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The Office Quick Access Toolbar

ToolI used to hate the Microsoft Office "Ribbon" user interface. I still do, I suppose, but after six or seven years I've just gotten used to the fact that some of my favorite features from earlier versions have gotten separated from one another and kind of buried under different tabs.

Enter the Quick Access Toolbar. Located at the uppermost left corner of your Office application windows are some tiny icons, off by themselves and easily overlooked.

Excel-QAT01Not only are these icons small but they are (by default anyway) extremely boring: Save, Undo, Redo.

Many of us already have these functions locked into muscle memory as keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl-S, Ctrl-Z, Ctrl-Y), so we can just ignore that part of the window completely, right? Wrong!

This section of the user interface is totally customizable. If you don't like that Excel's Insert Chart function is buried deep in the Ribbon, unbury it! Ditto for Sort Data or any other function that you need 10-100 times per day in your workflow.

To customize this Toolbar, click the small black triangle to the right of its icons to expose the customization menu. Some of the most common (most boring) functions are included right in the menu so you can just turn their shortcuts off or on right there. To get to the good stuff, choose More Commands... to open a window that lets you add shortcuts for just about any part of the user interface. You can also open this window by choosing File => Options => Quick Access Toolbar.

OverDrive Audio Updates & Changes

If you're a regular audiobook listener through Wisconsin's Digital Library like me, there are some changes you should Listeningknow about.

There have always been two audio formats available: WMA (Windows Media Audio) and MP3. There are more WMA titles than MP3 (over 12,400 and 8,500 respectively). OverDrive recently announced they will be discontinuing the sale of WMA titles and at some point in the future, the only audio format will be MP3. For people like me, who regulary use the OverDrive Media Console on my home computer to transfer and convert WMA titles onto my iPhone, the transfer process should be easier.

Speaking of OverDrive Media Console, OverDrive recently released Version 3.3 for Windows. It includes a few design changes, but no major changes for us regular users.

Also updated was OMC 3 for Windows 8. This is available in the Windows Store. OverDrive created a training module to help library staff with the changes in OMC for Windows 8. You can view it here on the Learning Center. You'll find it under Products and Services.

Image from MorgueFile.


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Simple surveying about technology needs

If you want to ask your community about the technology services they use and need, Impact Survey could be the tool for you!


  • asks patrons about how they use library technology services like public computers, wireless networks, online resources, and digital training
  • helps gather information about how to improve those services to enable better patron outcomes
  • analyzes the data from the patrons' survey responses and creates a variety of easy-to-read reports that present the results in text, charts, and graphs in a variety of documents and appropriate for a variety of audiences

What is Impact Survey?

"The Impact Survey is an online survey tool designed specifically for public libraries that want to better understand their communities and how people use their public technology resources and services. Written and validated by research staff at the University of Washington Information School, the Impact Survey is designed to quickly and easily provide busy librarians with useful data on how their patrons use library technology services. The program saves libraries the time and costs associated with writing, programming, analyzing, and reporting an in-house survey."

Impact Survey is currently in Beta Mode, but it looks like it could be pretty slick!

I first heard about Impact Survey through this TechSoup blog entry, and then was reminded about it by this post, which includes webinar recording about it.

Wisconsin e-file Help

The Wisconsin e-file became available on Monday, January 13 on the Dept. of Revenue website.  The PDF that they give you may have some issues depending upon the browser that is used.  Here's what we've seen with each browser:

Internet Explorer - The PDF form opens with no problems.

Firefox - When you try to open the PDF form you get a message that starts with  "Please wait...", so to access the PDF form you will need to:

  1. Check the upper right-hand corner of the screen
  2. Click the button entitled "Open With Different Viewer"Firefox Open in Different Viewer
  3. On the popup that opens select "Open with Adobe Reader"Open with Adobe Reader

  4. On the Security Warning popup click the Allow buttonSecurity_Warning
  5. PDF form will then open just fine

Note - If you want to save the form instead of opening it, then in step 3 you will need to choose "Save File"

Save in Firefox

Chrome - When you try to open the PDF form you get a message that starts with  "Please wait...", so to access the PDF form you will need to:

  1. Check the upper right-hand corner of the screen
  2. Click the PDF icon that is found next to the starOpen in Chrome
  3. A popup will open that says: "Parts of this PDF document could not be displayed."
  4. Click the "Open in Adobe Reader" link
  5. PDF form will then open just fine

Note - If you want to save the form instead of opening it, please do the following steps:

  1. Place the mouse in the lower right-hand corner of the browser window
  2. A menu bar will popup, then choose the option that looks like a floppy disk     
      Save in Chrome

Please pass this information on to all staff who assist patrons as it will probably come up as a question now that tax season is fast approaching.

Thanks to Liz A. at MAD for bringing this issue to our attention.


Best practice: Be up-front about what type of document is linked

PdfIn almost any situation where you are making a link to a PDF that lives online, give your readers a little tip-off that the link leads to a PDF. Same goes for other non-webpage-type documents: put the file type in parentheses after the link, and note the file size if it is a large file. Like so:

But wait, you say! If people know in advance that they'll land on a PDF (or CSV, or PPT, etc.), they might not click that link. And you would be right; however, people who have to be fooled into clicking a document link probably still won't read the document, plus they will be annoyed (or confused) while waiting for it to load.

Being up-front about what you are linking to helps your readers make an informed decision to download the linked file or not. If they are interested enough, they will!

Creating meme images

Nedstark-braceyourselvesDid you ever wonder how those "meme" images you see in your Facebook feed are created? The different types of Internet memes are too numerous to list here - there's Grumpy Cat, Ryan Gosling, lolcats and other various animals, Star Trek, etc. etc. It's difficult to track down the origin of popular meme images, although there is a database dedicated to documenting Internet memes, including photos, videos, catchprases, etc. 

Once an image has gone viral, anyone can create a customized meme using various websites. You go to the website, select an image, and enter your text. You can then download the captioned image and post it to Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Some meme captions are snarky, but they don't have to be snarky. Libraries could use memes as a fun way to communicate information via social media. Closed-jan1

Here are a few websites that you can use to create memes. Note: this is not an exhaustive list:

Tiny Wireless Barcode Scanners

We received a request to look into wireless handheld barcode scanners that can be linked to tablets.  We bought one and have been playing around (ahem, testing) with it and it's really slick.


It is called a Unitech MS910.  It connects through Bluetooth with any capable device and it works (nearly) just as good as the desktop scanners.  In the office we connected it to an iPad and, with a little configuration effort, we were able to successfully circulate library books with it.  Pretty cool, eh?

Forwards and backwards

This week is the annual Consumer Electronics show or CES which showcases new and upcoming technology Earlyharddriveand gadgets.  While I’m looking forward to seeing what’s new, it's also interesting to look back at where we've been.  This is a picture looking back to 1956.  No, that’s not an early computer being loaded onto the plane.  That’s a hard drive.  Yes, just the hard drive. 

According to @HistoricalPics, which posted the picture, it’s a 5 megabyte drive and it weighed over 2,000 pounds.  Somehow my old laptop doesn't seem so heavy. 

For comparison, that’s approximately .00488 of a gigabyte.  The 8 GB flash drive I have in my pocket is about 1,638 times bigger.  It’s 1/8192nd of the smallest hard drive (40 GB) in our inventory and 1/51200th the size of the standard 250 GB hard drive we order with new PCs.  Or roughly 3 and a half of the old 3.5” floppy disks you might still have rattling around in the back of a drawer somewhere.

Online Organizing Tools

MessyDeskEvery January, "getting organized" is one of my New Year's resolutions. This year, I decided to look at a few different tools to help me organize some of my online information - bookmarks, articles, etc. - and thought I'd share them with you. 

Back during Project Play, I tried out del.icio.us (now Delicious.com) as a way to save or bookmark the articles and links I found on the web. Then, in 2010, the rumor was that Delicious was heading for a shutdown (see this TechBits post from 2011). While this turned out not to be true, I had already stopped using the service. One of the alternatives offered in this Lifehacker article was Diigo. Bookmarks I created an account back in 2010 and then never used it. Instead I bookmarked everything in Firefox.  Here's a partial snapshot of my current list. These are somewhat organized but rarely used.

Both Diigo and Delicious make it easy to add links to your account when you add the Diigolet and Delicious buttons to your bookmarks toolbar. When you are on a page that you want to save, click on the Diigo or Delicious button and add tags or a description and save the bookmark. So easy!



Both services are free, although Diigo does have Premium options. As these are both web based services, your bookmarks are available where ever you have an internet connection. Want to take your bookmarks with you on your mobile device? Both Diigo and Delicious offer apps for iOS and Android devices.

 I'll be playing with both of these during the next couple of months to decide which I like best. What do you use to organize your online bookmarks, articles, and links?

P.S. I also personally use Evernote to organize my recipes and other things at home. I'll save that for another TechBits post!

Messy Desk photo from MorgueFile.