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Want to listen to OverDrive WMA Audiobooks on an iPod?

Yes, I mean the WMA Audiobooks that for years have been strictly incompatible with iPods. (As in, the kind we have a ton of, in the WPLC Digital Download Center.)

In the not-so-far-off future, many of them will be compatible with those long-forbidden iPods!

According to a press release from OverDrive, the next version of the free OverDrive Media Console software will make many WMA Audiobooks compatible with iPods and other Apple devices. The new software will be available only for Windows computers and will be released in June.

Good news? Definitely. But the software hasn't even been released yet, and once it is, it will take some time to test it out for use on SCLS library staff and patron PCs. The press release also leaves some unanswered questions:

  • Will the new software ever be available for Apple computers?
  • Which WMA Audiobooks will this affect? (The press release just says "the vast majority," which still leaves the tiniest bit of room for someone's favorite title to be left out.)

Read it for yourself, and rest assured, we'll be monitoring this!

Saving Word and Excel 2007 Documents

By default, Microsoft Office 2007 uses the Office Open XML file format to save your files. Word documents are saved with the .docx file extension while Excel documents are saved with the .xlsx file extension. If you plan on sending Office 2007 documents to others, you will want to make sure they also have Office 2007 or Office 2000\XP\2003 plus the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack. The compatibility pack will allow older Office version users to open your documents.

Another option is to save your Office 2007 documents with the old .doc and .xls file extensions. You can choose these extensions each time you save a document using the Save As option. You can also configure Word and Excel to default to the older file extensions.

To configure Word 2007 to default to the .doc extension, follow these simple steps:

  1. Open Word 2007
  2. Click the Office button (the round button at the upper-left)
  3. Click Word Options
  4. Click Save
  5. In the Save files in this format dropdown box, select Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc)
  6. Click OK

To configure Excel 2007 to default to the .xls extension, follow these steps:

  1. Open Excel 2007
  2. Click the Office button
  3. Click Excel Options
  4. Click Save
  5. In the Save files in this format dropdown box, select Excel 97-2003 Workbook (*xls)
  6. Click OK

Tip for writing better links: Avoid "Click here"

Photo of a hand on a mouse A long-standing piece of web-writing advice is to avoid links that say, "click here." Seems like a nitpicky detail, right? Something only tech-snobs say? (Ok, maybe there's some truth to to that, but it's still good advice.) Here's why "click here" isn't the best thing for a link to say:

  • It doesn't describe what you'll get when you click the link.
  • It doesn't make sense out of context (like on a printout of the page).
  • It over-explains what to do with the link. Most web users understand links and how to use them.
  • It's inaccurate for people who don't use a mouse. (Screen reader? iPhone? No mouse, no clicking.)
  • It doesn't include any keywords to help search engines index your link more accurately.

So if "click here" is out, what's a better way to say it? Try these W3C-recommended tips for writing better links:

  • be brief and meaningful
  • provide information even when read out of context
  • explain what the link offers
  • not deal with the mechanics of the site
  • not be a verb phrase

Want more info? Click here. (Just kidding!) I mean, get more tips from "How to Write Links that Work."

Timesaving Google Tricks

If you already know and use these tricks, that’s great!  But they’re handy enough to be worth mentioning again for those who might not know these neat little timesavers.

Definitions and spelling:
I’m betting libraries already know about and have bookmarked at least one online dictionary (Dictionary.com for example), but did you know if you just need a quick definition you can ask Google?  Enter “define” followed by the word you want to know and right at the top of the results will be “Web definitions for”.  It’s handy if you’ve already got Google open and, if you need more detailed results, links to the definition in most of the major dictionary sites are found just below Google’s definition.

Have a word you’re trying to spell but spellcheck is being completely non-helpful?  Not close enough to the right spelling to get a hit on an online dictionary and in too much of a hurry to go digging out the paper version?  Try entering the word in Google.  Their “Did you mean” entries often will have the correct spelling.  You can also ask their spellcheck directly by entering “spell:<word>” if just entering the word does not get you a suggestion.  For example, searching for “supercalifragalisticexpealidocious” gets you a list of other pages where they’ve misspelled it as well, but asking “spell: supercalifragalisticexpealidocious” gets you the “Did you mean” entry with the correct spelling: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.  And I was so close too.

Math and measurements:
Instead of navigating through the menus to pull up the calculator in Windows or starting up Excel, you can enter simple math problems directly into the Google search and get the answer.  So if you need to find what is 1253*4575, just enter that in the search bar and you’ll get the answer (5732475). 

On a related note, you can also do that with conversions of measurements and currency.  So if you want to know how many inches there are in a mile, enter “mile to inches”.  Same holds true for cups in a gallon or dollars to a pound.  You can even enter "$1000 dollars in pounds" to have Google do all of the math for you.

Removing or limiting sites searched:
Want to remove all Wikipedia results from a search?  How about eBay listings?  Instead of going into Google’s Advanced Search page, you can add either “-<site name>” (-wikipedia) or “-site:<URL>” (-site:wikipedia.org) to the end of your search and automatically remove all search results coming from that site.  Often you can just use the shorter “-<site name>” but if that doesn’t work, use the full “-site:<URL>”.  This can also be helpful if you’re looking for information and reviews for a product but don’t want to wade through all of the price comparison sites.  You can even add more than one to filter out multiple sites at once.

Conversely, if you only want to search for results in one site, you can use “site” to specify which site you wish to search.  So adding –site:wikipedia.org will remove all Wikipedia entries but adding site:wikipedia.org will only return results from Wikipedia.  Can come in handy when you’re trying to find something you know is on a specific site when the site doesn’t have a search of its own and hopefully saves you the time of having to poke around in the site yourself.

And now after giving you a few neat Google timesavers, here’s a couple of fun Google timewasters:
Google in Klingon: http://www.google.com/intl/xx-klingon/
Google ala the Swedish Chef: http://www.google.com/intl/xx-bork/

Saving Money with Online Coupons is MAGIC


Brooke, my wife, teaches kindergarten. Last night she told me that one of her kids asked her if magic was real. She wasn't quite sure how to respond to this question. After all, magic isn't "real" it's just an illusion, right? I think I've found "real" magic in this world. Let me show you!

The two order summaries listed below are for the EXACT same product. It's an HP TouchSmart computer that I just purchased for a SCLS library. Why are these prices so different? 

 Coupon 3Coupon 4

The only difference is that I found a coupon code for 30% off!  Isn't that AWESOME!


I'm sure that we all have seen the "Coupon Code" or "Promo Code" box when we buy something online. Don't ignore this box, it's magic. If you find the right code to put in it you'll save a ton of money. This isn't just for online purchases! You can also find printable coupons that you take to the store!  Recently, I purchased a suit at JCPenney. Before I went there I googled "JCPenney printable coupons" and found a 25% off coupon. Just like that I saved about $50.00. (For those of you at the Governance meeting last Friday, this is where I got the shirt that I'll never wear again) One thing to know is that there are a number of fake coupon sites, so I'd stick to the better known ones like:

Remember these coupons are not just for "techie" stuff! You can find a coupon for almost anything!

What's a widget, and do you want one for Swine Flu?

A widget won't cure swine flu, but it might help your library distribute information about the H1N1 virus.

In tech-speak, a widget is a small piece of code that can be installed on almost any web page. Widgets are frequently used for "badges" (small graphics with a link to show support for something, typically a product) or tools that perform a single function (like current weather, stock tickers, or a countdown clock).

Two widgets are currently available to distribute information about swine flu. If this is a priority for your library, check out these widgets to see if you would like to have them installed on one of your library's web pages.

Gale Swine Flu (H1N1) Widget (get more info on the Gale widget)
Available until June 5, 2009. Gale is giving free access to selected eBooks in Gale Virtual Reference Library and the newly created Swine Flu Portal in Global Issues in Context, via this widget:

If you want to use this Gale widget on your library's website, contact Rose Ziech.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Flu Widget (get more info on the HHS widget)
HHS has widgets pertaining to H1N1 flu, in two sizes and both Spanish and English.  The widgets link to  information from sources like the Center for Disease Control and PandemicFlu.gov.  Here is an example of the smaller English version of the widget:

If you want to use one of the HHS widgets on your library's website and you use Contribute, contact Rose Ziech.  (Dreamweaver users can copy the widget code to install this widget directly to a web page, or contact Rose Ziech for assistance.)

Two-click USB disconnect

What's the simplest and quickest way to properly disconnect a USB device?

  • left-click on the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon in the system tray
screenshot of Safely Remove Hardware icon
  • select the drive letter for the device you'd like to disconnect
screenshot of drives to disconnect  

Two clicks quick.

Photo Editing for Free

GNU Image Manipulation Program or GIMP as it is called is a free software for image editing. If you are familiar with Adobe Photoshop then you will feel right at home with GIMP. Adobe Photoshop is great photo editing software, but it comes with a hefty price. The basic version "Elements" costs around $90.00 GIMP_Iconand the full version starts around $700.00.

GIMP can do pretty much anything Photoshop can do. You can even get a version called GIMPshop that looks and works like Photoshop. I can't say enough good things about it. I have been using GIMP for all of my photo editing for years. I use it mostly to crop, resize, straighten lines, and adjust colors on my photographs.

You can find out more information at their official web site http://www.gimp.org/ . From the download section you can get the version of GIMP that is right for you. You will also find some really good tutorials for beginners and experts in the documentation section. Try it out and see what you think, after all it's free!

Helping library computer users with files

Most public computers are locked down in a way that erases any changes with a logoff or reboot. What do you do when a patron needs to save a file for use later?  Floppy

One option is to save a file directly to a device, or save it first to the computer (if allowed) and copy it to a device. This option is only helpful if the computer supports these devices and the patron has such a device (or can purchase or borrow one). Some examples of storage devices include: 

Another option is to save it first to the computer (if allowed) and then move it to online storage. This enables patrons to access the file again from anywhere they have internet access. Patrons might:

  • email a file to themselves as an attachment (if they have a web-based email account like Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, etc)
  • save a file to an online storage account

Online storage services allow users to sign up for an account and upload their files to an online storage space. To access the files again, they sign in and download the files to whatever computer they are working on (some services even allow editing of files without downloading them). Many online storage services offer free storage (limits vary, but many are around 1-2GB).

A few of the online storage services with simpler interfaces include:

...but there are many, many others!

How do your patrons save their files? Does your library sell floppies or USB flash drives? Does your library loan out USB flash drives? Do you suggest email attachments or online storage as an alternative? Please feel free to share info in the comments!

The Many Flavors of LINK Patron PCs

LINK Patron PCs can be configured with several different options. Each library is able to have them configured to meet their patrons' needs. This article will address these options.

1. Library Online: This time management software allows you to control the length of time that a patron can spend on a PC. Kerri provides phone support for Library Online and she has posted documentation for many common Library Online-related procedures on the Library Online website. Please keep in mind that this software is license-based, so you need to purchase a license before installation can occur.

2. Reduced Features: This option gives you the bare-bones of software and features. It is generally requested for LINK Patron PCs that libraries want to use mainly for accessing the LINKCat public catalog. This option also turns off patron access to the hard drive and all removable storage, i.e. floppy, CD-ROM and USB flash drives.

3. Restricted Browsing: This option restricts the web pages that are available for viewing. Patrons still have access to SCLS Automation, SCLS Delivery, each library's homepage, all subscription database websites, Wisconsin state job, Wisconsin state government, Wisconsin Technical Colleges and UW Madison web pages.

4. Audio: This option allows you to control whether the sound is on or off for the PC. When this option is turned on it is generally advisable to have an audio extension cord plugged in to the PC, so that patrons aren't putting wear and tear on the audio port in the back of the PC.

5. Overdrive: This option allows patrons access to the software called OverDrive Media Console. Overdrive is a subscription database of audiobooks, videos and music that can be downloaded to the PC and then copied to a portable digital audio device. Although there is no desktop icon for this software, it does activate once you select an item for download.

6. Print Button: This option allows you to control whether or not a Print button is displayed on the Internet Explorer toolbar.

7. Print Preview Button: This option allows you to control whether or not a Print Preview button is displayed on the Internet Explorer toolbar.

Please keep in mind that these options are ONLY for LINK Patron PCs and some of these options don't work well together.

Now you know all there is know about LINK Patron PCs!