal Archiving Lab at the Madison Public Library made its debut in June of this year. Funded through the Madison Public Library Foundation by a gift from Martin J. Levy, the Lab is a collection of equipment that can be used by Library patrons to digitize at-risk analog materials, like home movies, video tapes, audio cassettes, photographs, floppy disks, and paper-based documents (including photographs).

Personal Archiving LabThe Lab — as it stands — fits on a small cart (like this one), and is fully mobile. In addition to a Macbook Air, the Lab contains a flatbed scanner (which can handle poster-sized documents as well as slides and film negatives), a Sony HandyCam, a portable miniDV player, a tape deck, a combination VHS / DVD player, and a floppy disk drive. For video-based transfers, the Lab uses Elgato Video Capture. Some form of external storage (thumb drives are recommended) is required to use the lab, and the transfer of all tape-based media occurs in real time (60 min video = 60 min to complete the transfer).

The equipment we use to capture important memories today — smartphones, digital cameras, social media — makes the tangible feel less urgent. As a result, our tapes and our photographs are often stored out of sight, and out of mind. It isn’t until we run across that box in the attic, or garage, or relative’s basement, that we rediscover them. Since the debut of the Lab at the Madison Public Library, I have helped patrons access memories that are — seemingly — trapped on all kinds of outdated material: VHS and Hi8 tapes have been the most commonly digitized, but it has not been uncommon to work with patrons interested in digitizing cassette tapes, too.

Of course, not all obsolete media can be saved. Often, old tapes become demagnetized, or unintentionally damaged as time passes. But what the Lab can do — at the very least — is provide the equipment needed to access old media and the instruction required to begin the digitization process. And, based on the fact that the Lab’s appointments are often booked weeks in advance, this seems to be a much-needed service, met with great enthusiasm.

What makes the Lab truly great is not its equipment, but its ability to foster connections: not only does it allow Library staff to interact one-on-one with interested parties, but it allows patrons the ability to interact with the past. Earlier in the year, at Madison Public Library’s Pinney Branch, I sat down with a patron interested in digitizing a single cassette tape. As I prepared the computer and tape deck for our work, I made conversation with them: how did they hear about the Lab? What was it about the Lab that made them stop in? Eventually, we landed on the subject of her cassette: a conversation, recorded long ago, between the patron and their father. As they explained further, their father had passed away years before and the cassette — which was over twenty years old — was the only remaining recording of his voice. And what the Lab was able to provide the patron with was this connection: a memory from long ago, brought back to life.
More about Samantha's personal experiences with the lab can be found here.