Cool Tools: Advanced URL Builder

Find-using-linkcat-highlightedSounds a bit dry, right, perhaps even difficult? But no! This tool is fairly easy to use, and if you're a LINKcat junkie (by choice or by job description) then it can put the "fun" in functionality.

Advanced URL Builder (AUB) is a Firefox Add-On that lets you create custom search links on your right-click context menu. I found it while looking for a tool that would let me rapidly convert street addresses to a map display. AUB does that by default, and with just a little work it can do a lot more. You can get AUB here.

Installing AUB inserts a new context menu item, Find using..., that is available by right-clicking whenever a word or phrase is highlighted in your browser window. This new menu item has several default search widgets: Just Open (for text that is a URL), Google Maps, or Dictionary (reference.com). Note that the Google Maps option defaults to the UK edition. You may want to adjust the Google Maps search widget by changing the ".co.uk" part of its URL to ".com".

To adjust the Google Maps URL, or to add your own search widgets, select some text on a web page, right click, select the Find using... menu item, and finally select its Options... Then you can double click the Google Maps URL to modify it, or you can add a menu option for any website having a search function that uses a structured query URL.

Using AUB with LINKcat searching

As an example, let's create an AUB search widget using the LINKcat launcher. Here's how to create a general keyword search widget for LINKcat. This AUB widget will yield the same results as you get when you search LINKcat Catalog in the PAC.

1. Get into the AUB Options window if you're not already there.
 
Highlight any text on a web page, right click, choose Find using... and then Options... The AUB Options window will open.
 
2. Click the Add button.
 
A new item will appear at the bottom of the list of options, named New Item, with an empty URL.
 
3. Double click the new item's Name to change it.

For this example: LINKcat Catalog
 
4. Double click the new item's URL to edit it.
 
Type in (or paste) your search URL. For this example:
http://launcher.linkcat.info/go.cgi?idx=&q=

Note that this is a partial URL. The search term is going to automatically get appended, matching whatever word or phrase that you have highlighted when you right click in the browser.

5. Click OK to finish, or go ahead and Add some more search widgets, perhaps these:

LINKcat Title
http://launcher.linkcat.info/go.cgi?idx=ti&q=

LINKcat Author
http://launcher.linkcat.info/go.cgi?idx=au&q=

LINKcat Subject
http://launcher.linkcat.info/go.cgi?idx=su&q=

LINKcat ISBN
http://launcher.linkcat.info/go.cgi?idx=nb&q=

Now, if that all went well, then you should be able to select any text on any web page, and launch these searches from it. Below are some phrases for testing. Just select a name, book title, place or ISBN, then right click and search with your AUB widgets.

Tomorrow, July 30, is the birthday of novelist Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights. She was born in 1818 in the town of Thornton, West Yorkshire, UK. Are you traveling there? Try the audio book version, ISBN 9781400106882.

Firefox Add-ons

Firefox add-ons are small pieces of software that let you add new features and change the way your browser works.  You can install these add-ons yourself without the need for a call to the Help Desk. 
There is a very large community of developers that create these add-ons, so the chances of finding one that does what you want is pretty good.

An important security note about add-ons is that you need to be VERY careful about where you get them from because they may harm your computer or violate your privacy.  Unless clearly marked otherwise, add-ons available from Firefox's Add-on gallery have been checked and approved by Mozilla's team of editors and are safe to install. I recommend that you only install the approved add-ons and never install any of the add-ons marked as Experimental because they have not been reviewed.  Never ever install an add-on from an unknown source!

Once they are installed most people just forget about them.  But, as I discovered recently this is not a good idea.  I got a call from a library with an unusual problem with Firefox.  When they right-clicked within their Firefox browser they got a menu that was longer than their screen was tall.  After much research I discovered that this problem was caused by an out-of-date add-on.  Since the add-on was no longer needed is was disabled and then the problem was resolved.

If you're having a problem with Firefox one way to tell if it is being caused by an out-of-date add-on is to start Firefox in Safe Mode.  The easiest way to do this is from within Firefox.  You go to the Help menu and choose "Restart with Add-ons disabled...".  Then a window called "Firefox Safe Mode" with some troubleshooting options appears. Here you would click the "Start in Safe Mode" button.  Never ever click the "Reset Firefox" button as this will reset Firefox to a default state by creating a new profile, migrating only essential data and then moving all of the old Firefox data to a folder on your desktop. Warning! This change cannot be reversed.  Once in Safe Mode see if your problem persists.  If the problem is gone then it's a pretty good bet that it is an out-of-date add-on causing the problem.  So now you know you need to update your add-ons.  When you are done testing and want to get out of Safe Mode, just close Firefox and wait a few seconds before opening Firefox for normal use again.

So now you're asking, how do I keep my add-ons up-to-date?  It's really easy. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open Firefox
  2. Go to the Add-ons Manager by clicking "Add-ons" in the Firefox (or Tools) menu
  3. Click on the Extensions tab on the left
  4. You will now see a list of all of the add-ons that you have installed
  5. In the upper right corner you will see a gear
  6. Click on it and a menu like the one below will appear
  7. Add-on-Update
  8. If the "Update Add-ons Automatically" option is checked you're done
  9. If it is not checked click on it to check it then you never have to worry about old add-ons again
  10. If you want to update them now just click the "Check for Updates" option
  11. Firefox will then update all add-ons that have a newer version
  12. Once all the updates are done you may need to restart Firefox

My two favorite add-ons are Print Edit, which gives you print preview with edit capability, and Print pages to PDF, which gives you the ability to print the content of one or more browser tabs into a PDF document.  Please leave a comment and let me know some of your favorite add-ons.

Scrolling Through Web Pages

Firefox Back ButtonWhile using control button and scroll wheel to resize an image in Firefox I accidently discovered I can scroll through web pages I’ve been to by holding down the shift key instead of the control key and turning the wheel on my mouse.

Thunderbird Font Size

A few libraries have asked how to change the global font size of Thunderbird instead of the font size used in messages.  If you want to change the font size of the mailboxes, the messages pane and Thunderbird menus, the Theme Font & Size Changer add-on is worth a look.

  1. Download the Theme Font & Size Changer add-on
  2. Open Thunderbird  MP900442939
  3. Click Tools
  4. Click Add-ons
  5. Click Extensions
  6. Click the little "gear" at the upper right and select Install Add-on From File...
  7. Go to the folder where the add-on is saved and double-click it
  8. Click Install Now
  9. Click Restart Now towards the upper right
  10. After Thunderbird restarts, click Tools
  11. Click Theme Font & Size Changer
  12. Now you can test the settings until you find one you like

HTML5, CSS3 and You!

'<embed>' photo (c) 2007, Luis - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

So, how is your personal relationship to HTML5 and CSS3 going? Did you even know that you had one? You do now or soon will, if your library continues to rely on Windows XP for staff or patron workstations.

Perhaps we should start with the basics. What are HTML5 and CSS3? Technically, these are website content format standards that are maturing but are still under development. They represent a large number of feature enhancements over HTML4 and CSS2; too many to get into here, and probably you don't need (or want) to care about all the details.

What's important for you to understand is that some of these new features are highly, highly desirable to website developers. This is why Google Apps (among other sites) ended their support for Internet Explorer 6 in 2010, and then ended their support for IE7 (and Firefox 3.x and other browsers) in 2011. Can you guess the fate of IE8? Hot tip: don't bet on its longevity...

Officially, Microsoft is continuing to support Windows XP SP3 and IE8 until April 8, 2014. However, there will be no new versions of IE for the XP platform; IE8 is all you get. The good news is that IE8 does support some HTML5 features. The bad news is that some sites have already dropped support for IE8 because its implementation of HTML5/CSS3 is just too primitive or incomplete.

The world is not ending, of course, at least not on account of IE8. If your budget says that XP stations will be operating in your library for some time to come, then there is always Firefox. SCLS will continue to update Firefox on XP stations for as long as we are able to, and Firefox on XP is fully capable of handling websites that demand a lot from HTML5 and CSS3. You just need to be aware that as time goes on, IE8 will become less and less useful (and in some cases impossible to use) on evolving websites.

Want to know more about what's missing from IE8 (and for that matter, from IE9 on Windows 7)? Check out the fun interactive chart at http://html5readiness.com/. Hover your mouse pointer over any spoke on the chart wheel to see the name of the new feature that it represents, and note how many spokes are missing labels indicating IE8 and IE9 support. Want to replay the "browser wars" of recent years? Dial back the chart to yesteryear by clicking on the tags above it.

Restoring Previous Firefox Browsing Session

My Techbits is about restoring your previous browser session in Firefox 12.  I find it to be a useful browser feature, especially if you do a lot of research and have several tabs open.  It's nice being able to pick up where you left off the previous day.  This feature can also become a privacy concern, so it should be used with caution.  Use the following instructions to restore a previous browser session and read the warning below.

First, Set Firefox to Remember History

  1. Click Tools
  2. Click Options
  3. Click Privacy
  4. Beneath the History heading, set the dropdown box to Remember history
  5. Click OK

To Restore a Previous Browsing Session

  1. Click History
  2. Click Restore Previous Session

To Set Firefox to Always Open the Previous Session

  1. Click Tools
  2. Click Options
  3. Click General
  4. Beneath the Startup heading, set the dropdown to Show my windows and tabs from the last time
  5. Click OK

Warning

There can be privacy issues if you are using a shared computer.  If you are logged into a site when you close out the browser, session restoring may reopen the site stilll logged into your account.  For this reason, session restore is disabled on public stations.

 

Zoom, zoom, zoooooooooom

Zoom in MS Office
Did you know you can quickly zoom in or out of a document (Word), presentation (PowerPoint), or worksheet (Excel)? 

 ZoomSlider

  • On the status bar in the lower right, click the Zoom slider
  • Slide to the percentage zoom setting that you want

 
Zoom in IE 

IEzoom

Want to quickly zoom in IE?
<--- There's a zoom menu on the status bar...

And if you prefer keyboard commands, don't forget

  • Ctrl +  (zoom in)
  • Ctrl -  (zoom out)
  • They work in most browsers!

    Print Multiple Firefox Tabs as a Single PDF Document

    When I find useful documentation online, I like to print the web page as a PDF so that I will always have a copy available.  Sometimes I'll find useful documentation from several sources online.  Instead of MP900443159 printing each webpage separately, I'd rather print all the sources as a single PDF.  I find it easier to manage.  The Print Pages to PDF Firefox add-on allows you to print multiple open tabs in Firefox to a single PDF document. 

    After you have installed the add-on, you will notice Print Pages to PDF appears in your Firefox Tools menu.  This is where you can change defaults like margin size, headers and footers and it's where you'll click to actually print the PDF files.  I think the add-on is definitely worth a try as it beats copying pages to a Word document then printing to PDF.

    Happy Tuesday - Firefox breaks Java!

    Today was going to be a really productive day! I didn't have any meetings, my phone was pretty quiet, and I knew exactly what I wanted to get done. Guess what?  That lasted about 10 minutes. It started when Brian came into my office and told me about a problem with Java and Firefox....POOF! my day was now totally shot.

    Some/Most/All of you fired up Firefox today and saw this message:

    Java Message
    I'll get right to the point about what this message is telling you. Firefox uses Add-on software to display websites. The Adobe Flash Player and Java Add-ons are used by millions of websites. Just like all software, Add-ons need to be updated. Last night (4/2/2012) FireFox maker Mozilla decided that because there are some security issues with previous versions of Java, they would disable all versions except for the most recent version. Every Firefox user in the WORLD will get the message above if the version of Java they have is out of date.

    So that brings me back to my day today. We've been looking at and testing the new version of Java, working on a way to package it, and creating documentation about what you need to know. I can tell you that there will be a step or two that you will need to do.  We plan on sending out an email on Wednesday with much more information...stay tuned!!

    I hope your day goes better than mine!

    Help Desk Tidbits

    Dynix Workstation Numbers?

    Do you still have your Dynix workstation number posted somewhere by your PC?  If you do would you please remove it as we are no longer using that to identify a PC.  If asked for a PC name please give the name that starts with your library's three-letter agency code.  This identifier is found on the PC itself on a white sticker with black letters.


    Post-Firefox Update Printing Issues?

    Now that all staff PCs have Firefox 10 on them we would like you to verify that all Firefox desktop icons work when you print.  We had some problems that were identified so we want to make sure that all staff PCs that print to any kind of printer print correctly.  So test out all of your staff PCs, even the one that never gets used, to make sure they print okay.  Once you've tested them all and made a list of all those that don't work then give me a call at the Help Desk and I will fix them for you.