« June 2013 | Main | August 2013 »

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:

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

LINKcat Author

LINKcat Subject


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.


CowReally, I do mean MOOC, not Moo. And, yes, it's another acronym for you to learn. According to Wikipedia, a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is "an online course aimed at large-scale interacive participation and open access via the web."

I've been hearing more and more about MOOCs lately. In fact, the New York Times called 2012 "The Year of the MOOC." Many MOOCs are associated with universities like Yale, Stanford, and MIT, just to name a few. Google even joined in the MOOC world with their "Power Searching with Google" course last July.

MOOCs, while an interesting way to learn, weren't for me - or so I thought. Turns out, I was waiting for the right course. A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for and started my first MOOC - Syracuse University's New Librarianship Master Class taught by R. David Lankes. The course is free (unless you want credit for it), taught by one of the top professors in the library world, and is all available online - and will continue to be even after the first, moderated version of the course is over.

The course is a combination of readings from The Atlas of New Librarianship, recorded lectures from R. David Lankes, discussion forums, and tests. I've been impressed with the quality of the recorded lectures - Lankes is very inspiring - and the readings. While I've been keeping up with the lectures and readings (and passed the tests), I haven't participated in the discussion portion of the course.

Have you tried a MOOC yet? Let us know about your experience in the comments.

P.S. The Cow picture is from MorgueFile, Free Photo Archive - check it out!

Interesting tidbits

  • "How to Make Library eBooks More Visible"* (GoodEReader) - Simple suggestions for promoting your ebook collection.
  • "Mousercise!"*  (IFLS) - A link to Mousercise, an online exercise to increase familiarity with using a computer mouse, and an excerpt from an interview about technology training with Mousercise founder, Chris Rippel.
  • "Use Bing to find Public Domain Images"*  (Free Technology for Teachers) - Need pictures? It's easy to find public domain images using Bing. When did you last use one of these?
  • "Reference Question of the Week - 7/14/2013" (Swiss Army Librarian)  How do you answer the reference question, "Where can I find a pay phone in town?" Crowdsource it using social media!

*Thanks to IFLS and Sites and Soundbytes for pointing out these great resources!

Problem Steps Recorder

Windows 7 has a nice feature called the Problem Steps Recorder.  It can help you demonstrate a problem you are experiencing with a computer.  When you are done, you will have a nice document that lists all the steps you took and corresponding screen captures.  It's pretty easy to use.

  1. Click Start button MP900439352
  2. Click Run
  3. Enter psr
  4. Click OK
  5. Click Start Record
  6. Do whatever it is you want to record
  7. Click Stop Record when you're done
  8. Click Save

The folks at Microsoft were nice enough to make a screencast about this tool.

Google Maps street view to become “broom view”?

Since 2007, Google has offered users the “street view” of numerous locations around the world and they’ve used their camera mounted cars to add more locations around the world since then.  Last month, Google left their cars and the rest of the muggle world behind and added Diagon Alley to their street view.  Alright, so they actually didn’t use camera mounted brooms, it’s actually the Diagon Alley set from the Warner Bros. Studio in London.  The view is clear enough that you can actually read some of the titles off the books in Flourish & Blotts bookstore.

Starting last year though, Google did actually leave the road and started getting images from a backpack mounted camera to take pictures of places not reachable by their cars.  They’ve been taking pictures of the Grand Canyon and are working on getting images from a number of places in Hawaii.  They’re also going to let other organizations borrow the backpack, called the Trekker, to take pictures to contribute to Google Maps. 

Help redesign the BadgerLink website

[ BadgerLink logo ]Give a little of your time before July 15 for a better BadgerLink website later. The BadgerLink Team is in the process of redesigning the BadgerLink website and seeking feedback from public librarians. All you have to do is complete a survey to offer your feedback on a set of mockups of the new design.

Don't answer the survey questions based off the existing BadgerLink website—they want to hear your thoughts and suggestions on the mockups to help find flaws in the new design's layout and navigation. The survey will remain open until July 15th, so now is the time to weigh in!

Not sure what BadgerLink is? BadgerLink provides access to credible online information resources for Wisconsin residents.

Google Indoor Maps

Food court and restrooms at East Towne MallHave you noticed Google Maps offers indoor floor plans of some of the more popular buildings around the world. I discovered this while playing around with Google Maps and noticed the local shopping mall by our office showed the layout with all the stores. When you're in “Map” mode rather than “Satellite mode”of Google Maps keep zooming in on a building, if it's part of Indoor Maps it will show you the floor plan of the building you're in or looking at. This also works if you happen to be using the Google Maps app built in on your smartphone.

My favorite feature if you happen to be looking at your smartphone while in a building that's part of this is that is shows you where the restrooms are.

Clipping Magic

2013_03_22_pacoLet's say you want to easily eliminate the background around an object in an image... and you don't know Photoshop or Gimp.

Clipping Magic* lets you do this using 3 simple steps:

1.  Upload the image

2.  Mark the object/foreground green, and mark the background red.

3.  Download or share your result

KittyAs they note on the Clipping Magic page, faint/non-existent boundaries will lead to a bad result, so Kitty with all his fuzzy cat hair may not have been the best example... but I can say that the process was quick and painless!


* Clipping Magic is currently free while it is an alpha, with an option to sign up for freebies once the service comes out of alpha